Welcome to the New Minnick.com!

Dear Minnick Web Services friends, family, clients, and other interested people:

This week, we launched our new website at www.minnick.com. As will happen with any regularly updated website older than a couple years, the clutter had begun to become more than we could manage. So, we decided to scrap the whole thing and start over. In my next newsletter, I’ll tell you more about the process we went through in redesigning the site.  Please take a look and let me know what you think!

We also created a new company video!

Have a great day!


Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of our class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 starts today!Click here to read reviews and find out more!

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What’s it like to be the 32,284th most popular author?

According to Amazon, there are only 32,283 authors who are more popular than me (on Amazon) today. Updated hourly, this number has fluctuated in the range of 20,000 to 40,000 over the last few months.

With somewhere around 5 million titles in the Amazon database, I figure there are at least a million different authors I compete with. That puts me in the top 3 percent of authors on Amazon. My rank doesn’t look so shabby now, does it?

But, what does that mean, in terms of fame, wealth, book signings, fighting off paparazzi, and all of the other important measures of success? Pretty much nothing. No one (except family members) has ever asked me to sign my books, and I have yet to earn enough to live on for more than a couple weeks from sales of my books. So, why do I do it?

Writing books is valuable for much more than just the writing of the book. For example, what would I be writing about right now if it weren’t for the fact that I can write about writing books?

One of the big things that it’s useful for is to demonstrate just how difficult certain pursuits are – even though the perception is that success happens all the time.

I’m thinking, in particular, about mobile apps and web startups. Almost every single mobile app that has been built has been a failure, in terms of money earned — with the rare giant success. Yet, I get calls and questions daily from people who have a “sure thing” app idea that will make us all billionaires (and I should be happy to work for free because of it).

In the end, my best advice is: think long and hard before you jump into a sure-thing hit project. Is the straight-ahead path of selling app downloads or subscriptions the best way to make money, or can you give away the app to help boost the business you already have? Are there less glamorous ways to make your web or app project pay for itself without relying on it getting a million downloads? Let me tell you now: even with the best distribution network in the world, a great product, founders who are willing to work 24 hours a day, and a marketing budget – getting even 1000 people to pay 99 cents to download something, or to pay $20 per month for a service, or to buy a book, is way more difficult than you can imagine.

So, how do you build a successful website or mobile app? The same way you become the most popular author on Amazon (except for about 32,000 other ones): stick to it for a long time, know your subject and audience inside-out, and look at ways to make your project successful without having to amass a large audience of paying customers.

Want more free advice from me? Sign up for a Free Website Audit.

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Mobile Web: What Just Happened?

If you’ve been reading my newsletters for the last few months, you may have noticed that I’ve talked just a little about the mobile web and why it’s so important to you and your business or career. Now I want to show you a couple graphs that I made from real client data recently.
These are reports of web traffic from smartphones and tablets during 2013.

The trend is clear: mobile web usage took off during the last couple months of 2013. If you thought your mobile web site, or acquiring mobile web skills, wasn’t that urgent of a priority way back in October 2013, chances are that you need to look again.
If you’re not seeing a dramatic increase in mobile traffic right now, it’s very likely the result of Google’s decision to rank sites that are optimized for mobile higher in their smartphone search results than sites that aren’t. In other words: you’re being punished by Google for not having a mobile site, or for having one that isn’t correctly configured.
As I mentioned in previous newsletters, the number of people using mobile devices to browse the web is growing very rapidly, while desktop browser usage is stagnant. If Google is ranking you lower in mobile search results, it’s having a negative impact on your business.
On the other hand, if your site is already optimized for mobile devices, you’re benefiting as we speak — you have a leg up on the competition and more mobile traffic will continue to come your way in the coming months!
Want to find out how Minnick Web Services can help you optimize your site for mobile?Contact us today!
Want to acquire the skills to build mobile websites and mobile web apps and take advantage of the booming demand for skilled mobile developers? Sign up for our online class – a new session starts next week!
Happy New Year!

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Monetizing Mobile

phoneA new study by eMarketer, released this week, finds that adults in the U.S. are spending more time on their mobile devices than on desktop and laptop computers.

The same study estimates that mobile ad spending has more than doubled in 2013, while desktop ad spending has grown only 1.7%.

For our clients in the publishing world, this should be a wake-up call. Now is the time to focus on your mobile strategy and to prepare for monetizing mobile websites in 2014, which promises even faster growth. Here are some of the things I recommend that everyone with a website, but especially everyone with a website that includes advertising, should do right now:

1. Visit your website with a smartphone. If you don’t have a smartphone handy, visit http://www.mobilephoneemulator.com/ to simulate the experience of using your site on a smartphone. If your site was redesigned more than a couple years ago, chances are good that it’s not going to look good, or that it will require the user to zoom to view it (certainly a less-than-ideal user experience).

