Web Application Development – Basic Knowledge

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The internet has undergone a sea of change ever since it came into existence. The evolution of the internet has not stopped but it is still developing while this article is being written. Somewhere someone is developing a new technology or trying to improve upon the current technology available for web application development. The positive changes are taking place on all the fronts of the internet. The best example for this is increase in the accessibility of the internet through not only the desktop computers but also the mobile phone devices.

The application development is about developing applications that can be presented forth the internet user in the form of a software package. The best and the most common example of application is the website.

The first thing to be known and understood before starting any development project is to assess its need. There could be different needs of the web application such as promotion of products or services or it could be sharing information or even just socializing. This is from the perspective of the web application owner. This is not enough. The web application developer needs to also consider the interest of the targeted audience or the market segment.

The technology is improving day after day and the application needs to be developed with the optimum use of the latest technology available. When the application is developed with the help of the latest technology the results are supposed to be better than that with the earlier old technology.

The security of the application is nowadays a prime concern of the web application developers. Nowadays the online buyers want to not only place the orders through the application but also want to pay the bills through the web application. This implies that the tools used for transfer have to be totally secured especially with reference to the username and password used for transferring the money.

When any web application is to be development, the developer needs to first decide about the type of service to be offered through the application. The three types of services that are offered through application are business services, user service and data service. Before commencing the work on any application project the developer should assess the resources available and the technical skills of the team entrusted with development. The budget allocation should be one of the prime considerations before starting the web application development.

Web application development can be completed in four stages. The first stage is about preparing the project layout the direction, focus and features of the project are included in this stage. The plan of the whole project is created in the second stage. Third stage includes project development as per the needs identified earlier. The project cannot be said to be competed unless the stability of project is tested. This checking is done in the fourth stage of application development. The development project has to be divided into the above mentioned four stages to ensure that the application serves the purpose for which it has been created.

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Do Alt and Title Attributes Help With SEO?

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A highly talked about topic is the SEO world is, “Do Alt and Title Attributes Help with SEO?” Well to help shed a little light on this topic, I did some research and came up with a few good conclusions. I’m not suggesting these are 100% accurate but from my initial research they seem to be right on target. I welcome all other SEO experts to share their opinions on this topic by posting their comments – because as we all know, every little bit of information can help us all.

Well to start, I want to provide a brief introduction of each attribute to help you understand their “intended” purpose.

The alt attribute is, popularly and incorrectly referred to as an alt tag and is commonly misunderstood to provide a tool-tip for an image. Both of these are incorrect. First of all, the alt attribute is an attribute and not a tag. The alt attribute was always intended to provide alternative information about an element and is generally required for image and image maps and is not meant to be used to display a tool-tip. The alt attribute, can be used for the img, area, and input elements to help provide alternative information to users who cannot display that element in their browser. As an example, here is how you would define an alt attribute for an image: <img src=”imagepath.gif” alt=”this is our company logo”>. If the image is not displayed the text, “this is our company logo” will be displayed in the place of the image.

The title attribute, on the other hand, is meant to provide additional information about an element, which is displayed as a tool-tip by most graphical browsers. The title attribute can be used to describe any HTML element except for base, basefont, head, html, meta, param, script, and title.

An excellent use for the title attribute is to provide descriptive text within an anchor tag to let the users know where the link will direct them if they click on it. When the user places their mouse over the link, it will display a small tool-tip displaying the title text that you’ve provided. An example would be

So as you can see the alt and title attributes have different purposes but how do they affect SEO? This is the true question we all want to know and understand. Do they help with SEO or are they simply ignored by the search engines? I tested several different scenarios, all in Google, and after my research I’ve come to the following conclusions.

Alt attributes seem to be picked up by Google, whether or not there was a link within that element. Some SEO experts have mentioned that if there is no link, then the alt attribute would not be indexed… from my research I’ve found this to be false.

Going further, I noticed in one testing scenario, if there was an image with an alt attribute and a link to a completely other site, that other site was also indexed by Google when searching for the text within the alt attribute. It was difficult for me to verify this multiple times but I definitely verified it in one testing scenario.

I also took this one step further and analyzed my results with what Google Images was displaying. I immediately noticed that Google sometimes takes the alt attribute text and provides this text as the description for the image in Google Images, something that is very valuable to know and understand when doing SEO for your website.

In all of my testing scenarios, the title attribute do not seem to be picked up by Google and adding a link to that element did not seem to affect this result at all. If you really think about it, this makes complete sense. Since you can place title attributes in almost every element of a website, it would be very easy for a user to affect the search engines by keyword stuffing throughout their web pages, something that Google and the other major players do not want, hence why title attributes do not help with SEO.

