Paul Maden

Trophy Designer and Software Engineer

Posts by category: Websites and Programming

Updating the Travel Checklist

A couple of weeks ago now I made the decision to revisit my old Travel Checklist site.

Once upon a time it was a nice little earner, pulling in around £20 a week in banner ads.

Over the years my traffic levels and the click-through rates both dropped as I pretty much left the site to its own devices.

At one stage I foolishly made a structural change, for the express purpose of trying to attract more clicks on the adverts, to the detriment of the user experience.

Fast-forward to today, and the site is well and truly in the doldrums, receiving approximately 10% of it’s peak traffic level.

But no more.

I’ve woken up to the fact that for the site to be a success, people must find it easy to use. The checklist has now been relaunched back as a simple list, much like its original incarnation. It has however been rebuilt using Bootstrap, a front end HTML, CSS and JavaScript framework designed to assist in the creation of responsive design websites.

In time I still plan to create an interactive system whereby visitors can mark items as booked, packed, ordered, outstanding or not required, and for the system to retain the visitor’s state during the days leading up to their trip.

For now though, I’m just happy to have my site back in a form that doesn’t make me feel ashamed, and hopefully I can now start to work on it once again as a serious site that I can take pride in.

Travel Checklist

Maden Britain – Hand Made Stone and Slate Trophies and Giftware

Today I’m pleased to finally launch Maden Britain, a site to showcase some of the designs and materials we’re experimenting with for the trophy shop.

It’s early days, both for the site and for the new designs, but Sam assures me that shop customers are commenting on the new display, and we have already taken a number of orders, large and small.

I’m quite excited to say also that we’ve already taken three orders for bespoke designs, and these will be shown on the site after the relevant presentations and prize ceremonies.

So please take a look, and let us (Sam, John or myself) know what you think. Contact us via the Green Slate Trophies site.

Holiday Checklist

Just a quick post, detailing an interesting change I have made to my travellers checklist site.

As a reminder, the site displays a list of items to book, pack or remember for the traveller, broken down into categories. Clicking on an item had the effect of copying it into a google search box, and hoping the user would be smart enough to actually hit search.

The new improved behaviour is to automatically perform a google search whenever an item is clicked on, and display the resultant google search page at the right hand side, whilst keeping the checklist open to the left side.

I am interested in any comments or further suggestions to improve the checklist.

Holiday Checklist

Extremities

Another day, another new site to tell you about 🙂

Created a fun little site documenting various facts and figures on the subject of… yours truly.

The aim of the site is to document the unusual, in fact no that’s not strong enough, it’s to document the extreme. “Extremities” will be used to record the furthest I have reached in any particular field or direction.

So what kinds of extremities have been captured?

Starting off with the easy physical ones, I have described the limits of how far North, East, South and West I have travelled, and for what purpose. Moving on to other physical extremes adds Highest, Fastest, Hottest and Coldest. A final physical extremity recorded is Fullest.

Future developments

Three more physical extremities awaiting treatment are Windiest, Wettest and Violently Ill, these should be fun to write.

Moving on from the physical extremes leads in a whole new direction, namely the ‘In Your Head’ extremes. This category brings in Scared, Fatigued, Relieved, Content, Love-struck, Embarrassed, Saddest and Grown Up.

Check it out

Extremities – The Lengths I Go To

Expose me for the weirdo I am
I am also giving consideration to any requests you may have for new extremities to be exposed. So, if you would like to know how far I have been or achieved in any direction or area, and I consider it to be safe for public viewing, then please email me via me at paulmaden dot com and I’ll get my thinking cap on.

10 PRINT “HELLO WORLD”;

Are you like me in your thirties, and feel that no matter how hard you try, you can’t keep up with developments in the world of computers and electronic gadgets?

Do you long for a return to the simpler days of the 1980’s, when it was not only possible, but recommended to tinker with your computer, and for that matter when writing programs was actually fun?

Of course you do. Problem is, nowadays you probably couldn’t come up with anything more imaginative than…

10 PRINT “HELLO WORLD”;

…and if you were really switched on…

20 GOTO 10

But wait, your Spectrum was sent to the tip long ago, and your BBC’s in the loft slowly corroding due to the effects of a leaky battery. What to do?

Well, never fear, once again I am your knight in shining armour, bringing you “20 GOTO 10”, a new website dedicated to helping you print whole screenfuls of smutty words.

Visit 20 GOTO 10 – The zenith of BASIC programming

Princess Diana Website

Took the decision today to remove the “Daily Diana” website.

The site was intended to be a repository for the countless Princess Diana news headlines featured on the front pages of the Daily Express newspaper.

Problem was, back in April of this year, the newspaper took the momentous decision to stop reporting this big news story, a mere ten years after the event. Talk about leaving people wanting more!

