Best Served Cold


technical news

Laravel Zend Search (Lucene)

So every big site needs some sort of search engine, normally something based on Lucene such as Elasticsearch or Solr, however, these need setting up separately to your web server stuff. The alternative is a Lucene implementation built entirely in PHP: ZendSearch.

We set up a Laravel install and looked around for a ZendSearch package and tried a couple, but the performance was poor and after digging into the code of these packages, there were some bits that were really inefficient, so Best Served Cold build their own super fast version!

You can get it here at packagist.org.
Or just:

composer require best-served-cold/laravel-zendsearch

The source code is on github.com

Happy searching.

Google PageSpeed 100/100

We’ve been looking into page speed here at Best Served Cold recently, it’s playing a more important part of search engine rankings now-a-days, but it’s still a bit of a black art.   After installing the firebug extension for firefox, we started working out exactly how to get 100 out of 100 and if that is actually achievable.  Well it is:

Evidence of 100 out of 100 with Google PageSpeed

 

To acheive this with no advisories took some time and effort, including setting up a CDN (Amazon S3 currently), a global HTML proxy (CloudFlare) and playing around with Google’s mod_pagespeed.

So there you have it, super fast pages, confirmed by Google Page Speed!

WordPress for Android

This is something I’ve only just found about: the WordPress for Android application. As an extensive user of WordPress on a number of websites (including this one) and an Android phone owner I think this could be very useful!

WordPress for Android is an Open Source app that empowers you to write new posts, edit content, and manage comments with built-in notifications. Download it now and get blogging in no time. The latest version of the app has just been released:

WordPress for Android 1.3.8 has been released to Android Market. We squashed some bugs that we received from Android Market reports as well as added a new feature!

You can find out more about the project and download the app here: http://android.wordpress.org/

WordPress for Android is an Open Source project, which means anyone can play a part in its development. WordPress for Android is released under the GNU General Public License. Both our app and our source code are free to download and use however you’d like. In return, if you are able, we’d love it if you contributed your code, your design talents, or even just your suggestions back to the project.

To download the app from the Android app market, follow this link from your phone: market://search?q=pname:org.wordpress.android

If you enjoy using this app, why not vote for it on our very own 101 Best Android Apps

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WordPress training?

Even though WordPress is very popular and, to fairly technical minded people, easy to use there is still a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of all the features. Now, I’m not talking about designing and building new WordPress themes or plugins – I mean blogging, writing pages, uploading images and making sure the content works.

A lot of people would be reading that and shaking their head: “WordPress is SO easy! How can anyone not understand how it works?”. But to somebody not used to any kind of computer software, let alone a content management system (CMS), it can be pretty daunting.

Over the last few years we’ve worked with a number of clients who have all wanted a CMS on their site, they don’t like the idea of paying us more money just to copy and paste text into their site – which is fair enough, it’s not something we really want to be doing either! When we’ve looked at all the various CMS available, something has stood out – if you design the theme correctly, WordPress is by far the easiest for most people to pick up straight away. Expression Engine is very good as is Drupal and Joomla but they always feel a bit over complicated.

But, even with something as simple as WordPress, we still need to train people how to use the features to best show off their site, keep the site search engine optimised and make sure the blog or news is regularly updated.

We’ve always found a simple face-to-face training session has worked best. It’s all very well showing YouTube videos to people or forcing them to read long winded PDFs but it’s just not the same as being in the same room and teaching them to work it on their own computer.

For starters we concentrate on what is WordPress and the difference between Posts and Pages. And from there we move straight onto adding content. After 30 minutes even the least technically minded people can write a new post, add and image and link off to another website. It might sound pretty basic but there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t know where to start otherwise.

If you’re using WordPress for more than just a blog, or planning a new website, it can very soon become a very large and difficult to understand piece of software. All those pages, categories, posts and tags can become quite overwhelming. If you need help with your WordPress site – we can probably help! We have designed and built bespoke themes, edited plugins and helped train users of several of our sites to make the most out of the WordPress cms.

Please contact us for more details

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HTML5 and new web standards

HTML and CSS are the basic building blocks of any website, the HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the code and content of a site and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is used for setting the layout and making it look nice. Over the years these languages have evolved and changed with new versions of web browsers and new demands by web developers and designers.

The next version of HTML is currently being finalised and gradually implemented into new web browsers and it’s causing a bit of a fuss among web developers. So, what is HTML5 and will it affect average web users?

Most web users don’t know how a website is put together – and that’s probably a good thing, it shows that the internet has moved on from it’s hand-made, amateur days to a point where sites are becoming integral parts of everyday life and run seamlessly on multiple platforms and browsers. One of the resons for this is the separation of content and design – the HTML and CSS – that allows developers to use the same content but show it in different ways on different platforms eg. mobile phones, televisions, laptops.

From W3 Schools:

HTML 5 improves interoperability and reduces development costs by making precise rules on how to handle all HTML elements, and how to recover from errors.

Some of the new features in HTML 5 are functions for embedding audio, video, graphics, client-side data storage, and interactive documents. HTML 5 also contains new elements like <nav>, <header>, <footer>, and <figure>.

