It is time to be provocative and not be a Luddite. Before jumping on the latest technology for your website, a through analysis of your customers and viewers is warranted. It is an old saying that not all money is good. The same can be said for technology. Not all technology is good. This is very important and may apply to the audience of your web presence. Everyone wants the latest and the greatest but this may or may not apply in the case of your on-line audience.
There are tools that can give you the insight to appropriately and correctly determine the answer to “upgrading” your web presence. If you are using an Apache web server, tons of useful information is stored in the access logs for the server. Some of the useful data from these raw access logs are:
- The IP address of visitors to your site;
- The length of time that the visitor spent on each page that they viewed from your site;
- The actual pages on your site that one visits;
- The type of web browser that was used by a visitor to your site;
- Information as to the type of visitor to your site. That is, human or a spiderbot.
Because these logs are huge, there are programs on the market, free and subscription based that can mine the data and extract useful information for the daily access logs. Two popular log analyzers are Google Analytics and AWSTATS. It is not the purpose of this blog to explain in detail how they work.
Suffice it to say that these log analyzers can give you hourly, daily, monthly, and annual data trends. These trends are important. The more important of the trends is the browser usage percentage. An analysis of this data will tell you if a high significant number site visitors are using browsers that are capable of correctly interpreting CSS3 and/or HTML 5. If a significant number of your visitors are using older browsers, it may make good business sense to stick to older technologies such as XHTML 1.0 and CSS 2.
A prime example is that of a former client who killed his business because he listening to wrong advice. His site is established as a portal for a magazine for and about African Americans who own and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. In April of 2005, only 20 visitors a month come to his site which is constructed in Adobe Flash. Consequently, there is almost no search engine optimization, SEO, of his site and it takes an inordinately long time to load the initial home page.
In redesigning the site, I use dynamic pages that are based on PHP and MySQL. Within three months the visitors increase from 20 visitors a month to 400 unique visitors a month. By the end of twelve months, the daily unique visitors average 600. Sixty percent of these visitors are from the United States. Forty percent of the visitors are from an average of 23 countries. The site is developing a consistent monthly following of 500 visitors.
By establishing a section for the posting of colors and contact information of motorcycle clubs from around the Untied States, quite a few visitors visit the site several times a month. The colors are segregated by states. An analysis of the access log files also shows that many of the Windows visitors are using Windows 98. And, many of the Macintosh users are not using OS X. Thus several of the more computer intensive pages that contain video and audio files are avoided by about half of the visitors to the site.
Although there are quite a few pages that are avoided by half of the visitors, there exists enough content for those with older computer operating systems and browsers. After three years of success, the owner decides to install a poor implementation of a Web 2.0 content management system. The results are disastrous. In less than four months, ninety-five percent of the site viewers disappear never to return.
The moral of this tome is to upgrade in a manner that does not alienate a significant number of site viewers. And remember that 20 percent of all the American Internet surfers on a daily basis have some sort of physical accessibility problems, e.g. ~ visual, aural or ambulatory. Or, the visitors could be using some dumb phones that have Internet capacity. These cellular phones are neither Blackberries, iPhones nor Android phones.