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Crawling is essential for every website, large and small alike.

If your content is not being crawled, you have no chance to gain visibility on Google surfaces.

Let’s talk about how to optimize crawling to give your content the exposure it deserves.

What Is Crawling In SEO

In the context of SEO, crawling is the process in which search engine bots (also known as web crawlers or spiders) systematically discover content on a website.

This may be text, images, videos, or other file types that are accessible to bots. Regardless of the format, content is exclusively found through links.

How Web Crawling Works

A web crawler works by discovering URLs and downloading the page content.

During this process, they may pass the content over to the search engine index and will extract links to other web pages.

These found links will fall into different categorizations:

New URLs that are unknown to the search engine.

Known URLs that give no guidance on crawling will be periodically revisited to determine whether any changes have been made to the page’s content, and thus the search engine index needs updating.

Known URLs that have been updated and give clear guidance. They should be recrawled and reindexed, such as via an XML sitemap last mod date time stamp.

Known URLs that have not been updated and give clear guidance. They should not be recrawled or reindexed, such as a HTTP 304 Not Modified response header.

Inaccessible URLs that can not or should not be followed, for example, those behind a log-in form or links blocked by a “nofollow” robots tag.

Disallowed URLs that search engine bots will not crawl, for example, those blocked by the chúng tôi file.

All allowed URLs will be added to a list of pages to be visited in the future, known as the crawl queue.

However, they will be given different levels of priority.

This is dependent not only upon the link categorization but a host of other factors that determine the relative importance of each page in the eyes of each search engine.

Most popular search engines have their own bots that use specific algorithms to determine what they crawl and when. This means not all crawl the same.

Googlebot behaves differently from Bingbot, DuckDuckBot, Yandex Bot, or Yahoo Slurp.

Why It’s Important That Your Site Can Be Crawled

But the reasons why crawling is critical go much deeper.

Speedy crawling is essential for time-limited content.

Often, if it is not crawled and given visibility quickly, it becomes irrelevant to users.

For example, audiences will not be engaged by last week’s breaking news, an event that has passed, or a product that is now sold out.

But even if you don’t work in an industry where time to market is critical, speedy crawling is always beneficial.

When you refresh an article or release a significant on-page SEO change, the faster Googlebot crawls it, the faster you’ll benefit from the optimization – or see your mistake and be able to revert.

You can’t fail fast if Googlebot is crawling slowly.

Think of crawling as the cornerstone of SEO; your organic visibility is entirely dependent upon it being done well on your website.

Measuring Crawling: Crawl Budget Vs. Crawl Efficacy

Contrary to popular opinion, Google does not aim to crawl and index all content of all websites across the internet.

Crawling of a page is not guaranteed. In fact, most sites have a substantial portion of pages that have never been crawled by Googlebot.

If you see the exclusion “Discovered – currently not indexed” in the Google Search Console page indexing report, this issue is impacting you.

But if you do not see this exclusion, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have no crawling issues.

There is a common misconception about what metrics are meaningful when measuring crawling.

Crawl budget fallacy

SEO pros often look to crawl budget, which refers to the number of URLs that Googlebot can and wants to crawl within a specific time frame for a particular website.

This concept pushes for maximization of crawling. This is further reinforced by Google Search Console’s crawl status report showing the total number of crawl requests.

But the idea that more crawling is inherently better is completely misguided. The total number of crawls is nothing but a vanity metric.

Enticing 10 times the number of crawls per day doesn’t necessarily correlate against faster (re)indexing of content you care about. All it correlates with is putting more load on your servers, costing you more money.

The focus should never be on increasing the total amount of crawling, but rather on quality crawling that results in SEO value.

Crawl Efficacy Value

Quality crawling means reducing the time between publishing or making significant updates to an SEO-relevant page and the next visit by Googlebot. This delay is the crawl efficacy.

To determine the crawl efficacy, the recommended approach is to extract the created or updated datetime value from the database and compare it to the timestamp of the next Googlebot crawl of the URL in the server log files.

If this is not possible, you could consider calculating it using the lastmod date in the XML sitemaps and periodically query the relevant URLs with the Search Console URL Inspection API until it returns a last crawl status.

By quantifying the time delay between publishing and crawling, you can measure the real impact of crawl optimizations with a metric that matters.

As crawl efficacy decreases, the faster new or updated SEO-relevant content will be shown to your audience on Google surfaces.

If your site’s crawl efficacy score shows Googlebot is taking too long to visit content that matters, what can you do to optimize crawling?

Search Engine Support For Crawling

There has been a lot of talk in the last few years about how search engines and their partners are focused on improving crawling.

After all, it’s in their best interests. More efficient crawling not only gives them access to better content to power their results, but it also helps the world’s ecosystem by reducing greenhouse gases.

Most of the talk has been around two APIs that are aimed at optimizing crawling.

The idea is rather than search engine spiders deciding what to crawl, websites can push relevant URLs directly to the search engines via the API to trigger a crawl.

In theory, this not only allows you to get your latest content indexed faster, but also offers an avenue to effectively remove old URLs, which is something that is currently not well-supported by search engines.

