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Pere Villega

If at first you don’t succeed; call it version 1.0

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Web Application Tools

When developing your own web application, specially if you want to earn money with it, some information is priceless. In this page I will list some tools and tips I’ve found around the net that can help you to improve your product. They are generic tips, not linked to any language nor platform, just ways to enhance your product.

Creating your site

While planning your web application some factors make the difference. [The Number’s Game][] is a slide show that point 10 important characteristics that, by changing a bit how you approach your application, may improve its usability and interest to users. These 10 points are:

  1. Know your users
  2. Use multiple platforms
  3. Connect users
  4. Aggregate user’s content
  5. Embrace multiple formats
  6. Embrace The Community
  7. Build several brands
  8. Create niche content
  9. Tag
  10. Be open source

The slide provides more detail about each point. As you can see,t he main focus is interaction and community, keys of the so called Web 2.0.

Analysing your site

Once your application is running, you may want to know why users are leaving. True, there are mechanisms to communicate with them and receive feedback, but not all users will do that. And there are some reasons they will never tell you or are hard to describe, because it’s just a “Feeling” for them. To help you there are some tools that can give you more information on their real reasons:

  • Google Analytics: basic for any web application, it will show you the traffic trends of your site and the relevant pages
  • CrazyEgg:this is a heat map of your application that will show you where users clicks. It will even show you parts that have been clicked but have no links, giving some hints for improvements.
  • ClickTale: it shows you how the users browses your page, including scrolling and keys pressed, so you can learn how they use it
  • Google Talk Chatback: allows you to receive more feedback and even interact with your customers solving their issues and maybe increasing your user base due to personalized support
  • Survey Monkey: another way to obtain useful feedback, using a survey
  • 4Q: similar to the one above, a questionnaire to show when users leave your site
  • Kampyle: a tool to make easier for your users to provide feedback about the application
  • Google Search: adding this to your web application will allow you to know what are your users looking for
  • Serph: tracks what are people telling about you in the net, extracting information from blogs, news…
  • YSlow: shows you why your site is slow, or how could be faster.
  • HTML Validator: a Firefox plugin that validates your generated HTML code for W3C compatibility

More help

There’s a book called Website Optimization that has received quite a lot of praise. It has useful hints about SEO, performance optimization and conversion rate. Reading it will probably help you to improve your site in a couple of areas.

Try to externalize your images, will save you bandwidth and your server will see a reduced load. Also, try to find tools that compress your Javascript and CSS files so their transfer time is smaller.

You may think that performance is not so important once your pages load fast enough. Well, think again. According to this, your pages should load as fast as possible, 500ms better than 600ms, or your revenue might suffer. To help you IBM gives 20 more tips to improve the speed of your site.

Links

As said before, this article is based on existing information. Give credit where credit is due, some of the information here has been extracted from:

The links contain additional information I’ve not copied over, so please check them, it will be useful and you will receive more and better tips.