Goodies to Go (tm)
February 3, 2003-- Newsletter #218

By Vince Barnes



Goodies to Go (tm)
February 3, 2003--Newsletter #218

This newsletter is part of the internet.com network.
http://www.internet.com
 


Featured this week:

* Goodies Thoughts - Web Site Functionality.
* Q & A Goodies
* News Goodies
* Feedback Goodies  
* And Remember This...

 


 

Goodies Announcement

Just in case you missed it before, the new Beyond HTML Goodies book is now available!

 

Go beyond the basics and learn how the pros add and use dynamic HTML features and advanced JavaScript techniques. Beyond HTML Goodies demonstrates dozens of new and different features readers can add to their existing Web pages using HTML and JavaScript. The book starts with simple text and image tips, such as adding a clock to a Web page or causing text to appear when the mouse moves over an image. It gradually builds to more complex tricks, including manipulating forms or working with cookies behind the scenes. Throughout the book, readers enjoy Joe's snappy style and "to the point" discussion of each "goody" in the book.

 

http://books.internet.com/books/0789727803

 

 

Goodies Thoughts - Web Site Functionality.

I continue, this week, with my overview of the early stages of a web site's development with a few thoughts about functionality. In case you've missed the last few newsletters you can find the in the Goodies To Go archive at http://www.htmlgoodies.com/letters -- I started this little series in January of this year (2003) with a look at The Importance of Design.

Functionality seems frequently to bring to mind interaction between the site and the site visitor. While this may be a part of the topic, and is something I'll talk about in a minute, it's not the start of it. To determine the most important aspect of a site's functionality requirement, ask the question "what is this site's purpose?" The purpose describes the function the site must fulfill. For example, a site might be to describe a company and its products. It could be to sell some tickets or perhaps it's to show off Johnny's pictures. In each case, the site's purpose describes the function it must perform. Its quality of functionality is determined by how well it performs that function.

I labor the point a little because it is all too easy to be distracted by an aspect of "functionality" to the extent where the primary purpose is obscured. In the above examples, for instance, the ticket sales site might involve some validation, some interaction, some storage and recollection of orders, etc. In trying to accomplish all these things it is easy to forget that what you really have to do is sell tickets. Focus on ensuring that numbers are entered where numbers are required, dates are valid and dollar amounts are calculated and forget to mention the name of the performance for which you are selling the tickets and the site's functionality is about zero, no matter how technically wonderful it might be!

The first golden rule of function is "be quick and to the point." Don't subject your visitors to flash and pizzazz on the way to your grommet sales page. Take them there right away and ask them "A bag of a dozen, or a box of one gross?" Fewer clicks equals much better. Also is this category is the reminder to optimize graphics before including them in a page. If your JPG looks more or less the same compressed to 10K bytes as it does compressed only to 15K, use the higher compression (the smaller file) -- smaller files load quicker. Quicker equals much better.

The second golden rule is "think like your visitor, not like yourself." If you went on a trip to Chicago, London and Sydney and now are putting the photos onto a gallery site, don't label them "First", "Second" and "Third" because that's the order in which you visited the cities. You know that, but your visitor will have a much easier time understanding "Chicago", London" and "Sydney"!

The third golden rule is "assist, don't constrain." If they have typed "1.6" in your quantity field, don't say "Invalid Quantity". Say something like "Please enter only whole numbers in Quantity." Remember also, courtesy rocks! My example here is so much better than "Enter only whole numbers in Quantity." As your site visitors, they are guests in your home. Treat them as such! A little humor can sometimes help too. Used sparingly, and always with careful taste, it can help your visitor to relax, feel comfortable and have a better overall experience of your site. After the above error message (the one that includes "Please"!) we could add "By the way, the system prefers larger numbers!" Be careful though, not to trivialize what you are trying to do.

On the technical side, the real secret to interactive functionality, or any type of technical "specialty", is to keep it simple. Simpler equal much better! As you look at adding some new function to your page, ask yourself if it really adds to the site's ability to fulfill its purpose. If it sort of does, sort of doesn't, ask yourself if the site might actually be a little better off without it. That's often the case. We see something new and neat, and want to incorporate it into the site, but on reflection, we see that the site is just fine without it. Remember, simpler equals much better.

Next week, I'll be closing this series with a discussion about maintainability.
Until then,



Thanks for Reading!
- Vince Barnes

 

Top

Q & A Goodies

Questions are taken from submissions to our Community Mentors. You can ask a Mentor a question by going to http://www.htmlgoodies.com/mentors/.



Q.  (I can't locate the original question, but this answer is worth including!)

A. I notice that you are using internal styles on your pages (the styles between the <style> tags in the <head> of your file). If you use an external style sheet, and reference it in the head instead (by using the <link> method) then that should reduce the reloading, since the external style sheet will be downloaded into the cache.
You can save the styles from the page (between the <style> tags) to a new text document named styles.css (or something similar). Then, in your HTML documents, reference it like this:
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="style.css" />




Q. I've designed a version of the "index" page for my web-site using style commands. I want to put a JavaScript into the header of my regular "index" page which will bump people over to the new page if their browser is recent enough to handle style commands. I've worked my way through "HTML Goodies" and I've got a handle on the script to detect the user's browser. I'm just not sure how to detect what particular version of IE or Navigator a person is using (i.e., whether the version is new enough to recognize style commands).