Non-Google Support From IndexNow

The first API is IndexNow. This is supported by Bing, Yandex, and Seznam, but importantly not Google. It is also integrated into many SEO tools, CRMs & CDNs, potentially reducing the development effort needed to leverage IndexNow.

This may seem like a quick win for SEO, but be cautious.

Does a significant portion of your target audience use the search engines supported by IndexNow? If not, triggering crawls from their bots may be of limited value.

But more importantly, assess what integrating on IndexNow does to server weight vs. crawl efficacy score improvement for those search engines. It may be that the costs are not worth the benefit.

Google Support From The Indexing API

The second one is the Google Indexing API. Google has repeatedly stated that the API can only be used to crawl pages with either jobposting or broadcast event markup. And many have tested this and proved this statement to be false.

By submitting non-compliant URLs to the Google Indexing API you will see a significant increase in crawling. But this is the perfect case for why “crawl budget optimization” and basing decisions on the amount of crawling is misconceived.

Because for non-compliant URLs, submission has no impact on indexing. And when you stop to think about it, this makes perfect sense.

You’re only submitting a URL. Google will crawl the page quickly to see if it has the specified structured data.

If so, then it will expedite indexing. If not, it won’t. Google will ignore it.

So, calling the API for non-compliant pages does nothing except add unnecessary load on your server and wastes development resources for no gain.

Google Support Within Google Search Console

The other way in which Google supports crawling is manual submission in Google Search Console.

Most URLs that are submitted in this manner will be crawled and have their indexing status changed within an hour. But there is a quota limit of 10 URLs within 24 hours, so the obvious issue with this tactic is scale.

However, this doesn’t mean disregarding it.

You can automate the submission of URLs you see as a priority via scripting that mimics user actions to speed up crawling and indexing for those select few.

So if search engines will not significantly help us, how can we help ourselves?

How To Achieve Efficient Site Crawling

There are five tactics that can make a difference to crawl efficacy.

1. Ensure A Fast, Healthy Server Response

A highly performant server is critical. It must be able to handle the amount of crawling Googlebot wants to do without any negative impact on server response time or erroring out.

Check your site host status is green in Google Search Console, that 5xx errors are below 1%, and server response times trend below 300 milliseconds.

2. Remove Valueless Content

When a significant portion of a website’s content is low quality, outdated, or duplicated, it diverts crawlers from visiting new or recently updated content as well as contributes to index bloat.

The fastest way to start cleaning up is to check the Google Search Console pages report for the exclusion ‘Crawled – currently not indexed.’

In the provided sample, look for folder patterns or other issue signals. For those you find, fix it by merging similar content with a 301 redirect or deleting content with a 404 as appropriate.

3. Instruct Googlebot What Not To Crawl

While rel=canonical links and noindex tags are effective at keeping the Google index of your website clean, they cost you in crawling.

While sometimes this is necessary, consider if such pages need to be crawled in the first place. If not, stop Google at the crawling stage with a chúng tôi disallow.

Find instances where blocking the crawler may be better than giving indexing instructions by looking in the Google Search Console coverage report for exclusions from canonicals or noindex tags.

Also, review the sample of ‘Indexed, not submitted in sitemap’ and ‘Discovered – currently not indexed’ URLs in Google Search Console. Find and block non-SEO relevant routes such as:

Parameter pages, such as ?sort=oldest.

Functional pages, such as “shopping cart.”

Infinite spaces, such as those created by calendar pages.

Unimportant images, scripts, or style files.

API URLs.

You should also consider how your pagination strategy is impacting crawling.

4. Instruct Googlebot On What To Crawl And When

An optimized XML sitemap is an effective tool to guide Googlebot toward SEO-relevant URLs.

Optimized means that it dynamically updates with minimal delay and includes the last modification date and time to inform search engines when the page last was significantly changed and if it should be recrawled.

5. Support Crawling Through Internal Links

We know crawling can only occur through links. XML sitemaps are a great place to start; external links are powerful but challenging to build in bulk at quality.

Internal links, on the other hand, are relatively easy to scale and have significant positive impacts on crawl efficacy.

Focus special attention on mobile sitewide navigation, breadcrumbs, quick filters, and related content links – ensuring none are dependent upon Javascript.

Optimize Web Crawling

I hope you agree: website crawling is fundamental to SEO.

And now you have a real KPI in crawl efficacy to measure optimizations – so you can take your organic performance to the next level.

More resources:

Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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The 8 Best Website Design Services For Small Businesses

When small businesses are laying the groundwork for their online presence, the selection of a website design service is a critical juncture. With the sheer number of options at our fingertips, it can become a task that walks the fine line between daunting and overwhelming. And, while there’s no shortage of glittering sales pitches, our task here is to cut through that noise, allowing the true value of these services to shine through.

The aim of this article is to provide a clear and concise evaluation of the top website design services catering to small businesses, without succumbing to the vortex of marketing hype. We’ll examine these services not just for their bells and whistles, but for their real-world applicability, the extent to which they deliver on their promises, and how they cater to the unique requirements and constraints typical to small businesses.

