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Website Development Info
Introduction
Below is information on various aspects of running a website that I hope will be useful to others.
Content
A good website is setup to provide information in a manner that is logic and easy to use. If a website provides information in a way that is hard to understand or is difficult to navigate, few people will stay for long. Some things to consider about the content of a website
  1. Choose a layout that is simple. Having too much data on the screen at one time will distract users. An example of a bad layout would be Amazon.com which menu items on the left, right, top, and bottom of the screen - only placing the content in a small section in the middle of the screen.
  2. Use colors and font styles that are easy to read. Black text on a white background is far easier to read than italic white letters on a black background.
  3. Avoid sound effects or animation. It may be cute the first time someone sees it, but gets annoying after that.
  4. Stick to plain HTML rather than Flash or other technologies to show data on your website. Not everyone has the correct plug-in to see the content and some people avoid websites that use these other technologies.
  5. Do not force users to see your website in a fixed font size. What is legible for you might not be legible for others due to vision problems or using a different resolution on their monitor.
  6. Remember that not everyone is on broadband. Make your web pages short so that dial up users can enjoy your website.
  7. Pages should only cover one topic. It can be difficult to follow a page if it has many divergent sections.
  8. Provide links to define abbreviations/topics/concepts/etc that might be difficult to understand.
  9. Add ALT and Title tags to the images on your website. These tags provide a description of the images so that people can understand what the image shows. This can be especially helpful for the visually impaired user.
  10. Not everyone that goes to your website is from your country or your local area and they may have difficulties in understanding what your are writing about. To be helpful be disambiguate in your writing. Things to specifically remember:

    1. Describe measurements in both the metric and US Customary systems so that all uses can understand what you are describing.
    2. Use ISO 4217 Currency Symbols (See List of ISO 4217 Currency Symbols) when describing money. For example write 50 USD instead of $50 as several countries use dollars or 35 EUR as not all browsers display €35 correctly.
    3. Spell out dates as date formats are different in other countries. For example 07/12/05 is July 12, 2005 to Americans, December 7, 2005 to Europeans, and December 5, 2007 to Japanese. If you use the month name and 4 digit year, everyone will understand what date you are referring to.
    4. Avoid abbreviations that are specific to your country. People will understand Columbus, Ohio easier than Columbus, OH as an example.
    5. Be generic in terminology. For example: in the US, the US Postal Service assigns ZIP codes to places. In other places in the world theses codes are called postcodes, post codes, or postal codes. Postal codes is the most generic name and would be understood by most people.
    6. Do not use short or local names for things. While referring to the public transportation system in Boston as the T will be understood by the locals there, it means nothing to outsiders.
Files
A website is made-up of many files that are used in combination to make a webpage. The primary file a visitor sees has an extension of .htm or .html and is written in a markup language called HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Within the HTML files are connections to other files which are used to make a webpage have content more than just text. One of the most common connections is to pictures (which have extensions of .gif, .jpg, and .png).

Other files types are connected to webpages, but these are usually less familiar to users but are important to know about if you are developing a website. Below is a list of the files that are part of a website.

Name Notes
Home Page The default page a visitor goes to when they just type a domain name is called index.html. The should be the homepage of your website and include information on what the website is about and how to navigate to important pages within your website. Tutorials on HTML can be found at Free Webmaster Help - Basic HTML and Free Webmaster Help - Advanced HTML. Also see HTML - Special Entity Codes on how to write accented characters in HTML.
Contact Page It is a good idea to create a page that has information on how to contact the webmaster of a website.
Copyright Page It is a good idea to create a page called copyright.html that show that the material on a website is copyrighted and how visitors can use the copyrighted material.
Looking for Others Page If you have a domain name that is based on your name or other a phrase that can refer to other people, it is a good idea to have a page that can help visitors get to the website they are really looking for.
Cascading Style Sheets Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a way of storing the colors, fonts, and other style aspects of a website in one location so that all pages on a website look a like and can be changed as a group easily. A tutorial on CSS can be found at Free Webmaster Help - Cascading Style Sheets
favicon.ico Sometimes when you go to a website, the picture in the upper left hand corner of your browser changes from the generic Netscape/Internet Explorer/Firefox icon to something else. If it is done, it is because the webmaster has created a custom icon stored in a file named favicon.ico. To create one go to FavIcon from Pics, which will convert an image that you provide to a 16x16 icon
.htaccess .htaccess is a powerful configuration files that allows a webmaster to do many things including: Page Redirection, Password Protection of folders, Custom error messages, and Preventing bandwidth stealing. A .htaccess tutorial can be found at Free Webmaster Help - htaccess A .htaccess code generator can be found at HTML Basix
robots.txt This file is used by search engines determine what they are allowed to see (and to add to their index of pages). A webmaster can use this file to prevent any search engine from looking at a website or to prevent search engine from seeing a particular file or directory. The Web Robots Pages has more info on the robots.txt file including examples
Sitemaps A Sitemap is a file that describes all the files on your website and is used by search engines add to their list of pages. More information on how sitemap work and how to write them can be found at HTML can be found at Google Sitemaps
Software and Technology
Software and Technology I use to build and maintain this website

Name Notes
UltraEdit UltraEdit is a text editor that I use to write the pages for this website. Built into UltraEdit is HTMLTidy which validates, corrects, and formats the HTML.
Adobe PhotoShop Elements PhotoShop Elements is a program I use to edit the photos on the this website. I mostly use the software to color correct the photos, crop the photos, and to tilt the photos a few degrees to straighten them out (Somehow I get a few photos that are tilted to the right by 2 degrees every trip)
PTGui I use PTGui to create the panoramic photos on this website
W3C CSS Validation Service A tool to validate the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) used in this website. Cascading Style Sheets is a way of storing the colors, fonts, and other style aspects of a website in one location so that all pages on a website look a like and can be changed as a group easily
W3C Markup Validation Service This tool validates the HTML used on pages in this website. HTML is the formatting language used on all website to present data to the user
Server Side Includes Server Side Includes is a technology used to create dynamic pages. I use it to add the menu on the left and to add the date found on the bottom of the page. A good tutorial on Server Side Includes can be found at Free Webmaster Help

Last Updated on January 2, 2009 Images and Text © 1995-2007 Andrew Patton - Copyright Information