2. Read this study from IDC, which found that 79% of 18 to 44-year-olds have their phones on them or near them for all but 2 hours of their waking day. Furthermore, the same percentage (79%) say that the first thing they do when they wake up each day is to check their smartphone. Among 18-24 year-olds only, the percentage that reach for their phone before they do anything else is 89%.

3. Read this article which compares mobile ad click-through rates with desktop ads. Or, if you don’t have time to read it right now, let me give you the executive summary: mobile ads have much higher click-through rates than desktop ads.

The trend towards mobile computing is clear, and now’s the time to do the work necessary to take advantage of it! Contact us today to find out how we can help you optimize your site for mobile viewers and prepare you for the oncoming boom in mobile ad revenue!


Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of my online class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 just started!Visit our site to sign up or to view the first lesson!

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Now is the Time for HTML5

In the last two years, I’ve taught HTML5 to over 3000 students through my online class, even more than that have learned HTML5 and HTML5 mobile development through my last two books:WebKit for Dummies and Beginning HTML5 and CSS3 for Dummies, and I’ve personally tutored, assisted, and encouraged hundreds more to upgrade their HTML skills or to learn HTML for the first time.

After spending at least half of my career in the long dark Web period from 2001 to 2009 which was dominated by XHTML and browser wars, I’m thrilled to be a part of the HTML5 revolution that’s currently taking over the web.

According to the W3C’s plan, 2014 is the year that HTML5 will become an official recommendation. Whether or not it’s an official standard doesn’t matter, however, if it doesn’t have support from the browser makers. So, let’s take a look at the current level of browser support for HTML5 and related standards.

Here are a couple images that we all need to be familiar with. The first is from HTMLtest.com, a site that ranks browsers based on how well they support the HTML5 spec. The highest possible score is currently 555.


The next chart is from W3Counter.com, which tracks current browser usage. Here are the numbers from November 2013:


While it’s great news that browsers that are highly compliant with the HTML5 standard represent nearly 50% of the market share, it’s troubling that browsers that are so far behind as IE9 and older still account for about a quarter of all browsers in use today.

So, what are we to do about this? Here are our recommendations for web developers (and those who employ web developers) everywhere:

1. Write all web pages in HTML5, according to the latest version of the spec. Browsers are continually getting better, and even the most late of late adopters are gradually graduating to better browsers. When you’re feeling down, notice the complete lack of a certain version of a certain browser from Microsoft on the above chart!

2. Learn about and use Modernizr and Polyfills for any feature that might not be supported by every browser. Modernizr is a JavaScript library for detecting whether a user’s browser supports features. Polyfills are JavaScript replacements for HTML5 features which you can load conditionally based on the test results from Modernizr. For example, if you want to use the HTML5 video tag on your site, but you don’t want to leave behind users with old browsers, simply test for <video> support and include one of the several <video> polyfills. You can then use <video> as you normally would…the polyfill will take care of the rest! It’s like magic, except it’s not.

HTML5 represents a major improvement to the web, and it holds the promise of reducing and perhaps even eliminating browser incompatibilities at some point. But, not just yet. In the meantime, however, it’s fully possible to support nearly every user of your site and to smooth over browser incompatibilities by using simple and free tools. So, why wouldn’t you?


Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of my online class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 just started!Visit our site to sign up or to view the first lesson!

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The 4 Rules of Mobile App Design

iPhoneIn my online class, I teach 4 rules of mobile app design:

1. Design with mobility in mind. In other words, keep in mind that mobile devices are called mobile devices for a reason — people use them while moving or while not at their desks. This is, perhaps, the most controversial of my rules, because many people would argue (and do) that people are increasingly using “mobile” devices as their primary computer. However, I stand by my rule. You design differently for smartphones vs. desktop computers because smartphone apps are more often used by people who may have something else that’s the primary thing they’re doing (working out, shopping, running, riding the bus).

2. Design for simplicity. Photoshop is a great desktop application. It would make a horrible mobile app if all of its features were simply copied over. Mobile forces you to make tough choices about “what to leave in, what to leave out.”

3. Design for people. This is an important rule for any type of system that’s going to be used by people. Create as clear a picture as you can of the people who will be using your app. Give them names. Make up stories about them.Actually make them, if you have the technology. The closer you can get to having real people using your imaginary app before you even start building it, the better.

