Tag Archives: Web Development

Streamline Your Website Pages

Squeezing the most efficient performance from your web pages is important. The benefits are universal, whether the site is personal or large and professional. Reducing page weight can speed up the browsing experience, especially if your visitors are using dial-up internet access. Though broadband access is the future, the present still contains a great deal of dial-up users. Many sites, ecommerce sites especially, cannot afford to ignore this large section of the market. Sites with a large amount of unique traffic may also save on their total monthly traffic by slimming down their web pages. This article will cover the basics of on-page optimization in both text/code and graphics.

Graphics

Graphics are the usual suspect on heavy pages. Either as a result of a highly graphic design, or a few poorly optimized images, graphics can significantly extend the load-time of a web page. The first step in graphics optimization is very basic. Decide if the graphics are absolutely necessary and simply eliminate or move the ones that aren’t. Removing large graphics from the homepage to a separate gallery will likely increase the number of visitors who “hang around” to let the homepage load. Separating larger photos or art to a gallery also provides the opportunity to provide fair warning to users clicking on the gallery that it may take longer to load. In the case of graphical buttons, consider the use of text based, CSS-styled buttons instead. Sites that use a highly graphic design, a common theme in website “templates”, need to optimize their graphics as best as possible.

Graphics optimization first involves selecting the appropriate file type for your image. Though this topic alone is fodder for far more in depth analysis, I will touch on it briefly. Images come in 2 basic varieties, those that are photographic in nature, and those that are graphic in nature. Photographs have a large array of colors all jumbled together in what’s referred to as continuous tone. Graphics, such as business logos, are generally smooth, crisp and have large areas of the same color. Photographs are best compressed into “JPEGs”. The “Joint Photographic Expert Group” format can successfully compress large photos down to very manageable sizes. It is usually applied on a sliding “quality” scale between 1-100, 1 being the most compressed and lowest quality, 100 the least and highest quality. JPEG is a “lossy” compression algorithm, meaning it “destroys” image information when applied, so always keep a copy of the original file. Graphics and logos generally work best in the “GIF”, or more recently, the “PNG” format. These formats are more efficient than JPEGs at reducing the size of images with large areas of similar color, such as logos or graphical text.

A few general notes on other media are appropriate. Other types of media such as Flash or sound files also slow down a page. The first rule is always the same, consider whether they are absolutely necessary. If you are choosing to build the site entirely in Flash, then make sure the individual sections and elements are as well compressed as possible. In the case of music, I will admit to personal bias here and paraphrase a brilliant old saying, “Websites should be seen and not heard.” Simply, music playing in the background will not “enhance” any browsing experience.

Text and Code

The most weight to be trimmed on a page will come from graphical and media elements, but it is possible to shed a few extra bytes by looking at the text and code of a web page. In terms of actual text content, there may not be much to do here. A page’s content is key not only to the user’s understanding but also search engine ranking. Removing or better organizing content is only necessary in extreme situations, where more than page weight is an issue. An example might be a long, text heavy web page requiring a lengthy vertical scrolling to finish. Such a page is common on “infomercial” sites, and violates basic design tenants beyond those related to page weight.

Code is a different story. A website’s code can be made more efficient in a variety of fashions. First, via the use of CSS, all style elements of a web page can now be called via an external file. This same file can be called on all a site’s pages, providing for a uniform look and feel. Not only is this more efficient; it is also the official recommendation from the W3C. The same may be said of XHTML and the abandonment of “table” based layout. Tables, though effective for layout, produce more code than equivalent XHTML layouts using “div” tags. Where a minimum of 3 tags are required to create a “box” with content in a table, only 1 is needed using divisions. Using XHTML and CSS in combination can significantly reduce the amount of “on page” code required by a web page. A final, relatively insignificant trick is the removal of all “white space” from your code. Browsers don’t require it; it is primarily so authors can readily read and interpret the code. The savings are minimal at best, but for sites that receive an extreme amount of traffic, even a few saved bytes will add up over time.

Conclusions

Target images and media files first when seeking to reduce the weight of a page. They are the largest components of overall page weight and simply removing them can significantly reduce total weight. The images that remain should be optimally compressed into a format appropriate for their type, photos or graphics. Avoid huge blocks of text that cause unnecessary vertical scrolling. Organize the site more efficiently to spread the information across multiple pages. Adopt XHTML and CSS to reduce the size of the on-page code, and call the CSS externally. These tips should help reduce the size of your pages and speed their delivery to your viewers.

Web Hosting Basics

If you have decided you or your company is in need of a website, you will have to purchase web hosting services from a hosting company. There are many different web-hosting companies to choose from, and they can easily be found on the internet. If you do a quick search for them in any search engine, you will find that there are almost too many to count. Choosing the company that is right for you can be a harrowing experience, but there are really only a few basic things to consider.

The first factor to consider when choosing a web hosting company is how much space they will give you for your account. If you merely want a single page on the Internet with little or no graphics, you can get by with purchasing an account with the smallest amount of space available. However, if you are planning to create a full e-commerce site with multiple pages and order forms, you will need to make sure you have enough server space to support your entire operation.

