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Web Tips Archive

Virtual Mechanics


DHTML Magic

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IMS Web Tips ******** ISSUE 12 September 21 1999 *********
ISSN 1488-7088 Virtual Mechanics

"Free Tips and Tricks for getting the most out of your Web Site.
This e-mail is being sent to you because you subscribed to
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Subscription Information is available at the end if this news letter.
Please forward this newsletter on to your colleagues and friends.
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In this issue:

1. Site Testing Analysis
2. IMS tip: Relative File Paths
3. Reader Questions:
-Designing for multiple screen resolutions
-AOL Browser Problem
-Rounded corners on Forms
-mailto: problem
-e-commerce capability
-Web Tips for Newbies?
4. In next weeks issue.

Past issues of this newsletter are posted at the IMS Web Tips web
site in a printer friendly fashion. Visit http://www.IMSWebtips.com
for subscription information and archives.

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Notes:

IMS Web Dwarf

Thanks to all those of you that helped Beta Test our new Freeware
HTML Editor. IMS Web Dwarf Version 1.0 is now available for
download. We were lucky enough to arrange to use Artwork by
Keith Parkinson, a well known illustrator of books and software
products. If you have not yet seen Keith's art "The Big Stash", would
like to get more information on "IMS Web Dwarf" or would like to
download your own copy, visit the Web Dwarf page.

Web Engine/Web Spinner updates

We have also made some minor updates to IMS Web Engine (v1.65)
and IMS Web Spinner (v1.25) including better support for alternate
foreign character sets ( etc.} Both are available for download.

IMS Web Tips

Finally, we have moved the IMS Web Tips newsletter to it's own URL.
All past issues are available in a printer friendly fashion. We
also plan to add a search feature in the near future.

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1. Promoting your site: Site Analysis

Last week I introduced the problems of testing your site for missing
links and images. A common problem often relates to seeing your
web site from the inside out. In other word, things that appear to
work for you may not work for your visitors. This is often caused by
file references that point back to your computer. When you test, your
Browser can easily find these files because they are were they are
supposed to be. Visitors not having access to your directories will
see the typical missing image box.

The obvious step in solving this problem is to get your friends,
relatives and colleges to test your site (Why do they often discover
that they must have an often put off root canal when you ask?). In
addition to finding missing images, they are usually more than
happy to give you their subjective opinion whether you want it or
not.

The first step however, should be to test your site with a specialized
program that will find and report on these and many other possible
problems. If you have a large commercial site you probably already
have an application designed specifically for this. If you do not,
there are still several free testing sites that you can use.

The two sites I am familiar with and referred to last week are:
Web Site Garage
Net Mechanic

Both these sites allow you to enter the URL of any page on your web
site. You would normally start with your home page but there is no
reason why you can not enter any page that you have updated by
simply appending its name to the URL of your site. (don't forget the
.htm or .html extension)

The generated report will include:

Browser Compatibility
Meta Tag readiness
Load Time
Dead Links
Spelling
HTML Design

Web Site Garage will also check:

Link Popularity.

So how useful are these reports and how should you interpret them?

The Dead Link check is obviously of value. It will quickly tell you
which URLs or files could not be found and show you the code so
that you can correct the problem.

The Link Popularity generated by Web Site Garage is also useful for
identifying how many sites have links to your site. You can of course
do this yourself as I have discussed in past issues on setting up your
Meta Tags.


What about the other reports? Well they can be of value but take
them with a grain of salt.

Meta Tag readiness is valuable since it will show you the complete
list of the Meta Tags on your page and report any obvious problems
it finds. It will not however, tell you how well your site will be
ranked by the search engines or indexes. There are many other
factors involved in this determination. See the Web Tips series of
articles about setting up your Meta Tags

The Spelling Check will probably identify most of your misspelled words.
It will also identify many other words that it thinks are misspelled. You
should of course be using a good spell checker before you publish your
web site.

Load Time and HTML design are the two reports that I put least
stock in. Rating a web page based on how long it takes to load is like
trying to judge Mozart by how many notes is uses. You can of course
get an excellent rating in this category by putting nothing on your
web site. Which is the better site, one that loads slowly with valuable
content or one that loads fast with no content? Download time is
important however, and if this report can identify components that
can be speeded up without sacrificing content, then it is of use.

HTML design is a technical assessment. Like load time, there is no
way to get a high rating unless you are willing to through away most
of the advances in Browser technology over the last few years. A
Web Page designed to use CSS, DHTML, frames etc., is going to
have problems with older browsers. Again, it is of value when
searching for obvious problems. Just don't forget to do your own
testing.

So how good a job do these Web Analysis tools do in the real world?
We put Web Site Garage through two real world tests and Net
Mechanic through 1.

First we used the Virtual Mechanics home page on Web Site Garage
and rated a 'Good' score. Most categories were Excellent but we only
rated a 'Fair' for load time and a 'Good' rating for Meta Tags. We
apparently have a duplicated tag but we have never able to find it.

