September 13th, 2009.
At business school I was taught the way to make money was to make our assets sweat. I think they meant to get the most out of everything you owned and to make sure it was being worked night and day to maximum effect. And so at Datadial we try to do the same for our clients’ websites by making sure that they are focused on developing websites that maximise sales levels by being search engine friendly and that convert users in to buyers.
The usual reaction in squeezing more out of a website is to rush into a redevelopment exercise. Redeveloping a website is expensive that is often undertaken on a whim and without real research into what is working and what is not on the current website. Indeed it’s often the case that the current site is perfectly capable of delivering many more sales and that it just needs refining to improve the user experience.
This doesn’t need to be an expensive exercise. The key to successful marketing is to consistently test and measure everything that you do. Delivering fantastic conversion figures is within reach for us all, no matter how small the budget.
Here are four ways that we have carried out for some of our clients to help increase their onsite conversions at virtually no cost.
1) Online surveys
What better way to really understand your customers than to ask them for direct feedback?Â What is it that makes them want to buy from you rather than your competitors?Â How did they hear about you?
Carrying out market research will enable you to build on what you’re doing well and make any necessary adjustments and help you to grow. You will be surprised by how many people are willing to take the time to reply to surveys.
We recently did a survey for one of our clients Design911.co.uk which gave vital insight into user behaviour. Coupled with Click Tracking report (see below) Design911 have been able to fine tune their website to respond to users’ expectations and behaviour.
Below is a sample of the survey results that were produced.
2) Mouse tracking -
Why do other sites make it so difficult to buy anything from them? We’ve all experienced a confusing website at one point or another. But could your site also be suffering from usability issues? Find out where the sticking points are with Mouse tracking.
You may also find that users are trying to click on things on your site that are not designed to be clicked on. We found this with Design911:
With design 911 we found that that very few people clicked on the middle of the page and that lots of users tried clicking on ads on the right handside of the page which were not actually clickable. We found too that the search box was being under used as it was below the page fold and that users were taking at least 60 seconds to make a click on key navigation items.
3) Study your analytics
It’s all too tempting to gloss over your analytics reports – these reports contain vital information which reveal where users are getting stuck, turned on or turned off. Seems obvious to say it but unless you take the time to check what is going on on your siteÂ you will never be able to intelligently amend your site and measure the effect of your changes.
There is a mass of information to look at but here are 3 basic things to do
Check Bounce Rates: Bounce rates tell you if a visitor who has been directed to your site via a search engine or Adwords likes what they have found. If they leave the site immediately this is called a bounce. If this happens you need to question if you are showing the right products for the keyword search and if you could provide better information, or if they had come via Adwords, are your Adwords set up correctly.
Funnels: You can set up funnels to determine where people are dropping off over a series of pages (typically the shopping cart process). Different funnels can be set up for different goals.
Compare to previous periods: There are a number of trends such as time on site, the number of keywords that you are being found for, the number of pages per visit that are good to compare from onen time period to another so that you detect trends.
4) A/B Testing
Having pawed over your analytics you can then start making intelligent changes to your site. How will you make more people fill in your enquiry form? How can you get them to add one more thing to their basket. Take a look at the forms below and guess which one had the higher conversion rate.
This company carried out A/B testing on their sign up form and increased their conversion rate by 10%.
This is called A/B testing or Multivariate testing which we use to determine which images, copy and design most appeal to your customers and which version increases conversion.Â You can have as many or as few variables as you like when creating your A/B testing. Ideally you would set it up to automatically serve different versions of the page to alternate users but to save money you can do it on a week on/week off basis.
We helped Conference Genie increase conversions on their site by altering the sign up process. Interestingly we did it by making their site more complicated.
Weirdly the problem on this site was that it was too easy to use. Users could not believe that they could just dial a default number, punch in a code and start a conference call. So we made the site appear to generate a specific telephone number and a unique code for them. Turning a one step process into a two step process actually increased conversions.
Making small changes instead of wholesale changes was also recently backed by Peter Fitzgerald, who leads Google UK’s retail industry division. He said that the whole area of analytics – that’s technical jargon for examining the ways that people navigate websites when they shop online – has taken on new importance to retailers.
Simple changes can make the world of difference, particularly since statistics show that 50.1% of online shoppers who place items in their shopping carts still do not buy them.
By subtly altering a website’s layout based on how people use it, websites can increase sales significantly.
