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From the Factory Floor

Feature Update: Wildcard URLs

April 7, 2009 - 3:34 PM

What We've Been Up to Lately

Introducing Wildcard URLs

We've recently completed an update that we're pretty excited about: Wildcard URLs. This feature gives you the ability to create a Markup Factory page, blog post, event or other object that respondes to a range of URLs using the wildcard asterisk (*) character.  For example, you could create a page with the url /about/*.  This page would then be loaded anytime someone went to:

  • http://yoursite.com/about/staff
  • http://yoursite.com/about/location
  • or any other url beginning with http://yoursite.com/about/

Some new Runtime Variables

In addition to the wildcard urls update, we've added some new runtime variables that you can use in your templates, pages, and snippets.  These new variables give you the ability to read information about the URL of the page you are on.  Before I describe the variables, iet's talk about the structure of the Markup Factory URLs.  URLs in Markup Factory are divided into different segments, for example /path/path2/path3 etc. The new runtime variables then allow you to read an individual segment of the URL. You can reference these segments in MFScript by using the following runtime variables:

  • @path1 - contains the first segment of the url
  • @path2 - contains the second segment of the url
  • @path3 - contains the third segment of the url
  • ...
  • @pathN - contains the Nth segment of the url

For more info on using runtime variables, take a look at the MFScript documentation.

Using Markup Factory Wildcard URLs

You may be thinking, this is cool, but when would I ever use this? Wildcard URLs are exciting on their own, but you can really start to see the possibilities available when you use wildcard URLs with dynamic snippets, datasets and the @path runtime variables. Coupled with the dataset and dynamic snippet features, you can use wildcard urls to create a simple page that displays a specific record from a dataset based upon one or more of the @path variables. We'll save any more discussion on this for a later tutorial, but feel free to try out these new features in your site, and let us know if you have any questions!  You can also review the folllowing tutorial for more information on pulling content from your datasets based on the URL - "Tutorial: Adding URL-Specific Content to your Template using Datasets and Dynamic Snippets".

Church Websites

March 2, 2009 - 3:14 PM

The Purpose Driven Website

This weekend, I made the trip down to Ministry 2.0 in Austin, TX. In addition to spending some great time with some smart and passionate people down there, I enjoyed the sessions by Nathan Smith, Stephen Anderson, and Jason Reynolds. One of the main themes I saw woven throughout the conference was related to building your church website based on a strong sense of purpose.

With so many exciting and quickly changing technologies happening on the web right now, it can be tempting to just pick out the things that appeal to you and make them part of your website. A beautiful photo slide show for the home page... a little online video... a blog for the pastor to write on... a facebook group for everyone to join... a twitter account to post updates to... and you've got yourself a modern and relevant website - or so it might seem.

The important thing to remember is that many of these great example uses of web media you are seeing out there have a whole story behind them that goes well beyond just the technology itself. The medium itself is not what makes a website great, it is the implementation and use of the medium to accomplish a defined goal that makes a church website extraordinary.

In my experience building church websites over the years, I have normally started out every church web project by asking the client to define a few things:

  • "Who is your audience?"
  • "What is the purpose of the website?"
  • "What action do we hope visitors to the website will ultimately be lead to?"

Answering these questions usually takes us most of the way towards determining the information architecture of the site (or what will be on the site and how will it be organized). Usually, we're just trying to answer these questions off the top of our heads. Stephen Anderson shared one concept in his sessions that I think can help us better answer these questions and gets more the heart of the matter and it is simply:

"What needs do you have in your church?"

Note that this question is not, "What needs do you have in your church that your website can help you meet?". The question focuses the discussion just on the needs of the church and not yet on how those needs will be met. We really get to the core of what the church is about and this will later lead into making the website into a vehicle to help accomplish the purposes of the church. Every feature, function, and organizational element of the website needs to flow out of the purpose of meeting the needs that are identified here.

One example we discussed in my group was someone's stated need of helping the elderly members of the church to speak more wisdom into the lives of the younger members. I remembered a story a while back when YouTube was just starting to become very popular. An elderly british man (I wish I could remember his name) started sharing his life stories on YouTube and his popularity amoung younger viewers exploded. I think this was because of his authentic content and the fact that his stories came from another time in our history that is so foreign to the younger generation. There was wisdom in his videos and because it was through a medium that was relevant to the younger generation, a need was met for many who participated.

