Now that we have handed out a reasonable number of Pooped Puppy Awards, it has become clear that some of the applicants have some major problems with their sites:
- Problems with basic coding, problems with spelling, grammar and lay-out.
- Backgrounds that repeat themselves (so-called tiling), typically because the author works on a small desktop (640x480) when most people use a much larger one; I use 1600x1200 and make it a habit that background graphics I use are 1600 pixels wide. Quite regularly I encounter sites that have problems with the background graphics that use some form of design/picture to visually offset the text and the text running into the sidebar, making it all rather difficult to read. The quickest way around that is to enclose the page into a borderless table, 2 columns/1 row, with the first column being forced to the required width by a small 2 colour transparent gif that you can stretch using image width and height tags. If you use a table to do this, there will be very little difference in how the page displays in either IE or NS. You can also use this gif to force spacing between text and or graphics. It is more appropriate, faster and result in more uniformity for the site to use CSS and use a DIV tag to specify a margin width in your site's stylesheet.
- Backgrounds that are too busy and make text hard to read.
- Sites built with Microsoft editors which use extensions specifically for Internet Explorer and end up making that site a jumbled mess when viewed
with Netscape, Opera, Mosaic or other browsers. Webmasters would be well advised to at least keep both Internet Explorer 6.0x and Firefox on their
own computers, so they can check how each browser interprets the coding they have written for their site's pages. There are some interesting differences for instance
in terms of how each of them handles graphic file extensions. As soon as you start using html extensions specific for a given browser without offering alternate
coding for the rest, you alienate or annoy a lot of visitors. It is an interesting exercise to put a tracker on your index page that allows you to track which
browsers and operating systems are being used by your visitors, it really can be an eye-opener. The stats on my sites for instance tell me Internet Exploder is
THE dominant browser, with about 61.2% of visitors using one flavour or other of IE. You can find one of these trackers at
WebTracker or eXTReMe. I rather like the eXTReMe tracker, it provides a TON of
nifty information. If you want to see it in action, go to the stats for our old site on Geocities. One of the stats you can check
with this tracker for instance is the screen resolution of your visitors systems, and it is actually amazing how few people still use the default 640x480 setting,
only about 9%, I would have thought it to be a higher percentage, but a lot of people are stuck at 800x600; me, I'm at 1600x1200 and while that results in smaller
fonts on the screen, it DOES allow me to keep a lot more stuff visible on the desktop and that's why I use it.
Just for the heck-of-it I have copied the browser stats off our new domain for the month of March 2005. What I find puzzling is the
29.7% of 'unknown' browsers.
MS Internet Explorer No 115106 61.2 % Unknown ? 55942 29.7 % FireFox No 10639 5.6 % Netscape No 1974 1 % Safari No 1018 0.9 % Mozilla No 1591 0.8 % Opera No 560 0.2 % WebCollage (PDA/Phone browser) No 185 0.1 % Konqueror No 62 0 % Old Firefox No 50 0 %
I wish to make it clear that I am no expert, not even a self professed one, in html coding. I may have a bit more experience than others perhaps, but certainly no expert; I recognize I still have way too much to learn. The more I surf though, the more I get annoyed by plain bad design and lay-out, bad grammar and poor spelling. The best suggestion I can offer for spelling is to use an editor with a built-in spell checker, or better yet, write the text first in a word processor that has a spell and grammar checker. MS Word is an example of a word processor that offers spell and grammar check and even the option of saving your documents as html files. And it's not a bad idea to have someone else read and check your efforts before uploading them to your server.
If you use the on-line editors provided by free website hosting services like Geocities and Tripod, do yourself a BIG favor and get control over your html by using a proper html editor, rather than one that works just from templates, such as Trellix for instance. An easy editor for most people is Microsoft's Frontpage, which I feel writes absolutely horrible code, but it's WYSIWYG and DOES give you much better control than Trellix for instance. When using Frontpage make sure you set the preferences for it to code for viewing in both Netscape and Internet Exploder, otherwise Netscape users may not see much of your site at all. These days I use Macromedia's Homesite 5, a great program, but definitely NOT for beginners. I make sure to have the program verify my code and I use TopStyle 3.1 as my CSS editor and style checker. Netscape of course still includes Composer in its Netscape Communicator suite. And that's FREE. For picture manipulation I use a variety of programs: Paint Shop Pro for major editing, Gif Construction Set for quick gif work such as setting transparencies, changing/reducing palettes and building animations, and Webgraphics Optimizer. The latter is very useful in reducing the size of your picture files, which helps the download speed of your site's pages.
Having said all that, here are a few sites you may find helpful in your quest to improve your HTML and CSS writing prowess.
- MaKo's CSS tutorial (which helped me a great deal with my sites, along with my younger brother Bill)
- Joe Gillespie's Web Page Design for Designers
- NCSA - A Beginner's Guide to HTML
- Web Developer's Virtual Library a vast library of goodies.
- Bravenet with a virtual cornucopia of web stuff.
- WebReference.com is about the web and webmastery.
- W3C Markup Validator Service, for those who want to see how bad their coding actually is:)
This site was on GeoCities at one time (some of it still is and will stay there until they cancel my privileges, it still drives a little traffic to the new server), but have grown increasingly malcontent with their service: a monthly 3G bandwidth limit (measured hourly), pop-up ads, pop-over ads, you can no longer use ftp and you HAVE to use your browser for uploading files if you do not use one of their PAID premium services. I now avail myself of a fee-based server for less money than the cheapest GeoCities premium package. I must admit I USED to like using Tripod because you can use ftp to maintain your site and they allow the use of subdirectories!?! While Tripod still has the pop-up advertising window, it only pops-up once and outside the main viewing window (obviously), making it easy and clean to do a site using frames. Most other free sites have something that displays on each individual page on your site and would therefor show up in every frame of your framed page. I have had sites on GeoCities (duh...), Tripod (for the modelrailroading goodies) and Fortunecity (for the birdie stuff), but we have gone for our own domain, it's banner free, advertising free, no bandwidth limitation etc. etc..