“There is often a lot of unimportant information on the top of a web page. If you move this information out of the way it can make a huge difference,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
For example when Comet, the electricals retailer owned by Kesa, the listed stores group, removed two bits of text from the top of its web page (saying ‘top checkout tips’ and ‘you’re safe with us’ respectively), its conversion rates increased by 6.7pc. “Online retailers are spending more time on analytics to see where things are going wrong,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
Department store group Debenhams recently tested the message and positioning of an online sign-up form for its Beauty Club. Improvements to it increased the number of customers the chain signed up by over 89pc. Little such tweaks are being made by online retailers as a means of gaining incremental sales. Experts say that the results of the small changes can be seen almost immediately.
Google’s Mr Brittin said: “By interpreting analytics data and continually testing their sites, retailers can really understand what consumers are looking for online. Often very small and seemingly obvious tweaks can boost sales significantly.”
All of the above exercises can be implemented fairly quickly and inexpensively. However, don’t underestimate the time you need to truly get to grips with your findings.
By constantly analysing the results and carrying out appropriate changes you will be able to squeeze every last conversion out of your site without incurring expensive redevelopment costs.
June 21st, 2009.
From 1st January 2010 there will be a change to the basic rule regarding the place of supply of services. This is the rule which identifies the country where services are deemed to have been ‘supplied’. Currently, if a supplier has established its business in the UK, then the place of supply will be deemed to be the UK and any services charged for will be subject to UK VAT. There are, however, numerous exceptions to this rule. Establishing whether a service falls under one of the exceptions â€“ and if so, which one â€“ constitutes a major headache for businesses.
The new basic rule states that if the recipient is a business customer then the place of supply is the country where the recipient belongs. Therefore, when the new rule applies, if a UK business supplies training services to a business customer in Spain and delivers the training in France then the place of supply will be Spain and the reverse charge will apply. The existing rules dictate that the place of supply is France, with the result that the UK business may need to register in France.
The new basic rule also states that if the recipient is not a business customer then the place of supply is the country where the supplier belongs.
As is now the case, there will be some exceptions, but these exceptions are in many cases different from those currently in force. It will be important to ascertain just how your business will be affected.
The changes may affect businesses which receive services from abroad. Such businesses may already account for VAT using the reverse charge mechanism, but may in future have to do this in situations where the reverse charge currently does not apply.
Another significant change, which is being introduced as an EU anti-fraud measure, relates to EC Sales Lists. Businesses supplying services to commercial customers in other EU countries will be affected. Currently, EC Sales Lists are required only for supplies of goods. Although this comes into force on 1st January 2010 you should be preparing now to collect the necessary data.
Â The above was copied from an email sent to me by UK Training (Worldwide) Limited
4/5 The Mayflower,
Tel: +44 (0)1704 878988
Fax: +44 (0)1704 832124
I have no association with them but the information is important to digest for anyone trading online.
As ever Datadial are here to assist you in implementing your e-commerce sites to the specification you desire.
We took a dogs dinner of an old website and transformed it into a work of art that converts users to buyers. AsÂ always the project was delivered on time and on budget.
Yapp Wine Merchants website now has a fresh, modern design, packed with tools to help you find the wine you need.Â It is unfrightening and designed to cater to Yapps broad user base.Â We’ve made searching for wine fun and easy whilst retaining Yapp’s connoiseur edge.
Everyone has their own ways of looking for wine so we implemented 4 ways to navigate the site:
- The Easy Wine selector uses dynamic searching
Watch your search results change dynamically with easy to use search sliders. Have a play.Â The great advantage of this is thatÂ it all happens onÂ one page with no hopping backwards and forwards to and from search results.
- The Food and Wine selector allows you to search for wine by Food Type by clicking on images of different food types.Â This is not rocket science but is dis-armingly useful.
- Advanced Search - for those who really know what they are after.
Search by Regional maps
- “You recently looked at”
Isn’t it annoying when you look at lots of different items and then have to re-find them by re-doing the searches.Â Well we eliminated this problem with the “You recently looked at section” so you dont have to re-do previous searches.
- Tell a friend / Bookmark tools
Not strictly a navigation tool but so simple and effective.Â How else can you let your loved one know what you want for Christmas?Â Simply post your choices to your Facebook page and invite others to have a look.
Search engine friendly
As always with Datadial, the site is built to be search engine friendly
All pages from the old site have been redirected to the relevant new pages.
