Forever Beta

April 24, 2006

According to the Sofware Development Life Cycle (SDLC) I've learned in graduate school, the beta stage is the phase where the resources for development would have been greatly reduced and public testing would occur. On the typical Bell Curve, this would fall towards the end of the curve, near the end of the development cycle.

Nowadays, companies, particularly web dot com's, have stretched the bell curve to accomodate a longer Beta phase. In fact, one might think that companies have stretched the beta phase to infinity so that the Beta phase would actually be constant and unending.

The roster goes on like a Web Dream Team: Google's GMail and Calendar, Yahoo's eMail and Microsoft's Search. All of them have adopted the Beta stage as if it was their surrogate child. What's good about it is that it gives tech companies the perfect excuse for continuous improvement and reduced liability for bugs. Testing of web apps seems to have been put on the shoulders of users.

The Beta Phase have answered a lot of questions for the developers and users. It has given tech companies the figures on what to fix and what features may be omitted. On the other side, end-users have seen the beta as an early means to utilize a tool and a way to enjoy innovation. One question that seems to be unanswered is "When will the Beta phase end?"

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Quick answer: Absolutely yes.

Then the next question: How?

Web Standards IS the face of Web 2.0. This 2005 article from Digital Web Magazine supports this idea. The app that users control content, search and do stuff with ("mix and remix") is written with standards-compliant code, is developed with semantics in mind, and implemented with content separated from presentation.

Flickr, Google Calendar, 30 Boxes, Basecamp, the list goes on and on and one thing is clear: web 2.0 means web standards.

No Nonsense XML Web Development With PHP

The book stays true to its title with a very direct approach to learning XML integration with PHP. XML beginners will appreciate the introduction of concepts such as DTD, XSLT among others.

Building a Content Management System (CMS) with XML and PHP is the main project of the book. It has a brief introduction of what a CMS is and goes directly in to code. Some of the topics that are touched are RSS, Web Services and Javascript (Although AJAX is not discussed entirely).

Newbies may be frustrated with seeng a lot of code in a book– Almost every other page has code blocks , but like any other Sitepoint title, all code is available online.

PHP Developers will definitely have a field day with Thomas Myer's No Nonsense XML Web Development With PHP; it almost instantly gives the reader/developer to try out the concepts and code and avoids the 'nonsense.'

Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP and MySQL

Kevin Yank's take on the very popular combo of PHP and MySQL presents an easy to follow blueprint in building a dynamic website– It spends the first few chapters dealing with the ground work (installation of servers, basics of database design, etc.) and then proceeds to building a fully functional content management system.

The book also takes time to deal with nitty-gritty functions like error-handling and file operations in the code, a nice touch for server-side newbies.

The simplistic step-by-step approach is perfect for web designers wanting to move into web development, but may disappoint advanced users. The book also offers little reference to PHP functions. All code in the book can be downloaded online.

Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP and MySQL is recommended for developers with working knowledge of HTML who would like to have hands-on PHP-MySQL experience on the get-go.

10 Web Predictions for 2006

December 12, 2005

Yeah, I know. The year is at its tail-end and this is basically your "predictions" article where the author does a Nostradamus and predicts what's in store for the next year. So drum roll please…

  • Blogs with AJAX – People on the bleeding edge of web technology will eventually find a way to integrate AJAX into the mix, with all this Web 2.0 hulabaloo. Functionalities like on-the-fly article display, collapsing, etc. may be getting a lot of screen-time.
  • Browser Wars – Internet Explorer 7 vs Firefox 2.0! It's going to be like 1999 all over again. IE7's has been impressive with the demos I've seen Microsoft– the multiple window preview may turn out to be the perfect compliment to tabbed browsing. The question a few months from now is what feature Firefox will have to compete with IE7.
  • Web 2.0 Saturation – This is actually a misnomer since only the mainstream sites will incorporate functionality while the rest of the world haven't even heard of Web 2.0.
  • More Minimalist Look – Interface-wise, more and more sites will settle for subtle aesthetics. But that doesn't mean creativity will be fettered– Think more iPod-esque visuals. Designers will try to achieve that look.
  • Hot Colors – There will be a lot of experimentation with strong colors– yellows, oranges and reds for mainstream sites, with off-beat accents. Of course, subtlety is the key here.
  • Tables, Still – Unfortunately, web development IDE 2006 releases would still not be able to fully integrate Web Standards in the presentation layer (VS, Sun Enterprise, etc.)
  • New Tools – At the heels of the acquisition of Macromedia, Adobe will churn out a web development tool that will dominate the market, but it will be a "miss." It will suffer from the growing pains of integrating the strengths of the Macromedia product line.
  • It won't be the year of Ruby on Rails – Despite demonstrating great potential for web development, Ruby on Rails won't go mainstream yet. The PHP-ASP(.NET)-JSP elite club won't be accepting new members in 2006. Maybe 2007.
  • Bigger Resolutions – 800 x 600 will see a massive reduction in monitor resolution share (~15-20% share) and designing for 1024 x 768 will be the de facto standard (~50-60%).
  • Up and Coming Web Fonts Rule – Gainers: Lucida and Vera. Loser: Verdana. Stay-put: Trebuchet and Georgia.

Make sure check back here a year from now and see how far off I am. 🙂

Upgrading to Web Standards

October 5, 2005

Here's a fantastic article from Mozilla!

The article is a bit technical as it discusses replacing old techniques and some advanced aspects of upgrading to web standards. Be warned though, geekery is required. 🙂

Think about it.

Should there be a body that certifies web developers/designers on their knowledge of web standards? (A la Microsoft, Sun, etc.) I think that would be a great idea. A test of this sort would help the awareness of the public of the existense of web standards.

It would also give developers/designers some sort of incentive for improving their skills.

The only snag? Web standards itself is still in a precarious situation where there are still loopholes (quirks mode anyone?) in the standard.

But I think the whole certification thing is a good idea. Paging W3c…