4. Design for different devices. Finally, if you’re designing for mobile, you’re really designing for hundreds or thousands of different configurations of screen sizes and capabilities. Especially if you’re going to work with the mobile web, don’t get super-attached to any pixel-perfect layout, because it’s not going to work for everyone. Keep your design flexible, and test on as many devices as you can get your hands on.

In the assignment for Lesson 1, I ask my students to come up with a way to remember these 4 rules — a song, or an acronym, or a mnemonic device for example. Here’s one of my favorites answers of all time:

App Design
Design for one on the go,
Perhaps like someone you know.
Simplicity’s nice,
For every device,

To help your successfulness grow.

Have a great day!


Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of my online class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 just started! Visit our site to sign up or to view the first lesson!

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You Too Can Learn HTML5

Welcome to part 4 of my series: “Top 5 Questions People Ask Me About HTML5.” In the previous three newsletters, I explained what HTML5, why it’s important, and whether it’s safe to use it today. In this newsletter, I’m going to talk about why everyone should learn at least some HTML5.

At this point, you may be saying: But, I can’t even program my VCR (or whatever device you’re baffled by now-a-days)!

Read on to find out why it’s so important that you learn HTML. But first, check out my great new newsletter advertising spot here and the important link.

advertisement want to advertise here?
Chris Minnick will be teaching a one-day hands-on workshop in HTML5 Mobile App Development at Sacramento’s Hacker Lab on Saturday, November 23. In this 8-hour workshop, you’ll build a mobile app from scratch that can be uploaded to both the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Tickets are $100, and space is limited! Find out more and register here!

HTML5 is nothing to be afraid of. 

If you can type, you can write basic HTML5, as you’ll see in next week’s newsletter.

But, why should you even bother to try to learn HTML5?

Think about all the different things you do involving words.

  • Do you send email? All those words you write are being converted automatically into HTML.
  • Do you blog? Guess what: WordPress (or whatever blogging platform you’re using) is writing HTML for you behind the scenes.
  • Do you work for a company with a website that you need to update? Your content management system currently writes HTML for you.

The biggest reason that you need to know a little HTML5 is that all of these programs that are writing HTML for you are often doing it very badly. This is the cause of much frustration for you when you can’t place that image just where you want it or when a link doesn’t turn out to be a link.

A very basic understanding of HTML5 will help you fix annoying problems in your website text, email newsletters, and anywhere you write online. This will save you HOURS of precious time.

Next week I’ll teach you HTML5. Do you want to know sooner? Check out my book, or my class, or the awesome workshop that I’ll be teaching on November 23 (see the ad above to find out more and to register)!

Have a great day!


Chris Minnick

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Is HTML5 Safe to Use?

Welcome to part 3 of my series: “Top 5 Questions People Ask Me About HTML5.” In the previous two newsletters, I explained what HTML5 is and why it’s important. In this newsletter, I’m going to answer one of the lingering, but soon to be totally resolved, doubts about HTML5:

“You say that HTML5 isn’t yet a standard. Is HTML5 safe to use?” OR “My web guy wants to redesign our site with HTML5. Is that ok?”

The short answer is YES.

The long answer is: Yes. HTML5 has been in the works since 2004. That’s almost 10 years, for those of you who are counting. During that time, many people, companies, and organizations have reviewed the spec and suggested changes. Some of these changes have been adopted, and others have been discarded. The standards body that sets the official rules of the web, the World Wide Web Consortium, has gone through its slow-moving and very exhaustive process of vetting and testing, and in December of 2012, HTML5 became what’s known as a Candidate Recommendation.

The Candidate Recommendation status means that the technology is not going to undergo significant changes before becoming a standard, but it needs to be tested further and jump through a few more hoops before becoming a full “recommendation”. HTML5 is expected to become a full recommendation in 2014.

So, what does all this mean to you, who may have only learned what HTML5 actually is last week? Take a look at the graphic below, from HTML5test.com. HTML5test.com scores browsers based on a 0 to 500 point scale based on how well they support HTML5′s many many features.

In my opinion, a score over 300 is good enough for a browser to say that it “supports HTML5.” Even 2 years ago, browsers weren’t yet ready for HTML5. Today, however, the vast majority of HTML5′s features are supported by most browsers.

HTML5Test.com Browser Results Chart

This chart also demonstrates quite nicely why I recommend that students in my online class use Chrome, and why web developers don’t like Internet Explorer.

The ultimate goal of HTML5 is for every web browser to get a score of 500 on this test. At that point, we’ll know for certain that properly written HTML will do what it’s supposed to do. But, before that can happen, the spec needs more testing, browsers need updating, and more web developers need to be educated on how to write HTML5.