A. To answer your question, style sheets have been supported to increasing degrees since Netscape
4.x, Internet Explorer 3.x and Opera 3.6. There is an excellent discussion on this subject at:
http://www.webreview.com/style/
Browser detection is a daunting enough task and even with the newer versions, some viewers
actually have style support turned off.
Taking this into consideration, my approach has been to build in a short message to viewers who
either can't or won't support styles and using styles to hide this message in the background of
the page such that the style supporters will not be aware of nor be distracted by the message. The non supporting viewers are directed to an appropriate link which only they can see.
I use the following code to accomplish this:
<head>
<style type="text/css">
#nostyle {
position:relative; top: 0px; left: 0px;
background-color: #000000;
border-width: 1px;
border-color: #000000;
color: #000000;
font-size: 2pt;
width: 650px;
height: 3px;
padding: 0%;
}
</style>
</head>
<body bgcolor="#000000">
<span id="nostyle">This page requires CSS which is not being supported by your browser - Click
on "?" for details</span>
</body>




Q. I am trying to find a way to make it so that a drop down menu can be displayed on all my web pages. I wish to have the main code at one page so that if I make a change on the main page it will show on all the other pages containing the drop down menu. Please refer to my website for an exampleof the drop down menu I am refering too!

A. If you are referring to your "Store Categories" menu, you can use a js file.
1. In your text or html editor, create a new file and save it with a .js extension such as filename.js
2. Insert the following (you can change variablename to whatever you want) into the js file:
var variablename=" "document.write(variablename);
3. Cut and paste your complete form code, including the form tags, into the space between the double quotation marks - " in item 2.
4. Replace all the double quotation marks in your form code with single quotation marks - ' ( Note that the double quotes in item 2 must remain as double quotes)
5. Remove all carriage returns from the js file so that if you disable word wrapping, you will see one long line of code.
6. In your page's code, replace the form code, including the form tags, with the following:
<script language="JavaScript" src="filename.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
You can insert this script into any page where you want the menu to appear.
To make changes, you need only edit the js file.
You can read more on this topic in the HTMLGoodies web site tutorial "So, You Want An External JavaScript, Huh?" at http://htmlgoodies.earthweb.com/beyond/extjs.html




Q. I am trying to put a list of data in a table format so that it will take up less of the page length. The code looks like this:
<TABLE>
<TR>
<UL>
<TD> <LI>Armors and Weapons </TD>
<TD> <LI>Art, Poetry and Music </TD>
<TD> <LI>Castles </TD>
</TR>
<TR>
<TD> <LI>Cathedrals and Monasteries</TD>
<TD> <LI>Coats of Arms (Heraldry)</TD>
<TD> <LI>Dragons and Beasts </TD>
</TR>
<TR>
<TD> <LI>Heroes and Legends </TD>
<TD> <LI>Illuminated Manuscripts </TD>
<TD> <LI>Knights</TD>
</TR>
<TR>
<TD> <LI>Mages and Wizards</TD>
<TD> <LI>Medieval History </TD>
<TD> <LI>Medieval Life </TD>
</TR>
<TR>
<TD> <LI>Sites for Kids </TD>
<TD> <LI>Medieval School Projects </TD>
<TD> <LI>Illuminated Manuscripts </TD>
</TR>
</UL>
</TABLE>
It did a great job of putting the list into three bulleted columns, but for some reason, in doing so, the font size shrunk. The rest of the page is font size="3". I tried changing the height, putting a font size command in the TD brackets, and a few other places, but I just can't seem to get it to work. I searched the HTML Goodies site but couldn't find an answer. How do I change the look of the writing within a table?

A. You should be using a style sheet to control your font sizes. This way you can designate the size once, in the style sheet and everything on the page will stay consistant.
For instance, if you wanted all of your lists to be VERDANA and size 11px you wouls place this code in the between <HEAD> tags of your HTML:
<style type=text/css>
<!--
li { font-family: verdana; font-size: 11px }
-->
</style>
Now take a look at all of your lists.
Read the tutorial on the HTMLGoodies site that can be found here: http://www.htmlgoodies.com/beyond/css.html



Q. How do I allow somebody to download a file from my web site?

A
. Just make your downloadable .exe file into a link like so:
<a href="somefilename.exe"> Download Here </a>
 

 

 

 

Top

News Goodies


One Step Closer to the Wireless Holy Grail
[February 3, 2003] Hewlett-Packard joins forces with Transat Technologies to give operators the ability to enable seamless, transparent roaming between their 2.5G/3G wireless networks and 802.11 hotspots.

Click here to read the article



 

eBay Thwarts Shuttle Debris Sales
[February 3, 2003] The auction giant quickly takes down attempts by 'a handful of users' to capitalize on the Columbia disaster.

