Self-Updating Copyright Dates

In “10 complaints the customers have about the design of corporate web sites“, Luke Manion mentions having current date information on your website. His tenth pet peeve is “Out of Date Information.”

An outdated copyright date or an expired offering calls all the information on a website into question as to its correctness.

I agree with Manion—I find it to be a big turn-off when a website doesn’t have a current date listed. It tells me that the site owner or maintainer doesn’t care about keeping the site up, or doesn’t know how to set it automatically.

While this concept may be a no-brainer for many webmasters and website owners, other owners and maintainers seem to ignore the easy fix — let the copyright date update itself.

At the very least, the outdated copyright date screams, “We don’t update our site. You can’t trust any of the content here.”

Of course, there are some exceptions like the homespun websites that are just flat HTML files with no scripting support. But come on—if you use any of the popular hosting services out there, whether it is a Windows, Linux, or Apple server environment, you probably have access to at least one of the common scripting languages such as PHP, ASP, or Coldfusion.

If you have an out-of-date copyright in your website footer, go fix it today. It will add credibility to your website and give the impression that you care about what your visitors see and read. Your visitors will be impressed at the turn of the year when your site date automatically changes. As a plus on the technical side, you will have one less thing to worry about when January 1st rolls around.

Here are some code samples for adding a dynamic date to your website page or blog template1 (line wraps marked »). The output desired is:

Copyright 2008 My Company.

PHP

Copyright <?php echo date('Y'); ?> My Company.

VBScript (ASP)

Copyright <%= now(yyyy) %> My Company.

CFML (Coldfusion)

Copyright <cfoutput>#DateFormat(now(), "yyyy")#</cfoutput> My Company.

JSP (Java)

Copyright <%= new java.text.SimpleDateFormat("yyyy"). » format(new java.util.Date()) %> My Company.

RHTML (Ruby)

Copyright <%= "#{Date.today.year}" %> My Company.

Note: I do not guarantee that these code samples will work with your server and website setup. These snippets are here to show you how easy it can be to output a dynamic date in the most common scripting languages. Please use with caution and test thoroughly before using on a production website.

Beautiful URLs

In URLs Can Be Beautiful, Chris Shiflett explains how he built beautiful URLs for OmniTI.

I agree whole-heartedly that URLs can and should be beautiful, and I firmly believe they should not only look good, but should also be useful, meaningful, and “discoverable.” In the case of OmniTI, the first subcategory in the URL is based on an action verb, like “is”, “helps”, or “thinks.” This gives the URL a powerful mnemonic quality, since it reads like a sentence. It also describes the content of the page it represents, which is awesome.

The only downside I can see is the “discoverability” for common URLs like “about” and “contact”. A lot of people are used to finding those URLs the same on most sites, especially typical brochure-type business websites. But, you can always have a redirect rule for those if it’s important. The creativity and unique design of OmniTI’s URL scheme might just make up for the loss of predictability.

I’m glad to see a great example of a beautiful and semantic URL scheme to use as inspiration for my own projects.

UPDATE: As a nice follow-up, Nate Abele explains how to set up nice URLs in the CakePHP framework by defining custom routes: Advanced URL Routing and SEO Techniques with CakePHP.

My Experience with Workplace Experiments

37signals, makers of Backpack, Basecamp, Highrise and other great software have published their ideas for making their company a great place to work: Workplace Experiments. Included in their experiments are shorter work weeks, funding people’s passions, and discretionary spending accounts.

As I read their introductory post I reminded myself that in my one-man business I’ve already put several of these ideas into practice.

Shorter work week
I started a 4-day work week April 25th, 2007. Having Fridays free from client work has been a huge blessing. I can play, work on personal projects, or just catch up on reading and learning. In the middle of our traveling and RVing it was often a perfect day to leave our RV park and hit the road. We would beat the weekend traffic, get to our location sooner, and be able to visit and sightsee before starting the next week of work. And as 37signals points out, “We found that just about the same amount of work gets done in four days vs. five days.” So true.

Funding my passions
This is self-fulfilling since I am a freelancer. But, I still have to be disciplined enough to put it into practice. My current passion is travel and learning; this includes working with my wife to publish our photos and stories (she does most of that work). Our work discipline has paid off big in this regard. Having a mobile and flexible work situation funds our passions directly. We can travel where we wish—visiting family and friends and seeing every corner of our beautiful country.

Spending accounts
This one is also easy to do when you are your own boss and accountant. I generally buy any book that is needed for learning web design or development—especially if I can find a used copy on Amazon. I decided with my wife, who I include on business and financial decisions, that anything under a certain amount (say $100) would not require a discussion—I could just buy it and not have to worry about it. Big ticket items still require careful thinking and planning, which is the way it should be whether you are a one-man team or a 100-person in-house group.

I’m glad to see 37signals set the bar high for the industry in publishing their workplace experiments. They continue to be an enormous inspiration to businesses big and small. I’m also happy that I’ve been setting these same principles into practice for at least a year—with great results.