Putting Code Together Since 1987

Archive for November, 2007|Monthly archive page

Google Ranking Effect on Traffic

In google on November 23, 2007 at 10:32 pm

We spend a lot of time persuading people of the importance of Google and other search engines on the popularity of a page to the world. For this page on a personal blog plenty of hits were coming in, yet suddenly there was an increase in traffic for this page which persisted.

Why? Because for a year, the page came at the top of the second page of Google searches for the term ‘botfly’ and then suddenly it got promoted to second from bottom of the first page. Look at the difference in clicks for that search term from Google:

Google Ranking Effect Graph

The difference is worth about a 30% increase in traffic, in this case.

Change wordpress dashboard RSS feed

In Wordpress on November 16, 2007 at 7:31 pm

If you ever feel like you want to change the source of the news items on the wordpress dashboard (Not wordpress.com, sorry if I got your hopes up there) here is how to do it.

You can either add the code that follows to your themes functions.php or you can add the it to a plug-in. Just change the returns from the function to match your feed URIs and titles. There are two feeds the primary, which by default is the “Development Blog”, is limited to about 3 entries and the Secondary feed is much more open.

If you’d like to delete the feeds the just set the return to “”, doing this helps dashboard load time a lot.

Plugin Name: Dashboard RSS replacement.
Plugin URI: http://www.completelypointless.co.uk/
Description: Changes the dashboard RSS to something more interesting.
Author: James R Whitehead
Version: 1.0
function change_dashboard_primary_title () {
return "Completely Pointless";
function change_dashboard_primary_feed() {
return "http://completelypointless.co.uk/feed/";
function change_dashboard_secondary_title () {
return "BBC News";
function change_dashboard_secondary_feed() {
return "http://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/rss/newsonline_uk_edition/front_page/rss.xml";

That’s it, nothing too onerous or perplexing. I will say however that if you’re distributing themes or plug-ins that it would be nice to let wordpress keep their feed in there.

Speeding site load times with htaccess

In Apache on November 15, 2007 at 11:16 am

Create a “.htaccess” file in the folder you want to be cached and add the following to it.

# Cache files for a week.
<IfModule mod_headers.c>
<IfModule mod_expires.c>
<FilesMatch "\.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif|swf|css|js)$">
Header set Cache-Control "max-age=604800, public"

This will have the effect of caching your site for a week. The number 604800 refers to the number of seconds in a week you should also see the file types mentioned in the line above. Change them as you see fit.

You will need mod_headers and mod_expires enabled in your apache htpd.conf for this to work, but with the ifmodule statements in there there should be no problem if they aren’t installed. If it wasn’t for the two ifmodule statements your site would be dumped to a 500 server error if it couldn’t find them.

To check the expiration times I find the easiest way is to load the page in Firefox, right click somewhere and hit “View page info” then go to the media tab. You will see date and time for the expected expiry of the image files on your site.

Holy cow, what were you thinking?!

In Aargh! on November 8, 2007 at 8:29 am

Nowt wrong with a lot of DIYers and enthusiasts who want to get their hands dirty with web design.

But when you work in an industry there’s plenty of people to say “hey dude, that sucks!” Friends are likely to be nicer. Too nice, sometimes.

So if you DIY or bring in an enthusiastic amateur you risk ending up with something like this little website.

Sorry to the guys who did this site – but you’re really not helping your business. Maybe there’s no competition in the area or something….

A Little Thing Makes All The Difference

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Expensive mistakes can be avoided by just being a little bit careful. Imagine you’d spent many thousands on this marketing campaign, only to get it plastered around the web… for the wrong reasons.

I bet this chap’s getting the mick taken out of him something rotten.

Back of a bus

If you can’t see it, try looking for the exhaust.

Children’s Bullying Book Scam

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2007 at 3:03 pm

I’m often prone to absent-mindedness.  I’ll admit that.  It’s a weakness, and even comprehensive note taking doesn’t spare me from it.

