blog :: web_design

12 Social Bookmarking Icon Sets To Spur Your Visitors Into Action

Posted on 01 Dec 2009 by Andy

If you want your web pages to create a buzz on social media, you need to make it easy for your visitors to submit your posts to their favourite social bookmarking sites. Adding some buttons at the bottom of each post is a great way to help your readers and give them a visual reminder to submit your content.

This is a list of icons representing social bookmarking sites that are free to use. Some are distributed under the terms of one of the Creative Commons licenses or other, similar, conditions so be sure to check the terms of the license and attribute the author where necessary:

Matte Blue And White Square Icons by Icons-Etc

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Number of icons:108
Link:http://icons.mysitemyway.com/gallery/post/matte-blue-and-white-square-icons-social-media-logos/
License:Free to use

Sweet Social Media Icons by Custom Icon Design

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Number of icons:35
Link:http://www.customicondesign.com/free-icon/35-sweet-social-media-icons/
License:Free for non-commercial use

Socialize Icons by DryIcons

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Number of icons:12
Link:http://dryicons.com/free-icons/preview/socialize-icons-set/ & http://dryicons.com/free-icons/preview/socialize-part-2-icons-set
License:Free with linkback

Circular Social Media Icons by Blog Perfume

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Number of icons:27
Link:http://www.blogperfume.com/new-27-circular-social-media-icons-in-3-sizes/
License:Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Social.me by jwloh

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Number of icons:30
Link:http://jwloh.deviantart.com/art/Social-me-90694011
License:Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Social Media Mini Icons by Koko Media

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Number of icons:30
Link:http://www.komodomedia.com/blog/2008/12/social-media-mini-iconpack/
License:Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Free Social Media Icons by WeFunction

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Number of icons:14
Link:http://wefunction.com/2009/05/free-social-icons-app-icons/
License:Free, with linkback

Social and Web Icons by Iconspedia

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Number of icons:57
Link:http://www.iconspedia.com/pack/social-and-web-2282/
License:Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License

Social Icons #4 by Tydlinka

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Number of icons:16
Link:http://tydlinka.deviantart.com/art/Set-of-social-icons-no-4-110796162
License:Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License

Pixel Perfect Social Media Icons by PsdTuts

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Number of icons:27
Link:http://psd.tutsplus.com/freebies/icons/81-pixel-perfect-social-media-icons/
License:Free for personal and commercial work, no attribution required

Polaroid Social Media Icons by WebToolkit4.me

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Number of icons:16
Link:http://webtoolkit4.me/2009/03/17/polaroid-icon-set/
License:Free for personal and commercial work, not for resale

Bevel Dark by Tutorial9

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Number of icons:10
Link:http://www.tutorial9.net/resources/free-icon-pack-bevel-dark-social-icons/
License:Free for personal and commercial work, not for resale

Pretty much all of these icons sets have made it into my delicious bookmarks so you can always join my network to keep abreast of any new finds that I make.

I hope I have correctly attributed the original authors (it can be a bit tricky with all the icon aggregators around). If you think I’ve made a mistake, then please leave a comment or contact me directly. Oh and, by the way, see those little social bookmarking icons at the bottom of this post? Please use them, thanks :-)

3 comments, add yours.

Twitter’s Retweet Functionality Should Be Rebranded

Posted on 19 Nov 2009 by Andy

Twitter users have been "retweeting" others for a while now, using functionality built into their desktop or web clients or sometimes just plain old Ctrl+C. Twitter sat up and took notice and decided to incorporate retweets into their application (and API).

However, they changed the nature of the retweet so that it is now much harder to understand just who is doing the retweeting. Instead of seeing RT @andymurd Hello world, the new Twitter retweet functionality simply puts the original into the stream of the retweeter.

The New Retweets Are Very Different

The functionality unveiled by Twitter fundamentally changes the nature of a retweet. The old retweets meant the retweeter was saying something like I endorse this message or I think this is cool/funny/useful/important. Who was doing the retweeting was very important - there was huge difference between a RT from your mum and one from @StephenFry.

The powers behind Twitter do realise that this is a big change, check out this quote from Evan Williams’ blog:

...I know the design of this feature will be somewhat controversial. People understandably have expectations of how the retweet function should work

In the rest of the post he explains that the new functionality was designed to address problems of attribution, redundancy/noise and trackability.

I agree that reducing redundant retweets is highly desirable - I don’t need to follow @Mashable any more because my other followers retweet every single thing he says! However, they’ve already taken steps to block duplicate tweets from a single user, surely this could be expanded to removing duplicate retweets from a user’s stream?

Trackability is a nice feature for application developers and data miners but does not directly affect the user experience. Third parties like TweetMeme have been approaching this problem with varying degrees of success.

