#LessonsFromTheTrenches

This semester has involved a lot of hard work and late nights. I have carried out various different prototyping exercises for different things that will be used in my final Major Project. I decided to go through the previous 11 weeks and recap 6 of my main prototypes I have created to make sure they are all collected in one post and so I can reflect upon what I have achieved.

Major Project Prototyping Recap

1. Google Charts API Prototype

Since I will be using a lot of infographics throughout my final major project I thought it might be an idea to have a look into the Google Chart API. After playing around with it and coming up with a variety of ways in which I could customise it, I was very happy with the resulting pie chart I created. Google Charts have many other types of charts available but this one is definitely my favourite. It could prove very useful in YalaDXB and may make an appearance along with some other numbers information.

2. Map Generator Prototype

I played around with this a bit testing out the features. Then decided to customise my own small map to see if it would be useful for my project. When I added the map to my page it seemed quite glitchy around the marker, I’m not sure whats wrong with it but I couldn’t fix it. As you can see the marker image has a glitch on it that looks really bad. Therefore I think I will be avoiding using this tool unless somehow it gets fixed, but I have tried a few different things and it still looks the same.

 

3. Display Checkins on Foursquare using KML Link

I was playing around a bit with the Foursquare API originally and came across this cool and very simple way of using Foursquare to display data. It displays your Foursquare checkins on Google Maps by simply using KML link you can get off your Foursquare feeds page. You simply copy that link and paste it into Google Maps search, this then displays a limited number of your checkins. You can choose to display more checkins by simply adding the number to the end of the link like so ‘?count=100′. Obviously this would be displaying the checkins of one users account so wouldn’t be useful in YalaDXB unless it displayed multiple users data.

4. Instagram Prototyping using Snap Widget

I wanted to try out some stuff with Instagram that I could use for my Major Project. I had originally thought about showing photographs that were tagged to a certain location, then I realised the widget I used to put my instagram feed on my portfolio had a new update. This update allows you to show photographs on a map that are posted by a certain user or have a particular # included in them. You can check out the prototypes by clicking on the image below.

These instagrams on the map aren’t very accurate as they are using hashtags, so even though the photo may be tagged #Dubai it could have been taken in a different country therefore appears on that different country on the map.

5. Instagram Prototyping using Instagram API

I found a tutorial that explains how to pull photos from an Instagram users feed. I then realised I could amend it so that it allows you to pull images that are tagged at a specific location, this is exactly what I need as it means the content is more specific to the area and therefore likely to have better images. Images are retrieved using PHP’s curl library to send the requests. After getting this working to pull my own Instagram feed I then had a look at the Instagram developer documentation and found how to amend this to pull images uploaded from a certain location. I simply found the latitude and longitude for the Burj Khalifa, changed the distance to within 400m and managed to get a feed of photographs.

For YalaDXB I could use this for all the locations on the website, by simply amending the latitude and longitude for each. Allowing each tourist spot to have its own unique Instagram feed of pictures tagged at that location.

6. MapBox with Foursquare API

This is definitely a working prototype that will be used in my Major Project. At the minute it is maybe not exactly how it will be used but definitely the majority of the things I have learnt to produce this will be used to create a similar map in the YalaDXB website. The prototype has a map of Dubai with a series of different markers on it. When hovered over each marker displays the name of the location. The location name is pulled from Foursquare and therefore is displayed in both English and Arabic.

Once clicked on a tooltip displays the number of checkins at that specific location and the amount of users this includes. MapBox with the Foursquare API is an extremely powerful tool which will really enhance YalaDXB and help engage a social audience.

 

Implementing SEO for Live Project

Over the years being the top of Google and other search engines has been one of the many requests by clients, and even more so how quick can I be the top result for “Northern Ireland furniture” or top result when searching “interior designer”. However Google doesn’t for one give instant results unless you are willing to pay for it.

The truth is that SEO as a whole is a time consuming thing which needs to be nurtured. You have to keep adding to it and finding ways for it to be better each day that’s why the job SEO specialist now exists as its not as 2 minute thing, however there are steps you need to always take at the start. Defining these from the start is half the battle to good SEO.

When asked for the live project to research and achieve these goals, obviously not all are achievable, however I have researched into how and when I should implement SEO.

