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The wEbVOLUTION – Are you keeping up?

PaulCool Papa Bell was a notoriously fast professional baseball player and had some amusing legends associated with him (not to mention a great nickname!). One of my favorites quotes about him was attributed to Satchel Paige – “Let me tell you about Cool Papa Bell. One time, he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his rear end as he slid into second.” As a web professional, I can relate to that story, with Cool Papa Bell representing the web.

In the world of software, things are evolving at an ever-increasing rate. Where once a webmaster could be a jack of a few trades in creating a static site, we have moved into a time where dynamic sites require a dynamic range of knowledge and abilities to develop a site, or more likely a group of developers each with their own specialties. To top it all off, the product release cycle of software is on the increase. Web browsers have moved to a rapid release cycle that is dizzying. Firefox and Chrome have set theirs at every 6 weeks!

Keeping up with technology… and ahead of the competition It’s not just a matter of keeping up with the Joneses, or better yet, staying ahead of the Joneses. While it’s certainly worthwhile to keep an eye on the competition, it’s also very important to make the best use of new opportunities.

Mobile web has exploded! The iPhone was a game-changer, not just for smart phones but also for web development. We’ve had to rethink how sites are built.

There have been various approaches to dealing with the glut of devices that access the web. If you’re like us, you have built a traditional desktop site as well as a mobile version of that site.

One of the trends and buzzwords that started taking off last year is Responsive Web Design (RWD). RWD is yet another change in approach to building sites. No longer is the code written to detect which device is accessing it and load the version of the site that was created for that type of device.

RWD creates a flexible site, like Mashable, that is adaptable to the screen on which it’s being viewed. Take a look at that site on your desktop and re-size your browser to experience how fluid and flexible a Responsive site is. As you change your browser width, keep an eye on how the layout automatically adjusts to the viewable area; take notice of the images, menus and columns.

Where are we?
On the graphic to the right, you can see the history of optimagfx.com courtesy of the WayBack Machine. It’s kind of like looking back at old, embarrassing high school yearbook photos. Maybe it did seem cool at the time, but in hindsight, well…….

What I do see is growth and change. That is what we’ve done as a company and with our websites. We’ve put concerted effort into modernizing our sites over the past few years. We still have a lot of work to do. If you look to new developments like Responsive Design, our most recent version of optimagfx.com is already a step behind. Though I’m currently working on some of our sites other than Optimagfx, in my mind I already have ideas percolating as to what the next steps for Optima are. Basically, we are constantly working to move things forward.

Where are you?
Satchel Paige was also quoted as saying that Cool Papa Bell was “so fast he can turn off the light and be under the covers before the room gets dark!”

You may not be as fast as Cool Papa Bell or as fast as technology, but are you keeping up with the competition, the opportunities and with the shifting landscape of how users are accessing the web? Is it time to revisit your website? Here is an article on the subject with some good questions to ask yourself in assessing how your website is doing.

…and don’t forget the first rule of resolving website issues — clear your browser’s cache and cookies!

About the Author
Paul Robnett is “The Web Dude” with Optima Graphics. He has been parked in front of a computer, more or less, since the early 90’s, working in newspaper advertising, sign shops, prepress, printing and now web.

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