In the process, we won’t shy away from exploring the granularities – be it the range of design options available, the quality of customer service, or the flexibility of pricing plans. We’ll also discuss the platforms’ scalability potential, crucial for small businesses aspiring for growth.

The primary goal here is to equip you with the insight and understanding that will enable you to make an informed decision, one rooted in your business’s specific needs and ambitions. We’re not in the business of making the decision for you; rather, we seek to provide a well-researched, pragmatic perspective that serves as a dependable compass in your selection process.

As we wade through the landscape of website design services, we’ll draw our conclusions from a place of thoughtful consideration, relying on facts and user experiences. Let us venture forth on this exploratory journey, casting aside marketing chatter to spotlight services that can genuinely foster your small business’s growth and success in the online sphere.

Webflow: Professional-Grade Design Tool for Custom Websites without Coding Knowledge

If you’re a small business owner looking to create a custom website without diving into the complexities of coding, Webflow is an excellent choice. This powerful design tool offers a unique blend of visual design capabilities and developer-level control, allowing you to craft a professional-looking website with ease.

Visual Design Interface

One of the standout features of Webflow is its intuitive, visual design interface. This means that instead of writing code, you can simply drag and drop elements onto your page to create your desired layout. Additionally, Webflow provides real-time feedback on your design changes, so you can see exactly how your website will look as you build it.

Responsive Design and Grid System

Webflow’s responsive design capabilities ensure that your website will look great on any device. With its built-in grid system, you can easily create flexible layouts that adapt to different screen sizes. This is particularly important in today’s mobile-first world, where more people are accessing websites from their smartphones and tablets.

CSS Flexbox and Grid Support Custom Interactions and Animations

To make your website truly stand out from the competition, Webflow offers a range of custom interactions and animations that can be added to any element on your site. From simple hover effects to complex multi-step animations, these features help bring your website to life and create engaging user experiences.

CMS Integration

Webflow also includes a built-in content management system (CMS), which allows you to easily manage the content on your site without touching any code. The CMS is designed for seamless integration with the visual editor, making it simple to add and update content as needed.

Hosting and Export Options

When you’re ready to launch your website, Webflow offers fast and secure hosting with features like SSL certification, automatic backups, and global content delivery. If you prefer to host your site elsewhere, you can also export your Webflow project as clean, production-ready HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code.

Elementor: WordPress Page Builder Plugin for Complete Design Control

Elementor stands out as a powerful and versatile page builder plugin for WordPress, offering you complete design control over your website. Designed to cater to both beginners and experienced web designers, this plugin allows you to create stunning and professional websites without needing any coding knowledge. Let’s dive into the key features and benefits of using Elementor for your small business website.

Drag-and-Drop Interface

One of the main attractions of Elementor is its intuitive drag-and-drop interface. This feature makes it incredibly easy for you to design your website by simply selecting elements from a wide array of widgets, such as text boxes, images, and buttons, and placing them on the page. You can quickly rearrange the layout by dragging elements around until you achieve the desired look.

Extensive Template Library

To help you get started with your website design, Elementor offers a vast library of pre-designed templates that cater to various industries and niches. These templates are fully customizable, allowing you to tweak colors, fonts, images, and other design elements according to your brand identity.

Responsive Design

With an increasing number of users accessing websites on mobile devices, having a responsive design is crucial for any modern website. Elementor ensures that your site looks great on all screen sizes by providing mobile editing tools that allow you to optimize your design specifically for different devices.

Advanced Design Capabilities Third-Party Integrations

Elementor plays well with other popular WordPress plugins, making it easy for you to integrate additional functionality into your site. For example, if you need e-commerce capabilities or want to add a contact form plugin like Contact Form 7, Elementor seamlessly integrates with these tools.

Active Community and Support

Lastly, Elementor boasts an active community of users and developers who regularly contribute to the plugin’s growth and improvement. This means you can expect regular updates, new features, and prompt support should you encounter any issues while using the plugin.

Squarespace: Sleek and Modern Designs with Built-in E-commerce Capabilities

As a small business owner, you might be looking for a website design service that combines aesthetic appeal with functionality. Squarespace is an excellent choice for creating visually stunning websites while also offering built-in e-commerce capabilities.

Visually Appealing Templates

Squarespace is known for its sleek and modern designs, providing a wide range of professionally crafted templates to choose from. These templates are designed to be responsive, ensuring your website looks great on any device. Plus, you can easily customize the look and feel of your site by tweaking colors, fonts, and other design elements without needing any coding knowledge.

Built-in E-commerce Features

Secure checkout with multiple payment options

Inventory management tools

Order processing and shipping integration

Sales tax calculation

Discount codes and promotional tools

Additional Tools for Small Businesses

In addition to its design and e-commerce features, Squarespace offers various tools to help you manage and grow your small business online. These include:

Blogging platform: Share updates, news, or articles related to your business with an easy-to-use blogging tool.

SEO tools: Optimize your site’s content for search engines with built-in SEO features.

Analytics: Track your website’s performance with in-depth analytics that provide insights into visitor behavior.

Social media integration: Connect your social media accounts to share content seamlessly across platforms.