Before you sign your web-hosting contract, you will first have to choose and purchase a domain name. Though many of the names you might want are already taken, you can often find one that suits your needs, especially if you get creative with it. For instance, if your business is called Cards For You and that domain name is already taken, you might consider choosing More Cards For You or Cards For You Today. The possibilities are endless, and with a little thought you will be able to think of a snappy domain name.

You can often purchase a domain name through your web hosting company, or you can purchase it through a private domain name retailer. These companies are very easy to find. Often times, if you type the domain name you want into a search engine, a domain name seller will pop up if the name is not already taken. You can purchase a domain name for a year at a time, or for several years, depending on how much you want to invest at the get-go.

Once you have a domain name, you will of course have to create a website to put on the Internet. There are many do-it-yourself web design programs that are fairly user friendly. Software like FrontPage makes web design a cut and paste, fill in the blank soft of affair. However, if you would like a more professional look, you can use programs like Dreamweaver or Image Ready to make your sites. There are always freelance web designers looking for work who are ready to take on your cause if you are not savvy enough to do it yourself.

Web hosting companies give passwords to allow you access your space on their servers. You can upload files and pages using their own interface programs, or you can utilize the upload tools built in to your web design program. Once you upload a page, it is important to make sure it looks correct on a variety of different web browsers. Because each browser interprets information differently, you may run into trouble if you build a site while only previewing it in Internet Explorer. There are often compatibility issues between Safari and Mozilla browsers that distort site tables and images.

However, once you work out the kinks and create an excellent site, all you have to do is pay your web hosting bills, and your site will be available for the whole world to see. Web hosting companies usually offer options regarding payment plans. You can pay for a year at a time, or you can monthly or quarterly to maintain your place on the World Wide Web.

Web Hosting & Web Development: Unravel the Technobabble and Create a Great Site

If you’ve ever browsed the World Wide Web and wondered how you could stake your claim on the Internet, like the millions of others that have done so already, then web hosting can provide you with the services to do just that. The Internet is a great way of sharing information and it is possible for you to take a portion of the web and make it your own. This article introduces the term “web hosting” and provides some useful tips for web development once you’ve obtained some web space.

What is the World Wide Web?
The “World Wide Web” is the network of computers from all over the world that communicate with each other using the HTTP protocol, a language that allows the transmission of web documents. Be careful as this term is not synonymous with the “Internet” because it is defined as a network of networks, where the computers communicate with protocols other than HTTP. The web is what you see on your Internet browser, the web pages complete with graphics, sound and other information. All this has got to come from somewhere, and this is where web hosting comes in.

Web Hosting
The information that you see from your web browser is contained in web pages. These web pages are kept on computers called web servers. Web hosting is about the storage of the web pages so that people can access them. It is possible to host your own websites yourself but the reasons stopping most people doing this is that there are issues to consider with having the right hardware and software to successfully host your web pages. Your web pages will take a certain amount of space, users will need to download each page to view them and your Internet connection needs to be fast to offer good performance to your viewers. Using specialized companies that offer web hosting capabilities on their web servers will take most of these worries away from you but you will need to choose wisely and weigh up the costs and your needs. In addition to having access to a web server, you will also need to register a domain name (for a cost) that uniquely identifies your website.

What Web Hosting Can Do For You
The most basic service that web hosting offers is that it exposes your web pages for others to see. The other services are: email capabilities that allow for email to be received and sent from your server; database capabilities that allow for large amounts of information to be updated and accessed on the web; and dynamic content which allows for users to interact with the web pages you’ve made.

Website Development
Poorly designed websites will most likely turn away users and harm the credibility of the information it contains. Thought should be put in on the way it looks and the way you intend your users to interact with the content. It is also recommended for more complex websites, a structured development process should be followed. Here is a guide to the logical steps of web development:
· Requirements Analysis: What is the purpose of the website? What content should it contain?
· Design: How should the pages be linked? What structure should they take? How should the pages interact with the user?
· Implementation: This step is the actual coding of the websites in accordance to the previous websites.
· Testing: Does the website do what it should?
· Maintenance: Is the information on the website up-to-date?

Some useful hints for web development below are taken from software quality aspects but they apply to the development of websites as well. They are described in terms of web development:

Reliability: Is the website reliable? Do faults allow for the system to continue running?
Robustness: How does the website respond to incorrect input?
Performance: How fast does the web page respond to user’s actions? Is it efficient in processing requests and inputs?
Usability: Is the website easy to navigate and understand?
Maintainability: Is the website easy to change? Can new functionality be added?
Portability: What software requirements does the website require? Will this limit the amount of potential users?
Understandability: How well do you understand the website you’ve developed?

When designing your website, keep these quality aspects in mind as they will help you develop pages worth visiting. How to choose the way to host your website is half of the problem, the other half is to create a website that people would want to visit and come back to. Knowledge of producing a good design can help you get the most out of your creations.