Monday, August 27, 2007

Idea: Store finder autodiscovery: the commercial application of OpenSearch

When I visit the website of a chain store, I often want to locate my nearest branch. I find it very frustrating that these links are regularly hard to find (try a few sites yourself and you will see that ease of use varies a great deal).

When a company invests in having a local presence, it makes sense that these should be easy to find from the company website. I think that the people behind these chain store retail web sites need to get together to adopt a common approach to make life better for customers (and ultimately better for themselves).

I do not think it would even be necessary to invent any new standards; all that is needed is an agreed common approach. First off, this facility is a search engine so OpenSearch could be used.

Secondly, to avoid having to redesign all commercial websites this facility should be accessible via autodiscovery. This should probably be in the form of an auto discovery link (OpenSearch is designed to work like this).

Finally, the results will include geographical references so OpenSearch Geo extension could be used.

So far I have concentrated on store location, an area which I think could bring the biggest immediate benefit to companies and be easiest to implement. If OpenSearch could be used for product search also then this would facilitate true unaffiliated and consumer led price comparison websites.

As a web developer sitting safely in the head offices of your chain store right now you might be thinking:

Why should I bother with this? This semantic web stuff is all very nice in theory but it has no real world applications.

Imagine what would happen if your competition implemented this and you did not? Somebody running a DIY help site could then do a DIY branch finder/Google Maps mashup that included the opposition but not your stores! Browser plugins could automatically detect the store finder facility on an enabled website.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bookmarks Portlet 0.4 and Newsfeed Portlet 0.1 released

I have just posted the fourth version of my Bookmarks Portlet and the first release of the Newsfeed Portlet. This release includes support for UTF-8 content, improved usability and performance enhancements.

There is additionally a Newsfeed version of the Bookmarks Portlet now available, this works in the same way as the bookmarks portlet but uses the ROME library to parse and display newsfeed content. The content is also loaded via AJAX making for a better user experience.

Bookmarks Portlet Google Group

Bookmarks Portlet Sourceforge Site