In light of this example, one way you could meet this need on a church website would be to use video to allow elderly members to share testimonies or other wisdom in a medium that is welcomed and acceptible by people who might not otherwise be exposed to this wealth of life insight. There would be benefit to both sides and people who may not otherwise interact could do so using web technologies.

There are numerous other ways you can apply this thinking and I think we need to go through this excercise extensively when planning and building our church websites.

Find Your Next Home With Markup Factory

February 27, 2009 - 12:00 PM

Everyone knows the real estate market is going through tough times now, but that doesn't mean there aren't deals to be found. If you're in the market for a home, some of our clients have recently launched sites that can help you find the perfect fit for your family or business. If you're a Realtor, we can help you create an experience to get potential buyers in the right place. If you're a web designer with clients that are Realtors, we can provide the ideal platform to integrate with the real estate services they already use.

Venture Homes The Generations Group RE/MAX Real Estate Centre

Venture Homes, The Generations Group Realtors, and RE/MAX Real Estate Centre are three companies located in Iowa that have recently launched Markup Factory sites that directly integrate with their MLS (Multiple Listing Service) systems to let potential buyers search, learn, and communicate about the properties they have for sale.

Markup Factory has the capability to integrate with different MLS systems. This not a feature available with any of the standard packages, but (very reasonable) pricing can be discussed by contacting us.

There are a few companies out there that act as real estate website factories, churning out hundreds of sites with sub-standard design and usability. Most of their clients go on blissfully unaware that what they bought is probably not search engine friendly and certainly does not meet the expectations of today's web-savvy audience. We take a different approach: Build a great, easy to manage website, and integrate the real estate features into that framework. The sites mentioned above were designed by our in-house design team, but if you're a designer or a Realtor with your own designer, it's easy to make something just as good or better. In the end you'll end up spending less money for more quality. In this market, you can't afford to leave your customers with a bad taste in their mouth.

These sites (we're launching more soon) download the listing data daily and automatically update the site content. You don't need to do anything once it's set up (unless you want to, of course.) We currently have sites set up in the central Iowa and eastern Iowa areas, but we can work with your broker and MLS provider to set up a site anywhere in the US. We've been building sites for Realtors for over 10 years here, too, so we speak RETS, IDX, FTP, GLA and all of the alphabet soup that goes along with the business.

If you've visited the above sites and have any comments, we would love to hear them. If you're in the market for a website, with or without real estate features, sign up or drop us a note. We can't wait to work with you to bring your customers a top-of-the-line web experience.

A Script For Breadcrumb Navigation

January 28, 2009 - 11:00 AM

Most web users are familiar with breadcrumb navigation. It can be useful when a site is organized in a hierarchical fashion. Yahoo! has detailed the typical problem and solution in their Design Pattern Library.

This short tutorial will provide a JavaScript that you can include in Markup Factory or any other web site. The script will be detailed here. It's pretty advanced, but if you follow the requirements set out here, you can just download it and put it on your site.

In order for this to be as simple as possible, there are some things that must be done in order for this to work. Fortunately, Markup Factory makes this easy. Here are the requirements:

  • The Prototype JavaScript Framework. We're fans of Prototype.js here at Markup Factory, and this script uses some of Prototype's features, which will be explained here.
  • The URLs of your pages must be hierarchical and each level must be a valid link. That means if you have a page located at /about/products/widgets/foo/, then /about, /about/products, and /about/products/widgets must also be real pages. This is easy in Markup Factory, as you can give a page any address you like.
  • When the script runs, it replaces underscores (_) and dashes (-) in the URLs to make the breadcrumb navigation. Using other characters and file extensions may result in the results not being as pretty as possible.
  • The end user must have JavaScript enabled. If they don't, no problem, they just won't see the breadcrumbs.

How it Works

The script does the following when the page loads:

  • Take the URL path and split its parts into an array, excluding empty parts.
  • If there are more than 0 parts, add a “Home” link to the root of the site.
  • Go through each part of the path and create a URL and a link.
  • Take the part and replace _ and - with spaces, then capitalize each word and make that the link.
  • Once that's complete, find a DIV on the page with an ID of “breadcrumbs” and replace its contents with the link you've created.