Pricing Plans

Squarespace offers several pricing plans tailored to different needs. The Personal plan starts at $12 per month when billed annually and includes basic features such as unlimited storage and bandwidth. For businesses looking to sell online, the Commerce plans start at $26 per month and provide access to e-commerce features and tools.

Shopify: E-commerce Focused Platform with Abundant Features and App Integrations

As a small business owner, you might be searching for the perfect website design service to create an online store. Look no further, as Shopify is an e-commerce focused platform that offers an extensive range of features and app integrations to help you build a robust online presence.

Easy-to-Use Interface

Shopify is designed with your needs in mind, providing an intuitive interface that allows you to effortlessly set up and manage your online store. Its user-friendly dashboard enables you to track sales, orders, and customer data without any technical expertise required.

Customizable Themes

To make your store visually appealing, Shopify offers a variety of professional themes that cater to different industries and styles. You can easily customize these themes by modifying colors, fonts, and layout options to match your brand identity.

Built-in E-commerce Tools

One of the reasons why Shopify stands out among other website builders is its comprehensive set of built-in e-commerce tools. These include inventory management, product variations, shipping options, tax settings, and secure payment gateways that support multiple currencies. This means you can efficiently manage every aspect of your online store without the need for additional plugins or third-party services.

App Integrations

Shopify’s App Store houses a vast selection of apps that extend the functionality of your online store. Whether you want to improve SEO, integrate email marketing campaigns or offer customer loyalty programs – there’s likely an app for it. These integrations not only enhance your store’s capabilities but also help streamline various business operations.

Responsive Design

Understanding the importance of mobile users in today’s digital landscape, Shopify ensures that all its themes are responsive by default. This means your online store will look great and function seamlessly on any device – be it desktops, tablets or smartphones.

24/7 Support

In case you encounter any issues or need assistance, Shopify’s dedicated support team is available 24/7 via live chat, email, or phone. Additionally, you can access a wealth of resources such as guides, tutorials, and forums on their website to help you navigate the platform and grow your business.

As a small business owner, you need a website design service that can adapt to your growing needs. chúng tôi is an excellent choice for its flexibility and scalability. This popular platform offers an extensive library of themes and plugins to help you create a unique online presence.

Thousands of Themes for Every Niche

One of the standout features of chúng tôi is its vast collection of themes. With over 4,000 free and premium options available, you’re sure to find one that suits your business style. From minimalist designs to vibrant layouts, these themes cater to various industries and preferences.

Powerful Plugins to Enhance Functionality

Plugins are essential tools that extend the capabilities of your website. chúng tôi boasts over 50,000 plugins, allowing you to add features such as contact forms, image galleries, and e-commerce functionality with ease. By selecting the right plugins for your business needs, you can create a tailored online experience for your customers.

Easy Customization for Personalized Websites Scalable Solution for Growing Businesses Strong Community Support Duda: Mobile-first Approach with Personalization Features for Unique User Experiences

As a small business owner, you might be looking for a website design service that prioritizes mobile users and offers personalization options. Duda is an excellent choice for this purpose, as it adopts a mobile-first approach and provides unique personalization features to create engaging user experiences.

Emphasis on Mobile Optimization

Duda understands the importance of mobile devices in today’s digital landscape. With more people browsing the web on their smartphones and tablets, it’s crucial to have a website that looks great and functions smoothly on all screen sizes. Duda’s responsive templates are designed with mobile users in mind, ensuring that your site will be visually appealing and easy to navigate on any device.

Personalization Features for Tailored User Experiences

One of the standout features of Duda is its ability to deliver personalized content to different visitors based on their behavior and preferences. This level of customization allows you to create unique user experiences that cater to each individual’s needs. For example, you can display targeted promotions or recommend specific products based on a user’s browsing history or geographic location.

Duda’s personalization tools include:

InSite: This feature enables you to create personalized content triggers based on various factors like time of day, visitor location, or device type.

Dynamic Content: With this feature, you can easily display tailored content such as special offers or relevant blog posts for specific user segments.

User Data: Duda allows you to collect valuable data about your visitors so you can better understand their preferences and tailor your marketing efforts accordingly.

Easy-to-use Interface and Integrations

Duda’s intuitive drag-and-drop interface makes it simple for anyone to build a professional-looking website without any coding knowledge. You can choose from a wide array of pre-designed templates or start from scratch with a blank canvas.

Moreover, Duda integrates with popular tools and platforms like Google Analytics, Mailchimp, and OpenTable, making it easy to incorporate essential features into your website. This seamless integration ensures that you can manage your online presence effectively without having to switch between multiple platforms.

Jimdo: AI-driven Website Builder with Easy Social Media Integration

As a small business owner, you might be looking for a website design service that simplifies the process of creating and maintaining an online presence. Jimdo stands out as an AI-driven website builder that not only makes it easy to design a professional-looking website but also integrates seamlessly with your social media channels. Let’s dive into the key features of this platform and how they can benefit your small business.

