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Michael's webmaster tips.... smallbug logo

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Know your customer...
  3. Best practices
  4. Must reads
  5. Don't "s
  6. Cheap thrills
  7. Resources
  8. Copyright for beginners
  9. HTML
  10. Annotated resource links

ps...

This is my quick and dirty webmaster notes page! You want something fancy -- go buy a book! [I haven't written mine yet, so pick your author!] You want my personal advice, opinions, etc., read on.

Content covers the range from 'newbie' to 'old timer' webmaster needs.

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Know your customer...

With a 'typical customer' definition in place, many decisions about page design are easier.

  • identify your target customer in terms of
    1. browser/version (Firefox, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer) note: You should check that you page displays accurately on the current version of each of these browsers. Don't know what browser/version your readers are using, see Analog log analyzer reference below.
    2. CPU horsepower (Pentium II +)
    3. screen size
    4. memory size
    5. connection speed (28.8 ... T1)
    6. JavaScript on, cookies on, 'plug-ins', or other 'add-in' software

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Best practices

  • Provide a privacy statement if you ask your customer to give you any personal data.
    rationale: This is a hot topic as the Web invades more and more of our lives. Essentially state what you are going to do with the info and then follow your own rules. Subsequent customer info review and 'opt-out' interfaces are encouraged. note: Special additional rules apply for individuals 13 years of age and younger.
  • Provide a copyright statement.
    rationale: This won't guarantee anything, but goes a long way in proving what you intended. caution: In a reverse sort of way, it also says who is responsible for 'misinformation'.
  • Provide a common "look & feel" for the style of pages including the selection of fonts, images, backgrounds, and toolbars (navigation).
    rationale: You want readers to quickly understand how to move around your site and easily recognize that they have not gone to an external site.

  • Use of ALT keyword on all images.
    rationale: This allows for non-image browsers (software and user turned off) and ADA browsers to understand what the image is about. Of course, you need top make the ALT values descriptive.

  • Use of HEIGHT & WIDTH keywords on all images.
    rationale: This practice permits loading of the text portion of the page without having to wait... for the images.... Bottom line -- customers begin reading your content sooner.

  • Use of internal TOC and 'returns' to facilitate page navigation
    rationale: This is especially true for page (like this one) that are more than three screens full of content.

  • Eliminate horizontal scrolling.
    rationale: Do not create tables or other structures that are not resized with the browser window. Preferred maximum width is in the 800-1024 pixel range, never more. Also be aware of whether the page prints without line truncation under normal circumstances. A 'typical user' screen size of 800 x 640.

  • Use descriptive and key words in the title.
    rationale: The <title> does not need to be the same as the level 1 heading. In fact using a different title composed of descriptive and key words will benefit in 3rd party search engine indexing.

  • Use of links for appropriate resources, including any site or E-mail addresses.

  • Eliminate any 'click here' type text.

  • Address broken links promptly.
    rationale: Broken links are one of the most visible reflections on the quality of your site. Establish a procedure for routinely check for and fixing any broken links. Quality free software is available. Free linkchecker -- Xenu's Link Sleuth (http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html)

  • Stopwatch your pages.
    rationale: Readers should be able to see meaningful information within 30 seconds of accessing any page? Surfer attention spans are short and site loyalty, very fickle. Yahoo's YSlow and Google's Page Speed are two free browser tools that will automatically track page load times and offer suggestions to improve your page load performance.

  • Identify contact person responsible for each page along with E-mail address.
    rationale: The reader should know specifically who to contact for comments about each and every page. A generic 'webmaster@' address is often insufficient.

  • Capture the surfer's location.
    rationale: The majority of surfer forget to tell you what page they are commenting on. The 'mailto:' link syntax allows you the option to pre-populate the email message with identifying information such as the page name. See ref..... Use of '?SUBJECT:' when using MAILTO

  • Identify any host or sponsoring organization (link to main page)

  • Identify when page was last updated (indicates currency)

  • Register your site with various search engines. The 'free' ones here also have more encompassing registrations for little $$$.