Attributing Retweets

I don’t agree with Evan that there is a problem with attributing retweets. For those of us with busy tweet streams, seeing a trusted avatar is a valuable signal of quality.

Retweets are a good measure of the virality of an idea but it would be naive to think that some twitterers have a great deal more influence than others. When a twitter celebrity RTs your message, you receive an influx of followers and a flood of traffic to any links in your tweet.

New Retweets Are Not All Bad

It’s not the end of the world - the old retweeting method still works.

Most twitter clients have not yet caught up with the API changes for retweets, so their adoption has been slow. Together with an adverse reaction from many users, the old retweets look set to stay.

There is a simple solution for Twitter to backpedal out of this corner - rebrand their retweet functionality.

Choosing a new name would make users think of the changes as new functionality, not changes to an existing (and much loved) feature. So what to call it? My suggestion is cross-tweeting to reflect the crossing of twitter user streams that occurs when a tweet from a user that you don’t follow appears in your friends timeline.

What do you think? Perhaps you have a better name than cross-tweeting. Please leave a comment.

1 comments, add yours.

More On Using Google Spreadsheets To Add A Poll To Your Blog

Posted on 27 Mar 2009 by Andy

When Google Spreadsheets first added its forms feature, I wrote about using an iframe to embed a poll on your website and the post has been consistently popular. I’ve found myself using more and more spreadsheet polls in the year since that post so it’s time to check out what improvements have been made to the service.

Form Customisation

You can now tweak the colours and font of the form by changing the URL parameters of your embedded iframe, so you can make the form match the colour scheme of your blog.

The Google Operating System blog points out that you don’t have to use Google to host the forms, just copy the code and host them yourself and you can style them however you want and add javascript for validation and the results will still end up in the spreadsheet.

I can’t believe I didn’t think of this.

A pie chart

Hide The Thank You Page

In my original post, my biggest complaint was that the page that thanks the user for filling out the form is not very customisable - a redirect to a graph of responses would be really useful.

That issue has not been addressed but it is possible to avoid showing the thank-you page altogther by specifying another iframe (with height 0), as Copasetic Flow discovered.

More Embedding

You can embed forms into Google Knols as described here.

BetchaBlog also point out that you can create and embed Google Maps from spreadsheets as well as loads of other types of Google Gadgets. Wordpress users might be interested in this plugin to widgetize gadgets.

Good Progress

Google Spreadsheets are definitely growing into a useful tool and their ability to synchronise with RSS and web queries promises to make them into a very powerful tool indeed. In fact, I am surprised that more people are not using them with tools like Yahoo Pipes to create quick and simple mashups. I’m looking forward to seeing what further improvements are made over the next year.

I note that Stack Overflow used used a spreadsheet to handle sign ups for their beta, which is an excellent use of the technology to save development time.

And this pie chart by Kim Woodbridge, which uses Twitter to populate a spreadsheet is very cool. Leave a comment if you’ve seen any other interesting mashups involving spreadsheets, I’d love to see them.

Also, if you follow me on twitter, please take my latest poll.

4 comments, add yours.

I Think Someone At Google Likes Me

Posted on 14 Aug 2008 by Andy

Wow, chalk up two successes for me with Google!

After complaining about a dialog in Google Reader, they fixed it a few months ago. Another Google annoyance was that I’d been seeing a lot of emails being marked spam in Gmail that I wanted in my inbox.

The problem was that all comments and submissions from the contact form get sent to my email account and, unfortunately, spammers have been trying to abuse these forms. Whilst I was happy for the spam comments to get filtered, a lot of legitimate stuff was being falsely marked as spam too.

GetSatisfaction.com Rocks

I set up a query on Get Satisfaction (a truly superb web application) and received some good advice, but none of it quite worked.

Then, what do you know? GMail added a new filter option, “Never Send It To Spam”. My wish was granted!

Props to Susan Beebe for alerting me to the addition, otherwise it might have passed me by completely.

So...

What should I ask the Google fairy for next? Any suggestions?

2 comments, add yours.

Google Reader Is Less Annoying

Posted on 12 Jun 2008 by Andy

One of the first articles I wrote in my series of web design annoyances was a moan about Google Reader’s use of a Javascript alert to confirm whether you really want to mark all items as read. The nice folks on the developer team have fixed it!

Now, instead of the old Javascript alert, there is a nice HTML dialog and, best of all a checkbox to never see it again!

The new alert

The “don’t ask me again” is accessible via the settings page too, so it will be consistent across your work and home PCs. Great stuff.

This was everything I asked for in my original rant - well done Google Reader team.

2 comments, add yours.

Geo-Location Is Hot! Hot! Hot!

Posted on 14 May 2008 by Andy

There has been lots of news from the big internet players over the past few days. After the huge success of Google Maps (launched in 2005) it became obvious that localising the web was no mere fad, now comes the second generation of the technology.