Artificial Intelligence for Effortless Web Design

One of the main selling points of Jimdo is its AI-powered website building capabilities. The platform’s intelligent system asks you a series of questions about your business and preferences, then automatically generates a customized website based on your answers. This means you don’t need any technical or design skills to create an attractive site that suits your brand.

Customizable Templates for Unique Websites

Jimdo offers a variety of templates to choose from, ensuring that your website has a unique look and feel. These templates are fully customizable, allowing you to tweak colors, fonts, and layouts to match your branding and vision. Additionally, all templates are mobile-responsive, so your site will look great on any device.

Seamless Social Media Integration

In today’s digital age, having a strong social media presence is crucial for small businesses. Jimdo makes it easy to connect your website with popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can add social sharing buttons to encourage visitors to share your content or embed feeds from your accounts directly onto your site. This integration helps drive traffic between your website and social media channels while keeping both updated with fresh content.

Built-in SEO Tools for Increased Visibility

To help improve search engine rankings and attract more visitors to your site, Jimdo includes built-in SEO tools. The platform automatically optimizes meta tags and headings based on best practices while offering suggestions for improving page titles and descriptions. Additionally, Jimdo provides an easy-to-use blog feature, allowing you to publish engaging content that can further boost your SEO efforts.

E-commerce Capabilities for Online Sales

If you’re planning to sell products or services online, Jimdo has you covered with its e-commerce features. You can easily add a store to your website, manage inventory, and process payments securely. With support for various payment gateways and shipping options, selling online becomes a hassle-free experience.

GoDaddy Website Builder: Fast and Simple Solution with SEO and Marketing Tools

As a small business owner, you need a website design service that is efficient, easy to use, and offers excellent marketing tools. GoDaddy Website Builder ticks all these boxes and more. This platform is designed to help you create professional-looking websites quickly while providing essential SEO and marketing tools to boost your online presence.

User-friendly Interface

GoDaddy’s intuitive interface makes it easy for anyone to build a website, even if you have no coding experience. With its drag-and-drop functionality, you can effortlessly customize your site by adding or rearranging elements like text, images, videos, and more.

Pre-built Templates

You’ll find a range of pre-built templates that cater to various industries and styles. These templates are designed by professionals to ensure your website looks polished and modern. Plus, they’re fully responsive so that your site will look great on any device.

Built-in SEO Tools

GoDaddy Website Builder comes with built-in SEO tools that help improve your site’s visibility on search engines like Google. These tools guide you through optimizing your content with relevant keywords, meta tags, and other best practices for better search engine rankings.

Email Marketing Integration

One standout feature of GoDaddy Website Builder is its seamless email marketing integration. You can easily create email campaigns using the platform’s customizable templates and send them directly from your website dashboard. This makes it simple to stay connected with customers and promote new products or services.

Social Media Management Analytics Dashboard

To make data-driven decisions for your business, it’s essential to monitor your website’s performance. GoDaddy Website Builder offers an analytics dashboard that provides insights into your site’s traffic, visitor behavior, and other vital metrics. This information helps you understand what’s working and what needs improvement on your website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Small businesses have specific needs when it comes to website design. They require services that are affordable, user-friendly, and capable of delivering professional, well-crafted websites that reflect their brand identity. A suitable service would offer templates or custom design options, support for eCommerce (if needed), mobile responsiveness, and SEO-friendly designs. It’s also crucial for the service to have reliable customer support to assist with any technical difficulties that may arise.

The cost of website design services varies greatly, depending on the complexity of the site, the level of customization, and the specific services included. For instance, pre-made template solutions can range from free to a few hundred dollars, while custom design projects can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. Small businesses should expect to set aside a budget for website design, but keep in mind that a well-designed website is an investment that can significantly boost their online presence.

Most website design services aimed at small businesses do not require the owner to have any coding knowledge. They typically offer user-friendly platforms and tools like drag-and-drop builders, pre-designed templates, and easy-to-use interfaces for managing content. Some services also provide access to their code for businesses that prefer to have more control over their site’s design and functionality.

Mobile responsiveness is crucial in today’s digital age where a significant portion of web traffic comes from mobile devices. A website design service must offer mobile-responsive designs, meaning the website should automatically adjust and display properly regardless of the device’s screen size (be it a desktop, tablet, or smartphone). This enhances the user experience, which can positively impact a business’s brand reputation and SEO ranking.

A well-designed website can significantly impact a business’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Website design services that follow SEO best practices—like fast loading speeds, mobile responsiveness, proper use of headings, clean URLs, and inclusion of meta tags—can help a site rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). This increases the visibility of the business online, leading to more traffic and potential customers.

Useful Tools To Check The Design Elements Of A Website

Attractive looking websites are, in their own way, a mini-masterpiece of the Internet age. Customization can be as easy or as complex as you wish, ranging from modifying a WordPress theme to developing a site’s appearance from start to finish.

Subsequently, you’re likely to come across elements you enjoy and colours you wish to reuse in your own projects. In this article we’ll show you the essentials for getting websites to tell you everything you want to know.

What’s the Colour? ColorZilla

Originally created for Firefox, ColorZilla has since become available on Chrome and its related browsers as well.