We next tried the Web Site Garage home page itself. Surprise! They
only gave themselves a 'Fair' rating. Apparently their 'Browser
Compatibility' is Poor, their Register Readiness and Load Times are
'Good', and their HTML design is only 'Fair'. Since they were just
bought by Netscape, presumably for a profit, one can only assume
that there is more to a Web Site than rating high in a Site Analysis
program.

Finally we tested NetMechanic on itself with similar results as Web Site
Garage. Net Mechanic gave itself 1 out of 5 stars for 22 bad links, 4
out of 5 stars for 6 HTML errors, 4 out of 5 stars for two Browser
problems and 4 out of 5 stars for 5 possible spelling errors.

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2. IMS tip: Relative Paths

If you are an IMS user you are no doubt familiar with the Gather
option in the IMS Publisher. This feature can substantially simplify
the process of composing a web page by allowing you to select an
image file anywhere on your computer and then have the Publisher
'ftp' or 'copy' it to the output directory. In addition to automatically
transferring the file, the Publisher will also update the file path in all
the exported HTML files so that they point to the new location of the
image. The Gather option will consequently greatly minimize the
occurrence of missing images on you web site. So why would you
not want to use it?

The 'File Path' dialog in the Publisher includes a 'Relative File Path'
option in addition to the Gather Option. What is a 'Relative File
Path' and when should you use it?

If you are new to developing Web Sites or have a relatively small
site (under 10 pages?), then the Gather Option is your safest and
simplest method of ensuring that things go right. If you are
developing a large web site with multiple directories, then using the
'Relative File Path' may be advantageous.

The difference between the 'Relative' and 'Gather' options is on the
surface quite simple. Since the Gather Option copies all of its image
files to the same directory as the exported HTML file, the "img" tags
can simply point directly to the filename. Since the Relative option
does not copy the image file, it's path must be constructed relative to
the location of the HTML file.

For example, if the image "mypic.gif" is located in a subdirectory
called "/pics" the Gather option would copy the file to the parent
directory and produce an image tag: <img src="mypic.gif">. The
relative Option on the other hand, will not copy the image but will
produce the following tag <img src="pics/mypic.gif">. For this
second option to work, you must mirror the directories and files on
your server that are also located on your development machine.

There are several advantages to using Relative file paths. First, you
can create subdirectories to group common files together. We use
numerous subdirectories on our site for things such as the
IMSWebTips news letter, for our on-line Store and for our Support
pages. We also have several different URL's parked in subdirectories
for the main site. If we used the Gather Option, we would have to
duplicate all the common elements in each subdirectory or we would
be forced to maintain one huge directory that would be very difficult
to manage.

Another advantage to grouping files in subdirectories is the ability to
make a change to a single file and know that it will be updated
throughout the entire site. For example, the Virtual Mechanics site
uses four small GIFs for its common page design elements. These
are bright tropical yellow and peach shades no doubt selected
because we spend too much time working in South Florida. If we
want to reflect the change of seasons in the north by selecting cooler
more subdued colors, we could simply replace these four files and
know that the change would be made throughout the entire site.

If you develop your web site offline, you will need to duplicate your
web site on your Development machine, directory for directory, in
order to use the Relative Option. Since the Relative option also does
not copy any Image or Audio files to the web server, you will need to
transfer these files separately. Extra testing will also be needed to
ensure that everything is working correctly. Also note that the
Relative option will not let your reference files across different drive
letters on your development machine since this can not be
reproduced with a relative file path.

As an aside, you will also notice that the 'File Path' dialog will make
an 'Absolute File Path' option available when you select the Export
to Disk option. The Absolute option will insert the full directory
path of an image including the disk drive letter, into the output
HTML file. The only advantage to this option is if you are
developing your web site directly on your server and wish to locate
image files on other disk drives. Using the Absolute File Path option
is consequently not suitable for Publishing your HTML projects to a
different computer.

To sum up, if you have a relatively simple web site or are not
experienced with managing a web site, use the Gather option when
publishing your projects. You can always try the 'Relative' option at
a later time. If you are developing a large web site, consider using
the 'Relative Option', to speed transfer times, minimize disk usage,
optimize downloads and give yourself more site management
options.

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3. User Questions

Designing for multiple screen resolutions

Q. "K Stretton" is an experienced
Web Designer who last week asked for any insight on designing Web
Pages for multiple screen resolutions. I offered my two bits worth.
Here is more advise from Chance Bush.

It has been my experience with regard to screen resolution, you
have a couple of choices to make: either design for a 640x480
screen resolution (which you recommended), or if you have a client
whose visitors may use different screen resolutions, develop
different versions of the site to compensate for this problem. As a
general rule, I always try to use the 'Web Safe' color palette on sites
I develop, mostly because I have developed sites using custom
colors, and when I viewed the site on a computer not using a True
Color configuration, I was most dismayed by the results.
The best alternative I have found is to always work on screen
widths of 600-620 pixels (you have to compensate for those
window panes on the left and right side of most browsers), and to
develop a basic layout scheme and then switch from 800x600 (my
standard resolution) to 640x480 and check my work. The other
thing you can do is use the <CENTER> tag as much as possible.
This will make a site look good, even on a larger resolution.
If you design with a 600-620 pixel page width and use the 'Web
Safe' color palette, you should be good to go most of the time.
Remember, the majority of people are using Netscape or IE
anyway, so if your site looks good in either of those browsers, you
are usually set.