So, if your URL is http://gottung.net/my/page/for-the/bread_crumbs/test/, you'll get something like this:

 

Home > My > Page > For The > Bread Crumbs > Test

 

The code is in two functions. The first part extends the native JavaScript String to have a capitalize_each_word function:

String.prototype.capitalize_each_word = function () {
    var words = this.split(" ");
    var str = "";
    words.each(function (word, index) {
        str += word.capitalize()
        if (index !== (str.length - 1)) { str += " "; }
    });
    return str;
}

This demonstrates a powerful but controversial feature of the JavaScript language, often called Monkey patching. You can add methods to any object, even native ones. This should be done with extreme caution as it could create conflicts with other peoples' code and wreak havoc. This case seems pretty harmless, so let's go with it.

The next part is the actual function, which is placed inside a document.observe callback which fires when the DOM is ready. This means that when the page is downloaded and ready to go, then this script will start. Prototype.js uses this pattern to make starting your scripts a little easier.

The rest of the code isn't pretty, but it does exactly what was described earlier. The Prototype.js-specific functions used are: document.observe(), Array.without(), $, Array.each(), String.gsub(), and Element.update(). You'll also see our capitalize_each_word() function in action:

document.observe('dom:loaded', function () { 
    var output = "";
    var url = "";
    var path = location.pathname.split("/").without("");
    var div = $("breadcrumbs");

    if (path.length >= 1) {
        output += "Home > ";
        path.each(function (i, index) {
            url += "/" + i;
            i = i.gsub("[-|_]"," ").capitalize_each_word();
            if (index !== (path.length - 1)) {
                output += "" + i + " > ";
            } else { output += i; }
        });
    }
    if (div) { div.update(output); }
});

Including in Your Markup Factory Site

You can download this script below and add to a Template or Snippet. Somewhere in the page body, usually before the main content of the page, you'll need to put a DIV where the breadcrumbs will be inserted:



You'll usually leave this empty, but you can put whatever you want within the DIV tag. It will be replaced when the script runs.

Then, somewhere before the closing of the BODY tag, include Prototype.js (served from the Google AJAX Libraries API) and the script:



Upload breadcrumbs.js to your Files and you're ready to go.

Download the Script

breadcrumbs.js

Related Resources on the Web

Conclusion

We hope you were informed and enlightened by this example. Any comments would be appreciated, and help is always available at support@markupfactory.com. If you haven't yet experienced how Markup Factory can help you make a great web experience, try the demo. We hope you like what you see. If you do, sign up.

Multiple Account Support

January 16, 2009 - 11:55 AM

If you design or manage multiple websites, you may find our "Linked Accounts" feature useful. This feature allows you to quickly jump back and forth between the administrative interfaces for all of the websites that you manage.

Change Account

If you join our Design Partner program, we automatically link all of your accounts together, which makes supporting your clients that much easier.

Tutorial: Adding URL-Specific Content to your Template using Datasets and Dynamic Snippets

November 7, 2008 - 10:06 AM

This tutorial will walk you through the steps to display content in your templates based upon the requested URL.

Step 1: Building a Custom Dataset for your Content

First, we are going to build a custom dataset to hold the content for our template.

To create your dataset, open your Markup Factory Admin Dashboard, and click on the Database Module. Once in the Database module, click "Add Dataset" to create your custom dataset.

We'll need to give our dataset a descriptive name, so name it something like "Dynamic Template Content", and click "Create Dataset."

Now our dataset is created!

Our dataset has been created!

As you can see, it doesn't have any fields yet.  Our next step is to add some fields to our dataset.  We want the content in our template to change based upon what the current URL is, so our dataset will have the two following fields:

  • Content (Text):  This will contain the content to display for each URL.
  • URL (Text): This is the URL that is associated with the content to display.

To begin adding fields, click the "add a field" link.  We'll go ahead and add the "URL" field first.  For the field name, enter "URL".  We will want this field to be a text field, so for the field type, choose text.  There are several other field types available, but for this tutorial, we will only be using the text field type.  The Include in List View option allows us to choose whether to display this field when view the records in the dataset list view.  For the "URL" field, we will want to enable this option.  Finally, we can choose an input type for this our field.  There are two options for the "Text" field type: Text Box, and Text Area.  Let's choose "Text Box" for this field.

Adding the URL field

Click "Save Settings" to add the "URL" field. 

