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Google Launches Web App Store for Chrome Browser

First released as a beta version for Microsoft Windows in September 2008, Google Chrome is a web browser developed by Google that uses the WebKit layout engine and application framework. For a product that was initially opposed by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Chrome has come a long way in the “alternative” (read: non-IE) web browser space.

According to Statcounter, Chrome was the third most used web browser (13%) worldwide as of November 2010, behind Firefox (31%) and ahead of Safari (4.7%). According to Google,

The store will be featured prominently in Chrome, helping people discover great apps and developers reach millions of users around the world,” says Google’s blog, noting that in 2010 alone, “the number of people using Chrome has tripled from 40 to 120 million.”

In no time, the TweetDeck has apparently jumped to the head of the pack:

“In the 3 days since the launch of the Chrome Web Store, our Chrome TweetDeck has had 45,851 users and been installed 62,477 times. To give these numbers some context it’s useful to compare them with the “big boys” of the Web Store such as the New York Times (43,542 users – 56,215 weekly installs) and Gmail (40,783 users – 37,921 weekly installs).”

The current layout is as simple and straightforward as a central repository should be. In the long run, the launch is a positive nod for the developer community, which now has yet another distribution channel for their creations in the form of mobile apps, browser applications, add-ons or themes.

In related (and potentially converging) news, Google has also made the case that “Chrome is enterprise ready,” opened the mobile “App Inventor for Android” to all Google account holders and announced Intel-based Chrome OS notebooks from Acer and Samsung to be available in mid-2011, with Verizon Wireless providing integrated 3G cellular connectivity..

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9 Easy Ways to Speed Up Your Website’s Load Time

Google recently announced that they began factoring in web site load time into their search engine ranking algorithm. This has brought the importance of a fast load time front and center even though “fewer than 1% of search queries will change as a result” of this update. MentorMate.com likely was not impacted very significantly from this change to Google’s ranking algorithm; however, we still decided to optimize our site’s load time. We did this because Google showed that “delays of under a half-second impact business metrics.” It’s better to be safe than sorry, and besides, it’s not that difficult to optimize your site. We recommend you do the same with your web site, here are nine easy ways to do just that:

1. Place scripts near closing body tag

Scripts block parallel downloads. While a script is downloading, the browser will wait until it finishes before downloading anything else. This is why it is recommended that you get everything else out of the way before having your users download scripts.

2. Remove any broken links/references

Simply enter your web page URL in Pingdom’s Full Page Test Tool. This tool will color-code any broken links/references in red so you can easily identify them.

3. Specify image dimensions

When image dimensions are not specified in the HTML and/or CSS of a web page, the web server must spend resources calculating these dimensions. It’s particularly important to specify the dimensions of images being used in conjunction with heavy Javascript image-manipulation libraries.

4. Localize external file references to minimize DNS requests

This is another spot in which Pingdom’s Full Page Test Tool comes in handy. Enter your URL and look for any file references to external domains. If possible, copy these files onto your own domain and link to them locally to minimize DNS requests.

5. Minimize slow-loading libraries and external widgets

Libraries and external widgets need to be chosen carefully. Sometimes it’s worth sacrificing load time for particularly engaging/useful libraries and/or widgets; however, sometimes you can live without the library and/or widget. For example, on MentorMate.com we felt it was worth sacrificing Sexybuttons for better load time, but sacrificing load time for Shadowbox. External widgets can be particularly bad for a site’s load time because of their reliance on external servers.

6. Compress your files using gzip

These days, gzip comes pre-installed on most web servers. You can check to see if gzip is running your server quite easily using Google’s Firebug “Speed Test” extension. Open Firefox, visit the web site you’d like to optimize, and open Firebug. From there, click “Analyze Performance” and select the “Resources” tab. Then you can expand any file to view details. If gzip is installed and compressing the element you are viewing, you will see what is highlighted in red in the following screenshot:

gzip

7. Merge Javascript and CSS files or use Minify

Depending on the complexity of your site, it can be quite time consuming to merge all CSS into one file. The same goes for Javascript. This is why Minify was developed.  Minify “combines multiple CSS or Javascript files, removes unnecessary whitespace and comments, and serves them with gzip encoding and optimal client-side cache headers.” Then you simply need to install it on your site, select the files you want it to serve together, change some references in your header, and you’re good to go. This will minimize your site’s load time by further helping to reduce HTTP requests.