Sincerely,
Chance R. Bush
President
Millennium Business Solutions, Inc.
http://www.callmbs.com

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AOL Browser Problem

Q. This is probably a simple question but I'm just a beginner web
builder trying to help out the center I work out of. The website
looks fine in Netscape & Microsoft browsers but terrible in an AOL
browser. How do you fix that?

The website with the problem is http://www.apeacefulplace.com

Any help is greatly appreciated.

sarge

I do not have access to AOL so I can not test it directly. It is my
understanding that even though AOL purchased Netscape, they are
still using Microsoft Internet Explorer. If the AOL visitor is using
IE 4 or IE 5 I can not offer an answer. It is possible that some AOL
users are still using IE 3.x which does support Cascading Style
Sheets. Many newer web pages will display this type of problem
when viewed in IE3 or older browser's. Maybe some AOL readers
can check it out and report back.

s.w.

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Rounded corners on Forms

Q. I was reading a newsletter in e-comm talk which had something
to do with tables having round corners. I want a bit more insight on
that. Can you help me on that? I searched for it at quite a few
places but no clues. Is it possible in the first place? If yes, HOW??

Thanks
Sumit Dua

I do not believe that you can specify rounded corners for a table. I
suspect that they were talking about adding GIFs to the outside
cells. You can create any kind of border or frame in this way. Take
a look at: http://www.mozilla.org for an example.

s.w.

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mailto: problem

Q. I read your article on using anchor tags to send mail which has
subject, body and other such information concatenated with mailto
option
<a
href=mailto:tips@VirtualMechanics.com?Subject=Subscribe&Body
=Thanks&Cc=news@VirtualMechanics.com>Subscribe Here</a>
But, at times appending other information (viz. subject) and
clicking on the link to send mail results in the entire tag contents to
appear in "To" of the mail. That is in my mail the contents of
"To"(to whom mail is directed).

Rajendra Mishra

This newsletter is sent in plain text format and I first suspected that
this was a result of selecting the above HTML tag that was
included. I suggested that Rajendra try the tag that was posted on
last weeks Web Tips demo page at:
http://www.imswebtips.com/is12fig1.htm Apparently this
generated the same problem for Rajendra with the subject and
contents also appearing in the "To" box. If anyone else can give it a
try and offer some insight, I would appreciate it.

s.w.

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e-commerce capabilities

Hi, my name is Ed. I'm an advance WYSIWYG editor. At present,
I want to learn about adding e-commerce capabilities. Where can I
go for this type of information?
Thanks, Ed.

Edward L. Brown

E-commerce is a huge topic that I must admit I am not an expert
on. We use third party sales channels such as Netsales and
Beyond.com. We have a limited number of products and this works
very well for us. Many ISP's these days are offering 'shopping carts'
and 'e-commerce' solutions for their customers. Here is the sales
pitch from one of our ISP's
http://www.pair.com/pair/commerce.html

Maybe next week some one can suggest a source for more info.

s.w.

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Web Tips for Newbies?

Last but not least Jack Jonker sent a very complimentary email that
explained that he was a newcomer to the Internet and wondering
were he and other newcomers could get some basic introductory
information.

#1 Do you know of anyone who would be interested in reaching a
lot of us the "DUMMY" way?
# 2 Is this something you"re considering doing on your own
excellent page?

jack jonker

Writing this newsletter each week is a real juggling act. There are a
wide range of readers from absolute novices to experts with years of
experience (this business is still so new that that is probably years
of combined experience). Even so, trying to write a newsletter on
Web Tips that is easy to read yet still relevant to the more advanced
reader can be quite difficult.

If I can provide a suggestion to a 'newbie' (visiting a testing site to
analyze your web pages) or a tip to an experienced user that they
may not have known (I never thought of making borders for a
table), then the newsletter is probably a success.

Even so, the number of new subscribers is growing at a tremendous
rate. As such we have moved IMS Web Tips to its own URL and as
soon as the numbers warrant it, we will probably split it into
Beginner and Advanced publications. We will also set the articles
up on the Web Tips site so that they can be more easily searched.
Finally, we hope to set up a bulletin board or mail list depending
on people's preference, so that Questions and Answers can be
posted and received at a more timely rate.

That probably does not answer all of Jack's questions but I don't
currently know it all. Based on Jack's questions however, I suspect
that he will not be a 'Newbie' for very long.

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4 Next Week:

1. URL Registration
2. Promoting your site:
3. IMS tip:
4. Reader Questions:

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ISSN 1488-7088 © Copyright 1999 Virtual Mechanics
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