The site uses Friendly URLs so http://www.yapp.co.uk/Wine-List/Rhone-South/Chateauneuf-du-Pape/ instead of
Integrated stock control – the site is integrated to draw stock levels from Sage accounts.
The site is fully content managed, giving Yapp control over all aspects of the site including creating offers, mixed case offers and product information.
The site is also integrated with Datadial’s email marketing system.
Design Patterns are an essential tool for any object orientated programmer who wants to take his/her skills to the next level. Understanding the specifics of Design Pattern practices and methodologies will help developers uncover reoccurring patterns in software development and give them the tools to apply the correct solution.
For every difficulty encontered during application development, chances are this problem was encountered before (and solved). Design Patterns represent key programming practices that have been proven to get the job done in the most efficient, reusability and extensibility. This greatly increases efficiency of code and helps to break an application down into loosely compelled manageable chucks.
As a .Net developer you may have used some of these patterns without even knowing. A design patterns name captures the basic concepts that govern its use and a common practice is to include the pattern name in the name of the object that implements it.
You may have come across the following names while working with the .Net framework:
The deeper your understanding of Design Patterns the more youâ€™ll be to understand the .Net framework and how it can leverage you applications.
Main Design Patterns Concepts
- Use interface inheritance over concrete base class inheritance
- Create loosely coupled objects to promote code reuse by keeping object small and specialised
- Defer / Delegate responsibility to specialised objects using composition
Choosing the correct pattern
The best way to decide which pattern is fit for the jobs it to break down your development specification into each requirement. If these requirement exhibit certain characteristics that relate to a design pattern then apply it. E.g. If you application is responsible for monitoring a file system and reporting changes back to a number of objects you are most-likely to implement the Observer pattern.
Once you have gained an understanding of object orientated concepts you should be ready to tackle Design Patterns. You will be surprised how many patterns that are already familiar to you and how much the put things into perspective. Youâ€™ll also find that the more you learn, the more youâ€™ll see application development from a different perspective (almost like seeing the Matrix!!). To truly understand the benefits of Design Patterns you have to apply them to your application development. This will improve your object reuse and make future program changes less painful!
List of Design Patterns LINK:
- Adapter Pattern
- Command Pattern
- Composite Pattern
- Decorator Pattern
- Factory Pattern
- Flyweight Pattern
- Null Pattern
- State Pattern
- Strategy Pattern
- Template Pattern
- Union Pattern
- Visitor Pattern
July 20th, 2008.
There are many tools on the market for creating application for mobile phones and portable devices. This blog post investigates the technologies necessary for creating Microsoft related ASP.Net mobile applications.
Window Mobile (OS)
Window mobile is a compact operating system for mobile devices. These devices include Pocket PCs, Smartphones, Portable Media Centres and on-board computers for cars. Windows Mobile has been designed to be similar aesthetic to Vista and is currently at version 6.1 with a new release scheduled for 2010.
.Net Compact Framework
The .Net compact framework is a scaled sown version of the .Net Framework and uses some of the same class libraries with a few additional libraries designed specifically for mobile devices. This can be integrated with Visuals Studio 2003, 2005 and 2008 to develop impressive mobile windows form based and web based applications.
ASP.Net Mobile Controls and the Microsoft Internet Toolkit
Developing applications for mobile devices can be a challenging as there are certain limitations, which include:
- Different mark-up languages for PDAs, Cell phones or Japanese phones.
- Devices have a varying number or display lines, horizontal/vertical orientation and screen colours.
- Different network connectivity
- Capabilities, display resolution and ability to make phone calls.
All these factors must be taken into consideration when developing applications for mobile devices.
This is where the Microsoft Internet toolkit comes in, as it addresses these issues so that developers can build one mobile web application that delivers the appropriate mark-up for a wide range of mobile devices.
The mobile toolkit contains:
- Mobile web form controls which are similar to ASP.Net controls as the generate mark-up code
- Mobile Internet Designer which integrates with Visual Studio .Net IDE to provide a web application design environment
- Browser Capabilities which makes it possible to run ASP.Net functionality on mobile devices
- Quick Start Tutorial with sample code
- Developer Documentation
- Device adapter code samples
Using a combination of the Windows Mobile operating system, .Net Compact Framework, and the Microsoft Internet Toolkit applications can be written to run on a wide range of mobile devices in a similar manor to that of regular browser base applications.
These are the three basic tools that are necessary to start building applications that target mobile devices.
Mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular as people continually want to stay connected when they are away from their desk. Microsoft has developed a cohesive little package of products that integrate well together and provide an infrastructure similar to their full blown application development environment. This will hopefully encourage developers to venture into the world of mobile application development.
Web usability is about designing your web site so that users can achieve their desired goal quickly and easily. Taking time out during development to make sure your site meets usability standards can have a huge benefit to your business.
â€œA web usability redesign can increase the sales/conversion rate by 100%â€
- Jakob Nielson
Designers and developers must make sure they spend adequate time planning the flow of information by firstly identifying the needs of their intended users, then creating a path for site visitors to follow, which firstly, addresses a users initial concerns, then gradually takes then towards achieving their goals. This is achieved by understanding the goal the goals of you target users and then identifying the information your site needs to provide.
There are millions of web sites all competing for the same space, so it is important that you get the right information across a quickly as possible. It has never been easier for users to find a competitors web site, which may do a better job than yours. It is important that you meet the immediate needs of your site visitors as this the fundamental principle behind good web design.
Web designer must realise that if a web site is hard to use or hard to read, users will leave the site. This is because most users simply do not want to spend a large amount of time trying to figure out how to use a site as there are plenty of other sites to choose from.
Definition of Usability
- Easy to learn
- Efficient to use
- Easy to recover from errors
- Easy to remember
Navigation (Breadcrumb Trail)
Site navigation is crucial as users must know where they are and where they are going at all times. The easiest way to achieve this is to follow certain site convention, layouts and phrases (i.e. company logo should be in the top left corner with a link back to the home page, â€˜about usâ€™ links should display organisational information, shopping cart or basket should refer to items a user wishes to purchase etc).
These conventions must not be adhered to whenever possible as users have become accustomed to them. Developers and designer must use this to their advantage because sticking to them can increase the usability of the site.
How many times have you exited a web page because it has taken too long to download? As broadband speeds get faster users are becoming increasingly impatient when it comes to page download time. On average users are prepared to wait 8.6 seconds, so it is important that you pay attention to this. There is no use having a fancy web site with high resolution images if users arenâ€™t prepared to wait long enough to see them.
Many web designers fail to complete adequate usability testing due to time and budget constraints. They fail to realise that a usable web site or CMS will eliminate a lot of time spent providing technical support. It is crucial that designers and developers know that the adoption of usability testing will eventually pay for itself many times over.
The key is to start usability testing early and to involve your target demographic. If possible, use five people to complete these tests as this has been known to uncover as much as 85% of usability issues.
Usability is a hugely neglected area of web development and is an issue that needs to be addressed. We must always remember that users always come first and that if you make the user your priority then they will reward you with their loyalty.
It is not good enough using programmers and designers to do the testing either, as IT professionals do not think like the average web user. The best way to complete thorough testing is use candidate that are similar to your target audience.
Usability is an incredibly valuable tool that can save an organisation a lot of money, improve their competitive position and customer loyalty. Itâ€™s never too late, so start today.
The .Net framework 3.5 (released November 19th 2007) is the latest framework to be released by Microsoft. It has a host of new features and will be shipped as standard with the latest version of Visual Studio .Net 2008 IDE.
.Net framework 3.5 is an incremental build which means that instead of creating a completely new framework Microsoft has instead added new assemblies and fixed known bugs. This decision helped make the transition between .Net framework 2.0 and 3.0 as painless as possible. In essence .Net framework 3.5 contains the 3.0 framework which contains the 2.0 framework.
New assemblies include:
- System.Data.Linq.dll â€“ The implementation for LINQ to SQL.
- System.Xml.Linq.dll â€“ The implementation for LINQ to XML.
- System.AddIn.dll, System.AddIn.Contract.dll â€“ New AddIn (plug-in) model.
- System.Net.dll â€“ Peer to Peer APIs.
- System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement.dll â€“ Wrapper for Active Directory APIs.
- System.Management.Instrumentation.dll â€“ WMI 2.0 managed provider (combined with
- System.Management namespace in System.Core.dll).
- System.WorkflowServices.dll and System.ServiceModel.Web.dll â€“ WF and WCF enhancements (for more on WF + WCF in v3.5 follow links from here).
- System.Web.Extensions.dll â€“ The implementation for ASP.NET AJAX
- System.Core.dll â€“ In addition to the LINQ to Objects implementation, this assembly includes the following: HashSet, TimeZoneInfo, Pipes, ReaderWriteLockSlim, System.Security.,
- System.Diagnostics.Eventing. and System.Diagnostics.PerformanceData.
