Separate web pages are displayed in different windows in a navigable 3D space, giving an effect similar to Java Desktop or Compiz Fusion. The main search component is distinctive, pre-loading the top search result pages into a set of receding windows. This gives a different feel to the information space.
The search space begins to resemble a rank and file military formation, with separate searches organized abreast of each other with their results in single file behind them. The user gets an almost kinesthetic feeling for each items relation to their current activity with physical positions defining the recency of the search (more to the right) and relevance score (closer to the front). The search spaces can be saved between browsing sessions, giving a new slant to the question “Now where did I put that?”
The interface design relates well to our greater facility for recognition over recall, and to greater retention of memories that involve a greater number of senses. Time will tell which tasks are more suited to the richer interface and which are best performed with less elaborate representations.
Currently the search is limited to a pre-defined set of information providers. Hopefully, this can be extended and configured in the future. Many of the existing searches are brought in via RSS feeds, so it should be possible to extend the interface to allow users to query selected feeds and APIs. This would allow the system to be tuned for business or scholastic use, rather then the currently dominant shopping activities.
This API is open to a broad range of applications from presenting market trends, through price comparisons to log analysis and social network statistics. The daily limit of 50,000 queries makes this suitable for small or medium sites, or for larger sites if an image cache is used.
For smaller sites on shared hosts important benefits are the reductions in bandwidth and cpu load, as the images are constructed and served off-site. This helps keep hosting costs down while increasing the likelihood of surviving a popular Digg.
These days everything we do online seems to generate a feed of one kind or another, whether its writing a blog, drafting a press release, managing a BaseCamp project or organizing a set of YouTube videos. Tools like Dapper and Feed 43 help us create feeds from “unfed” content, AideRss gives a positive tweak to the signal to noise ratio while Yahoo Pipes does, well, just about everything with everything else, while geo-tagging it on the way.
But how do you get your feeds to spread to audiences in social networks? Wiliam has an answer, at least for Facebook. It’s Blog RSS Feed Reader has the fitting, professional design you’d expect from one of Australia’s leading web design, strategy and marketing firms. This free application does more than the title suggests. As well as reading RSS feeds it can also handle ATOM and RDF data.
The application encourages the viral spread of information within Facebook with share buttons on each feed item as well as on the feed itself. It can also alert friends through Facebook News Feeds and Mini Feeds when there are incoming RSS updates.
An important feature for businesses is the ability to embed the feed on a Facebook Page. This is ideal for a business, product, service or celebrity wanting to set up an opt-in communication with their social network fans.
The built in templates are an adequate starting point; with the system giving easy access to style sheets. More importantly, the templates themselves can be downloaded as an archive, edited and brought back into the system as a completely customized theme. (Web designers can now breathe a sign of relief, they still have a role.)
Webnode have taken a very pragmatic approach that has made their system extremely flexible. They have streamlined the embedding of third party widgets and gadgets. With direct links to Google Gadgets, YourMinis and SpringWidgets, users are given a very clear and straightforward way to place and manage embed codes. The real beauty is that once your code is pasted you able to drag the embedded objects about the page as you would any other content with a simplicity that rivals Pageflakes.
There are some rough edges, with missing links to some documentation, and occasional delays while the servers catch up with their expanded audience. I’m sure the outstanding technical issues will be cleared up promptly.
My only concerns about the success of the application are connected to marketing. The site doesn’t speak about it’s own origins or credentials. It’s only by looking at downloaded templates that I was able to identify the developers as Czeck integration specialists Westcom. While the product is excellent, more effort needs to go into documentation, marketing, reputation building and public relations if its full potential is to be realized.
Today Wikia launched the alpha version of its search engine. With a combination of technologies from the Wikimedia Foundation and the Apache Foundation (Lucene, Nutch), Wikia has some surprising features. When you conduct a search, in addition to the expected list of websites you get:
a collaboratively edited “Mini Article” with information about your search topic
a list of users whose profiles match your search terms
Wikia effectively combines three established web technologies:
with each topic becoming an ad-hoc social network.
This is an alpha release, and the gaps in the feature set are clearly visible.
no advanced search
a decorative, but unimplemented ratings function
This mix of technologies brings up some interesting questions. Will users participate? How effectively will the community deal with spammers? Where will the balance be reached between findability and privacy? Will the “People” results be dominated by domain experts, subject enthusiasts or spammers?
Wikia Search is innovative, with potential for business and personal networking. Its success will depend on the strengths of the communities it engages.
To implement hCard you simply add some a few extra classes to your standard html markup to indicate which parts of your page contain address and contact information. This markup helps browser plugins and search engines understand your page.
The Operator plugin for Firefox automatically identifies the hCard information in any web page you visit and tucks it away in a toolbar menu ready for you to use to add a contact to your address book, or look up the address on your favorite mapping service..
hCard, and the other microformats, have been quietly establishing themselves over the past few years, and increasingly are being built into tools, services and applications. The potential benefits of adding a small amount of markup to give meaningful structure to contact information on a web page is well worth the effort.
I love it when life gets easier. Putting a map on a website used to be a real pain, so did using one. Now, with so many free mapping services available it has become extremely easy to give directions to business locations and venues.
Armada House in Bristol is doing a nice job. For an events and conference centre in the heart of a busy city, clear location and transport details are vitally important.
To help with journey planning Armada provide a direct link to Google Maps. This means that customers and conference attendees are able to get detailed personalized travel directions and can also save the location to their own Google Map for easy reference in the future.
Building a feature rich interactive map has become even easier since the introduction of Google’s My Maps feature.
Any business that showcases products, holds meetings or offers services tied to physical locations needs to consider using on-line mapping services as a convenience to its customers and its staff.