Thursday, July 27, 2006

Are you a Professional Web Designer/ Developer? Prove it!

This is a question that even the best web designers out there may not be able to answer. Why? Because a professional is a member of a registered professional body which has a code of ethics, and stringent conduct requirements - they can be debarred from practicing. Do we have that here? NO. Not even in other countries.

But that should not deter us from creating one and discuss the things that should be done. Molly Holzschlag has discussed this in her website and is a heated topic still. In the Philippines, the situation is the same. But when do we act? if not now, when? If not you, who?

Many professional organizations publish policy and ethics documents relating to how they as individuals treat their clients, each other, how they manage fees, and the kind of treatment their professionalism deserves in kind.

In an effort to mobilize the Web community as professionals, and what it means to be a Web professional, a code of ethics for our profession should arise out of a common group. We owe it to ourselves, each other, our clients, and the profession’s integrity and sustainability at large to begin a time of new professionalism for ourselves.

Would you like to discuss it now?

Disabled workers: The untapped work force

This is a news clip from US but the concept is universal and can be adopted anywhere in the world.

Disabled workers: The untapped work force
Abridged: Philadelphia Daily News

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Would you be surprised to learn that the broadcast color analyst for a major league baseball team is blind? Blind since birth, he's never seen a baseball game, but he knows it instinctively. His command of the stats and the players makes him one of the best!And he's not alone.

It's time to discover the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. The limits for people with disabilities are shrinking every day, and yet the need for good workers is growing. As these two facts collide, there is hope that the staggering unemployment rate for people with disabilities will finally begin to fall. The rate hovers between 65-70 percent. It's been that high for a long time, much too long!

This is insanity when you consider unemployment rates overall are near historic lows and the worker shortage is growing as baby boomers begin to retire. Society needs this largely untapped job pool. Hiring people with disabilities is not charity, it simply makes good business sense.
Enable America, a national non-profit that promotes the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, and HireAbility, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that helps people with disabilities find jobs, are working together to shatter the myth that people with disabilities are not as good as able-bodied employees.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

ReadSpeaker PodCaster - Easier and Accessible alternative

ReadSpeaker PodCaster is an On-Line service that makes news feeds automatically accessible to more people in a high-quality and cost-effective way.

There are thousands of companies, blogs, government bodies and other organisations trying to make their news and content accessible as a text-based RSS feed. Podcasting and “Pod radio” are technologies where the RSS feed is enriched with a link (called an enclosure) to an mp3 file. This is widely used by radio stations, national and international commercial and non-commercial broadcasting companies, on line news papers, and so on.

Producing a podcast generally requires access to a recording studio and sound technicians. The requirements are similar to what is used in a radio/recording studio. Many organisations do not have the capacity, resources or time to make their information accessible in an audio format.

With ReadSpeaker Podcaster, the process is automated through text-to-speech (TTS) technology. This means that there is no need to record and publish news items and updates.

Customers

Many types of organizations can benefit from transforming their RSS feeds into podcast feeds with ReadSpeaker Podcaster, including:

# Organisations within the public sector
# Small/medium/large companies and corporations
# Non profit organisations
# Disability organisations
# Blog owners

Increased Accessibility

ReadSpeaker Podcaster is also an excellent solution for people that have problems with reading text, for various reasons. For example, those who are visually impaired, suffer from low vision or low literacy, dyslexicsand people that, assimilate information better by having the text read. These groups in particular benefit greatly from automated systems like TTS.

More details at the ReadSpeaker website...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Google Accessible Search

G oogle released a new product called Accessible Search, a “web search for the visually challenged.” Though result pages are somewhat less cluttered compared to normal Google results, the point here is not so much to create accessible results formatting, but to rank accessible results higher.

Google writes:

Google Accessible Search looks at a number of signals by examining the HTML markup found on a web page. It tends to favor pages that degrade gracefully – pages with few visual distractions and pages that are likely to render well with images turned off. Google Accessible Search is built on Google Co-op’s technology, which improves search results based on specialized interests. ...

We take into account several factors, including a given page’s simplicity, how much visual imagery it carries and whether or not it’s (sic) primary purpose is immediately viable with keyboard navigation.

Web accessibility is making your website accessible to all kind of users, disabled or not, regardless of what browser they are using.

I will emphasize that accessibility is for all, not for a select group of persons. Because if this is how it is treated then it becomes burdensome for designers/developers. Imagine designing only for a selected audience (nothing wrong with that if that is your purpose) then your site will be have limited use.

Should designers ask for a higher fee because they know accessibility? NO. But they can be given preference when a company is selecting their web designer. Remember that accessibility can directly mean higher sales because more people can access their site and there is a higher percentage of buying something if you can see/ access it (obviously!)

Having laws to make developers comply is a push approach. A pull approach means having the designers comply because there are benefits. When people know that there are business benefits because of accessibility then they will comply, with or without laws.

