Miscellany for August
It’s been a good while since we published a Miscellany. That’s what happens when a family business has a baby! PureNyx kept the lights on, but we decided to cut down on some of our outreach. Despite that, we managed to actually grow a bit during interim! (No… that’s NOT a pregnancy joke.) Thankfully, things are settling down for us and little Hunter Kenneth Cooper. Sort of.
Now it’s back to business.
In this month’s miscellany I’m talking about the not-so-little operating system that apparently could, some rules for a website owner’s biggest choice, a major change in how Google treats pop-up marketing, and a pending update to the most useful tool we offer.
What’s Linux Anyway?
There have been a lot of stories lately about the 25th birthday of an operating system you might not recognize – Linux. Places like Wired have been trying to explain why it’s so important, so I thought I’d get in on the game and mention why it matters to our clients.
During my “formative years”, at least those formative in regards to computing, the big story in tech was the epic struggle between Microsoft and Apple, PC versus Mac. It was a knock-down, drag out fight that saw each side dominating special industries, getting government regulators to do their dirty work, and enlisting public opinion with funny jabs at one another during commercials. Microsoft took the corporate server rooms, financial firms, and laboratories. Apple took the schools, movies studios, and coffee shops. For the most part Microsoft won, but Apple held on long enough to find a new battleground with smartphones.
While that was going on, both firms were preparing to lose to the most unlikely contender- a Free-to-Use, Open Source operating system created in 1991 by a Finish college student, Linus Torvald. It wasn’t much of a competitor for the everyday user, even today the nicer flavors like Ubuntu or Mint Linux can be a bit rough, but there was one area it excelled. Linux captured pretty much the entire market for web application servers. It was just as not-really-simple as Windows to set up and maintain, every bit as fast, and had the benefit of being free.
Nowadays, well more than half of all webservers run Linux, especially when running high-traffic applications. Most web development tools and application platforms focus on Linux environments. Even Microsoft has gotten into the Linux game, as a solid third of its Azure cloud instances run Linux instead of Windows. Linux is dominant even before you consider that it is the core of every Androids device. That’s cut into Apple’s new territory, since Android holds an 82% market share of all mobile operating systems. Apple’s old territory took a hit from Linux too, since the Google Chromebooks currently sweeping Macs out of pretty much every school system also have Linux at their core.
PureNyx uses Linux at the very foundation of our hosting service. Every major component of our software stack is an Open-Source tool built specifically for a Linux environment. We’re not unusual in this way- most hosting companies run on Linux. That’s especially the case for firms using the WordPress CMS. Despite all the money Microsoft puts into Windows, Linux tools like Apache, NGINX, and MySQL are far better developed, deliver superior performance, and are arguably more secure than Microsoft-based alternatives. Ultimately, because of its open nature, there is a much larger cadre of developers working on Linux than Microsoft could ever pay to employ. A lot of your site’s development and design was done while sitting Windows 10 machine, but every moment of uptime is due entirely to Linux.
Choosing Your Domain Name
Remember back when you chose a name for your business? If you’re like most people, it wasn’t fun or easy. Everybody had an opinion, you didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, and you probably had a tendency to overthink how customers would view the name. Then you might have had to deal with other businesses already using your name! Well, prepare the do that whole thing over again when you pick a domain name for your website!
On the web, a domain name might as well be your business name.
Your website’s domain is not just a way to locate you. It becomes part of your brand, an important part of your search engine optimization, a way to identify your staff via email address, and part of the conversation about your business. It’s not quite as important that people remember the domain nowadays, given the power and ubiquity of search engines, but you can still be harmed by unclear references or close misspellings owned by others. Finding a free .COM isn’t quite as important now that more people are familiar with new Top Level Domains, but it still has a certain cache for most businesses.
Overall, it’s incredibly important to choose well. Luckily, there are some simple rules you can use… and we think the Search Optimization specialists Moz did a great job of laying them out in one of their recent blog posts. We turn to Moz when one of our clients need a bit of extra help with search marketing, and love the advice they provide here. If you’re looking to make that all important domain choice- check it out!
What Doesn’t Pop Up Can’t Hurt You
Pretty much every week we add a new popup (interstitial) feature to some client’s site. Whether it’s an email subscription tool, a form requesting more information, or a way to advertise a sale, popups are an increasingly common part of our service. We have a ton of great tools for creating and managing interstitials, so it’s something we’re good at. It’s also something people get from a lot of third party marketing services and we embed a lot of outside content as well.
Popups used to be a real hassle, but nowadays people don’t seem to mind them quite as much. Interstitials have become something of a norm on desktop sites, enhancing the user experience with intelligently targeted information and offers. The quality and performance of good pop-up tools, like those we utilize, makes them almost pleasant… on desktops. On mobile devices, interstitial ads can be a horrible experience.
The lower speed of most mobile connections, and weaker processing by mobile devices in general, can seriously degrade the performance of interstitial systems. They often pop up at odd times, or in the wrong place. If their designer isn’t specifically planning for the mobile experience, by considering the popups in the site’s responsive design, they can actually be inaccessible to the user and totally disable the site. Popups that offer a pleasant experience on desktop devices are often difficult to use in a small-screen, touch based environment. Hardly any interstitial systems can handle aspect reorientation as users flip the device around.
All of this explains why Google warned site owners earlier this month that starting in January 2017 they would be penalizing sites with intrusive or nonfunctional interstitials. How they intend to determine that is a bit mysterious, despite the examples in their post. The important thing is that every client will need to review their popups and consider how they perform on mobile devices. Popups created through our core tools offer a lot of features to make this adjustment, but a lot of third party embed codes are probably going to need adjusted… or replaced.
So Many Days of Divi
In our last Miscellany… you know, a long time ago… I talked about how we strive to introduce features found in DIY Website Builders. One of the specific things I mentioned was the theming tool we use for most of our work, ElegantThemes Divi. At the time, we were just participating in polls to help the folks at ElegantThemes plan the future of their product. It was important to us that Divi not only continue to offer us the sort of back end control needed to craft your website, but it also needed to give our users more intuitive ways to edit their content on an everyday basis.
This September, that future will arrive in the form of Divi 3.0.
During the “Hundred Days of Divi” promotion they’ve been running as a lead-up to this release, we’ve been planning all the ways we will change our development process. We’re expecting to revisit many of our client sites and update their features to simplify maintenance and improve accessibility. We have myriad ways to leverage the new Divi for ourselves. However, it’s what Divi will do for our users that will have a real impact.
The Divi pagebuilder is introducing an intuitive, front-end customizer that will allow users to avoid much of the abstract, block-based construction process we currently have in place. It’ll also give users a lot more room to type, immediate feedback on the results, and generally be a lot more pleasant to use.
Stay tuned for more!