- System.Data.DataSetExtensions.dll â€“ The implementation of LINQ to Dataset.
- System.Windows.Presentation.dll â€“WPF support for the System.AddIn.
- System.VisualC.STLCLR.dll â€“ STL development in the managed world.
AJAX support has been added to .Net 3.5 as standard so that server and client-centric AJAX functionality can be added to existing and future web applications.
Some additional data-controls have also been added, in the shape of â€˜ListViewâ€™ control for displaying data and the â€˜LinqDataSourceâ€™ data control that exposes LINQ data to web applications. The ListView control is highly customisable (using templates and styles) and supports edit, update and delete operations as well as paging and sorting functionality.
Support from Vista styled Windows application has been added, which will even allow developers to update the appearance of old applications written using previous frameworks. Common file dialog boxes will be automatically updated to the Vista version. (See. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/926167)
Some of the biggest language orientated changes to.Net 3.5 are the inclusion of XAML, C# 3.0 and LINQ. Link and XAML are covered within my Silverlight and Visual Studio.Net posts.
One of the most important things to realise is that current web and windows application can be easily upgraded to .Net 3.5 as it is essentially built on the back of the previous two frameworks. Developers can make the switch safe in the knowledge that it wonâ€™t break their existing applications (unless their application exploited a bug, in which case it will!).
These types of upgrades are extremely welcome as it lessen the learning curve and give .Net developers more faith in Microsoft frameworks core infrastructure.
Firstly let me start by saying that I do not claim to be an expert in either PHP or ASP.Net. Although I use ASP.Net daily, I am fairly new to it. I have decided to do little investigation to the age old debate about the difference between PHP and ASP.Net. This is only a short post, but hopefully it will give readers a better understanding of how the two technologies differ. Hopefully this will be as un-bias as possible.
The reason I have chosen to investigate the difference between the two is that non-programmer constantly ask the questions: â€œWhatâ€™s the difference between PHP and ASP.Netâ€, â€œWhy canâ€™t PHP applications talk to ASP.Net applications?â€ or â€œThat could have been done in PHP so much quicker, for freeâ€. There are so many deciding factors when choosing a web application framework. I will attempt to outline the differences using a For and Against bullet point format for both.
- Open source
- Easier to learn due to its basic scripting language structure and build in functionality
- PHP5 now offers many object orientated development concepts
- Has many free IDEs available that are very impressive and well supported (e.g. Eclipse)
- Runs on Apache server which is open source
- Run on IIS 6.0 and IIS 7.0 due to Microsoftâ€™s implementation of FastCGI open standard
- Has multiple platform support
- Marginally faster due to the overheads imposed by .Netâ€™s Common Language Runtime, which is responsible for intermediate compilation of .Netâ€™s many languages
- Has a huge support base as it is open source
- Although it claims to be free, when using free 3rd party add-ons developers often run into issues when developing commercially available applications (i.e. ownership of code / intellectual rights)
- Most PHP IDEs require lots of add-ons in-order to add similar functions to Visual Studio
- No built in support for AJAX. Requires add-ons.
- Can be developed using the stunning Visual Studio.Net IDE that offers vast array of features, that make coding much easier and development more productive
- Developers can download a free scaled down version of Visual Studio that offers an impressive array of features. This is aimed at students and hobbyists
- Runs on IIS (Internet Information Services)
- Applications can be written using many programming languages (e.g VB.Net, C#, J#, C++ COBAL)
- The .Net framework (the engine that ASP.Net is runs on) has more sophisticated error handling capabilities than PHP
- Allows better separation of design and application logic using of code-behind pages and user-controls
- Has built support for AJAX as of .Net Framework 3.5
- Requires a Microsoft licenses
- Requires a basic knowledge of object orientated concepts which can sometimes deter newbie developers
- Single platform and will only run on Microsoft web servers
These bullet points emphasise some of the main differences, advantages and disadvantages of the two languages.
Quotes from other developers for ASP.Net and PHP
ASP.Net is Strongly Typed, Object Oriented, Sandboxed, Multi-Syntax, Component Centric, Event Driven, forms oriented, pre-compiled experience.
PHP is a loosely typed, objects optional, fixed syntax, component-less, runtime interpreted, structured programming model.
In the end, PHP is less expensive, faster, more secure, and able to be deployed from a Linux server that is also less expensive, faster, and more secure than their Windows based counterparts.