There, our "URL" field has been added.  We still need to add our "Content" field though.  Go ahead and add the "Content" field, naming it "Content."  Select "Text" as the field type.  We don't want the content field to appear in the list view, so leave the list view box unchecked.  Finally, instead of a text box, choose "Text Area" as the input type, and save the field.

The dataset has now been built!  For now, we just have an empty dataset.  Eventually, we will add a record for each URL that we want to display custom content on.  For now, however, we'll only add one record to test our example.

To add a record to the dataset, click the "Dataset Records" tab.  You should see that there aren't any records currently in the dataset.  Click "Add a record" to get started.  For this example, lets add a record for a page with the url "/hello-world".   Enter /hello-world in the URL field, and in the content field, enter the text Hello World!.  Click "Save" to add the record.

There we go!  We've created a custom dataset, and have a record in it.  You can add some more records if you like.  Let's move on to step 2.

Step 2: Creating a Dynamic Snippet to Display Data from our Dataset

In this step, we'll create a dynamic snippet to display the data we just entered in our custom dataset.  Dynamic snippets allow you to link a snippet to a dataset, and wrap the data in the dataset with whatever HTML your would like.

Let's get started creating a new dynamic snippet.  Go back to your Markup Factory dashboard, and click on the "Templates" module.   To add a new snippet, click "Snippets", and then click "Create Snippets" near the bottom of the page.

Now, we'll setup our dynamic snippet. First we'll need to choose a name.  Let's name this snippet dynamic-content.  Next, we can choose a "Linked Dataset" for our snippet.  Linked datasets are a handy  tool to display dynamic data in our snippets.  We want to link to the dataset we created in step 1, so choose Custom: Dynamic Template Content from the drop down.

Next, we need to setup what data to display from our dataset.  There are several options available.  For this example, we only want to display the record for the URL of the current page.   To do so, we will add a filter based on the runtime variable, @url.  Under "Filters", click "Add Filter" to setup the filter.   We need to only display records where the URL field matches the @url runtime variable.  Select URL from the first drop down. The second drop down should be set to equals.  Finally, enter @url in the text box, and click Add Filter.

Note: The @url field does not contain trailing forward slashes.  For example, /hello-world/ is treated as /hello-world by the @url runtime variable. 

Add a filter

This filter will now only display records in the snippet when the current URL matches the URL field in our custom dataset.

Now, we just need to tell our snippet how to display the dynamic data from our dataset.  On dynamic snippets, you will see four different fields that will help you display the data:

  • Snippet Contents: This is the contents of the snippet.  On dynamic snippets, the Snippet Contents are "wrapped" around each record in the linked dataset.  For each record in your dataset, the snippet contents is applied to the record, and then appended to the snippet contents for each previous record. 
  • Snippet Header HTML: This field allows you to enter HTML that will appear before the snippet contents, and is not applied to each dataset record.
  • Snippet Footer HTML:  Similar to Snippet Header HTML, but this fields contents will appear after the snippet contents have been applied to the dataset.
  • Empty Dataset Text: This field gives you the ability to enter text or HTML to display if your dynamic snippet cannot find any matching records in the dataset.  This is helpful to dsiplay text such as "No records could be found", etc.

In this example, we will enter the following code in the "Snippet Contents" field:

<div>#{content}</div>


The #{content} is the syntax used to reference the fields of the linked dataset.  #{contents} will display the text in the contents field.  For a list of the snippet syntax for the fields on your linked dataset, click the "Show Dataset Field Syntax" link.

Enter the snippet contents

For this example, we don't need to enter anything in the Snippet Header HTML or Snippet Footer HTML fields, so we'll skip those. However, we will want a message to display if a record doesn't not exist in the dataset for the current URL.  We'll use the Empty Dataset Text Field.

In the Empty Dataset Text field, enter:

<div><p>#{content}</p></div>


We've entered all the data we need for our example.  Now we'll save our snippet.  Click Ok to save the snippet.

Congratulations!  We've created a dataset and linked it to a dynamic snippet!  The last step is to display the contents in a template.

Step 3: Testing the Dynamic Snippet

Alright, we've finished the complicated part of the tutorial.  We just need to add our snippet to a template, and test it out by creating a page.

Let's create a new template by going to the Markup Factory dashboard, clicking on the Templates module, and selecting "Add Template."

