Sunday, January 20th, 2019
Wednesday, July 25th, 2018
Here’s an intriguing proposal that would allow web apps to indicate activity in an icon (like an unread count) in the same way that native apps can.
This is an interesting one because, in this case, it’s not just browsers that would have to implement it, but operating systems as well.
Tuesday, July 24th, 2018
- Native apps
- A progressive web app
- A hybrid app
The Virgin Holidays team went with that third option.
Now, it will come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of the second option: building a progressive web app (or turning an existing site into a progressive web app). I think a progressive web app is a great solution for travel apps, and the use-case that Luke describes sounds perfect:
Easy access to resort staff and holiday details that could be viewed offline to help as many customers as possible travel without stress and enjoy a fantastic holiday
Luke explains why they choice not to go with a progressive web app.
The current level of support and leap in understanding meant we’d risk alienating many of our customers.
The issue of support is one that is largely fixed at this point. When Clearleft was working on the Virgin Holidays app, service workers hadn’t landed in iOS. Hence, the risk of alienating a lot of customers. But now that Mobile Safari has offline capabilities, that’s no longer a problem.
But it’s the second reason that’s trickier:
Simply put, customers already expected to find us in the App Store and are familiar with what apps can historically offer over websites.
I think this is the biggest challenge facing progressive web apps: battling expectations.
For over a decade, people have formed ideas about what to expect from the web and what to expect from native. From a technical perspective, native and web have become closer and closer in capabilities. But people’s expectations move slower than technological changes.
First of all, there’s the whole issue of discovery: will people understand that they can “install” a website and expect it to behave exactly like a native app? This is where install prompts and ambient badging come in. I think ambient badging is the way to go, but it’s still a tricky concept to explain to people.
But there’s another way of looking at the current situation. Instead of seeing people’s expectations as a negative factor, maybe it’s an opportunity. There’s an opportunity right now for companies to be as groundbreaking and trendsetting as Wired.com when it switched to CSS for layout, or The Boston Globe when it launched its responsive site.
It makes for a great story. Just look at the Pinterest progressive web app for an example (skip to the end to get to the numbers):
Weekly active users on mobile web have increased 103 percent year-over-year overall, with a 156 percent increase in Brazil and 312 percent increase in India. On the engagement side, session length increased by 296 percent, the number of Pins seen increased by 401 percent and people were 295 percent more likely to save a Pin to a board. Those are amazing in and of themselves, but the growth front is where things really shined. Logins increased by 370 percent and new signups increased by 843 percent year-over-year. Since we shipped the new experience, mobile web has become the top platform for new signups. And for fun, in less than 6 months since fully shipping, we already have 800 thousand weekly users using our PWA like a native app (from their homescreen).
Now admittedly their previous mobile web experience was a dreadful doorslam, but still, those are some amazing statistics!
Maybe we’re underestimating the malleability of people’s expectations when it comes to the web on mobile. Perhaps the inertia we think we’re battling against isn’t such a problem as long as we give people a fast, reliable, engaging experience.
If you build that, they will come.
Saturday, March 31st, 2018
This is a fun—and useful—way of improving the interview process. The Rubik’s Cube examples brought a smile to my face.
Saturday, February 17th, 2018
Sunday, August 13th, 2017
Saturday, December 10th, 2016
Certbot renewals with Apache
I wrote a while back about switching to HTTPS on Apache 2.4.7 on Ubuntu 14.04 on Digital Ocean. In that post, I pointed to an example .conf file.
I’ve been having a few issues with my certificate renewals with Certbot (the artist formerly known as Let’s Encrypt). If I did a dry-run for renewing my certificates…
/etc/certbot-auto renew --dry-run
… I kept getting this message:
Encountered vhost ambiguity but unable to ask for user guidance in non-interactive mode. Currently Certbot needs each vhost to be in its own conf file, and may need vhosts to be explicitly labelled with ServerName or ServerAlias directories. Falling back to default vhost *:443…
It turns out that Certbot doesn’t like HTTP and HTTPS configurations being lumped into one .conf file. Instead it expects to see all the port 80 stuff in a
domain.com.conf file, and the port 443 stuff in a
So I’ve taken that original .conf file and split it up into two.
First I SSH’d into my server and went to the Apache directory where all these .conf files live:
Then I copied the current (single) file to make the SSL version:
cp yourdomain.com.conf yourdomain.com-ssl.conf
Time to fire up one of those weird text editors to edit that newly-created file:
I deleted everything related to port 80—all the stuff between (and including) the
VirtualHost *:80 tags:
<VirtualHost *:80> ... </VirtualHost>
Hit ctrl and o, press enter in response to the prompt, and then hit ctrl and x.
Now I do the opposite for the original file:
Delete everything related to
<VirtualHost *:443> ... </VirtualHost>
Once again, I hit ctrl and o, press enter in response to the prompt, and then hit ctrl and x.
Now I need to tell Apache about the new .conf file:
I’m told that’s cool and all, but that I need to restart Apache for the changes to take effect:
service apache2 restart
Now when I test the certificate renewing process…
/etc/certbot-auto renew --dry-run
…everything goes according to plan.