In my opinion, you should use the title attribute to help with your user’s experience and not with SEO. Since tool-tips provide more useful information to the user about images, links, fields and much more, you will help your users to understand what is happening around the web page.

So from my testing I’ve determined that a title attribute is meant to provide tool-tips to the user for user experience, whereas the alt attribute is helpful in terms of providing alternative information to the user when their browser cannot display an image or input element and helping to increase the SEO of a website. My recommendation is to pay close attention to when, where and how you are using your alt attributes. If they help with SEO, then you should pay close attention to what you are adding.

When adding images always be sure to add an alt attribute to the code of each image. If you do not have one, then just specify a blank one, such as alt=””. Also, be sure to add alternative text that is relevant to that image, the content on that page and be sure not to specify an alt attribute greater than 100 characters in length, as this may be perceived as spamming.

I hope you find my brief overview on the topic of, “Do Alt and Title Attributes Help with SEO?” to be beneficial for you and your business. I’m sure one could dive deep into this topic, spending weeks determining the differences between how Google, Yahoo! and the other major search engines handle title and alt attributes with regards to SEO for a website.

I welcome all comments and/or feedback.

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YouTube Buffering – How I Fixed YouTube Buffering Problem

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I must confess that I am in love with YouTube. Ever since its launch, I spent a lot of time watching videos on YouTube. YouTube has been a source of information, education & entertainment. Something seems missing in my life if I stay away from it for a few days.

The most frustrating problem with YouTube occurs when there is buffering in videos causing them to lag. It mars the enjoyment of watching any video. It is a persistent and widespread problem. First I thought that it has no solution and I have to live with it. After some searching, I have found a handsome solution to avoid YouTube buffering problem. It worked for me and I am sure it would be useful for you.

Let me share my findings with you so that you can watch YouTube videos without slow buffering.

1. First of all you have to make sure that your are not downloading anything else at the time of watching YouTube video. If you are doing this, chances for buffering will increase many times.

2. It is recommended that you download and use some Video Accelerator tool. Fortunately, it is free and it will help you.

3. It is important that you test the speed of your internet connection. Multimedia and video streaming need high speed internet. You may need to talk to your ISP. In case your internet connection is fine consider optimizing internet settings through a system utilities software.

4. Most important of all optimize your entire PC. Clean Windows Registry, defrag Registry, optimize internet connection, clean system junk and optimize computer services. Performing these maintenance tasks on your PC will boost up browser and PC’s performance and you will experience less or no lagging in YouTube.

5. Install YouTube Auto-Buffer plug-in for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. An Auto-Buffer plug-in is a script that buffers YouTube videos without automatically playing. It also removes in-video advertisements, puts the video in High Definition (HD) mode as the case maybe. Google it for more information.

6. Make sure Windows Update is not carried out simultaneously. As default, Windows updates are enabled. Your computer searches new updates online, downloads and installs them automatically. This process uses higher bandwidth and the internet speed is dramatically reduced till update process is finished. Click the upward arrow located on the Notification Area of your Taskbar, and make sure there is no Windows Update icon with message “Downloading and installing updates… “

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Mobile Application Development Platforms (MADP) Classification

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With the phenomenal growth of mobile app adoption, enterprises are faced with challenges to develop and maintain the apps that work on all these diverse platforms and devices to reach wider audience. Developers also face the challenge of maintaining consistent look-and-feel across device/OS.

Mobile Application Development Platform (MADP), as the name suggests, provides development tools and frameworks for building Business-to-Employee (B2E) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) mobile applications. In addition to providing the tools, these platforms also provide middleware servers to connect and synchronize the data with the back end systems, eliminates the duplicate work by allowing business logic to be written and maintained in one place. You can build tighter integration with device features by using these MADP tools.

Following are the primary characteristics that any MADP tools should possess:

  • Integrated Development Environment (IDE): providing Visual Editors/Plugins, Form Builders, Property Builders, Debuggers and Source Control Integration.
  • Mobile App Development and Debugging: Explicit support for platform devices/emulators, platform specific code generations etc.
  • Multi-Device O/S support and integration: Multi-device platform support with Device Specific Code Optimization, Device Specific Runtime, Device Specific Feature integration and Tighter integration with device.
  • Packaging and Provisioning Mobile Apps: Supporting Native and Hybrid deployments, Single Build Process for all platforms, Inbuilt Application signing, Provisioning Flexibility of Single App – Single Platform, Single App – Multiple Platforms.
  • Middleware Server: Application server that hosts the back end service integration components managing the device registrations, security and transaction management. Also takes care of Mobile Resource Management based on User, Device & Network context.
  • Enterprise Application Integration: Adapters for integration with ERP/CRM and other Backend systems. Support for Data Mappers, Prebuilt Data Transformers, Data Chunking and Server Side Cache.
  • Security and Remote Management: Support for Device data encryption, disabling auto complete features, OTA based Application Management &Updates Device Capability Management (power consumption, networking).