Name the template "Dynamic Data", and for the template contents, enter the following:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN"
"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"> <head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1" /> <title>Untitled Document</title> </head> <body> <div style="width: 400px"> <div style="float: right; border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 10px; padding: 2px;"> {{include name="dynamic-content"}} </div> {{maincontent}} </div> </body> </html>


Click Ok to save the template.

Next, we need to create a page to test our example.   Go to the markup factory dashboard, click on the Pages module, and select "Add Page." 

For the page title, enter Hello World!.  In the url field, we'll enter the URL in our custom dataset record, /hello-world.  Choose the template we just created, "Dynamic Data", as the page template.  For the page contents, enter:

Welcome to the hello world page!

Click save to save the page.

Ok, lets give this a try!  To test out our dynamic snippet, open your web browser, and navigate to: http://[your-site-url]/hello-world

You should see your dynamic snippet outputting the data from the custom dataset we created!

Hello World!


Feature Update

November 5, 2008 - 6:04 PM

What We've Been Up To

I wanted to take a minute to update you on what we've been working on lately with Markup Factory.

We've been spending a lot of time improving our back-end, page rendering engine, templating engine, and our new MF Database module (currently in beta). This may not sound too exciting to some of you, but this groundwork will have a dramatic effect on what you will be able to create with Markup Factory.

Our main goal in all this is to make every aspect of the website design and presentation accessible to the designer. This includes full control of XHTML output for all of the content and data stored within the system.

Dynamic Snippets

One of the ways that we achieved this was to create a new feature called Dynamic Snippets. This feature is similar to regular Snippets, only you can now load a set of data into you snippet and loop through it to create customized output. For instance, you can create a new Dynamic Snippet called, "Latest News", set it to include any blog posts in a specific category, and then wrap the contents of the posts in HTML of your choosing. You can then insert this snippet into your home page or on a side bar in your template. The best part of all this is that you can do this without any programming, SQL statements, or database connections.Dynamic Snippet Example

Database Module

We are also moving through the development of the amazing new Database Module. We've recently seen a number of sites launch using this feature in some creative ways ranging from a custom eCommerce site with customer order tracking, to a Real Estate listing site, to an online Membership Renewal application. The MF Database Module enables rapid development of simple web applications by enabling you to create a new dataset and then access that dataset through Dynamic Snippets or the Form Builder. We've also built integration with our user module, which enables you to associate data to users. Again, you can create these apps without any custom programming required.

Dataset Example

These two features will be the cornerstone of our rapid application and website development toolbox.

Markup Factory Launched!

June 16, 2008 - 9:19 PM

DashboardI am pleased to announce the launch of the Markup Factory Web Publishing Platform!

We sincerely believe we are breaking new ground on the web with the launch of this extraordinary website utility. We have worked hard over the last several years to develop a web publishing platform that will cater to the needs of today's web designers and content publishers. Our mission is to provide a utility to assist web designers and content managers in building and maintaining websites more effectively. Our approach is to remove much of the heavy lifting usually associated with building a website and to provide an incredibly powerful set of features that require no server side coding to leverage, while still providing the flexibility for creative design and development.

We believe that there will always be a place for custom software development on the web, but the process for creating many websites can be a lot simpler now than it was before. Markup Factory will enable you to produce feature rich websites in a fraction of the time that it might normally take with other content management systems.

Among other features, here are some of the highlights of this new Web Publishing Platform:

  • Powerful Template Engine (supports native XHTML and CSS)
  • On-Board Content Management System
  • Built-In Email Newsletter Engine
  • Built-In Online Store
  • Built-In Calendar
  • Built-In Online Event Registration
  • Built-In Customizable Online Database (currently in beta)
  • Built-In Form Builder (currently in beta)
  • Built-In Podcasting Engine
  • Blogging Engine
  • Hosted Solution

I invite you to take the tour to learn about Markup Factory in more detail. Or if you really want to dig in deep, you might be interested in checking out our online documentation.

With the launch of Markup Factory, web designers can create an account and begin building a website immediately. We are excited to see what you will all create and are looking forward to refining and enhancing Markup Factory as we go along.

I would like to thank everyone for supporting us in these efforts and for providing valuable feedback along the way. Thank you also to everyone who signed up for our launch announcement and waited so patiently while we perfected the system!