Related Links - Slashdot, Google Blogoscoped

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Big Brother is proud!

Last week, I attended my sister's graduation. She ( Desiree Mendoza) just finished her Fashion design course at the prestigious Fashion Institute of the Philippines where Renee Salud is the director. For the uninitiated, Renee Salud is a household name in the Fashion Design business (in the Philippines).

Back to my story, there was a fashion show to showcase all the works of the graduates where they imitated the "Project Runway" reality TV show. Out of 40 aspirants, they were trimmed to 25 finalists. There was the formal wear, corporate wear and the Filipinana wear competition. Winners were announced for each category.

Although she did not win in those categories, She won a special category - Best Fashion Illustrator! When these special category was announced, I immediately knew she was a finalist.She has been a perennial winner in these kind of contest, and they narrowed down the finalist to 5 and she was announced the winner, I jumped to my feet and applauded. My sister just became the best Fashion Illustrator in the fashion business!

Watch out for my sister, Desiree Mendoza, she will be a household name in the fashion business, that I have no doubt.

www.mccid.edu.ph Awarded "3rd Disabled Friendly Website"

I am an advocate for Accessible ICT for PWD's (Persons with Disabilities).

In plain english, that means I try to make my web sites accessible to everyone, disabled or not, even if they are using different browsers (yes, there are other browsers other than Internet Explorer)

These are the kind of people we need to make Philippines a better place to live and having hope for a better future for our kids.

Recently, I mentioned here in my blog about the special award I got for sharing my expertise with CSS and the "impending" Disabled friendly award that DLSU Manila will get. Well, before the DLSU awarding - MCCID has already got that award, thanks to Jojo Esposa and his enviable advocacy for accessibility.


Frankly, Jojo Esposa is commendable in his efforts not only in the technical aspect but also on his dedication to help PWD's as a whole. These are the kind of people we need to make Philippines a better place to live, and having hope for a better future for our kids.

Visit the MCCID site and see for yourself.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Photoshop Seminar at UST

I conducted a basic Photoshop Seminar today at the UST Main building, Data Center. There were about 18 student who are also volunteers in creating different websites for the University. It was only a half day session with a course outline which was designed for a whole day, so you can imagine the fast paced tutorials I made for those students. But they were all fast learners and got the basics right as we have a ratio of one is to one laptop for each student. And they were all very cooperative.

I was tired after the seminar, drained, as usual in my other seminars but it was worth it. I made the feedback form online and after reading the positive remarks, I was energized again.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

How to Plan Manpower on a Web Team

This is a re-print. The original article is on AlistApart website. There's also a good discussion of the article in that site. I just wanted a copy in my blog so I can search for it easily when I need it. Yup, sometimes I'm not that good on bookmarks, coz there are billions of articles to read on.

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It can be tricky to identify the right levels of manpower for a web team. Indeed, many organisations badly underestimate the amount of work required to keep their sites operating smoothly—they perhaps imagine that once a website is put live, it magically looks after itself. As a result, only the barest bones of proper staffing are put in place.

Fortunately, the problem of defining the number of people required on a web team is not insurmountable. A useful device for arriving at a good answer is the concept of “website scale.”

Step onto the scales


Website scale is a means of describing a site in terms of three parameters:

* size
* complexity
* level of activity

Almost any online venture can be represented in this way—from a small intranet to a massive e-commerce site. The reason website scale is so useful is that it provides a practical means for estimating the number of people needed to carry out the activities of site maintenance. This includes content publishing, feedback monitoring, technical maintenance and general quality assurance.

For example, consider the websites of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Icelandic TV channel, Ríkisútvarpið RUV. Even a cursory review will show that the BBC site is far greater in scale than that of its Icelandic equivalent.

That is, www.bbc.co.uk has more pages, uses a wider variety of more complex technologies, and receives substantially more traffic than www.ruv.is. It can therefore be concluded that a greater number of people are required to support it. The actual amount can be gauged by examining each of the elements of website scale.

Why size matters

In simple terms, the bigger a website is, the more people are needed to maintain it.

Yet, how can the “size” of a site be measured? Is it simply a total of all the megabytes of data it contains? Or, perhaps a count of the number of pages it has online?

In fact, neither of these is satisfactory. A website could contain hundreds of megabytes in just a few video files. Another might host thousands of pages, but each might consist of only a few words.

As a consequence, the best way of calculating website size is the total number of man-hours required to produce and maintain all of that site’s content. This can then be used to estimate the number of people required for support, particularly in the areas of content publishing and quality assurance.

Calculating man-hours


For instance, it may take 3 hours to create and publish a 500 word feature for an intranet; information about medical benefits, for example. This content would then be scheduled for review every six months (to ensure it remains accurate), at a cost of 30 minutes per review. Therefore, an intranet of this type requires 3.5 man-hours to produce and maintain a 500-word article.