As said previously, SEO doesn’t just happen instantly, in fact a bit like my analogy of how building a house is similar to building a website I think I will analyse SEO with growing a plant.

The Pot

This is your keywords, what does the client want to appear as within the search engine. For the live project, Duncan and his wife specialise in:

  • Interior Design
  • Bespoke Carpentry

However these terms are quite generic so it’s important to specialise on these. There used to be a point in SEO where with the use of meta tags in the code you could find anything so if your site was for a zoo and you added popular google searches such as “cat meme” it could in some situations return your zoo! But luckily this “cheating” of the system has changed and it follows a much more organic growth.

By adding content in my website in certain html tags is how I access these keywords so in my case I have used the tags <h1> for my middle of the website which then in turn shows this is the most important part of the page as it has the most important tag. Within this then if I target the selected words with bold this will then show even more importance, this is how the ideal keywords come into play.

The Soil

Having Google Web Analytics in your site from the start will greatly increase your SEO and once Google bots have started searching it will pick it up faster and be able to tag it accordingly to your account.

Tweak your website Urls for a default WordPress site the URL will look like this “http://liveproject.poppydotcom.com/post.php?post=378″ however by accessing the permalinks options within the admin side we can change that to say the actual post name so now it will read “liveproject.poppydotcom.com/kitchens” this URL makes it recognisable to google and will allow you to get again a higher search than just having the post ID as its not relevant.

The final thing to do that greatly increases the chances of getting indexed quickly and effectively is by submitting a direct site map to google then it knows instantly “oh there’s a new site I better index all these pages”. Sitemaps are in XML format and allow you to place your links and subsection.

Planting the Seed

Know your website and keep the content updated regularly. it is hard to do this in portfolios for example as all you upload is the latest image of the project and your done however try and look into this further and instead of that make a dedicated blog post on each project and explain your skills at you used them the next time someone searches for web designer you will have much more chance in appearing as more entries and not a static site. Google loves blogs so its important to keep this up to date.

In my case for Vision Carpentry I have all the content based into separate pages and its dynamic that if Duncan wishes I can easily make an inner page describing the product in more detail and a possible gallery of images from different angles. For this to work on the website side simply all the user has to do is click the image of the piece that interests them within a category page and then it would automatically go to this new page. I think if my website gets chosen then I will suggest this to Duncan plus having an extra gallery of images would be great to show the craftsmanship that goes into his work, which effectively is the whole point of bespoke furniture it has to be unique unlike mass produced products from Ikea etc.

Keep Watering the Plant

Be patient SEO doesn’t happen overnight and requires a lot of tweaking along the way, the main things to look at and keep revisiting are:

  • HTML Tags
  • Correct URLs
  • Dynamic content

Websites that are news websites or interesting blogs however are coming through instantly since the release of Google News, so keep checking if creating a news portal website that you are appearing in Google News. It is quite common at the start for Google News to be slow at registering your sites content however keep at it.

A great way to instantly get to the top of Google is though Google Adwords. So what is Google Adwords? Effectively every time you search on Google there is results highlighted in a yellow box that based on your searches are paid to be displayed in that area. A perfect example is when you search for “Apple Mac” a second party companies advert will appear I this box as obviously Apple will have the top results as they’re the main party seller. Adwords are charged based on usage so you know exactly what you are getting for example if you sign up to the deal of “50″ clicks for £20 a day that’s exactly what you get based on the keywords that you select.

Plant has Grown

Something that is important is that SEO techniques are constantly changing, there are thousands of blogs out there with completely different situations and solutions however this is simply my spin on what I’ve read and practiced.

One final thing I would say is since that SEO has changed and is constantly changing, what happens if tommorow SEO is completely different from what it is today? This is how newsletters and subscriptions to your blog come in, try and get a presence and a group of people that believe in your product and want to know more.

As well as newsletters social media implementation and presence is a great asset in linking users to your site. Everyone understands the concept of liking a Facebook page and some have millions of followers. With Facebook it allows them to see your updates but it doesn’t become a hassle like an app newsletter would, just when they’re scrolling through their timeline your post of a new table that you handcrafted for example appears with pictures and a link directly to your site. This is perfect for driving more and more visitors to the website.

 

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