Tag Archives: HTML

XHTML – Kicking And Screaming Into The Future

XHTML, the standard, was first released back in 2000. Roughly five years later we begin to see major websites revised to use this standard. Even the favorite whipping boy of standards-compliance punditry, Microsoft, presents their primary homepages, msn.com and microsoft.com in XHTML. Standards compliant XHTML sites are still the minority. The reason is simple. When the W3C released the new standard, the rest of the web running on HTML did not cease to function. Nor will the rest of the web, written in various flavors of HTML, cease to function any time soon. Without any pressing need to conform to the new standard, designers continue to use old, familiar methods. These methods will perform in any modern browser, so why bother switching?

These sentiments are similar to ones I experienced. A kind of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality sets in. Whether HTML was “broken” or not is a different argument. To the casual Internet user, their standards are fairly direct. If a site displays without noticeable error and functions to their satisfaction, these standards are met. Whatever additional steps the browser took to make such display possible is irrelevant to most users. This kind of mentality is difficult to overcome in designers accustomed to their old methods.

Technical obstacles to adopting XHTML may be quite steep as well, especially as regards large, existing websites with complex scripting. Yet the time may eventually come where yesterday’s “tried and true” HTML is little more than an ancient language, unable to be interpreted by modern electronic devices. Whether one agrees with the direction the W3C takes in the development of HTML is irrelevant, you are just along for the ride. With some perseverance, getting the hang of XHTML is possible. In form, it is not as different from HTML as Japanese is from English. Knowing HTML grants a basic knowledge of the language, it simply becomes a matter of learning a particular dialect. Even an original nay-sayer such as myself managed to do it.

Benefits of XHTML
There are 2 primary benefits to using XHTML. First is the strict nature of valid XHTML documents. “Valid” documents contain no errors. Documents with no errors can be parsed more easily by a browser. Though the time saved is, admittedly, negligible from the human user’s point of view, there is a greater efficiency to the browser’s performance. Most modern browsers will function well in what’s usually referred to as “quirks” mode, where, in the absence of any on-page information about the kind of HTML they are reading, present a “best guess” rendering of a page. The quirks mode will also forgive many errors in the HTML. Modern browsers installed on your home computer have the luxury of size and power to deal with these errors. When browser technology makes the leap to other appliances it may not have the size and power to be so forgiving. This is where the strict, valid documents demanded by the XHTML standard become important.

The second benefit is in the code itself, which is cleaner and more compact than common, “table” based layout in HTML. Though XHTML retains table functionality, the standard makes clear tables are not to be used for page layout or anything other than displaying data in a tabular format. This is generally the primary obstacle most designers have with moving to XHTML. The manner in which many designers have come to rely on to layout and organize their pages is now taboo. Simple visual inspection of XHTML code reveals how light and efficient it is in comparison to a table based HTML layout. XTHML makes use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which, when called externally, remove virtually all styling information from the XHTML document itself. This creates a document focused solely on content.

XHTML makes use of “div” tags to define content areas. How these “divisions” are displayed is controlled by CSS. This is known as CSS-P, or CSS Positioning. Trading in “table” tags for “divs” can be tough. Learning a new way of accomplishing an already familiar task is generally difficult. Like learning to use a different design program or image editor, frustration can be constant. Looking at “divs” as a kind of table cell might be helpful, though they are not entirely equivalent. As required by the XHTML standard, always make sure there is a DOCTYPE definition at the top of the document. This is not only required by the standard, but it will force Internet Explorer 6, currently the most common browser, to enter its “standards compliance” mode. IE6 and Firefox, both operating in standards compliance mode will display XHTML in much the same way. Not identical, but far better than IE6 operating in quirks mode. Learning how to iron out the final differences between displays is the final obstacle and can require a bit of tweaking in the CSS.

Clean code has multiple benefits. It creates a smaller page size which, over time, can save costs associated with transfer usage. Though the size difference may appear small, for someone running a highly trafficked site, even saving a few kilobytes of size can make a big difference. Further, some believe search engines may look more kindly on standards complaint pages. This is only a theory, though. In a general sense, any page modification that makes the content easier to reach and higher in the code is considered wise. Search engines, so it is believed, prefer to reach content quickly, and give greater weight to the first content they encounter. Using XHTML and “div” layout allows designers to accomplish this task more easily.

Conclusions
XHTML is the current standard set by the W3C. The W3C continues development of XHTML, and XHTML 2.0 will replace the current standard in the future. Learning and using XHTML today will help designers prepare for tomorrow. Valid XTHML produces no errors that might slow down a browser, and the code produced is clean and efficient. This saves in file size and helps designers better accomplish their search engine optimization goals. Learning XHTML is primarily about learning a new way to lay out pages. Though frustrating at first, the long term benefits far outweigh any initial inconvenience.

