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A 331 post collection


Features I would love to see in Safari iOS

 •  Filed under Posts, Apple, iOS

I've been using an iPad Pro as a web development device for a few months now. Overall I've been surprised at the ability of the device to handle this type of work. Apps like Working Copy, Textastic and GoCoEdit have certainly helped as has the split view on iOS and more recently the ability to drag and drop between apps.

One drawback amongst all this though is the browser I use. Safari has been my browser of choice for iOS for a long time. I've had brief dealings with Google Chrome and Firefox, but they've never lasted in terms of use. I keep coming back to Safari.

As browser's go, there's little to fault about Safari on all the devices it supports. It works well on my iPhone and the smaller iPads I've used over the years. With the iPad Pro though, it feels that Safari is short-changing me.

Pinned tabs

Right okay. Pinned tabs aren't on everybody's list of priority features for a browser but I've been using them for so long on other browsers it seems that they've been around forever. That's not true in the case of Safari for macOS though. Pinned tabs have only been around for a couple of years with Safari which seems like a very short amount of time given that they have been available in other browsers for years.

So why pinned tabs on Safari for iOS?

Well, largely it's an organisational thing. There's a number of tabs that I keep open through the day and pinning these tabs in the browser allows me to quickly jump to them through the day.

Given the screen space on the iPad Pro models and even on the iPad Mini models, I'm surprised that the pinning of tabs hasn't already been done.

Web inspector

I was surprised to find that the Web Inspector on Safari for iOS is only available when you connect your iPad to another Apple computer.

Screenshot of Safari Web Inspecter preferences

Now while a web inspector is probably a big ask on a device that probably wasn't intended to be a web development device, I think it's a fair request. People are turning to the iPad Pro and looking for a device that replaces their laptop or even their desktop. The inability to run the Web Inspector without connecting the iPad Pro to a MacBook or iMac doesn't exactly

However, while you might not be able to use the Web Inspector for Safari iOS without connecting to another Mac, there is an app called Web Tools that replicates this need feature rather nicely.

Support for pinned extensions

I toyed with the idea of calling these starred extensions but pinned extensions might be a better idea, but first I have to explain what this is.

At the top right of the Safari app on the iPad is the share button. This button allows you to share the current URL with a number of other apps on your iPad or iPhone. I use it a number of times every day, mostly for sharing links to my Instapaper, Pinboard and Bear apps. I also use it quite a lot for opening 1Password. The share button on the iPad Pro is a quick and convenient way for me to share a link. It's also one more press on the screen than I care to do.

If you take a look at the Safari interface on my iPad Pro, you'll notice that there is some whitespace on either side of the address bar. What if this space could be utilised in a better way rather than just leaving it blank. What if (and only if your screen size can support it) you could pin a couple of your favourite share extensions to the Safari toolbar?

By pinning your share extensions to either the left or right of the address bar, you're putting your share extensions in a more convenient place.

There are obvious restrictions to this like screen size and even the orientation of the device which governs how much space you have, but surely the developers at Apple could make this happen?

The expectations of a Pro device

When you name your device as 'Pro' there is a certain level of expectation of it. I must admit I eye-rolled when I first heard that the new iPad would be called an iPad Pro, but as I heard more about it and watched the first couple of iterations of the device, I could see where Apple was going with this.

To support this new family of devices I think that there needs to another level up of apps that are targeted at the Pro line of devices only or at least variations of the apps that support Pro features.

These apps might be specialised and target a specific market of people, but given that the iPad Pro is already being seen as a viable option to a laptop and even a desktop, I think it's important for Apple to offer that extra bit of functionality that users may look for in an app.

These features that I'm looking for in Safari for iOS might not be a priority for the Safari team or even on the list of new features for Safari, but I'm sure that if Apple is looking to push the iPad Pro device to more professionals then there should be some distinction between the normal apps for iOS and those for Pro devices.

Weekly Digest

 •  Filed under Posts, Digests

Not much happened last week. More time at the golf centre for Ethan and I was finishing off some client work last week as I am enjoying a week off this week. There'll be more in next week's digest. As I publish this we're getting ready for storm Ophelia hitting the west of Scotland. By the time it gets here, it will have a slightly fizzled out a bit but will still hit us with a fair amount of wind.

The death of web analytics?

 •  Filed under Posts, Products, Analytics

It's been a long time since I stopped using Google Analytics to track the activity on my websites. In its place, I went with a product called Gauges.

On its own Gauges is fine but there hasn't been any new major features for a while now. Sure I pay money for the serivce to continue but it would be nice to see something new in the way of features. It's got me questioning though whether Gauges or even web analytics is still necessary.

Do I need web analytics?

I honestly think the answer to this question is no. Well, let me expand on that answer. I don't need web analytics. I can't speak for others, but let me explain using each of my different websites as examples.

Personal blog

For my personal blog, web analytics is nothing more than a vanity feature. I don't need to see what people are reading on my blog, I don't need to tailor content based on what people like or searching for.

My blog is an outlet for my writing, the topics that I am interested in writing about.

Whether people read it or not is not my main concern.

I write because I want to write. I don't need web analytics here.

