Friday, February 8, 2013

Using Bootstrap is cheating!

Recently I've launched the beta of a new website. The instant response I got from my programmer buddies was (did you click? you're probably a programmer too... does it match your first thought?) a consistent "Bootstrap!" shout.

My first impression was that it means "I know it too, I'm up to date". Maybe that's part of it, but it's certainly not all. The feeling I have now is that using Bootstrap is cheating.

Just like most people think that work must be hard and no fun, otherwise it's not work, do people believe that making a nice, consistent UI must be troublesome and hard? Or is using the standard theme without customization not acceptable?

For other technologies I never got such a reaction in the past. "HTML!" or "ExtJS!" ... never heard.

Bootstrap isn't perfect, but it serves its main purpose well. At a very low cost it brings a consistent, clean and clear user interface. Users want intuitive, standard interfaces, common patterns. Figuring out how each site works with a hand-knitted GUI sucks too much energy.

This is a standard ExtJS 4 form as showcased on their website:

Notice something? Pretty standard, isn't it? User interfaces looked like this for decades. The problem: it's not awesome.

It wastes too many brain cycles to figure out which button to press. I've certainly pressed the wrong one in the past. And for the users who have to fall back to a secondary language because there is no translation for their primary language yet, it's worse:

Now compare this to bootstrap buttons:
I'm not sure I've chosen the correct Google translate offerings... and it doesn't even matter. Color and size suggest the meaning already.

The aforementioned Surfr platform uses the traditional "..." on button labels to indicate that no harm is done pressing this button, another screen with information or options will appear first. For actions that perform data modifications (such as saving a record) an exclamation mark is appended to the action's name: "Save!". And actions that can't be undone are additionally styled with a warning color:

The critical among you will say "you can do this with ExtJS too". Of course you can. You can do everything from scratch. Fact is, the average site using Bootstrap is easier to read and use compared to the average self-made ui site - at almost no development cost.

I like standards. I like simplicity. I hate to deal with css and browser issues. Conclusion: Call me a cheater... but I like Bootstrap.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Where do you register your domains?

My posts are usually rants and complaints. If there's nothing wrong, there's no reason for change, so why bother to write. Not so this one, it's full of praise and worship.

Nah, just kidding. It starts with rant.

There are the classical types for dishonorable businesses. Telco is the worst that comes to mind. Contract lock in, intransparent calling and roaming costs, etc.

Another bad one is domain name registration... or at least used to be. It started for me in the good old days when internic (now Network Solutions) was the only registrar for com/net/org. Their address was at, and a cunning company from Australia registered, tricking the visitors into believing it's the real thing. The gangster Peter Zmijewski was later charged with fraud, and apparently some 13k victims got money back. Not me.

Today, there are a ton of official registrars who offer perfectly legal domain registration. The price is usually slightly above what they need to pay to the registry - for .com that is still Network Solutions at $6 per year. Just like Telco it's a tough business with small margins. Some charge a lot and can do it thanks to their market position. For example Network Solutions they ask for $34.99. Crazy. GoDaddy is very popular which allows them to charge $13.17, which means $7 to keep. Others offer low prices in the 1 digit range... and to maximize profit, they try to trick the customer in several ways. Not so namesilo.

Today I've registered the 2nd domain name with namesilo. Reading their website is a pleasure:
  • Cheap: $8.99 per year (that means $3 to keep for themselves)
  • Renewals cost the same. (That's where other registrars try to cheat. First year cheap, then whoops. Hard to switch.)
  • Extra features are included for free. (Whois privacy, preventing unauthorized record changes. That's where others try to sneak in costly services, possibly free the first year, and then charged automatically.)
  • No hidden cost. (I'm repeating myself here, but I just have to say it.)
That's the kind of business model I like. Just domains, no hosting and up-selling and crap. Fair, transparent, clear.

So if you see an offering like GoDaddy is currently advertising on Google Adwords "$2.95 COMs at Go Daddy" then you know something is wrong. Either you'll pay in the long run, or you have to buy their hosting, or so.

For the trendy .co domains I use namecheap. Don't like them, they're exactly the kind I described above. But namesilo doesn't do .co.