The HTML 5 working group includes AOL, Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nokia, Opera, and many hundreds of other vendors.

Once HTML5 becomes more widespread and can be used as a foundation for all websites we will start to see web development move into an even more professional realm. Currently it’s still possible to design and code a fairly good looking website from home using basic tools. Obviously an amateur wouldn’t be able to produce a Faceboook or Twitter but a simple 4 or 5 page site is still possible. With HTML5 that is still the case but there’s more to learn and understand and much more is possible.

As more sites begin to use HTML5 in their code we’ll hopefully begin to see a reduction in the number of users browsing on old, outdated web browsers. Using an old web browser such as Internet Explorer 6 can really affect how you view the internet, most websites don’t support this 10 yr old browser any more and you’ll find that you’re often seeing reduced versions of websites – cutting down your usability and options. The other problem with older browsers is safety and security. It’s much easier for a hacker to break into your computer via the internet if you’re browsing with IE6 rather IE8, Firefox or Opera.

HTML5 can already be used and their are lots of websites starting to make use of the new standard. Often it’s combined with a new CSS standard CSS3 – which allows web designers much more freedom and expression in internet design. We’ve recently set up a website that showcases HTML5 sites: 101 Best HTML5 Sites – we’ve written the site in HTML5 and used some CSS3 to help us learn and understand the new language and start to show what’s possible.

Some other resources:

HTML5 -A vocabulary and associated APIs for HTML and XHTML
HTML5 from Wikipedia
HTML5 reference from W3 Schools

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So, just what is Twitter?

Everyone has now heard the term “Twitter” and “Tweeting” but really, what is it? What’s it for and why would anyone want to use it?

Over the last 12 months Twitter has popper up everywhere – from the US election to the UK election, on topical TV shows and even Jeremy Paxman having to say “Send us your Tweets” on Newsnight! But there’s still a lot of confusion about why should any normal person should actually use it… As a bit of a geek, I have a Twitter account – but that’s to be expected, t’s my job to know about such things and you can follow me here. There might not be much happening on my Twitter feed, mostly I talk about work stuff, music and what I’m up to. I use it to talk to friends and generally let people know what I’m up to and what we’re doing at Best Served Cold. But back to my original question: What is Twitter?

From Wikipedia:

Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.

Twitter was created way back in 2006 and it took a few years to reach the mainstream. The original idea was to let users create friends groups and talk to them simply about what was in their mind, if they had questions or just to arrange their social life…. Some time in 2007/2008 certain public figures and celebrities started to take notice and realised they could set up Twitter accounts and use it to talk directly to their fans about whatever was on their mind.

Very quickly the power of celebrities took Twitter from it’s geek roots to the mainstream. In the UK people like Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross popularised the service and in the US Ashton Kutcher became the first user to reach a million followers.

But why should a “normal” person use Twitter? At it’s heart Twitter allows you to publish your thoughts about anything at any time. If you have something to say, why not say it on Twitter – someone might hear you and want to find out more. A group of friends can use Twitter to talk to each other and discuss what they’re up to. Likeminded individuals can use Twitter to debate ideas and share links to websites and thoughts from around the world.

Businesses have started to get involved with Twitter to talk to consumers and actually have converations about products and services, if this is done correctly it can drive a lot of interest and traffic to the business at a low cost.

But still, Twitter is best for just mindless chat and finding interesting links and just discovering what other people are up to! There’s a certain vicarious thrill from checking out what your favourite celeb is doing or even what your friends are up to at work… There’s also a serious side to Twitter, the spreading of information quickly and easily around the world. In 2009 riots in Iran were tweeted to the outside world when traditional news media couldn’t get into the country.

To find out more about Twitter and some of the many applications and widgets available to get you started Tweeting from your computer or your phone, take a look at 101 Best Twitter Apps

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Apps jobs

Do you have a requirement for an app? Do you want your services to be available on an iPhone or Android phone? Or perhaps want something developed for the new iPad?

Apps Jobs is a brand new site where you can advertise your development needs for any type of mobile or web based application.

Advertise your app job here!

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101 Best iPad Apps and more…

That’s right, we’ve been busy over the last week or so building another 101 site! This time we decided to follow the hype and set up 101 Best iPad Apps. There’s been so much discussion and media interest surrounding the release of the iPad that sometimes it’s hard to follow what it means and what it’s for… Is it really a defining moment in modern computing? Or is it just another gadget that makes a big splash but sinks fairly rapidly?

I was fairly cynical about the iPad when I first read about it last year and agreed with the dismissive comments:

“It’s just a big iPhone”

“Why do I need a computer without a keyboard?”

“The resolution isn’t good enough for media but it’s too much like a netbook for reading books”

But now it’s been launched and the reviews have started to come in from people who are actually using it and maybe I was wrong in my initial assesment. Yes, it is a big iPhone (sort of) and at the moment the resolution isn’t the greatest but remember the first iPod? A black and white screen and 4 hours battery life (if you were lucky). This first iteration of the iPad might just open the door to a new way of using the internet for everyone – a pick up and browse gadget that doesn’t need any computer knowledge or skill to find what you want.