An old map of the world

After Google Maps, Yahoo launched their own mapping service but its real value was found when they integrated it with Flickr allowing people to show maps of where their photos were taken. This is a concrete example of the semantic web returning value to the user.

Mobile Maps

Handheld GPS units have had their hardcore fans for many years, but in the meantime everybody (and I mean everybody) started carrying mobile phones around with them. There have been some attempts to marry the two, from Nokia’s N95 (with a high price tag, but features to match, to Google’s MMap, a version of Google Maps for popular mobile phones.

In the meantime, Twitter arrived and really shook up the mobile computing market by allowing lowest common denominator phones to interact with the web. Their 140 character genius has been mashed-up and geo-leveraged (I made a new term!) in lots of ways, including:

  • TwitterWhere - Tell the world where you tweet from
  • GeoTwitter - Shows the public feed on a world map
  • TwitterEarth - A prettier map, but lower functionality than GeoTwitter
  • Twitter Spy - A more Twitter-ish interface to a map of the public timeline

Enough History, What’s Happening Now?

Wow, loads.

Map, you are here

Yahoo maps gained new functionality recently and Google Maps got a facelift this month.

Not red-hot now, but Yahoo launched their FireEagle project a few months ago, which promises to be a “secure and stylish way to share your location with sites and services”. Whatever that means.

Both Google and Yahoo have launched (hopefully) massively improved geographical search facilities. You can bet that both want to be first to get the killer app for local search on GPS mobile phones.

What Is Next?

Big question...

Google owns the internet now, but Yahoo is making a very strong play for the semantic web and location data is low hanging fruit in that search space. We can expect a big fight over local search.

But maybe the big players have been distracted and some smaller competitors are emerging. Yelp, Finder can still own this kind of market - it’s the traditional media like Yellow Pages that should be really worried.


Photos by Library of Congress and goldberg, respectively.

0 comments, add yours.

Blern Makes A Mistake From The Early Nineties

Posted on 09 Apr 2008 by Andy

Blern logo

Blern is pretty cool, it’s a web-page recommendation tool that attempts to learn from your RSS subscriptions, social bookmarks etc. to provide you with articles that are likely to interest you. I’ve only just signed up and so far it thinks I have an unhealthy interest in subversion, but that’s OK because, compared to most people, I do.

So I got my email of my daily recommendations from Blern with four out of ten posts that covered version control systems (not a problem, I realise I still have to train it) and one post caught my eye. Jim Priest has posted a great article on SVN that I clicked through, read it and wanted to bookmark it for later in del.icio.us.

This was Blern’s first triumph! An article they had recommended that I wanted to read, then wanted to keep and share. Go Blern!

But Wait, It’s Wrapped In A Frame!

Recommendation wrapped in an iframe

I don’t want to bookmark Blern’s recommendation, I want the recommended page itself.

This is the kind of trick that was used to build a “sticky site” in the 1990s and resulted in the kind of bloated portal pages that we still see at Yahoo today. Luckily, as a Mozilla Firefox user, I could right-click and select This Frame -> View Only This Frame to get to the page I wanted. Still very annoying, though.

There Are Lots Of Fixes...

The reason for the frame is obvious - Blern want to know what I like and dislike. So they put some buttons at the top of every page with voting options. I want to give them this information, otherwise they cannot improve their recommendations for me.

Using an IFRAME is not the way to do it. The typical Blern user must be web-savvy since they need OPML files and/or del.icio.us/FriendFeed data to get any hope of having a good guess at recommendations in the first few weeks. This is a demographic that is willing to experiment, it’s willing to give away personal data - it’s GOLD!.

Two obvious alternatives to the IFRAME are a Firefox plugin and cross-browser bookmarklets. Either of these could also be clicked to let Blern know when I like something that wasn’t recommended by them. More information makes for better predictions.

Blern knows which links I have clicked through a link on their email (or my Blern page) and from that it could infer that I like the title and snippet. If I do not click the like or dislike buttons, it could ask me next time - but only for a few items, please! This kind of feedback shows concern for the user.

Blern Learns

The tagline for the website is “Blern learns”, I hope they do. I want them to succeed. They seem to be aiming for the right results without being evil, and that’s exactly what the semantic web needs right now - results for the user.

3 comments, add yours.

On The Use Of Auto-Responders By Bloggers

Posted on 23 Mar 2008 by Andy

This article is about a phenomenon that has taken me by surprise - auto-responders for blogs.

I first encountered these when commenting on a couple of blog posts and when the first email arrived I was suckered in - I thought the blogger had noticed that I made an inciteful comment and had sent me a personalised email to encourage me to participate more.

When the second comment elicited a similarly boilerplate email welcoming me to their blog, I got a bit sceptical.