8. Load cross-browser compatibility hacks only for necessary browsers

For instance, we use the IE PNG FIX for IE6 PNG transparency compatibility. This script adds an extra second to web site load time. For this reason, we only load the script if the visitor is running IE6 by applying an IE6-specific stylesheet which references the IE PNG FIX. This way the extra load time will only impact IE6 visitors.

We simply added the following line of code to our header:

9. Use CSS sprites to minimize HTTP Requests

A CSS sprite is the combination of multiple images into one. Then CSS is used to reference different aspects of the image where needed. This reduces load time by minimizing all of these images into only one  HTTP request. CSS Tricks has a good example of CSS sprites.

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Is the Google Chrome Browser faster than Internet Explorer in JavaScript performance?

JavaScript Speed in Google Chrome versus Internet Explorer

The latest stable version of Chrome browser at the time this article was written was 3.0.195.33. We will compare it to the current version of IE, which is 8.0.6001.18865. We started with Google’s own benchmark that is hosted at their site and is called V8 Benchmark Suite. The result differed from one machine to another, but the score of the Google browser was always about 38 times higher than the one of IE – very close to the numbers that Google is claiming. Of course, as much we believe in the accuracy of the tests, we wanted to use some independent benchmarking sites, too. After some research, we found some of the major ones are SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark and JSBenchmark. Their tests are a complex mixture of different tasks, including drawing, code decompression, encrypting and operations with arrays, dates and handling exceptions. As we expected, the difference between the two browsers was much smaller compared to Google’s own test, but it was again pretty impressive. The results differed from platform to platform, but overall the “SunSpider” test showed that Chrome is ten times faster, while the “JSBenchmark” reported that it is “only” seven times faster.

JavaScript Speed Test

In order to conclude that Internet Explorer is much slower than Google Chrome in JavaScript performance though, we still needed more facts. As an alternative to the complex and heavy testing suites, we created a very short example with few array operations. We wanted it to be fairly simple and pretty close to real life examples. Basically, this piece of code assigned random numbers to an array of 20,000 items. Then we reversed the order of the elements. In the next two steps we sorted it in ascending and descending order. The script outputs the milliseconds needed for its completion. We did not expect a lot of difference in doing something so basic. Here is the code:

JavaScript Speed Test Source Code

JavaScript Speed Test Results

There were differences from PC to PC as with the other tests, but the tendency stayed the same. The time of completion of the tasks in Chrome was about six times faster than IE. This was the smallest advantage the Google browser had compared to the tests that were run so far, but it sounds pretty prestige for Chrome to have such a boost in performance for a really small task.

In conclusion, we can say that Google Chrome has set new standards for speed as far as JavaScript is concerned. Although the advantage the browser has might not be as big as Google claim in their advertising campaigns, it is something very impressive and gives the users additional speed for simple everyday tasks as we saw in the example above. We are looking forward to see the ninth version of Internet Explorer soon, as in the early discussions the developers show ambition to reach the level of performance that Chrome already has. The acceleration of the JavaScript engines for all the browsers can only bring benefits to users and contribute to the creation of richer, more complex Internet applications.

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19 Signs Your Web Site Was Poorly Designed and/or Developed

1. You can’t find your own site on Google

If you’re looking for your own site and still can’t find it, something big is wrong. This is worst case scenario for a web site; if you can’t find your own site, none of your target audience will be able to either.  If you’ve typed in your company name or something else specific to your brand you should be at or near the top of the results.

2. Your visitors aren’t doing what you want them to

Your site has a specific purpose, whether it’s sales or to generate a lead through a contact form. If your site is receiving traffic, but that traffic isn’t using the site like you intended, there are probably issues with the way your website targets your audience.  In other words, you need to refocus your SEO to allow the right people to find you. Another problem may be with your web site’s usability. If visitors are unable to use it as you intended, your site has some serious problems.