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016
Tuesday, June 7th, 2016
Smart thinking from Alex on how browsers could better indicate that a website is a progressive web app (and would therefore benefit from being added to the home screen). Ambient badging, he calls it.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a button in the URL bar that appeared whenever you landed on a PWA that you could always tap to save it to your homescreen? A button that showed up in the top-level UI only when on a PWA? Something that didn’t require digging through menus and guessing about “is this thing going to work well when launched from the homescreen?”
Thursday, February 16th, 2012
Google are shutting down the Social Graph API. Twunts.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
A wearable read-only music player that's a badge. Kind of awesome.
Thursday, November 26th, 2009
"This site is intended to be a constantly growing and changing museum for the study and enjoyment of truly terrible video game voice acting in video games from the very first CD system, the Turbografx until the present day."
Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
Behold the double awesomeness of Jeremy Paxman and Ben Goldacre! Susan Greenfield, alas, is simply embarrassing.
Monday, October 8th, 2007
Bad Science » Madeleine McCann, the Observer, and their special magic quantum DNA box (with secret energy source)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Bad Science blog deserves a medal.
Friday, July 13th, 2007
UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.
Tuesday, February 13th, 2007
Gillian McKeith is not a doctor
I don’t like contributing something as simple as “me too!” but I just had to +1 Tom’s post on Ben Goldacre on Gillian McKeith. As he puts it:
There are times when I feel that Ben Goldacre—author of the Guardian’s Bad Science column—should be knighted.
I couldn’t agree more. Be sure to visit his website, Bad Science. As a fan of popular science—by which I mean fascinating subjects made accessible to plebs like me—I applaud Ben Goldacre’s sysyphian work in calling the British press on their over-reliance on pseudo-science. His tireless work on exposing the junk science behind the anti-MMR stories alone deserves everyone’s respect and gratitude.
His latest column, A menace to science quite rightly exposes Gillian McKeith—the TV presenter with a surname worryingly similar to my own—as the crackpot that she is. The article concentrates on her ludicrous “scientific” claims rather than focusing on the side-issue that she is completely unqualified, but I’ve decided to title this post Gillian McKeith is not a doctor for the benefit of future Googlers. It’s official:
A regular from my website badscience.net — I can barely contain my pride — took McKeith to the Advertising Standards Authority, complaining about her using the title “doctor” on the basis of a qualification gained by correspondence course from a non-accredited American college. He won.
With any luck, I’ll receive one of McKeith’s famous cease-and-desist threats.
In other news from Tom, he’s feeling mightily jetlagged, the poor bastard. Having just flown back from Vancouver—a time zone difference of eight hours—I should be in a position to commiserate. But, touch wood, I seem to have mercifully escaped the ravages of jetlag.
Sunday, December 10th, 2006
My brief excursion to Berlin is at an end and I’m back in Brighton.
The prize-giving ceremony for the BIENE accessibility awards went well. It was a very professional affair in nifty surroundings. Champagne, canapés and short films from the folks at Ehrensenf made for a most pleasant awards ceremony. After the ceremony itself, a plentiful supply of food, beer and music ensured that the whole evening was enjoyable.
The highly valued prizes went to some very deserving websites. I can vouch for the fact that the jury was pretty strict in its judgement. Even as the prizes were being handed out on stage, the sweet taste of victory was tempered by some words advising where improvements could still be made.
Most of the winners sported valid markup; usually XHTML Transitional, sometimes even XHTML Strict. Quite a lot of the sites offered text-resizing facilities, though I wonder if that’s something best left to user agents. Joe will pleased to note that many of the sites also offered zoom layouts.
The Pfizer website, winner of a golden Biene, includes a remarkable section that sets out to translate those bits of paper you get with your prescription into plain language… and sign language! The whole thing is done with Flash and it works wonderfully well with screenreaders. From a technical viewpoint, I’m really glad that I now have an example I can point to, should I ever find myself in one of those “Flash is inherently inaccessible” arguments.
I also felt that it was very important that the prize-winning websites should be well-crafted with strong visual design. The Barmer website is not only accessible, it looks good too. It’s extremely bulletproof with a semi-liquid layout. There’s more semi-liquid goodness to be had at the site of the Bundesrat—the federal council of Germany. I’m really impressed with the clarity and cleanliness of the design.
My personal favourite is the website of the Media Management department of the Wiesbaden Technical College. I like the nice clean design. They also offer material in plain language and sign language. It scales nicely, it’s usable and it’s accessible. But what impressed me most was the story behind the site.
The website was created by students. A small group put the whole thing together in three months. They did this as just 12.5% of their coursework, so there was a ton of other work they needed to attend to at the same time. Under the guidance of professor Stephan Schwarz, they learned about structuring documents with markup and styling with CSS. The end result is something that would put many “professional” agencies to shame. What a debut! An accessible, good-looking site from people who have learned Web design the right way, without ever having to nest a table.
I’m just blown away by their achievement. I requested, and was granted, the honour of awarding them their silver Biene on stage. That meant I had to speak German in front of a roomful of people (and television cameras) but I made it through without stumbling too much.
At South by Southwest earlier this year, Andys Budd and Clarke gave a talk on Web Design Superheroes. The students from Fachhochschule Wiesbaden are my heroes. If they represent the next generation of designers, the Web is in very good hands indeed.