XHTML – Kicking And Screaming Into The Future

XHTML, the standard, was first released back in 2000. Roughly five years later we begin to see major websites revised to use this standard. Even the favorite whipping boy of standards-compliance punditry, Microsoft, presents their primary homepages, msn.com and microsoft.com in XHTML. Standards compliant XHTML sites are still the minority. The reason is simple. When the W3C released the new standard, the rest of the web running on HTML did not cease to function. Nor will the rest of the web, written in various flavors of HTML, cease to function any time soon. Without any pressing need to conform to the new standard, designers continue to use old, familiar methods. These methods will perform in any modern browser, so why bother switching?

These sentiments are similar to ones I experienced. A kind of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality sets in. Whether HTML was “broken” or not is a different argument. To the casual Internet user, their standards are fairly direct. If a site displays without noticeable error and functions to their satisfaction, these standards are met. Whatever additional steps the browser took to make such display possible is irrelevant to most users. This kind of mentality is difficult to overcome in designers accustomed to their old methods.

Technical obstacles to adopting XHTML may be quite steep as well, especially as regards large, existing websites with complex scripting. Yet the time may eventually come where yesterday’s “tried and true” HTML is little more than an ancient language, unable to be interpreted by modern electronic devices. Whether one agrees with the direction the W3C takes in the development of HTML is irrelevant, you are just along for the ride. With some perseverance, getting the hang of XHTML is possible. In form, it is not as different from HTML as Japanese is from English. Knowing HTML grants a basic knowledge of the language, it simply becomes a matter of learning a particular dialect. Even an original nay-sayer such as myself managed to do it.

Benefits of XHTML
There are 2 primary benefits to using XHTML. First is the strict nature of valid XHTML documents. “Valid” documents contain no errors. Documents with no errors can be parsed more easily by a browser. Though the time saved is, admittedly, negligible from the human user’s point of view, there is a greater efficiency to the browser’s performance. Most modern browsers will function well in what’s usually referred to as “quirks” mode, where, in the absence of any on-page information about the kind of HTML they are reading, present a “best guess” rendering of a page. The quirks mode will also forgive many errors in the HTML. Modern browsers installed on your home computer have the luxury of size and power to deal with these errors. When browser technology makes the leap to other appliances it may not have the size and power to be so forgiving. This is where the strict, valid documents demanded by the XHTML standard become important.

The second benefit is in the code itself, which is cleaner and more compact than common, “table” based layout in HTML. Though XHTML retains table functionality, the standard makes clear tables are not to be used for page layout or anything other than displaying data in a tabular format. This is generally the primary obstacle most designers have with moving to XHTML. The manner in which many designers have come to rely on to layout and organize their pages is now taboo. Simple visual inspection of XHTML code reveals how light and efficient it is in comparison to a table based HTML layout. XHTML makes use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which, when called externally, remove virtually all styling information from the XHTML document itself. This creates a document focused solely on content.

XHTML makes use of “div” tags to define content areas. How these “divisions” are displayed is controlled by CSS. This is known as CSS-P, or CSS Positioning. Trading in “table” tags for “divs” can be tough. Learning a new way of accomplishing an already familiar task is generally difficult. Like learning to use a different design program or image editor, frustration can be constant. Looking at “divs” as a kind of table cell might be helpful, though they are not entirely equivalent. As required by the XHTML standard, always make sure there is a DOC-TYPE definition at the top of the document. This is not only required by the standard, but it will force Internet Explorer 6, currently the most common browser, to enter its “standards compliance” mode. IE6 and Firefox, both operating in standards compliance mode will display XHTML in much the same way. Not identical, but far better than IE6 operating in quirks mode. Learning how to iron out the final differences between displays is the final obstacle and can require a bit of tweaking in the CSS.

Clean code has multiple benefits. It creates a smaller page size which, over time, can save costs associated with transfer usage. Though the size difference may appear small, for someone running a highly trafficked site, even saving a few kilobytes of size can make a big difference. Further, some believe search engines may look more kindly on standards complaint pages. This is only a theory, though. In a general sense, any page modification that makes the content easier to reach and higher in the code is considered wise. Search engines, so it is believed, prefer to reach content quickly, and give greater weight to the first content they encounter. Using XHTML and “div” layout allows designers to accomplish this task more easily.

Conclusions
XHTML is the current standard set by the W3C. The W3C continues development of XHTML, and XHTML 2.0 will replace the current standard in the future. Learning and using XHTML today will help designers prepare for tomorrow. Valid XHTML produces no errors that might slow down a browser, and the code produced is clean and efficient. This saves in file size and helps designers better accomplish their search engine optimization goals. Learning XHTML is primarily about learning a new way to lay out pages. Though frustrating at first, the long term benefits far outweigh any initial inconvenience.

eCommerce Web Site Building: Where Do I Start?