3. Browser incompatibility

This is a design flaw that isn’t always noticed, but is crucial for the user experience. Your web site may look great in the browser you personally use, but different browsers render sites differently. Your site may look great in Firefox, but terrible in Safari.

4. Duplicate or nonexistent page titles

Page titles, the text shown in the top left corner of your browser, are one of the biggest factors in how a search engine finds your site. Each page’s title should accurately reflect the keywords you’re targeting for that specific page. Your pages won’t appear anywhere near the top of the search results without effective page title usage.

5. Excessive use of images in place of text

Text rendered as an image can often look more appealing to the eye, but it can hurt your search rankings.  If you use images in place of text, you’re missing a major opportunity to help search engines figure out what your site is about.

6. Main navigation isn’t persistent

Certain page elements should be present on every page.  The most important is your main navigation.  This might be tabs that are at the top of every page, or a list of website sections on the side of the page.  Regardless of how users navigate through your website, you should never leave them guessing about how to get to more of your content.

7. Excessive use of Flash

Creating a site exclusively with Flash can look impressive, but it is nearly impossible to rank highly in search results by doing this. Flash can be used to enhance a site, but it shouldn’t make up the entire site.

8. Websitegrader.com gives site a score less than 25

Website Grader is a free tool that measures your site’s marketing effectiveness. It analyzes the amount of traffic you receive, your SEO efforts, social networking popularity, and technical factors to produce a score from 1-100. Scoring below 25 would signify major problems in several areas of your site.

9. Intro pages

An extensive introduction may look nice, but intro pages can also detract from the user experience.  This is especially the case for your most valuable user – the repeat visitor – who may not want to sit through the same intro every time they visit your site.

10. Page URLs aren’t human readable

Your URLs should be simple and say what each page is about. For example, www.dogs.com/dalmatians is better than www.dogs.com/show.php?breed=11. This helps search engines better index your content and your users stand a better chance of remembering how to get to your content.

11. Site contains excessive text

Too little text can keep search engines from understanding what your site is about, but too much text can drive away visitors. Follow the rule of thumb that nobody on the web wants to read; users should be able to quickly find and use the information they are looking for without reading anything unnecessary.  Limiting your text also helps you focus on the most important words, too, and this helps search engines figure out what your site is about.

12. No contact information is present on the site

This is obviously easy to remedy, but also a problem that some sites forget about. You need contact info to receive both leads and feedback on areas to improve your site.

13. Slow load time

Internet users are impatient. The longer they wait, the less likely they are to use your site. Significantly slow load times can also negatively impact your rankings in the search engines, resulting in less web traffic to your site.

14. Your site is designed for small monitors

As computer hardware advances, your website needs to also.  A site designed for 800×600 screen resolution may have been state of the art in 1997, but today users expect your site to utilize their entire screen. A width of 960 pixels is optimal these days.

15. Canonical URL issues

http://www.sampledomain.com and http://sampledomain.com (no www) should 301-redirect to one variation of the domain name. You need to choose with or without the www. This way you can ensure no link juice is wasted on the less popular variation of your domain.

16. Too many navigation choices or too many clicks to get there

Your site has to be easy to navigate. Too many options on the home page are overwhelming; will spend too much time reading through all the options.  At the other end of the spectrum is excessive page depth.  Forcing users through a seemingly endless train of pages is a sure way to get them to leave.  As a rule of thumb, users should never have pick between more than 7 navigational options per page and they should be able to get to any page in at most three clicks. All pages should also link back to the home page.

17. Single column display format

This is simply an outdated feel and looks unprofessional as well. Make use of all the space presented to you. Single column formats lead to excessive scrolling. Don’t make extra work for the user.

18. Site has no Compete.com data (after six months of existence)

Compete.com is an online tool used to measure traffic against your competition. If your site has existed for a substantial amount of time and has yet to be noticed by Compete, your site is likely getting very minimal amounts of visitors.

19. There are specific on-page browser recommendations

These should be unnecessary because as previously stated, your site should be usable in all browsers.