Semantic Web Explained

June 3, 2008 - 10:37 PM

Nova Spivack explains the semantic web

This is a fairly technical presentation, but if you're into databases, schemas, and the future of the world wide web, this is fascinating. Some are calling the Semantic Web "Web 3.0".


Nova Spivack at The Next Web Conference 2008 from Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten on Vimeo.

Web Publishing Platform

May 28, 2008 - 5:50 PM

More than a Blog

Markup Factory is a Web Publishing Platform designed to help people use their talents and abilities to build and manage websites more effectively. Within our platform, we've specifically addressed several key audiences including:

  1. The Web Designer / Developer
  2. The Content Contributor
  3. The Website User

We believe that there is a place for each of these in the process of building and maintaining a relevant web presence.

Design

Canned website templates are a nice thought and do have a place, but there is no substitute for a talented web designer in the process of building a great website. A designer brings personality and appeal to the web presence and matches this with the brand of the organization or individual. An effective web publishing platform should enable a designer to have total creative freedom over the look and feel of the website and in today's day and age, that means total control over the CSS and XHTML output generated by the system.

Development

Beyond the look and feel, an effective web publishing platform should enable a website developer to create rich functionality on the website without having to reinvent the wheel. A Calendar, Blog, Newsletter, Online Store, Podcast, and Small Database Application should not have to be hacked to fit into your content management system. There will always be a place for custom developed applications, but we've reached a level now where only the most unique requirements will demand from-scratch development.

Content

All too often, the web designer or developer gets roped into the process of publishing content to the website. We all know the process. The individual who wants to publish the content sends a detailed email to the web designer. The web designer attempts to interpret these instructions and make the update for the impatient requester. An effective web publishing platform should give direct access to the content contributor and let the designer do what he / she does best: design. In present times, this also means enforcing valid XHTML output on the website even though the content contributor may not be aware this is happening.

User Experience

Users should not need to maintain multiple accounts to interact with the rich functionality on your website. Users should not need to visit one website to view your blog, another to get your podcast, another to purchase from your online store, and yet another to register for your conference. Your are one - your website should be too.

With all of the collective development that Internet professionals have put into the World Wide Web, does it still need to take hundreds of hours to develop a website that can accomplish all of these purposes?

We are looking forward to seeing what our users will create with this new platform. Our aspiration is to work together with you to produce the next generation of websites and to set a new standard for website functionality that will penetrate into every corner of the web.

Addressing Form Spam

May 20, 2008 - 10:06 PM

Enough Already

We've watched the amount of email spam double every six months for the past couple years. Recently, we've seen dramatic increases in the amount of form or comment spam (that is spam that comes through submitted web forms). There are several effective methods of combating form spam that have been developed in recent years including:

  1. CAPTCHA
    The CAPTCHA Project: www.captcha.net
  2. Human Solver
    What is two plus four? 
  3. User Authentication
    You must log in to post a comment. 
  4. Moderation
    "Your comment will be displayed after it is approved by a moderator." 
  5. Content Filtering
    Akismet - www.akismet.com | Mollum - www.mollum.com

There are other methods beyond these and Six Apart does a nice job of outlining most of them as does Site Point. In the coming months and years, I suspect that this will be a moving target (just as email spam has been) and no one method will be perfect. There have been recent exploits of some prominent CAPTCHA systems. We have been very impressed with the accuracy of Akismet and the extremely low number of false positives. I wonder if putting your combat methods out in public in the form of a CAPTCHA is just inviting spammers to crack it. Services like Akismet keep the filtering algorithms behind lock and key so it may be much more difficult for spammers to reverse engineer a system of that type.

We are offering a number of these methods as configurable choices as part of the Markup Factory web publishing platform, including Akismet, possibly Mollum, moderation, and user authentication. As of now, my personal recommendation is to go with Akismet if you have any public forms on your website. I'm looking forward to seeing if the new Mollum service can become an avid competitor of Akismet. Good luck guys!

 

Third Party Web Services

April 15, 2008 - 8:58 PM

Web Services Mashup

I am excited about the myriads of new web services cropping up all over the web. If you live or work on the web, you use many of these every day. Flickr, Twitter, Del.icio.us, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google, etc...