Building a web site isn’t something that is really cut and dry. There’s a huge variety of products and services that can either help you get your web site where you want it or simply confuse you. It’s also important that you make the right choices upfront so that you don’t end up having to restructure your whole web site because of some problem in your design layout. The level of time investment necessary for mastery in a lot of these software packages can range from little to a VERY significant amount. Because of this I feel it’s important to be lead in the “right” direction to make sure you don’t spend time in the wrong areas, or learning some software that might not be all that useful for you later on (*coughs* Frontpage *coughs*).

Where you should start greatly depends on what you plan on attempting to do, and how deep you’re going to dive in. For a moderately professional, clean looking web site without a lot of automation or intensive animated graphics you can probably get by with some basic knowledge of html, ability with a good WYSIWYG editor, and an image editing program. On the other hand, if you’re someone that’s looking to build something that will really wow your audience then you might consider spending some major time and developing some animation skills with a program like Macro media Flash. I personally always spring for what I believe will bring me the greatest amount of profit with a minimal amount of effort, and because of this I usually end up spending all of my time diving in deeper with ONLY my WYSIWYG HTML editor, and my image editor.

## What is a “WYSIWYG” editor? ##
A WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor is what allows you to get by with minimal knowledge of HTML. Yes, that means you don’t have to know EVERYTHING about HTML to have a decent looking website. When you use a WYSIWYG editor it interprets what you’re doing (inserting an image for example) as being a certain series of HTML tags with attributes, and does it for you… Thus, what you see on your screen is what you get. Instead of seeing a bunch of HTML code in text format, you’ll mostly see what will actually show up in your browser once your web site is up WHILE you’re making it. I highly recommend using the latest version of dreamweaver — it is well-known as one of the best HTML editors by general consensus. Dreamweaver’s interface is very friendly, has a built in FTP client, and is specifically built to be flexible enough to suit both the coder and the everyday amatuer webmaster.

## Image editing? What do I need that for? ##
Okay, let’s be realistic here: If you’re going to make a professional *appearing* web site it’s important that you can make some basic, decent looking graphics. There’s a lot of graphics problems that can truly get the job done, but as far as power and flexibility goes I recommend Adobe Photoshop. Adobe Photoshop definitely takes some time getting used to, but in the end it’s VERY rewarding. I’ve ended up using my knowledge of Photoshop to make not only graphics for multiple web sites, but also touched up portraits, made business cards, flyers, and other online advertisments such as banners. In fact, I’ve used it for everything except animation… But it also comes with Adobe Image-ready which is very good with animation. This software is amazing, and if you’re going to learn ANY image editing software I recommend you start with Photoshop because of it’s wide range of overall… usefulness!

## Let’s get me some sales! ##
Kick off your new web site you’ve gotten up from your knowledge of web mastering and image editing with a few new sales… Sounds like a plan? Well a great way to do that quickly is with pay-per-click advertising. BUT WAIT! Doesn’t that cost money? Well… Yes. But with the tools brought to us by some of the biggest pay-per-click advertisers out there we should be able to make a good evaluation of how much profit we’re going to make without much investment upfront.

The big question behind pay-per-click advertising is whether or not it’s worth the cash when you can simply get traffic from regular search engine ranking (otherwise known as organic traffic). After all, there are plenty of companies out there that promise to help get you all the traffic you need through optimizing your web site for organic ranking. The answer to this question is quite simple: profit is profit. Through conversion tracking tools such as those offered by Yahoo! Search Marketing and Google Adwords anyone can calculate exactly what their profit is after cost of PPC advertising is taken out. In my opinion, Google Adwords has the most user-friendly interface among the PPC advertisers. Google Adword’s interface makes it very easy to see which keywords are pulling you in the most sales, and which ones aren’t even worth your advertising money.

Let us not forget, however, that in order to make those conversions we’re going to be needing a shopping cart! There’s a lot of diverse software packages out there you can use, but I’ve been using Mal’s E-Commerce Free shopping cart for a number of years with great success. The cart’s server is hosted on their machines so that means you not only get away with not having to pay for the software itself, but you get out of having to buy an SSL security ticket too! Nothing’s a better bargain than free, eh?

## Getting those sales leads you’ve been building up to BUY! ##

Once you’ve scored a few sales it would probably be a good idea to start using some kind of lead management services. I highly recommend the use of auto responders for this purpose. Auto responders are, essentially, a newsletter sign-up that allows you to strategically determine what you want to send each lead after a certain allotted amount of time. For example, let’s say someone visits your web site and you offer them a free newsletter. If you were selling an ebook on some very complicated topic, you might consider sending them only information on the most basic concepts at first to get them interested. Slowly but surely, you can turn those visitors that might have left your web site and never have returned into some serious revenue!