Upon installation, you’ll find an extra button in the UI for both browsers. This button gives you the ability to find out the colour of just about anything online. You’ll quickly come to realise that ColorZilla does much more than just identify colours as it includes support for palettes as well.

What’s the Font? WhatFont? (Chrome)

Strictly speaking, you don’t need the WhatFont? extension to find out the font of a website, but it’s by far the quickest way to do so. The alternative would be to open the stylesheet and go hunting through it.

Font Finder (Firefox)

A Firefox-exclusive extension in the same vein as Chrome’s WhatFont?

When you find something you want identified, highlight it, then bring up the options available to you. “Analyse Selection” will tell you everything you ever wanted to know.

The detail it provides is nothing short of jaw-dropping. If text is marked as a “(stack)” then it will choose the first font in the stack that you have installed. Stacks usually end with a general term, like “sans-serif” in the example above. In the unlikely event one of the other fonts in the stack isn’t installed, it’ll fall back to your system’s default sans-serif face.

You can also customize elements as well via the “Adjust Element” option. Once the extension prompts you to enter a font family, you can go wild. In our example we changed just about every font on Wikipedia to something different, creating the bizarre mash-up displayed. These changes are not permanent and disappear when you reload the page.

Site Measurement Page Ruler (Chrome)

“A ruler? Really?” we hear you ask. Page Ruler is a screen ruler which is a little bit different from how it sounds. In fact, we’d totally understand any initial skepticism, too.

Positioning matters on the Web. Elements of a page have to be spaced just so, or they’re not as appealing as they could be. While this information is particularly esoteric to want to know, Page Ruler makes it possible.

Install it like you would any other extension, and you’ll have another button in your browser UI. Note that you’ll have to open a web page to try the extension out – you won’t be able to use one of Chrome’s built-in web pages for security reasons.

Should you wish to you can also change the colour of the rectangle from its default blue. Regardless of the colour you choose, it’ll automatically add a degree of transparency so that you can see the content below it.

Page Ruler deserves some credit for having a particularly minimalist approach to its features, packing all the essential information into a small bar along the top of the window.

MeasureIt (Firefox and Chrome)

MeasureIt does the same task as Page Ruler and is available for both Firefox and Chrome.

If you’re worried about getting the measurements right with just a mouse, you can adjust the size of the highlighted area using the arrow keys, making precision a lot easier than it sounds. We’d suggest checking the “Area” option in the settings; it doesn’t change how the software works and is merely giving you an idea of the area the rectangle you’ve drawn takes up.

We bet you’ll be surprised when you see just how many pixels are on-screen and the area they make up when highlighted. If nothing else, it should definitely put the term “screen real estate” in perspective.

Conclusion

It takes a while to get the best from these extensions, but they put some great information within easy reach. You’ll quickly come to grips with them, but if you find it difficult to substitute fonts, remember the names need to be exact. “Comic Sans” won’t work, whereas “Comic Sans MS” (as it appears in Office) will.

Remember that all of these extensions require this kind of accuracy in the information you give them, and you’ll be well-equipped to use them to their fullest.

Paul Ferson

Paul is a Northern Irish tech enthusiast who can normally be found tinkering with Windows software or playing games.

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What Are Snapchat Streaks And Why Do They Matter?

Snapchat streaks, or Snapstreaks, represent the number of days that you’ve managed to send a photo or video snap to your Snapchat friend. 

For high school children, Snapstreaks represent their friendship. Essentially, it signifies that two friends keep in touch every day by sending snaps daily. You may have heard your children talk about quickly sending snaps so they don’t lose the streak, but you didn’t know what they were talking about. 

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It’s always important to stay on top of what the children are up to, so here, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about Snapstreaks, how Snapstreaks work, and whether or not they are a cause for concern.

How to Start Snapchat Streaks?

You must send your friend snaps, and they must send snaps back for three consecutive days to start a Snapstreak. When you have a streak with your friend, you’ll see a fire emoji next to your Snapchat friend’s name.

There are several other Snapchat emojis associated with Snapstreaks. For instance, as you grow your streak with your friends, you’ll also see a number next to the fire emoji. 

When you have a long streak of 100 or more days, Snapchat will add a red 100 emoji. When you have an even longer streak, perhaps with your best friend, you’ll see a mountain emoji next to the person’s name.

If your Snapstreak is about to break, i.e., you and your friend haven’t sent snaps in a 24-hour window, you’ll see the hourglass emoji next to your friend’s name. This means you can’t just keep sending snaps on your own and keep your Snapstreak going; your friend must also send a snap back every single day.

However, if you believe you and your friend exchanged snaps, but still lost the streak, you can contact Snapchat support.

How to Keep the Snapstreak Going?

You can only keep your Snapstreak going by sending photo or video snaps to your friend and receiving one in return every 24 hours.

A lot of other things you do when you use Snapchat don’t count towards your Snapchat streak. Following is a list of things that won’t help you keep your Snapstreak going:

Why Do Snapstreaks Matter?

For young people, a long streak is a token of strong friendship. Think of a streak as a numeric value that defines how close two friends are. It’s almost like a competition among young people.

