Friday, 22 February 2008

Website & Content Standards (Revised)

The online experience of guests at Writers Block Tower is important to me. Here is how I approach the design and writing process. Quality is at the centre of my objectives.

Basic Standards:

1. Pictures displayed here are optimised and enhanced jpegs or gifs using ACDSee ™ Version 3.1. Benefits to guests are faster page loading.

2. All files here are scanned for viruses and spyware before upload to blogger or my sister server site at Googlepages­.

3. All written content included here is proofed for spelling errors and re-written where unclear or grammatically suspect.

4. All links included are checked they remain operational, current and go to sites that do not load suspicious 'scripts', spyware or annoying popups.

The "Advert-Free" Ethos:

There's no evidence I can find that advertising on websites improves a visitor's experience. On the contrary, annoying pop-ups and adverts immaterial to a site's aims drive me away. Products and services that could yield significant benefits for guests should be carefully reviewed. So, I will consider a section here at WBT on that basis.

Avoiding Bad Design:

I appreciate sites that have clear, well-structured design which encourages easy navigation with thoughtful colour schemes. So, I am sure you do, too. What I found hampered my efforts are two basic facts of life:-

1. I am not a highly skilled web-designer.
2. I do not have indepth knowledge of the best hosts (platform to distribute content).

The way I overcame these hurdles was by researching the best designs, blogger sites and tutorial sites I could find online and implementing their principles. I also asked friends and family who run websites for tips.

Best Designs.

My findings on this topic suggest that homepages should be kept simple and informative. A welcoming picture of the site owner and introduction stating clear site aims appears to be appreciated by visitors, as is a clear menu structure. Overuse of animation and graphics are not favoured and can cause slow page-loading, or even browser freeze.

I recommend Photoshop ™ Software to make a more professional graphic-header due to its feature-rich functions. Some tutoring is needed to use Photoshop effectively. Many tutorials can be found online although, I personally, was disappointed with their lack of clarity.

Blogger Community Sites:

There are some wonderful ones available online to assist new bloggers. A modicum of patience is needed if one is new to coding in XHTML. (In fact, gaining the necessary XHTML skills and experimenting with template, image presentation and graphics took me a year to master).

Blogger sites I find particularly helpful are :

Blogger Help Forums

Extensive database with searchable help groups that are a goldmine for new bloggers.

Random Bytes - Weblens Blog

Pam Blackstone's well-written, informative site that I found invaluable when re-designing and understanding the minima html template. Pam clearly describes considerations such as implementing header logos and column inclusion on blogger homepages.


An improvement blog I wish I'd discovered earlier. Like Pam Blackstone, Amanda Fazani is an experienced writer and it shows. Superb range of articles, clear coding examples, practical and thorough. Nominated for Best Blog Design. Demonstates the potential of blogsites. Bookmarkable all day long.

Website Implementation - Technology & Skills Required:

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) & XHTML (Extensible Markup Language)

The code our browsers process when we visit webpages. A basic knowledge of "markup" goes a long way towards improving webguest experience. There are many basic guides online, although its worth noting "New Blogger" (sometimes still referred to as "Beta Blogger") requires XHTML (sometimes referred to as XML) inline with W3C's coding standards: XHTML 1.0 Strict

A superb online tutorial in XHTML exists here

Writer's Note: My approach at Writers Block Tower is to work towards better XHTML validation for the benefit of visiting guests. To do this I utilize: W3C XML Parser (A markup error checker)

CSS - Cascading Stylesheet Specification

CSS (widely called cascading style sheets) add function, style and colour to one's website. I, personally, found the coding of these beyond my expertise. There's alot of information about CSS on the Net, but not much I could find for beginners. CSS integrates with XHTML on one's chosen template.

The Flash ™ Authoring Tool.

A script technology program that adds animations and video/audio to websites. Although this software is used on many websites (particularly professional ones) I struggled with it. I was also hampered from running the program on my PC, due to my outdated operating system.

The best way to learn flash programming, I am reliably informed, is by installing the flash authoring tool on one's PC, accessing the help files and experimenting. Microsoft Windows ™ XP will be needed.

Later Versions Of The Flash Authoring Tool are:

Macromedia ™ Flash Basic 8 - (Released 2005)
Adobe ™ Flash CS3 Professional - (Released 2007)

Writer's Note: The Flash Authoring Tool should not be confused with the much smaller flash player program that modern browsers utilize to play flash content.

Browser Compatibility:

It's a courtesy to ensure one's website works well with all browsers available. It's not that difficult to find and test xhtml code and javascript that works across the browser platforms. Here at Writers Block Tower I make this extra effort for my guests.