There are many factors that may sway you decision about which web application framework to choose. This decision should be based on the factors above, the kind of career path you want to choose and detailed research. In reality though the decision is usually down to which framework you are exposed to first as many develops get comfortable with on languages syntax and features.
My advice would be to use both; if you can, as each one has its own merits and has earned its place in todayâ€™s web application development industry.
Many developers spend a huge amount of time creating well designed object orientated applications only to have to have to write complex mapping classes in-order to interact with a relational database. A large percentage of application code often consists of mapping application objects to a relation database model.
Relational databases have been the industry standard for persisting data since the mid 70â€™s. Relational databases consist of flat two-dimensional table that are related to other tables using keys.
Data manipulation is handled by SQL (Structured Query Language) which is standard across the majority of database vendors.
The downside to relational databases is that the application object model that developers code against cannot be stored in a relational database. Classes have to be written to provide the necessary mapping so that the objects and databases can communicate. Each object has to be flattened out to support many-to-many relationships. Each field and property has to be mirrored in database tables or views in-order for fields to match up. Stored Procedures are also needed (sometimes as many as four per class) to marshal data to and from the object. The mapping of class fields to database columns is a laborious but unavoidable task.
Object database approach things from a different perspective, offering a different way of designing the persistence layer of an application. The fundamental idea behind object databases is the idea that you store your data in the same way that you use it.
Matisse Object Databases
One of the major .Net object database vendors, is a company called Matisse Software Inc. Matisse have created a database management system that helps developers to bypass the whole mapping process usually associated with object application design and relational databases.
Using Matisse the object database management system, developers can create database schemas and generate application code from simple class diagrams. The development mapping process is eliminated as this is all taken care of for you behind the scenes. Performance is increased as complex joins are no longer needed. Object databases store object as they exist in the application domain along with all the necessary object relationships.
There are many other interesting feature object databases have to offer and this post has simply scratches the surface as to what is possible. The main point to make though is that using Matisse or any other object databases database management system allows you to stay within the object orientated paradigm, eliminating the need to bridge a gap between two different domains. Matisseâ€™s support for VB.Net, C#, Java and C++ make it an extremely via candidate for a .Net developers that are ready for the paradigm shift or tired of the huge overheads in terms of code maintenance and database administration.
Microsoft Silverlight is a cross browser implementation of the .Net Framework that delivers interactive applications via the web. It does so by unifying the capabilities of the web server, the web browser and the desktop.
Silverlight improves the potential for developers and web designer to create rich applications that arenâ€™t limited by the constraints of modern web browsers.
Silverlight runs on all major browsers including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari and also has the ability to adapt its video quality depending on what device it runs on e.g. desktop browser, mobile device, or 720p HDTV video mode.
Silverlight application can be created by a graphic designer or a web developer using either:
- Microsoft Extended Blend â€“ for layout and graphic design
- Visual Studio .Net â€“ for coding
There are currently two versions of Silverlight, 1.0 and 2.0 beta. The most noticeable difference between the two versions is Silverlight 2.0â€™s support for the .Net Framework.
To run Silverlight applications all you need is a modern browser and the Silverlight plug-in, which can be downloaded and installed in minutes.
Silverlight XAML syntax is very similar to HTML as it allows you create rich web based UIs in HTML like syntax. Using Microsoft Extended Blend (MEB) designers can create engaging graphics, animation and media. MEB can generate XAML so that (via Visual Studio .Net) programmers and designer can collaborate and work on the same files.
XAML is to Silverlight what HTML is to web pages. It is text based and can be incorporated directly into a web page via the Silverlight runtime. It is used to define objects and their properties and focuses on defining UIs. XAML is firewall friendly unlike other technologies like Java Applets, Active X or Flash, (which all send binary content to the browser) which can pose security risks and is also easier to updates due to its text-based nature, unlike its rivals, (mentioned above) which have to be recompiled and redeployed after every change. Each time a Silverlight application is updated a new XAML file is generated that will be automatically downloaded the next time a client request is made. This eliminates the need for re-installation or redeployment and prevents the user experience from being disrupted.
Silverlight has a long way before it can compete with flash’s popularity, especially as it is a Microsoft only product. It has a huge amount of potential as it is designed to work with the .Net framework, which is a robust and proven foundation. Only time will tell as to how popular it will become and whether users and developers will jump on the Silverlight express!!