DigitalBothy blog

For my freelancing blog things get a bit trickier.

Sure it would be nice to see what people are reading and what is proving to be most popular but my freelancing blog isn't just about giving people something to read. It's about advertising my knowledge of web development.

My blog is also the first step in acquiring potential clients. If a potential client likes what I am writing about and they have a need for a web developer like myself, then what next?

At the moment they can contact me through a form but there needs to be more than just a contact form. I need to be able to contact them back on a regular basis and let them know what's changing in the world of web development. This is where an email list comes in to play.

Despite listening to podcasts and reading many newsletters telling me for years that I need an emailing list for my business, I don't have an emailing list for my business. Crazy I know.

With an email list though I can start to build a way of contacting potential clients and convert them to paying clients through a funnel of more specialised content that is only available through that email list.

Instead of using web analytics and learning nothing about my potential clients, I can use an email list to contact them directly and see what interests them in terms of clicked content within each email campaign.

My freelancing blog is the first step in acquiring a client. While it might be helpful to see which content is proving popular at this step, I don't think that it warrants having web analytics. I'd rather see metrics of what people are clicking through to in the email campaigns that I send out.

DailyMuse

For DailyMuse, web analytics is not something that I want to measure.

Sure it's nice that people visit DailyMuse and perhaps even sign up for an account, but the key metric here is whether people use DailyMuse on a daily basis and that means measuring when people login, how many people are signing up for the paid plan and how many people are receiving emails per day or week.

I've already got a minimal dashboard for this cobbled together from user data in DailyMuse, so again, web analytics isn't necessary here.

There are also other plugins and solutions that offer user analytics for products like DailyMuse. This is more interesting because I get to see what user's are doing in my product. I'm not at that level yet and so what I have at the moment will suffice for the time being.

Do I need web analytics then?

So perhaps I don't need web analytics then.

Others might make the case that regardless of the type of website I am running, web analytics is better to have than not at all, but I think I can live without it.

I've justified in each case why I don't need web analytics and what I would use instead. I think in each case it's fair to say that I have alternatives in place that work for me and my own needs.

Web analytics isn't dead then, but I think it has been superseded by other analytic products that offer customers more. It's probably good to have in place if the content of your website is the only way of measuring activity on your website, but even then I would recommend that such a website have an email list as well.

I've used web analytics for a number of years but I think I've used it for so long that I've become complacent with it. It's not the type of activity I need to be looking at. I need to be looking at different forms of activity for different sites and that perhaps is the most important lesson in all this.

There's also the fact that Twitter already offers a sizeable amount of analytics that makes social media interaction much easier to see. If you share your website's content on Twitter, then it's worth looking at your account's analytics dashboard on to see the traffic through your account's recent tweets.

For me though, I'm going to stop using web analytics over the course of this week and instead focus on getting my analytics from elsewhere.

No newsletter and micro me

 •  Filed under Posts

Yesterday was the last edition of my newsletter.

I won't go into all the reasons why I've stopped the newsletter but it really boils down to one thing that Patrick Rhone kindly reminded me of last night.

Saying no is saying yes to other things...

On other news I've embraced Micro.blog a bit more and have been posting frequently there. If I'm sharing any links or smaller posts they'll be found on my micro-blog which you can subscribe to through RSS or even follow me on there as well.

What about here then? I'll be reserving longer posts for here and they're going to be coming over time.

Pro colour schemes

 •  Filed under Posts, Tools, Products

If you see me bashing away at text editor then you'll know that I'm a die hard Solarized fan. In the last few weeks though I've been using the Dracula colour scheme as well just for a little change.

Colour schemes for text editors and other software tools are a personal choice. There are benefits to the carefully thought out schemes like Solarized where you get a balanced set of colours that works in most conditions. That works for me. For other people though, they might just use a set of colours because they like the colours in the scheme. Everyone is different and has their owns reasons for what they like working with.

Over the weekend I read about a new colour scheme called Monokai Pro, which is based on the popular Monokai colours and it's availability as a colour scheme for Sublime Text 3. I installed the package and spent some time with it over the weekend. What's interesting about this colour scheme is that while the package is freely available for Sublime Text 3 to evaluate, it does require a license to use. The license is 10 euros to buy.

I debated with paying the license fee for what is essentially a list of colours, but when you look beyond that you see that the Monokai Pro colour scheme has a lot more to it than a colour scheme for your code.

An example of the Monokai Pro colour scheme

The colour scheme changes the interface of Sublime Text as well and there are a number of settings that allow you to customise how different parts of the Sublime Text user-interface look. A very professional finish.

In the end I decided that it was worth the money to buy a license for the package and bought one on Monday.

The most interesting part of this though is not the colour scheme itself but what it is. Yes it's a package for Sublime Text that people can install, yes it's a list of colours that you can change your interface too but other than that it's also a product, a micro-product if you like. And it's not the first product that I have seen that is marketed towards text editors like Sublime Text 3. A few years back I bought a license for the GitGutter package for Sublime Text and I've been using it ever since.

Just goes to show that products come in all shapes and sizes and shouldn't be discounted because of their feature-set or size when compared with similar "free offerings".