Our Approach

Standards and Best Practices

We promote web standards and best practices. We follow the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) standards for XHTML formatting and believe in strict separation of content, presentation, and behavior to create websites that are easy to update and perform consistently across browsers and browser versions. We markup code so that it is insured to work well across browsers, be easy to maintain, load quickly, and in the best possible format for search engines. These are things that might not be immediately obvious to the visitor, but will impact the success of the site.

We believe in web development as layers

We structure content with XHTML, handle the design with CSS, and control the user interactivity through unobtrusive JavaScript. By separating these components into separate layers, the look and feel of the site is controlled through a central source. This makes the site easy to update and maintain as the site grows, and pages load quicker because of the reduction of code bloat and increased code caching by the browser.

Advanced features through progressive enhancement

We build websites that scale to the level of functionality provided by the visitor's browser. Through progressive enhancement, we add additional features without excluding visitors that cannot support them. For instance, this website makes extensive use of JavaScript for transitions and Ajax to enhance the visitor's experience. However, the site remains completely functional for visitors without JavaScript, or even CSS and images.

Ajax to improve the user experience

We use Ajax to interact with the server, without making the visitor load a new page. This allows for a more enjoyable visit as the user experience is not interrupted by having to load a new page, and it speeds up interaction with the server, as the visitor does not have to download any unnecessary data. Try our contact page for an example; when the visitor sends their message the page is not reloaded, nor are they taken to a different page. Instead, the information is updated on the page, thanking the visitor for their contribution or notifying them of any problems, such as a malformed email address.

We follow the standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for CSS and XHTML formatting.

In the past, there were only a few browsers and it was easy to test a site in each one. Today there are hundreds, each with many revisions. By coding to agreed standards, we ensure that our sites work on all compliant browsers and that the sites will continue to work even as the browsers change. The site will be more accessible to the minority of users that might normally have problems (such as visitors that use a non-traditional browser - such as a cell phone, use a screen reader, or have JavaScript disabled on an older or security-sensitive computer).

Is it worthwhile it to build a site that works well for these people? Absolutely, their inclusions does not increase cost or development time as it is a byproduct of creating a website built to modern day best practices which all parties benefit from. All visitors benefit from the decreased load times, search engines benefit from well structured and properly formatted code, and site administrators benefit from the ease of maintenance, which increases the lifespan of the site and decreases the long-term cost.

Speed Optimization

Code Reuse and Caching

Using external CSS and JavaScript files to control the presentation and behavior for the site allows this code to be cached by the visitor's browser so that they are not re-downloaded for each new page that is visited. This also allows for maximum reuse of code, minimizing the total amount of code that has to be downloaded by the browser.

Server-side code compression

We put all of our presentational and behavioral code into external CSS and JavaScript files respectively. We then compress these files on the server, strip out unnecessary code such as comments and white space, and combine them with similar file types before gzipping them and sending it to the visitors browser. This reduces total file size and the number of requests made to the server allowing the visitor to view the site quicker.

Image optimization with sprites & compression

Sprites: We combine many similar images into a 'sprite' and use CSS to control what part of the sprite is visible on the website. This cuts down the total file size for the image and dramatically reduces the number of requests the visitor has to make to the server for files. Each request carries an overhead that makes sending many small files much more time consuming than a single large file of equal total size.

Compression: We are picky about selecting the appropriate image file type when building the site to make sure that it gives the highest quality at the smallest file-size. If an image has a limited color pallet, we remove the unneeded colors to reduce file size and we strip out any meta-data that the file contains. This meta-data, such as when a photo was saved and what program it was edited in, has no use to visitors and it can be safely removed to further reduce file size.

Speed Engine Optimization (SEO)

Introduction - The Current State of SEO

We want to take a moment to explain the current state of SEO as there is a lot of bad information out there, and the methods have changed in the past few years. When Google came onto the scene it really refined the way search engines evaluated and ranked websites. In the past, search engines relied on site owners to tell them what a site was about, which turned out to be very unreliable as site owners would give misleading information in attempt to boost traffic, using keywords and phrases that might have little, to nothing to do with their website. Today a site is ranked according to how relevant it is perceived to be based on the quantity and quality of outside links that point to that site. This democratic approach allows for a more honest evaluation of a site's worth and content. Tricks that site owners once employed to try to artificially raise their page rank are now ignored or punished, simplifying SEO and improving the quality of search results.

Raising Page Rank

In general, there are three things that impact a webpage's search engine ranking:

1) Indexing of Page Content:

Search engines will regularly visit your site and record the content to use in their search process. How successfully they index this content is heavily dependent on how the page is coded. We semantically mark up all content we are provided with to make it as sensible and accessible to search engines as possible. For image-based content, we provide a code-based alternative for search engines to index. We also use markup to designate hierarchy so search engines can effectively evaluate the importance of the content. We always give pages descriptive URLs and titles because these factor heavily in the search engine's evaluation.

2) Quality of Page Content:

For the most part, we rely on our clients to supply this, although we may provide some coaching. If quality content is not present then the descriptions and keywords that it should have contained are not there for the search engine to index. A site that skimped on content is going to perform poorly in the rankings.

Some SEO companies will advice clients to pack their writing with keywords, but we do not recommend this. Just write naturally, write for your visitors. SEO companies focus on increasing traffic, but the extra traffic is worthless if the writing style turns off visitors. Traffic is not the goal - it is just an indicator of potential success. It is the quality of visits and the successful conversion of visitors to customers that is important.

3) Link Building:

This will be the SEO trump card for the foreseeable future, but it is also something site owners have limited control over. Links can be traded or purchased from other websites that specialize in sharing links, but these are usually low quality links, which do not count heavily toward better page rank. Search engine companies are aware that this happens and account for it to prevent people from gaming the system. Your site can even be blacklisted if you become associated with these seedy link-sellers. If you want others to link to you then you must provide them with a quality website they will want to link to.

Traffic is not the goal... [it is] the successful conversion of visitors to customers.