If someone has a longer streak with their best friend, their bond is seen as stronger. And everybody wants the longest streak, just to prove the strength of their friendship. It’s easy to see how this could be a problem. 

There’s a pressure to maintain longer streaks, which means responding to snaps regardless of other factors. 

Snapstreaks can also cause self-esteem issues for children who feel that other people have stronger bonds than they have with their friends.

Should Parents Worry About Snapstreaks?

Not always. Making your child delete their Snapchat account and villainizing Snapstreaks at the get-go isn’t appropriate. On the contrary, Snapchat can be a valuable asset that will feed data into parental control apps about who children interact with. 

However, if you see something you don’t like, perhaps your child interacting with someone you’re not particularly feeling confident about, you may need to reconsider. 

It’s easy for children to get carried away when they’re focused on something that’s emotionally rewarding — for instance, breaking the record for the longest Snapstreak in their peer group. When this happens, obsession is a potential concern.

Should You Keep Your Child From Maintaining Snapstreaks?

Snapstreaks, in most cases, are a manifestation of your child’s bond with a close friend. They are not inherently harmful. However, you can have a family discussion about how maintaining Snapstreaks isn’t rewarding, and how going the extra mile doesn’t really offer a benefit.

It’s also important to realize that a Snapstreak will likely break at some point. Your child will have a family visit, a birthday party, or a vacation to distract them. 

If you feel it’s warranted, you may consider making small changes to the child’s schedule to allow them less time to spend with certain social media platforms. In worse cases, you can use parental controls to keep the child from using the Snapchat app obsessively.

What Is Computational Photography And Why Does It Matter?

What is computational photography?

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The term computational photography refers to software algorithms that enhance or process images taken from your smartphone’s camera.

You may have heard of computational photography by a different name. Some manufacturers like Xiaomi and HUAWEI call it “AI Camera”. Others, like Google and Apple, boast about their in-house HDR algorithms that kick into action as soon as you open the camera app. Regardless of what it’s called, though, you’re dealing with computational photography. In fact, most smartphones use the same underlying image processing techniques.

Techniques and examples of computational photography

With the basic explanation out of the way, here’s how computational photography influences your photos every time you hit the shutter button on your smartphone.

Portrait mode

Super resolution zoom / Space zoom

Night mode / Night Sight

Replace the whole sky

Here’s a fun application of computational photography. Using the AI Skyscaping tool in Xiaomi’s MIUI Gallery app, you can change the color of the sky after you capture a photo. From a starry night sky to a cloudy overcast day, the feature uses machine learning to automatically detect the sky and replace it with the mood of your choice. Of course, not every option will give you the most natural look (see the third photo above), but the fact that you can achieve such an edit with just a couple of taps is impressive in its own right.

Face and Photo Unblur

Action pan and long exposure

A brief history of computational photography

Even though you may have only recently heard about it, computational photography has been around for several decades. However, we’ll only focus on the smartphone aspect of the technology in this article.

In 2013, the Nexus 5 debuted with Google’s now-popular HDR+ feature. At the time, the company explained that the HDR+ mode captured a burst of intentionally over- and under-exposed images and combined them. The result was an image that retained detail in both, shadows and highlights, without the blurry results you’d often get from traditional HDR.

Machine learning enabled features like night mode, panoramas, and portrait mode.

Apple eventually followed through with its own machine learning and computational photography breakthroughs on the iPhone XS and 11 series. With Apple’s Photonic Engine and Deep Fusion, a modern iPhone shoots nine images at once and uses the SoC’s Neural Engine to determine how to best combine the shots for maximum detail and minimum noise.

We also saw computational photography bring new camera features to mainstream smartphones. The impressive low-light capabilities of the HUAWEI P20 Pro and Google Pixel 3, for instance, paved the way for night mode on other smartphones. Pixel binning, another technique, uses a high-resolution sensor to combine data from multiple pixels into one for better low-light capabilities. This means you will only get a 12MP effective photo from a 48MP sensor, but with much more detail.

Do all smartphones use computational photography?

Most smartphone makers, including Google, Apple, and Samsung, use computational photography. To understand how various implementations can vary, here’s a quick comparison.

On the left is a photo shot using a OnePlus 7 Pro using its default camera app. This image represents OnePlus’ color science and computational photography strengths. On the right is a photo of the same scene, but shot using an unofficial port of the Google Camera app on the same device. This second image broadly represents the software processing you’d get from a Pixel smartphone (if it had the same hardware as the OnePlus 7 Pro).

Right off the bat, we notice significant differences between the two images. In fact, it’s hard to believe we used the same smartphone for both photos.

Looking at the darker sections of the image, it’s evident that Google’s HDR+ algorithm prefers a more neutral look as compared to OnePlus, where the shadows are almost crushed. There’s more dynamic range overall in the GCam image and you can nearly peer into the shed. As for detail, both do a decent job but the OnePlus does veer a tad bit into over-sharpened territory. Finally, there’s a marked difference in contrast and saturation between the two images. This is common in the smartphone industry as some users prefer vivid, punchy images that look more appealing at a glance, even if it comes at the expense of accuracy.

