When the iPad came out, I was hoping that, because of the low screen width in portrait mode (768 pixels), web developers would turn off their sidebars when low horizontal browser widths were encountered. This would make it so, even if I didn’t buy an iPad, I could benefit by when displaying my browser and text editor side-by-side. Alas, I haven’t seen many sites changing to look better with lower widths. I think the main reasons for this are:

  • iPad uptake, while significant, hasn’t got web developers who are set in their ways (myself included) to change their layouts
  • The iPad’s pan and zoom feature is so convenient, horizontal scrolling hasn’t annoyed users that much
  • iPad users are compensating by using their iPad in horizontal mode most of the time when browsing, or by rotating when they come to wide websites

With this in mind, I’ve noticed when I see a site I like that doesn’t take up too much width, both while using my 15″ MBP and while using my iPad. I’ve noticed that having a sidebar rarely adds to my experience of reading a blog entry. I don’t need help forming biases toward the writer by seeing his or her picture. I don’t need to know how old the blog is, or what other topics the author blogs about. When I’m on somebody’s blog for the first time, usually the only thing I care about is the content of the article. If I enjoy the article, I may bookmark the blog and poke around some more later*.

I also like narrow text. So, a blog layout I like is one that leaves half the page empty, when I’m viewing it full-screen on my MBP. This isn’t weird to me. It doesn’t feel like wasted space. It doesn’t bother me that if I wanted, I could use the space for something else. In fact, I love it!

Here’s a problem. When I’m reading it on the go, it’s nice that the dip is small and easy to carry. However, when I’m at home, I don’t need the small size. Wouldn’t it be nice if, while I’m reading it, I could have a little information about Seth Godin and some links to other books in the sidebar? Here’s a proof-of-concept:


Right now my site contains a sidebar with a tag cloud, links to archives, and some other stuff. It’s days are numbered. I may replace it with a link to another page, a drop-down menu, or nothing. I don’t know if this goes against anything in Ambient Findability (which I hear is an excellent book). I doubt it. None of the stuff in my sidebar is connected to this article in any significant way. I often find links to related articles helpful, though.

* Ideally. I just realized that if I’m trying to do something, and I find a great blog entry that helps me, I should get back to doing that thing, rather than looking for other blog entries right away. This, I think, is a large part of what gets me spending too much time browsing the Internet.

I just realized one big thing that Freckle and Stack Overflow have in common: they have virtuosity built into the definition of their target market.

Freckle‘s target market is defined as small businesses where everyone trusts everyone else. That’s how it can be a social time tracking where everyone can see everyone else’s entries. And tagging makes seeing other peoples’ entries useful for owners, managers, and employees alike.

Stack Overflow, on the other hand, is geared mainly towards programmers who want to cultivate knowledge. It’s also geared towards google searchers, but they’re not the core group, and don’t get the benefits available to the core group, like reduced advertising and moderation abilities.

For a counter example, there are mass-email companies that sell their servers to spammers. And there are ones that avoid spammers, but have a hard time achieving separation just by how they define their target market (and saying people who want to send mass email minus the spammers doesn’t work well). But Campaign Monitor circumvents that problem by marketing to designers, who are an intermediary between them and a larger group which includes spammers, that keeps most of the spammers out.

I think defining a good customer base is a large part of having a good customer base.

I like seeing URLs, whether in the link text or by hovering over a link. They are often truer to their content than what the person adding the link writes. I always have the status bar turned on in my browsers. It annoys me that there is no status bar on the iPad. It pleases me that Chrome shows URLs without taking up space for a status bar, by fading them in when hovering over a link. But a significant percentage of URLs aren’t worth a whole lot. They are either too long, or contain nothing identifying but numbers.

Some say that URLs will go away. But do they have to? If people still care about them, I don’t think so. That’s why we need URLs worth caring about. Just like we need buildings worth caring about, and neighborhoods worth caring about:

So how ’bout it?

(Yes, I realize that this blog’s urls suck, and don’t have to. I plan to change that soon.)

I had some issues upgrading to Django 1.2.1, and needed to roll Django back to 1.1.2. I searched for “Downgrading Django”, and didn’t find instructions, so now that I’ve figured it out, I’m posting instructions here.

First, if you’re using easy_install, I suggest switching to pip. It has more features, is better designed, and uses the same repositories, so it’s easy to upgrade. To install it, type sudo easy_install pip.

To install Django 1.1.2, type sudo pip install Django==1.1.2. When I ran this, pip automatically removed the newer version of Django, and the two glitches I was encountering with the admin interface went away. Once I figure out what caused the glitches, I’ll upgrade back to Django 1.2 so I can take advantage of its new features.