Please don’t think that this post is an attack on either StayGoLinks or Mr Javo, it is merely a discussion of the technology used.

The Shock Of The New

The first email piqued my curiosity - I almost replied - but as always with unsolicited emails, I decided to wait. Maybe I shouldn’t have, have you replied to one of these emails? Leave a comment and let me know.

The second email also ellicited a sharp spike of excitement but it reminded me of the (now deleted) first email. The text was different, but the meaning was the same - “Thanks for your comment, please subscribe.”

I did a little research, not much, but some and found that for WordPress, there is a plugin that automates this sort of thing.

It me left feeeling rather disappointed, and not a little naive. I was very close to being suckered - feeling suckered by the individual attention.

It’s Not Mainstream Yet...

Thankfully.

If this plugin should become mainstream, it’s emails will be marked as spam very quickly and that can only hurt bloggers.

That’s not to say that I don’t like being welcomed to your blog, just make the welcome personal. Bloggers are well aware of generic spam comments saying things like “That is a very inciteful post, I wrote about this before on my blog v14gr4.com”.

Keep it personal and build a relationship with the 2% of your readers that bother to comment.

6 comments, add yours.

Monitor Your Websites With These Three Great Free Tools

Posted on 23 Mar 2008 by Andy

We all know that you should use visitor analysis tools like Google Analytics to investigate how visitors use your website, but there are a couple of more fundamental issues that need monitoring too.

This post explores those issues and shows two free services that provide simple, comprehensive solutions.

Is My Website Available?

Your web host may advertise 99.9% uptime but do you know whether they are actually delivering?

If you run an international business you need to check that your site can be read from all the major continents, even if you don’t, you need third-party verification if your ISP provides both hosting and your internet connection.

Mon.itor.us

This great free service will monitor a number of URLs and send you emails if one of them becomes unavailable for a period. They also send a monthly report on the availability of your sites.

Mon.itor.us Logo

Using this method shows that MMMeeja’s various sites get about 99.7% uptime - not great at first glance. However, since the top ten hosting providers provide between 99.5 to 99.8% uptime according to Mon.itor.us statistics, I don’t think that is bad at all.

The emailed reports are great, but even better value is provided by the Mon.itor.us dashboard. It provides useful graphs and statistics about the pages you monitor. Example graphs There is a paid service too, providing robust, enterprise-level monitoring for mission critical websites.

Inursite

Another service that is incredibly useful, especially for fast changing sites like blogs, is Inursite.

Don’t be fooled by the unstyled web page, this service is delivered via RSS into your feed reader. You get an update each day with as simple “PASS” or “FAIL” for each of URL you monitor. It is then up to you to go to the W3C’s HTML Validator to find out why a particular site has failed.

I am sure that Inursite will be monetised and turned into a viable business before long, but for now it provides an excellent early warning of any invalid markup that creeps into your pages.

Google Alerts

Finally, Google Alerts provides a great way to keep up with what others are saying about your site or brand.

This is one of the great unsung tools from Google but I consider it to be vital. By setting up alerts for your site URL and name, you get daily email listing any newly indexed pages that refer to your site. Simple, but so useful.

1 comments, add yours.

Hello Digg, Welcome To FAIL!

Posted on 22 Mar 2008 by Andy

Digg is pretty cool, and I’ve been a subscriber to their RSS feed for a long time. The feed always had one problem that I was prepared to put up with, but recently they have changed it to make me seek an alternative.

Unsubscribing from Digg

Every entry in Digg’s RSS feed used to point to their own page, making you click another link to get to the page/story they were promoting. I put up with this (just) becuase there were a handful of benefits:

  • The Digg page has some useful comments
  • If the dugg site went down, the comments would usually point to a mirror
  • Digg showed me an advert (or nine, very slowly) which paid their bills

Then the change happended.

The straw that broke the camel’s back.

They made the Digg story page open a new bowser window. 100% of FAIL! Nobody messes with my browser. Digg, You are out!

An Alternative - Feedit

Luckily, there’s another service that is ready to provide Digg’s content without making readers pay through their blood pressure - Feedit.com provide a handy alternative to Digg’s RSS feed that takes you directly to the site being promoted. I am much happier and the number of clicks required to get where I want has been halved.

Subscribing to feedit

Of course, some of the benefits of the original feed have been lost - immediate access to comments etc. but the time saved across a hundred or more items per day is significant. Feedit’s feed includes links to the Digg page, comments and submitter so the information is readily available without much effort anyway.

Conclusion

Seemingly small inconveniences can annoy your readers and it’s easy for them to find an alternative. Designers and bloggers should always strive to improve the user experience and doing the opposite for the sake of a potential improvement in revenue (I assume that was Digg’s motivation) is always wrong.

0 comments, add yours.

 

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