Even with identical hardware, different computational photography methods will yield different results.

This comparison makes it easy to see how computational photography improves smartphone images. Today, this technology is no longer considered optional. Some would even argue that it’s downright essential to compete in a crowded market. From noise reduction to tone mapping depending on the scene, modern smartphones combine a range of software tricks to produce vivid and sharp images that rival much more expensive dedicated cameras. Of course, all this tech helps photos look great, but learning to improve your photography skills can go a long way too. To that end, check out our guide to smartphone photography tips that can instantly improve your experience.

FAQs

No. Computational photography is a software-based technique used by smartphones to improve image quality. On the other hand, computer vision refers to using machine learning for detecting objects and faces through images. Self-driving cars, for example, use computer vision to see ahead.

Yes, iPhone embraced computational photography many years ago. With the iPhone XS and 11 series, Apple introduced the Smart HDR and Deep Fusion.

What Hurricane Categories Mean, And Why We Use Them

This story was originally published on September 7, 2023.

Before Ian, or Maria, or Katrina, there was Camille. With winds so powerful that they knocked out wind gauges in Mississippi, the epic strength of Hurricane Camille was monstrous. But before it struck the Gulf coast on August 17, 1969, Robert Simpson, the director of the National Hurricane Center, made the executive decision to warn residents in the path of the giant storm of high winds, low barometric pressure, and a storm surge of between 15 and 20 feet.

Reports about the event many years later all agree that the decision to get so specific was unprecedented. In doing so, Simpson bucked tradition at the National Weather Service’s precursor, the United States Weather Bureau, which typically gave people living in the path of a hurricane generic warnings instead of granular details of storm surge or wind speed.

[Related: NOAA is changing the way it talks about hurricanes]

The decision to give people more information paid off. More people got out of the way of the storm, and Simpson was on the lookout for ways to communicate the dangers of storms more clearly. Around the same time, an engineer named Herbert Saffir was trying to figure out a way to quantify hurricane damage for the United Nations, and found that wind damage above 75 miles per hour wasn’t well categorized.

Saffir came up with a scale of structural damage due to destructive hurricane winds for his work at the UN, which Simpson found as he was pondering better communication options in the aftermath of Camille. Simpson was looking for a better way to communicate how dangerous hurricanes were to first responders, relief organizations, and the public.

Enter the Saffir-Simpson scale. Ranging from Category 1 (the weakest hurricanes) to Category 5 (the strongest hurricanes), the scale originally used storm surge and wind speed to categorize the potential destructiveness of a hurricane. Simpson and Saffir figured that a simple scale divided into five sections would be easy enough for the public to understand. For the most part, they were right. We’re comfortable knowing that a Category 3 hurricane is serious, and a Category 5 storm is really intense, even if we might not be comfortable writing out a definition for those categories.

But the scale was still just an estimate. As time went on, researchers began to notice that the storm surge in a Category 2 storm could be much larger than a storm surge in a Category 4 Storm, leading to deadly flooding. The scale didn’t take the area the storm covered into account, and was confusing the public. So, in 2010, researchers adjusted the scale to only include the sustained wind speed—not gusts, which are brief, faster bursts of wind—and renamed it the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. In 2012, another minor tweak to the scale adjusted the limits to account for confusion when translating between miles per hour and kilometers per hour.

At present the scale is as follows (paraphrased from the National Hurricane Center):

James Done, a project scientist at The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, is figuring out another way of assessing the destructiveness of storms. The project he’s working on, the Cyclone Damage Potential Index, was developed in partnership with the reinsurance industry—the people who insure insurers. It considers the size of the storm and its forward speed to calculate out how destructive a storm could be.

“It measures the potential destructive power of the hurricane, but it doesn’t give you the actual damage,” Done says.

[Related: Hurricane category ratings can be misleading]

That’s because damage depends on houses, buildings, and infrastructure being in the path of a hurricane. If a storm with massive damage potential makes landfall on an uninhabited coast, there’s not going to be much destruction. Just like real estate agents always told you: location matters.

The index ranks storms from 1 to 10, and was able to predict that Harvey would be disastrous to Houston. It looks at the potential damage that a storm could do to buildings on land or offshore structures like oil rigs. But don’t go trying to translate the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale to the new index just yet.

While the index has been making the rounds in research and industry circles for a few years, it’s still under development, and hasn’t been incorporated into official warnings. And that’s ok, says Done.

“The Saffir-Simpson is a superb communication tool. A lot of people make their evacuation decisions based on what Category the hurricane is going to be, and there’s a lot of inertia we need to take into account if we’re considering changing such a scale,” Done says. “I think it’s dangerous to suggest we should replace Saffir-Simpson with something else.”

Instead, he suggests adding additional measures of a hurricane’s destructiveness, like the cyclone’s potential damage, to the toolkit that already exists for the people on the front lines of storm prediction and response.

The Saffir-Simpson scale has been the primary tool in that box for years, and even though it’s evolved, it’s not going to disappear any time soon. But now we’ve got more tools at our disposal. As we face down some of the strongest storms we’ve ever seen, knowledge is always power.

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