According to a recent survey found that 59% of Americans use the internet while watching TV which is an increase of 35% in the last year. Products like the iPad make that even easier, there’s no logging on, finding somewhere to rest a laptop and using a fiddly keyboard on a netbook. It’s like using the internet on your smartphone, straight onto your wifi network, click through to your favourites and off you go – except you actually have a decent sized screen to read from.

Now, I don’t want to sound like an Apple fanboy but there’s a lot to be said for the concept – but there are potential problems. Will enough people actually want to read books on the iPad? Anything with a backlit screen makes it difficult to read for long periods of time – and you certainly won’t be able to see it properly in bright sunlight while sunbathing on holiday! Is it something that most people need regularly? Using a laptop isn’t reallt THAT tricky… and for any serious business user there will always be a need for something with a bit more flexibility and power.

Overall, it’s an interesting concept and I’d love to have a go but I think we’ll need to wait for version 2 to really see the potential and what we can do with it.

Check out 101 Best iPad Apps to see what’s available already!

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Social Media and how to use it…

Social Media is an often used term and it covers a broad range of different websites – almost all new websites include some form of social media: in comments, embedded media or links to social tools. I like to think of Social Media as an umbrella term that as a basic rule covers three main types of website:

Social Media

Sites such as YouTube, SoundCloud and Flickr are all Social Media website. Literally speaking they are used to display Media in the context of a Social community. In this sense media is used with the traditional meaning of an act of communication – via film, art, photography, music etc.

Social Networking

Since the arrival of MySpace and Facebook the importance of social networking sites has increased dramatically over the last 3 or 4 years. These are now the most used and most active type of website in the world. The basic function of a Social Networking site is to allow users to chat, view and interact with each other via a simple interface.

Social Bookmarking

This is the most difficult type of social website to describe and understand. The idea behind Social Bookmarking sites is to easily store and distribute useful information and links to websites. Rather than storing favourite sites on your personal computer you are allowing anyone to view your links and rate the web pages based on the relevance to topic, how interesting they found it or some other criteria.

So that’s a brief overview of Social Media but how do you use it to your advantage when marketing a new website, prodcut or service? That’s where the work starts!

There are lots of blogs that will help with talking about social media and marketing and how to optimise your Facebook pages and Twitter tweets but one of the easiest to understand I’ve read recently is this:

16 Rules For Social Media Optimization Revisited

Here at Best Served Cold we can help you get started with Social Media and guide you on the best sites to register with, who your audience might be and how you can utilise the social internet to promote your brand or website.

Getting Started with Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is the process of promoting your site or business through social media channels and it is a powerful strategy that can get you links, attention and large amounts of traffic. Sometimes the work involved can be quite time intensive but it is always low cost.

The two main benefits of developing a good social media marketing strategy are:

  1. High numbers of new visitors
  2. Quality links from external websites

Both of these translate directly and indirectly to a higher search engine ranking and increased traffic to
your website:

  1. New visitors from social bookmarks or networking sites may find your site or article, read it, and then leave the site. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in the content. Online success is, at the most basic, a numbers game. The more visitors you can attract to your site, the more people will read your content and the more people will register with your site or bookmark you for future reference.
  2. A well written article, marketed across social networks will encourage other bloggers, journalists and network members to write about and link to your site. These links get picked up by search engines such as Google and this in turn increases the value / ranking of your site within search engine results.

If you already have a Social Media online marketing campaign in place we can still help you further by talking you through Social Media News Releases or SMNRs. We have helped to create Pressitt.com which is a frree service that allows you to publish online press releases across your favourite Social Networking and Social Media platforms. From Pressitt:

The Pressitt SMNR template offers all of the core information found in a traditional press release, but additionally takes advantage of linking, multimedia and Web 2.0 shareable features. It allows users to host downloadable hi-res images within their releases, along with PowerPoint presentations, and PDFs – YouTube videos can also be embedded. Each brand using the service is assigned its own RSS feed, and press contacts can be reached via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, up-to-date bookmarking and sharing icons are presented including Posterous, Yammer and Sphinn.

Once created your SMNR can be published to the Pressitt platform and shared to social networks or via an email link to your contacts and colleages.

With a Pressitt newsroom you can collate all your Social Network links in one place giving your customers an easy way to find you and your products. More importantly it gives you a high profile online presence to talk about your brand directly to your customers. If you’d like to find out more about Pressitt and Social Media News Releases why not contact one of the Pressitt team?

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101 Best HTML5 sites

We’ve launched another 101 site! This time it’s not for mobile apps but a showcase site for the best HTML5 sites we can find on the internet. We’ve already added quite a few and you can check it out here:

101 Best HTML5 Sites

HTML5 is the latest standard for all HTML websites. It’s been in development since 2004 and is just now being added to browsers.

HTML 5 introduces a whole set of new elements that make it much easier to structure pages. For a complete overview and introduction to what HTML5 can offer to designers and coders, I recommend taking a look at this article over at A List Apart.

We’re currently in the process of converting the site to use HTML5 but haven’t quite finished it yet!

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