Improving the MemoryMiner Web Viewer

I’ve written recently about switching MemoryMiner’s XML output to RSS. This work has been complete for a little over a month now, and so far, so good. In the past few weeks, I’ve been working on improving the loading speed and layout of the web viewer, and there’s been tremendous progress. The techniques for improving the loading speed of any web page are pretty straightforward once you understand how browsers load resources. A great resource is this page from Yahoo’s Developer site Best Practices for Speeding Up Your Web Site. I also kept in mind something that an old colleague once said (repeatedly): it’s not how fast it actually takes for software to do something, it’s how long the user perceives it to be.

In the case of a MemoryMiner web export, there are a lots of images, so, one of the tricks you can use is to load a placeholder image so that the page can be displayed. Once the actual image resource becomes available, you can then swap out the newly available image for the placeholder. This trick works great in standards compliant browsers such as Safari, Firefox, and Opera. Internet Explorer blows (but we already knew that).

Another trick is to optimize the chances that a given resource (such as a Javascript file) is in the user’s browser cache. The MemoryMiner web export makes use of a few Javascript libraries such as prototype.js (where would the web be without it?). Google, bless their hearts, have now started hosting these script files which is good for everyone (AJAX Libraries API).

In terms of improving the layout, we’ve now switched to using Yahoo Maps AJAX Web API, which actually performs better than their Flash maps viewer, and using “accordions” in order to better organize the different types of info available for each photo (i.e. Map, Caption, Attachments). Lots of other little CSS magic have been applied as well.

The early testers have given some great additional feedback, which can be used to even further refine things, but the overall response has been hugely favorable.

Happy Happy.

PS If you’re interested in having a sneak peak, drop a line to info at memoryminer dot com

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