So, as the story faded from the public eye, traffic to the site declined to the point where it wasn’t generating any revenue, and its time was up.

The content, for what it’s worth, will be transferred to the Bone Me! website, to live out its remaining days in peace.

Princess Diana News at Bone Me!

BusinessSpew Generator

Just a quick note about a domain I recently purchased, after what seems like an eternity of biding my time…

Way back years ago I stumbled across a site called the Business Spew Generator, a one page website with the sole purpose of generating business buzzword phrases on demand. The page was was written in Javascript and therefore easy to disassemble, and I downloaded a copy for analysis.

Skip forward to last year, and I felt the urge to develop an up to date version of this site using Prototype, a new Javascript library. Problem was the author of the original site had since died, and the site was offline, although the domain name hadn’t yet expired.

What to do? Could I release a new version under a different site name? Of course I could, and so Corporate BS! was born. The new site retained the original “press button, receive jargon” format, but with the addition of a set of five Daily Bullshits, supported by an archive of the past few days pages.

Skip forward again to this week, and I was reminded to check the domain name status for the old BusinessSpew site. Bingo! The domain had expired in March, and was now available to register.

So, as the proud new owner of LeveragedSynergies.com I can now execute critical action items on forward engineering new paradigm solutions…

  • Business Spew Generator – www.leveragedsynergies.com

Update 13th November 2011: The leveraged synergies domain has been left to expire sometime ago. Also check below for comments…

Mailjax – Email Address Validator

The second tool ready for the launch of my Web Developer Tools Site is Mailjax, an Email Address Validator.

A common problem many web developers have to contend with is that of collecting and validating email addresses submitted from web page forms.

My new email validator “Mailjax” is designed to assist the site visitor in entering a valid email address in the first place, making use of fancy new Web 2.0 features to actually validate the email address as visitor types it, displaying a visual indicator as to whether the address is valid.

Part one of the Mailjax tests is to see if the address looks sensible, i.e. does it look like ‘my.name@example.com’ rather than ‘Bob’ or ‘www.example.com’. You wouldn’t believe how many people enter web site addresses when asked for their email! The test is performed by comparing the address against an Email Regular Expression (Regex).

If and only if the address looks sensible, part two is tested, checking to see if the domain name part of the address (everything after the ‘@’ symbol) refers to a domain that is able to receive mail. This is known as checking the MX Record for the domain. If the domain doesn’t exist, or hasn’t got an MX record, then it is not possible to be a valid email address.

Mailjax is still under development, but don’t let this stop you from using it now. Check it out… Mailjax – Email Address Validator, I’d love to receive any feedback, good or bad.

Scrapey – Link Scraper

My new free web development tools site (www.paulmaden.com/tools/) is now live, so now seems like a good time for me to describe the first tool in detail, Scrapey, the Link Scraper.

Wouldn’t it be handy to be able to simply paste the address (URL) of any web page into a form and be presented with a list of all links contained within that page? My new link scraper “Scrapey” does just that.

What’s more, it can detect links that contain a special marker known as “nofollow”, an instruction to search engines to not rank the page the list points to.

It’s a little rough around the edges at present, but the basic functionality is working correctly. In time I’d like change the way results are displayed, I think the links need wiring up as clickable, and the display text for each link needs adding also.

Anyway, check it out… Scrapey – Link Scraper, I’d love to receive any feedback, good or bad.

Web Developer Tools

Have you ever wanted to know whether that hot girl you met the other night gave you a valid email address, or to find out if that pushy salesman did finally add your link to their page?

Well, you’re in luck, as I know just the thing to help you…

This week I’ve gotten round to building a site full of tools for you, Mr. Average Internet Geek User.
(Did he just call me a geek? Why, the cheeky swine!)

Features scheduled for the launch include an Email Address Validator and Link Scraper, with an HTTP Header Checker and Robots.txt Validator arriving later.

As I add tools and features to the site I’ll post them here, along with a short explanation of their use, and a quick guide to how they work behind the scenes.

Check out the site now: Web Developer Tools (https://www.paulmaden.com/tools/)

Badvice – Bad Advice

Launched a new site today with the express purpose of giving out downright bad advice to its visitors.

Badvice (www.paulmaden.com/badvice/) is the culmination of over four hours hard work, and was developed at a cost of around £6.09.

The idea came from an old web page called the Random FAQ, whereby each time the user visited the site a different set of questions were randomly posed and answered.

The Random FAQ was hosted on many sites, never crediting the original source (who remains unknown), and more importantly always written in such a way as to never appear in search engine results.

I decided to make a version under the name Badvice (short for Bad Advice, duh!), designed such that visitors could receive a daily dose of bad advice. My modifications now allow for searching an archive of older questions, and presenting the results in a clean clear layout.