Today, Facebook released a new feed import feature. It's great to see Facebook embrace and make room for some of the web's very best service (Flickr, Picasa, Del.icio.us, Digg, and Yelp). In a Web 2.0 world (unlike the .com era) it's interesting to see how your competitor's differentiators can become your features. Who needs acquisitions when we can roll an integration in less than a week? I think we'll see a lot more of this as web services and social networks continue to progress. Smart companies will learn to leverage the power of other great web services and social networks in their own products while still focusing on differentiating themselves with their own unique offerings.

Markup Factory Web Service Integration

Announcing Google Calendar and Picnik Integration

Another one of our core values at Markup Factory is to help web designers make the best use of all of these web services. What better way to do this than to put them right at the fingertips of web designers and content managers? We recently finished integrations with Google Calendar as an events feeder and Picnik as our feature photo editing component. Sure we could have tried to roll our own rudimentary image editing component, but Picnik has done it so well that we thought we'd save our time for what we're really good at and embrace Picnik as a feature of our application rather than view them as some kind of competitor. I'm sure they won't mind either.

We hope to see much more of this in our application and in others in the coming months.

Benefits of Valid and Accessible Code

March 29, 2008 - 10:00 AM

A Platform for Launching Valid Markup

One of our core values at Markup Factory is to help web designers and their clients produce websites that are filled with valid and accessible code. To address this, we've built all of the components of Markup Factory with this goal in mind. But we also recognize that it is ultimately the task of the web designer to ensure that the website template is built to standards.

Because of the flexibility of the Markup Factory Template Engine, designers are free to use any HTML, XHTML, and CSS markup desired to create templates. We at Markup Factory encourage you to write accessible and valid code for many reasons and we advocate adherence to web standards. Accessible and valid code is best practice in modern web design. There are numerous resources available on the Internet to help today's web designer write accessible and valid code. The benefits of writing your code in this manner include the following:

  • Browser Compatibility
    Modern web browsers are increasingly becoming more standards compliant. As web browsers continue to improve, your accessible and valid code will render more consistently on web browsers with less hacking and incompatibilities to contend with.
  • Search-ability
    Today's search engines often rank websites with valid code higher than those without. Creating valid code also helps search engines more properly index your content and gives you the opportunity to place important keywords in some of the tags that are required by valid code.
  • Faster Page Load Times
    Because of the way that valid code is constructed, it will often be less bulky and less resource intensive to render. Browsers can render CSS based layouts much faster than table based layouts. This provides your visitors with a more efficient and pleasurable experience as they browse your website.
  • Accessibility
    The term accessibility derives it's name from allowing your content to be accessible to individuals with impairments. Although a minority, it is often important for these individuals to be able to access the information on your website. These individuals sometimes employ the use of screen readers and other devices that work based on the requirements of accessible and valid code.
  • Maintainability
    Writing valid code often makes maintenance of the website much easier. The code tends to be lighter weight and other designers will immediately see how your code was put together. With CSS based layouts, it is easy to quickly roll out a site wide style update or reorganization of your structure. Adding navigational buttons to CSS based layouts is dramatically more simple than other methods.
  • Usability
    The requirements for writing valid code inherently encourage the designer to create a more usable website. Many of the benefits listed above contribute to better usability in direct and indirect ways.
  • Increased Sales and Conversions
    Coupled with good design, better usability often translates into increased sales or conversions. This is a very tangible and measurable benefit to writing valid and accessible code.

Below is a list of some of our favorite resources for helping you learn about and create valid and accessible template code:

Blogging Live from SXSW

March 10, 2008 - 11:54 AM

Day 2

We're on day two of our trip to South by Southwest in Austin, TX. Here's a rundown of our trip so far:

  • Went to a party sponsored by Frog Design
  • Attended the Ellis Labs brunch.
  • Got to see a disaterous interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. I've got to say that Zuckerberg handled himself well.
  • Listened in on a panel on developing "Developer-Friendly APIs". I've now got several ideas churning in my head that we'll be implementing in our API.

Great Conference so far!

SXSW Interactive

March 6, 2008 - 3:35 PM

We'll Be There

Mike and I will be in Austin this weekend for SXSW Interactive. We won't have a booth or sponsored party or anything, but if you see us, please introduce yourself!

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and hope that when I return on Wednesday I won't be too spent from the partying. Just don't let me near the Screenburn.

2008 is an exciting year for the web! The maturation of social networking and introduction of numerous web services has made things possible that would have been out of reach just a year or two ago. I'm looking forward to the interview with Zuckerberg among others.

I hope to see you there!

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