In my next newsletter, I’ll take on another one of the top 5 questions I get about HTML5. Do you have a question? Let me know!

Have a great day!


Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of my online class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 just started! Visit our site to sign up or to view the first lesson!

p.p.s. I’m working on a new 1-day class on mobile web app development, to be taught at Sacramento’s Hacker Lab on Saturday, November 23. Space will be limited. Stay tuned for more information and a link to the signup form!

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What is HTML5?

In part 2 of my series entitled “The Top 5 Questions People Ask Me About HTML5,” I’m going back to basics: “What is HTML5?”

HTML, as you may know, stands for Hypertext Markup Language.

Hypertext is text that contains references (links) to other text that can be immediately accessed by the reader. For example, you may be reading an article about HTML5, and the author may say that much more information about this topic is available in his book about HTML5. The text is much more than just text, because it could, in theory, link to all other text on the web (eventually) from that link.

Sidebar: Some Hypertext History
The word, Hypertext, was coined by Ted Nelson in the 1960s to describe the main idea of a proposed system he called Xanadu (which has nothing to do with the movie, Xanadu). In Xanadu, every document would link to its source documents, and referenced text, images, video and audio would be used directly from those source documents, rather than authors copying and pasting content into new documents and losing the history attached to the content. The details of Xanadu are beyond the scope of this newsletter, but make for interesting reading — and Ted Nelson is one of the more colorful and interesting figures in Internet history.

Markup Language is a way of annotating text using special characters. For example, to say that certain text represents the title of a document, you can “mark it up” with the HTML title tag, like this: <title>Welcome to my home on the WWW</title>.

So, at its most basic, HTML is really just a system for annotating text andcreating links between text.

However, when millions of people know this language and when you combine HTML with a viewing application called a web browser and distribute HTML documents over the Internet, HTML becomes much more powerful.

Because it’s so simple to learn, early versions of HTML (in the mid-to-late 1990s) gained very widespread use, and the Web was born.

But then, in the late 90s, something strange happened: the geeks decided that webpage creation needed to be more of a rarified skill and that we couldn’t have just anyone learning how to do this stuff. This is how a language called XHTML was born.

XHTML was supposed to be a cleaned-up version of HTML that would require authors to write “well-formed and valid” markup and check it with syntax validators or else their webpages just wouldn’t display. For programmers, this sounds perfectly natural. We’re used to a world in which you need to speak the computer’s language or else things don’t work. But, this isn’t the way of the Web, and very few people ever actually used XHTML in the way it was designed. I refer to XHTML as the language that very nearly killed the Web.

Around 2005 or so, a group of browser-makers decided that they were tired of waiting for the bugs to be worked out with XHTML and they started working on a new revision of HTML, HTML5. One of the main ideas behind HTML5 is that webpage authors are going to make mistakes. But, if every browser handles markup errors in the same way, it’s not that big of a deal.

Because it shifts the burden of responsibility for compliance with standards from the author to the computer, HTML5 is a much more human-friendly language. As a result of HTML5, and the excitement generated by it, the Web is currently going through a giant burst of change and innovation.

In my next newsletter, I’ll take on another one of the top 5 questions I get about HTML5. Do you have a question? Let me know!

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Why Should I Care About HTML5?

In my last newsletter, I said that I’d be answering common questions about mobile web development over the next few weeks. I’m going to start with the fundamentals. Today’s newsletter answers the first of the top 5 questions I hear about HTML5.

Even if you have no idea what HTML is, read on. I just wrote a book called Beginning HTML5 and CSS3 for Dummies. If you don’t know what HTML5 and CSS3 are, who is better to explain it to you than the guy who wrote the Beginning book for Dummies?

Why should I care about HTML5?

Have you ever wondered why you can’t use an iPhone app on an Android phone, or why you can’t use a Mac program on Windows? Are you tired of popup windows telling you that you need to download Flash or Java or another plugin to use a website? Does it drive you crazy when you have 20 apps on your smartphone that need to be updated? Do you wonder why web pages look and work differently on different computers and even with different web browsers?

HTML5 was designed to solve all of these problems.

HTML5 is a standard for applications (or “apps”) that are distributed via the web and that can run on any computer or phone with a web browser. This is very exciting to a lot of people, and it has the potential to greatly simplify and improve desktop and mobile computing.

Even if you don’t write apps or web pages and you don’t have any intention of ever doing so, HTML5 is already changing how you use computers. As an informed person and a savvy user of computers (and maybe even as someone whose job involves the web), you need to be informed about something that will have such a major impact.

Stay tuned for next week’s question: “OK. I’m interested. But, what is HTML5 exactly?”

Have a great day!

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