Visit The Site: Badvice – Bad Advice (www.badvice.co.uk)

Fun with favicon.ico files

Took a look in my server’s error log today, and discovered nearly all invalid requests appear to be links to a mysterious file called favicon.ico in the root folders of my sites.

A quick bit of googling and wikipeding tells me that favicon is a portmanteau word for Favorites Icon, the image that appears should you add the site to your browser’s favourites (bookmarks).

There are several free tools online to create a favicon from a gif/jpeg image, and so I used one to generate favicon files for many of my sites, either from a representative image of the site or by hand-drawing a small logo.

The one site that caused me a problem was The Daily Diana, I mean, what could I possibly use here, a Daily Express logo was out of the question, a mug-shot wouldn’t resolve at 16px squared, so I had a bit of fun and uploaded a mystery image.

See if you can guess what the image is…

Visit: dailydiana.museum.paulmaden.com

New and Improved Travel Checklist

Barely one month after launching my new Travel Checklist site, I’ve grown bored with it and taken it to pieces.

Visit: www.travel-checklist.co.uk

This weekend I spent a bit of time familiarising myself with the Prototype JavaScript library. It’s really rather neat, it takes all the long windedness out of selecting groups of elements on a page, and applying event handlers, and its sidekick script.aculo.us makes adding visual effects to a page an absolute doddle.

That’s fine, but what does it mean?

Well, it means I’m announcing the new and improved Travel Checklist, with some neat new features. Whereas the old page was a long list that scrolled on and on, the new one has sections that expand and contract when you click on them. Huh? Well, click on one section, and its content appears, while at the same time hiding the content from the other sections. So you never have to scroll again.

And oh yes, clicking on any item in the checklist sends it to the Google Search box on the right hand side of the page. It even highlights the search box to show you how clever it is what it’s done, and to persuade you to search for that item.

But of course these improvements would be useless if it no longer functioned as a printable document, so I’ve added a new print stylesheet such that you still get a full width printout with plenty of room to scribble notes alongside each item.

Check it out, I’d love to hear what you think – www.travel-checklist.co.uk

Travel Checklist

Take the stress out of preparing for your holiday or business trip with my new travel checklist site.

Visit: www.travel-checklist.co.uk

A chance look through the My Documents folder over the weekend reunited me with a simple travel check-list I’d created when preparing for a series of business trips some years back.

I had originally planned to simply add the content to the Top Tips section of this site, but whilst formatting the document my ears pricked up when a radio phone-in invited listeners to share lists of unusual items taken on holiday. I was initially amused at the callers’ suggestions, but quickly got to thinking there was enough material to justify the holiday checklist having its own site.

So here is www.travel-checklist.co.uk, which you are welcome to bookmark, link to, print out, or suggest new additions.

To WWW or not to WWW

To WWW or not to WWW, that is the question.

For many people a website address must begin with www, always has done, always will do. Sure, there’s an old technical reason for it, probably also a good marketing reason (hear “www” on a radio or tv ad and you know it’s a website address).

But the truth is the www is not required. Many hosting accounts allow a site to be reached without typing the w’s. Take my local radio station “2BR” for example, both 2br.co.uk and www.2br.co.uk take you to the same content. And that’s fine, some people will type the w’s and some won’t.

So what’s the problem?

Search engines rank a website by (amongst other things) counting the number of other sites that link to your site. If your site is visible at two (or more) separate addresses other sites may not know which one to link to, so some may point to the “www” and some to the “no www”. This has the effect of diluting your ranking between the two different addresses.

Search engines also employ techniques to filter out duplicate content (identical content found on multiple pages) – which means they may favour one of your site addresses at random, not necessarily the one you want.

The solution is usually quite easy, by simply adding a 3 line text file to your site you can redirect one name to the other. Let’s say you want to redirect the “no www” name to the “www” name.

Simply create a text file called “.htaccess” with the following content and save it in the same folder as your home page…

To redirect visitors (and search engines) to the “WWW” version:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{http_host} !^www\.2br\.co\.uk$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.2br.co.uk/$1 [L,R=301]

Or, to redirect to the “No WWW” version:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{http_host} !^2br\.co\.uk$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://2br.co.uk/$1 [L,R=301]

Pay attention, here comes the science bit…

Line 1 – Instructs your web server to switch on a special feature called URL rewriting, which allows incoming requests for pages to be modified in various ways before sending the page back to the visitor.

Line 2 – Tells the server to watch out for requests coming in where the domain name doesn’t match the name we specified.

Line 3 – Sends a message back to the user’s browser (or the search engine) that the page they requested has moved, and can now be found at a new address. If a user requested the page their browser will automatically redirect to the new address. If a search engine requested the page, it will then update its records with the new address of the page.

So, using this technique users and search engines will be alerted to your preferred domain name, allowing you to use different domain names whilst preserving your search engine rankings.