But I always remember promising money to people.  So I was a little surprised by the following telephone conversation:

Me: “Hello, Dave Coveney.”

Her: “Hello, I’m calling to confirm that the anti-bullying books you’ve sponsored are now ready to be sent out.  Which school  in your postcode would you like to receive them?”

Me: “Er, pardon?!  Which postcode?”

Her: “WA8 8AA”

Me: “OK, er, when did we discuss this?”

Her: “In May.”

Now at this point I was getting suspicious – I don’t make a habit of sponsoring anything without there being some firm action on my part – ie, research and reading.

Me: “And what did I agree to?”

Her: “To sponsor these books, which have your business name on the back.”

Me: “But I’ve never sponsored anything!”

Her: “Oh just f*ck off.”  Brrrrrrrr….

Can’t be a fun job for the girl, but why would you even work in such a place?  It’s clearly a scam.  The idea is to make you think you’ve forgotten something (easily done in a busy firm) that happened six months ago.  They send the invoice, it gets paid, they run away with the cash.  Nobody gets helped.

And what has this to do with web design?  Not a lot, but does having something to do with putting in place the correct systems to avoid these kind of rip-offs.  For example, no invoice to be paid without a matching Purchase Order, for starters, and a paper trail identifying every stage of a purchase.

We can help with that too, of course.

Spotting the iStockphoto effect

In Design on November 4, 2007 at 2:34 pm

iStockphoto.com is one of those little secrets that people outside the web, design and photography worlds rarely hear about. Yet once you’re involved in this industry you learn to quickly spot pictures because frankly, they’re all over the place.

But we don’t mind – it’s a cheap source of images and graphic art for clients who are working to a tight budget, and it gives many artists and photographers access to new markets. Everybody’s a winner.

Well not quiet – while we cheerfully admit to where we get some of our images and graphics from, many rivals don’t. Most recently we saw one rival offering ‘custom’ Xmas e-cards for about £350 a piece. They would (we hope) have been bought on a less restrictive license than usual, but you’re still looking at a low cost item.

To show you, here’s one we did ourselves, in just five minutes. Not £350 worth of work. At all:

Xmas Card - on the cheap.

We could do about fifty in a day, at a cost of no more than about £100 plus our time. It’s even done in our in-house web-design style, which means there’s a pre-masked layout to work to. Easy-peasy.

Clearly, the road to success in business is more to do with marketing than fair pricing! Then again, I remember the realisation came that even if you could make a Coke rival product for 5p a can which tastes just as good, it probably wouldn’t outsell Coca-Cola, because people aren’t rational creatures when it comes to pricing. In fact, they’d be suspicious as to why it was so cheap.

I guess the same thing would apply to solicitors and the like, albeit in a slightly different way.  You go round to a few and they all offer to do the work for around the £150-£180 per hour level.  If one came up with a price of £20 an hour you’d immediately be worried as to whether they were professional or not, qualified, and so on.  Of course, the £150 an hour rate is going to exclude many people, so lawyers, rather than doing anything cheap, tend to get involved in pro-bono work instead.

Make My Logo Bigger!

In Design, Web Design on November 2, 2007 at 8:37 pm

You know, they say the customer is always right. Sometimes we may feel like this, but ultimately if a customer wants it, they should have it.

And these products let them have it:

Make My Logo Bigger

Going Adult?

In Web Design on November 2, 2007 at 4:57 pm

I suppose it was inevitable that, eventually, we’d end up being approached to write some sort of adult related website. Well finally that day came. We were kinda surprised to be approached an escort agency about giving them a site that actually works with search engines! The current site is riddled with untagged images, poorly structure, and generally quite amateurish. Fine in the days of websites being non-crucial parts of a business, but not fine in today’s web strategic days.

It’s still early days for the project, but one thing I immediately did… I told my girlfriend! After all, how else could I explain why I’d been poking around escort agency websites! I feel she suspects it’s just a cover. Working late, or trips away, could well be viewed with suspicion from now on….