Saturday, November 22, 2008

Artistic Design

Artists use light and dark areas and elements that bridge across gaps in a painting to draw your eye from one important feature to the next. That is part of what draws an emotional response from a viewer. Your web page needs to drawn an emotional response too! You are not just delivering content, you are delivering a feeling with that content. Maybe you just want people to feel good about what you are promoting. But more often, you want to generate a call to action. The colors and design elements are part of that plan. Color sets the tone and can calm or incite, appeal to the common or noble, or create empathy. Design elements can draw the users eyes to what you want them to see.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

KML for maps

I participated in a great GIS Day event yesterday, but it left me pretty exhausted by the time I got home, so no blog entry.

Today, we can talk about KML. KML is a set of data is a specific XML format that represents geographic locations. So, what can you do with it? You can take information from a database, get it geocoded and output it to a KML file. You can then send the file to Google Earth or any other mapping service that understands KML, and all those locations will display on the map. You can map all your group members, customers, offices, work sites or even the location of all your vacation photos. You don't need to buy mapping software or set up your own server. Your data is dynamic, so your map is dynamic. Add a new work order and it shows up on your map.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Still on a GIS kick! I was introduced to GIS several years ago. Not web based maps - those have been around for years, but using GIS to identify and solve real problems. But it is usually best to start simple.

Adding a map or several maps to your web site is incredibly easy. Most of the major map providers like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. allow you to look up a location and grab a bit of code to add the map to your own web site. Cut and paste, it couldn't be simpler.

But the maps are far from simple. They are usually embedded in an iframe window - literally a web page from the map provider displayed in a little window inside your own web page. These maps are quite powerful and usually have a good sub-set of the features found on the full page maps of the map providers. You can pan around the map and zoom in and out. Links to provide driving directions are available and additional information is often found on the map.

Now, what to do with those maps! Obvious solutions include providing the location(s) of your business or groups meeting place. You can also show all the locations where you've done work, especially if the work is readily visible and you are using them as references. You can show all the places you've been on vacation, played team sports, taken photos or visited geocaches. I've also enjoyed looking at the map of all the visitors to my blog. Thank you for coming by and putting a dot on my map.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

OpenID - Part 2

If your site needs to provide a logon feature, then security is high on my mind. You always need to evaluate how much security something needs. If you are not too concerned, then a single password to access some bit of content is fine. If you want to provide different services to different users, then a user ID and password is nice to implement. If the information on your site includes personal data about the user, or especially financial data, then encryption is a must. But what if you only want to protect the user ID and password? OpenID could be your solution!

I've just added OpenID login to My Family Web Site. I'm still testing the code that I had to modify from it's original source to work on my Shared Hosting service provider. But, it appears to work. Anyone can now log into my home web site with OpenID. Nothing different to see by logging in yet, but I am working on the authorization portion so that different users will have access to different features of the site in the future. Initially this will be for my family, but who knows what I might add later on.

Ok, now on to the next cool item. Several OpenID providers (MyOpenID & Verisign) allow you to create and install Browser Certificates! This means users don't need to log into those sites at all. When users want to log into your site, they submit their OpenID URI, authorize their OpenID provider to supply verification to your site, and they are authenticated! Now you can choose if you consider them logged in and what access they have based on that logon.