Click here to read the article

 



Auto Industry Forms Tech Interoperability Consortium
[February 3, 2003] At a time when Web-enabled cars are creating a buzz, auto dealerships look to standardize data interchange.

Click here to read the article

 

 

 

Microsoft Releases New Anti-Piracy Software Toolkit
[January 20, 2003] Software giant aims to protect disc-based music, video copyrights

Click here to read the article

 

 


Small Businesses Get A Jumpstart With IBM
[February 3, 2003] The beauty of Web services is that the open standards approach is especially appealing to small and mid-sized businesses. As SMBs look to solve business problems by enhancing the efficiency of legacy applications, IMB is prepared to help business jumpstart their major technology projects.

Click here to read the article

 


 

Study Shows 82% Vulnerability Increase in 2002
[February 3, 2003] In the wake of the Slammer attack, a new report reveals that network administrators had to deal with nearly 82% more vulnerabilities last year than the year before.

Click here to read the article

 

 

ICybersecurity Czar Issues Farewell Warning
[January 31, 2003] Richard Clarke leaves the post with a warning that sophisticated attacks could be much more crippling than the 'dumb' Slammer worm.

Click here to read the article

 

 

EU: Microsoft Agrees to .NET Passport Changes
[January 30, 2003] Microsoft modifies its online authentication system to address European privacy concerns.

Click here to read the article

 

 

eBay Business Means Business
[January 30, 2003] Localized sales, reputable dealers, and immediate gratification are clearly important factors for eBay Business buyers. But the primary benefit of bidding on goods and materials at eBay Business is its ultimate ability to drive the cost of doing business down.

Click here to read the article

 

 

Dell's New Guise Could Be Gateway's Demise
[January 30, 2003] Dude! You are selling in Sears, while analysts say a 'significant number' of Country Stores should be put out to pasture.

Click here to read the article

 

 

 

 

 


Top

Feedback Goodies



Did you ever wish your newsletter was an easy two way communications medium? Ploof! It now is!
If you would like to comment on the newsletter or expand/improve on something you have seen in here, you can now send your input to:

mailto:nlfeedback@htmlgoodies.com


We already receive a lot of email every day. This address will help us sort out those relating specifically to this newsletter from all the rest. When you send email to this address it may wind up being included in this section of the newsletter, to be shared with your fellow readers. Please don't send your questions to this address. They should be sent to our mentors: see http://www.htmlgoodies.com/mentors/



I got a lot of email in the feedback box this week that really should have been directed to the mentors. Please remember that it doesn't work if you do that! If I forward the email to the mentor box, their replies come back to me. In order to receive a reply from the mentors, please send your questions to their box (see http://www.htmlgoodies.com/mentors/)

Among the actual feed back notes, a reader who did not provide their name pointed out this additional information regarding a Q&A for which Bob Conley had provided an answer (thanks, Bob). The question related to Server Side Includes and Bob pointed to an ASP solution tutorial. Our reader writes (and thanks for your submission, "webmaster"):
"Unix is different for SSI than ASP that you pointed him to for the tutorial and it also depends on if he is trying to call up that info in a cgi or php scripting. Since Unix is the platform for 80% of the web pages out there, I thought the reader should have this information as well.
For instance, in our own pages we use a lot of SSI for our menus and we use Unix for our platform. The scripting for it is similar to what your ASP page shows but different none the less. The reader should also be aware that usually you need to be using pages with a .shtml, .sht or .php to use SSI as normal htm or html pages will not be able to handle SSI. (Note: it is possible on some hosts to use SSI in regular html pages) A typical code for SSI on a Unix server would be like:
<.!--#include virtual="menu_main"--> instead of include file as is done in ASP.
Another example for php would be like:<.?PHP include("../menu_cardserv"); ?>. Notice the spacing, ";" and "?" marks.
These are both examples of a menu code that can reflect the change throughout your site by editng a single file. There are other ways of doing SSI depending on the platform one is using.

 

 

 

Top
And Remember This . . .


On this day in...


1929: Seagrave sets speed record
Driving his "Golden Arrow" at a speed of 231.4 MPH in Daytona Beach, Florida, Major H.O.D. Seagrave set a new world land speed record on this day in 1929. He and Britain's Sir Malcolm Campbell vied for the top spot between 1925 and 1935, breaking each other's records several times. In 1935, however, Campbell took a clear lead driving his Bluebird III at more than 300mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Campbell held the land speed record from that time until the introduction of jet powered land vehicles.

1959 Plane Crash Kills Music Stars.
A few minutes after taking off from Mason City a chartered Beechcraft Bonanza crashed in Iowa killing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. Holly was 22, Richardson (who was the writer of songs such as "Running Bear" and "Chantilly Lace" in addition to being known for his TV persona "The Big Bopper") was 28 and Valens (Richard Valenzuela) was only 17.




Thanks for reading Goodies to Go!

 




Archive Home Page.



Make a Comment

Loading Comments...

  • Web Development Newsletter Signup

    Invalid email
    You have successfuly registered to our newsletter.
  •  
  •  
  •  
Thanks for your registration, follow us on our social networks to keep up-to-date