On a broad level these MADP tools based on their development framework & packaging style can be classified into two categories

  • Native build tools and
  • Hybrid build tools

Native Build tools: This is a standard and traditional approach being following by the tool vendors who are in mobile market for long time. Products built on this approach provide sophisticated IDE tools to build application using their propriety frameworks. In this approach it is the responsibility of the tool to make the mobile application device agnostic.

Once the developer builds the mobile project in the tool and specifies the targeted platforms, it automatically creates the optimized native package for the respective platform. Platform/Device specific runtime not only takes care of UI screen optimization but also handles the memory, power &bandwidth management. These IDEs also come with platform specific property sheets for configuring features that are unique to specific platform.

Provides strong middleware features such as offline data synchronization, on device security, back end system integration, transaction management, serving the data based on user context etc.

This approach has its own share of Pros and Cons.

Pros:

  • Provides sophisticated WYSIWYG editors, using drag and drop editor, script & expression builders and property sheet features
  • Guarantees platform and device diversity
  • Good Performance, generates optimized native based on the target platform and device
  • Time to market is very less, using write once and deploy on multiple platforms

Cons:

  • Architecture is built using proprietary framework
  • Vendor lock-in
  • Requires learning a new skillset such as a new scripting language, a new IDE, etc.
  • Cost of ownership is high, license is Device/Session based and in very few cases it is CPU based

Top MDAP products that fall under this category are KonyOne, Antenna AMPchroma, Syclo etc.,

Hybrid Build tools: As the name suggests mobile apps built using these tools depend on HTML5 hybrid frameworks for building device agnostic applications. Products in this category, primarily concentrate more on providing the middleware server features that act as a gateway between the mobiles apps and backend enterprise systems. Most of these tools use REST Web services for integration with backend systems.

For building device agonistic UI, these tools depend on frameworks such as JQuery Mobile, Sencha Touch, Dojo Mobile etc. Using these UI frameworks, developer has to fine tune the HTML5 & CSS in the app to render the UI specific to the platform/device. For accessing the device features such as gallery, contacts, accelerometer, camera, GPS etc. these tools depend on hybrid frameworks such as PhoneGap/Cordova.

This approach has its own share of Pros and Cons.

Pros:

  • Follows Open Standards, Architecture is built on top of open standards
  • Framework flexibility, allows developers to choose the type of UI framework tool they want to use
  • Skillset reuse, leverages existing investment done in web development skills
  • Vendor Lock-in is limited to security and synchronization features
  • Cost of Ownership is less, Licensing is liberal with the availability of open source tools

Cons:

  • Does not guarantee device diversity, developer have to depend on UI frameworks to build cross platform UI and fine tune it to specific platform/device
  • User Experience Performance lags behind the native approach, hybrid code are not generally optimized to the specific platform on which app is running
  • Time to market is more, developers need to write/tweak the code for each platform and screen resolutions

Top MDAP products that fall under this category are IBM Worklight, Convertigo, SUP, OpenMEAP etc.,

Existing middleware vendors have slowly started looking into this approach. With their current power of providing robust middleware, security and EAI features they can easily build & add Hybrid Build MADP tool into their portfolio.

Conclusion

No doubt, Native Build tools with their strong feature set have always stood on top during any MADP evaluations, but they are unable to make fast inroads into organizations due to their inflexible licensing models and high license cost. Vendor lock-in is another bottle neck that is influencing CIOs to have second thought before going ahead with Native Build MADP tools. Due to lack of standards specification (eg., JEE, JDO) in MADP space, vendors have no choice but to build tools using propriety standards. This is a high time for tool vendors to come together to define standards in this space.

On the other hand Hybrid Build tools though having inferior features than its counterpart are making inroads into the organizations due their open standard implementation that revolves around HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript standards. Due to their flexible licensing models and open standards, CIOs are unable to resist themselves from looking forward to buy these tools. The other main advantage of using Hybrid Build tool for CIOs is, now they can reuse their existing web development teams (with JavaScript, HTML, CSS skillset) to build mobile apps.

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