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Category Archives: User Interface

Still going here 🙂

So pretty much most of the coding is done and now the problem is attracting visitors:

  • I’m thinking of using Adwords but don’t know how effective it will be or how much I can spend.
  • I’ll try to place posters around my local Universities (there’s around 4 or 5 at least)
  • On the front page of the website I’ll put the most recently joined user profiles.
  • I’ll need to re-engineer the elevator pitch a bit.
  • As for the color theme, I WILL change it if I get many complaints about it, otherwise I’ll probably waste too much time changing the color theme. Yeah, CSS and logo-redesign is a pain 🙂 especially when there’s so much else to do.

I think the 3rd point is incredibly important but so are the others.

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I just spent the last many hours fixing bugs. I can’t imagine how many there are …
Gee I’m so stressed out with hardly any sleep AND I need to go have a meeting later today for a stupid University project. I’ve been threatened of being kicked out of the subject for not contributing enough to the project. BS. Why do I not give a shit about University anymore? And I don’t respond well to threats.

But before I have that meeting I need to go to my sister’s birthday lunch thing. I’m getting ulcers in my mouth >.<

So far nobody has joined the site yet … even though I sent out 50 or so invitations.

Ahhhhh this is sad.

Okay, this is the unofficial “pre-beta” launch of PenpalVoice.com. The website is still pretty unstable but is open to everyone (who is reading this post), for testing. If you are interested in testing the website go to: www.penpalvoice.com/penpal/

The /penpal is required for now. You will be able to access http://www.penpalvoice.com directly when the testing period is over.

Depending on whether there are serious security breaches during this testing period, the website’s database may be reset after a few days before the “official” launch. If all goes well then nothing will be reset (hopefully this is the case).

Also, there are parts of the website that are obviously missing or incomplete. I’m keenly aware of this 🙂 However if you find any bugs please comment here. Any feedback welcome. Thank you!

Here’s a tiny peek at the website that will be launched in the next 24 hours.

Yeah I’m still alive, and still working on the pagination. It is a pain in the ass. Let’s see if it can be done within the next 2 hours. I’ll post in another 2 hours from now.

UPDATE: Oh guess what? I’m using a code example in the Wrox book Beginning PHP, Apache, MySQL Web Development. It is also the very book that I dissed in a previous post for having tons of spaghetti code examples. The prodigal’s son returns. But, I payed for the book and still think the examples are very spaghetti-ish, so … exactly. I’ll have to refactor this code later … can’t do it now because of time constraints.

UPDATE: No the pagination isn’t done yet. By the way look at this site.

http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/07/29/babbel-wins-funding-enters-crowded-language-market/

SCREWED! Hahah. Heh. Yeah.

Here is a quick summary of the progress towards launch day (scheduled for the 28th Australian Eastern). The local time is currently 5:05AM on the 26th July 2008.

THE CONCEPT
The concept is simple. The website is a language exchange profiles site. In other words, a penpal site.

THE NAME
The name and domain name of the website will be released on launch day.

THE HOSTING
I just signed up to Media Temple Dedicated Virtual hosting (dv), and I’m paying by the month because I can’t afford to pay upfront for a whole year. I did say I was going to sign up to the Grid (gs) plan, but giving it A LOT OF thought, I decided I’d just go straight to Media Temple’s Dedicated-Virtual (dv) plan for $50USD a month. The web application is custom built in PHP using the CakePHP framework, and it’s a user profile website – that combination seemed very unsuitable for the Grid plan due to guesstimated resource usage (it’s very difficult to actually estimate). What’s more, bugs are to be expected in the coding and it’s not unlikely that the web application will be a resource eater until the bugs are addressed. If I were on the Grid and started eating up resources it could qualify as resource abuse. However if I ran a blog or a personal website, I’d host it on the Grid, definately. More information on hosting later. I am currently familizaring myself with the (dv) control panel. It looks clean and beautiful.

THE MARKETING
I’m a newbie in marketing so I’ve been rather unprepared the whole way long. I have been researching Google Adwords as well as guerilla marketing methods. The idea is to clearly project to others what the website is about and inject passion into it. That should be no problem because I’m already passionate about language learning (currently learning German). Deutsch zu schreiben und sprechen gefaellt mir schwer aber ich lerne gerne 😉

MARKET POSITIONING
Obviously there are many other penpal sites out there. One thing that I did not research when deciding to develop the penpal site was how many there are already on the market! Unfortunately, I only figured this out just a month or two ago. It’s going to be near impossible to compete (I believe), but having put hundreds of hours (maybe over 1000), it would be a huge waste not to try anyway.

Also, I’ve had to change the focus of the website several times in the past month, in order to differentiate against other penpal sites. Will it be enough? Only time will tell.

I know I’m being rather vague, but that’s deliberate 🙂 You’ll see the website on launch day.

GRAPHIC DESIGN
Graphic design was done (and is still being done) in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Fireworks. I previously finished the logo but now I need to change it again because of a last minute change website name!

The site is pretty simple looking (and also simple in general).

SITE DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
Due to limited resources (there’s only 1 person on the project, me) the website is very simple and is not feature packed. I think I’ve covered all the basic features, though.

There are many bugs I still have to fix, and a few features to put in! So I better get to it!

As always, more info coming…

Nothing but headaches over here.

I have to make several changes to some forms because of usability issues. What this means is that the backend code also needs to change too. It’s a lot more complicated than I first thought. A seemingly simple change to the user interface layer can cascade right down to the database layer of application.

One of the problems I’m having is the use of multi-select boxes (the box where you hold down CTRL to select multiple things). This form element is a usability nightmare. So now I’m refactoring the multi-select boxes into several, single dropdown menus. This means I need to rewrite some backend code as well.

Usability issues aren’t the only problem. There are a few fundamental issues with the database design too. I’ve also done a fair amount of poor programming and lots of code needs to be fixed!

The revised launch date is now the 28th of July 2008 (hopefully I won’t have to change it again)

Soldiering on …

It seems like I have decided not to implement a progress bar for file uploads after all! I’ve determined that it will take too long to implement, and the more appropriate course of action is to use a far simpler solution: file upload activity GIFS.

This is very simple to implement. When the user clicks the submit button on your form to upload an image, you have Javascript access the HTML DOM and make an activity gif appear. Then when the image finishes uploading, the page refreshes. Of course, the user won’t be able to see the actual progress of the file upload, but can see that something is happening. The disadvantage is that if the upload hangs, the user might not know as the GIF will still be animating away.

There is no AJAX involved in this process, just pure Javascript. The link I gave you has the title Ajaxload but this method does not require an XMLHttpRequest object. It’s simple.