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Stop SpamSome of the first articles I wrote for this blog showed you how to build a website using WordPress. As I’ve found out over the last year, many people have followed those articles and are now running successful blogs of their own. In fact, I just received an email from a reader that used the information I provided in those articles to create her own blog. She also followed another article of mine that listed some of the WordPress plugins I’m using on this site. One of the plugins she chose to use is a plugin called “Contact Form 7” which provides you with a simple feedback form for your contact page.

Providing your visitors with an easy to use feedback form is a double-edged sword. Not only does it provide an easy way for your site visitors to contact you, it also makes it easy for bots (automated programs) to fill your inbox full of spam as the reader above recently found out. Over the weekend, she received over 500 emails from her site, all of which turned out to be junk mail and she wanted a way to keep this from happening again. So, she sent me an email explaining the situation and asked if I had any tricks that could help her. Lucky for her, I’ve already ran into this problem before and had a solution; a solution I’m going to share with you now.

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Behind the Green Curtain

On July 7, 2011, in Web Design, by LuCuS

Wizard of Oz - Green CurtainLast night I was talking with one of my business partners about a web project we currently have going on. During that conversation, he made a comment about something that most non-web developers never think about. The comment my friend made goes as follows, “when I ask to have a simple field added to one of our page forms, I don’t ‘know’ what all is involved to make that happen”.  After thinking about it for a minute, I realized that most non-web developers don’t realize or understand all of the complexities that go into something we all take for granted on a day-to-day basis such as form fields on a website. So, I want to take a few minutes to address this for my friend and for everyone else that have never had to build a product such as a fully-functional website.

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Flash SWF to HTML5 Converter

On June 30, 2011, in Google, Web Design, by LuCuS

Adobe Flash LogoI’m sure most of you have already heard by now that Google recently released a new product called “Swiffy”. For those of you that haven’t heard about it already, Swiffy is a free tool for converting Flash SWF files to HTML5. Although it’s still a little flaky, Swiffy still does a pretty decent job and will only improve with time. To use the tool, head over to http://swiffy.googlelabs.com/ and click the “Browse…” button to select a SWF file from your local file system. The tool will automagically convert your SWF file into HTML5 and compatible Javascript code. Swiffy currently supports a subset of SWF 8 and ActionScript 2.0, and the output works in all Webkit browsers such as Chrome and Mobile Safari. I think this is going to speed up HTML5 development which is a huge improvement for the overall web world. Go ahead and give it a try for yourself.

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Webpage Heatmap Overlay ExampleA while back I had mentioned a project that I wrote for a marketing firm that used eye tracking to determine what parts of their customers’ websites a study group viewed the most. Equipped with this information, the firm was able to tweak their customers’ websites so that advertisements were correctly positioned for maximum pay-out and conversions. After posting that article, I have received several emails asking for both the eye tracking software and the software that displayed heatmaps over a website. I’ve already shared with you code that does eye tracking using OpenCV and C# here. It isn’t the exact same code as I designed for the marketing firm, but it does do the same thing and produces the same results.

The heatmap software used in that project was also proprietary. However, I do have another solution for you. It’s called “heatmap.js” and can be found at http://www.patrick-wied.at/static/heatmapjs/. heatmap.js is a Javascript library for the HTML5 canvas that generates heatmaps over webpages based on data you provide it. The heatmap.js page has several exmplaes for you to checkout. The tool is extremely easy to use. So, head on over to the heatmap.js page and give it test drive. Be sure to share some feedback at their github page https://github.com/pa7/heatmap.js.

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Sencha ExtJS LogoFor those of you that have done any kind of true web app or website development, one of the biggest hurdles you will almost always face is cross-browser compatibility. Adding in Javascript can make cross-browser compatibility even more of a nightmare. Not to mention, having to hand code every last Javascript function from scratch can make things even worse. Lucky for us, there are plenty of Javascript frameworks out there that can ease these pains for us. The frameworks are intended to provide you with consistent, reusable Javascript code that you can use and reuse in any web app or website. Plus, Javascript frameworks can also decrease your headaches caused by cross-browser compatibility issues.

A while back, I did a proper evaluation of some of the major Javascript frameworks and picked what I thought was the best tool for use at my day job. Here are the frameworks I evaluated:

  • ExtJS
  • YUI
  • Dojo
  • JQuery
  • Prototype
  • Mootools
  • GWT

Of those frameworks, I found that ExtJS was the best tool for us. Some of the things we needed in a Javascript framework included an extensive widget library, easy to config & follow code, fast development time, small footprint, and fast load times. Even though ExtJS proved to fit all of these criteria the closest, it’s still a little slow in the development time. So, I’ve decided to do something about that. Even though there are plenty of GUI designers out there for drag-n-drop ExtJS development, I’ve found some issues with all of them that I can’t ignore. In fact, Sencha, the company that owns ExtJS, has even provided a GUI designer of their own. However, just like the others, the Sencha ExtJS designer includes some of the same problems. Instead of bitching about the problems with the other ExtJS GUI designers, I’ve decided to create my own and I’ve decided to create it as an Eclipse plugin since that’s where all of our web app development takes place anyways.

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