  • check the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. They all support searches prefixed with 'link:' and 'site:'. Thus searches like link:www.company.com or site:company.com will show you a list of web pages link back to the page or site you specified. Note that there is no space after the colon. Check the HELP on each of the sites for additional syntax options.

  • Google also provides a fairly comprehensive set of tools called Webmaster Tools. It is free and definitely worth the setup effort if you are serious about managing your site.

References of interest:

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Must reads

I won't call you a 'master' unless I know you've read.....

How Users Read the Web: People do not read the Web the same way they read a book, magazine, or newspaper. This article, highlights a number of content design issues: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html

How to Write for the Web: Studies of how users read on the Web found that they do not actually read: instead, they scan the text... writing that was concise, scannable, and objective at the same time resulted in 124% higher measured usability: http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/writing.html

When Bad Design Elements Become the Standard: Anything done by more than 90% of big sites becomes a de-facto design standard that must be followed unless an alternative design achieves 100% increased usability. Anything done by 60-90% of big sites is a convention that should be followed unless an alternative achieves 50% better measured usability. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/991114.html


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Don'ts

  • Maximum pages size should be 30KB or smaller
  • Maximum size of any single image should be 30KB or smaller, unless shown first as a thumbnail
  • All files downloads should be accompanied by text which indicates their size

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Cheap thrills

Free is a reasonable price! Here are some things you can do for free...
  • Xenu's Link Sleuth -- [http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html]
  • Analog log analyzer -- [http://www.analog.cx/]
  • WS_FTP Light -- a basic windows FTP tool -- [http://www.ftpplanet.com/download.htm]
  • Screen Ruler -- a pixel 'yardstick' for checking screen displays of images, tables, etc. [http://www.microfox.com/]

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Resources

These sites cover various aspects of Website design.

Overall design -- slightly dated, but good basic info...
http://www.botos.com/web_design.html

tables
http://www.december.com/html/demo/table.html

notepad ftp tutorial
http://www.lissaexplains.com/notepad1.shtml http://www.botos.com/web_design.html


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Copyright

This statement need not be in legalese. You can check mine as an example.... http://www.botos.com/copyright.html. If you need an intro into the whole copyright issue on the web.....

schools: Those of you putting content on school sites, might want to consult your district's policy to see who owns the content. You might be surprised!

also http://fno.org/jun96/legal.html -- great beginner's guide


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HTML

http://www.coolnerds.com/.


[syntax]
[validation]

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Annotated links

  • WAI Accessibility Guidelines: Page Authoring
    http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/WD-WAI-PAGEAUTH

    Although some designers feel having to accommodate ADA consider greatly limits there creative freedom, pages designed with ADA principles in mind are usually more effective with the general public.

  • Writing for the Web
    http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/

    A site every Web-site creator should visit. This site is a little treasure chest filled with common sense. The site has lots of examples and data to illustrate the points, too, and it practices what it preaches. Witness the first sentence of an article entitled "How Users Read on the Web." The sentence is, "They don't."

  • The Copyright website
    http://www.benedict.com/

    This site endeavors to provide real world, practical and relevant copyright information of interest to infonauts, netsurfers, webspinners, content providers, musicians, appropriationists, activists, infringers, outlaws, and law abiding citizens.

    Business Netiquette, as its name implies, is the standard of behavior that governs the commercial development and usage of the Net. The evolving rules of conduct are particularly important in this context because the digital environment of the Net makes it impossible to separate business and consumer "real estate."

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Administrivia: doc ID: http://www.botos.com/train/master_tips.html 
Copyright 2001-2011 Michael Botos. revised: 09/20/2011
Your comments on presentation style, technical content, and anything else relating to the Web are always welcome. Send them to me at  mbotos@botos.com.