If 100 new features of this type are planned, 350 man-hours (eight and a half weeks) are needed for production and review. Given that the average number of man-hours available per person per year is about 1,750, we can now see how staffing is calculated.

For example, the content described above could be maintained by a single person over the course of a year, with plenty of time to spare: 1,750–350 = 1,400.

Although this math is fairly straightforward, recommending precise levels of employment is more complicated because of the ways in which websites differ from one another. For example, a site that contains a lot of video or highly technical content may need far more time for production than one that holds simple generic text.

The general rule is that any site containing a lot of frequently changing features will need far more staff than one with only a few, static pages. The following table shows indicative staffing levels for the three most common grades of website size.




























Figure 1. The three grades of website size
Website size Man-hours Staffing level
Small 1,500–4,000 About 1–2 people
Medium 4,000–10,000 About 2–4 people
Large 10,000+ From 5 people upwards


Complexity by progression

Differences in manpower can also arise as a result of the technology used to develop a site. This is because intricate websites usually require several people in the area of technical maintenance. In this way, we can say that there are three levels of site complexity.

Basic

Often referred to as “brochureware,” this is the most straightforward type of website. Such sites merely contain information in plain text (HTML/XHTML) hosted on a webserver, with perhaps a few supporting images and downloads. The uncomplicated nature of such sites means they are relatively easy to maintain. A single person with low-level skills may often be enough.

Dynamic

On a dynamic website, content is stored in a database and published according to the requirements of site visitors. Such sites are frequently used by businesses that publish large volumes of information in a standard way, e.g. news organisations. However, (within the terms of the definition used here) it should be noted that a Dynamic site does not allow transactions, i.e. there is no ability to “log on” or to “buy.”

Although the user experience of a dynamic website is similar to that of a Basic site, the technology that underlies it is much more involved. As such, a team of two or three people with good technical skills may be needed for a medium-sized entity of this type.

Transactional


A transactional website is one that uses the internet to host applications in support of business operations or revenue generation. Indeed, some of the world’s best known sites use this as a model for their operations, e.g. Dell.com.

Not all such sites are vehicles for the exchange of money. For example, many corporate intranets can be considered transactional because of the interactive features they contain: timesheets, expense submission, etc. The variety of technology used in transactional sites (application servers, security systems, etc.) means that a team of highly qualified staff is needed for support. Indeed, the largest and busiest sites often employ half a dozen or more people.




























Figure 2. The three levels of website complexity
Website type Complexity Staffing level
Basic Plain content (HTML/XHTML) About 1 person
Dynamic Dynamically generated from a database About 2–3 people (or more on a very large or busy site)
Transactional Fully-transactional content, e.g. e-commerce From 3 people upwards (many more on a large or busy site)


The impact of activity

Website activity is the last and possibly most important factor for planning manpower on a web team. Busy sites inevitably have to deal with mountains of feedback, customer problems, and general issues of upkeep. As a result, complexity has a very strong influence on staffing across all areas of maintenance. It can also have the effect of rapidly multiplying the manpower estimates recommended by website size or complexity.

Two common means for measuring online activity are page impressions and the number of visitors. As a general rule, a site must receive a minimum of 1,000,000 page impressions or 100,000 visitors per month to be considered busy (although many receive far more than that).

The result of such heavy activity means a site is unlikely to function properly without a full complement of maintenance personnel. Indeed, a busy site that is also large in size and transactional in nature may need dozens of staff to keep it up and running.























Figure 3. The three levels of website activity
Level of activity Page impressions
Quiet 0–50,000 a month
Intermediate 50,000–1,000,000 a month
Busy 1,000,000+ a month


Many managers simply don’t understand why some website require a substantial maintenance staff—and this can lead to chronic understaffing. Overcoming this attitude is among the greatest challenges to be faced by a web team; with luck, the principles outlined in this article will help.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Plaque of Appreciation from Philippine Government



Last week, I attended a Post evaluation meeting regarding the recent National Webmasters’ Interface on Accessible ICT for Persons with Disabilities. The Agenda was to have more plans of action for the proposals that was made during that conference and Awarding for some individuals and websites who have complied with accessibility guidelines of the W3C.

I was surprised that the DLSU website (which I previously worked on) was one of the recipients of the Accessibility award. Surprised in the sense that I thought the site needed some more work before it gets the acessibility award. I guess it does deserve this award because we were one of the first to execute our willingness to comply not only on intentions but on actions.

The other accessibility award was given to Jojo Esposa of the MCCID, which recently has been Mr Accessibility Webmaster (at Cebu) and a member of the Guild of Accessible Website Designers, a worldwide association of professional organisations, web designers and developers working together to promote the use and preservation of accessible design standards

NCWDP, NCC & DSWD also handed out plaque of appreciation awards for me, yours truly, for delivering a talk on CSS (Cascading style Sheets) as an accessibility tool to make "disabled-friendly" websites.