smash_it for Fireworks

by cdwise 4. October 2008 07:07

Here at Webmaster Jam Chris Heilmann showed this lovely Firefox extension smush-it.com that will optimize images on any web page. It does not change image quality but reduces file size by taking out the information a camera, or graphics editor adds to images for its own use. Kewl, the first new tool I will add from this conference.

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Web Design

Hurricane Ike

by cdwise 18. September 2008 23:23

Many of you know I live in the Houston metro area. As of today we ore still without power and internet. We do have generator and sometimes I can get a cellular data connection. Many towers were damaged so that isn't quite as easy to get or normal since voice is getting priority over data on the cellular connections.

My husband has been walking around our neighborhood with a camera so I have used one of the default galleries from Project Seven to quickly parts them up at http://cheryldwise.com/albums/ike1/index.asp  if you are interested. Despite the Number of 40 foot plus trees down remarkably few houses were hit but it has taken a toll on own power lines.

We have been been lucky with the weather since Ike has passed with lows around 60 and highs around 80, may to continue until the power is back on throughout the area.

BTW, if you are wondering how I posted this and the galleries sans power my local Starbucks has power and they have opened their internet connection for free use.

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Misc

Expression Web Survey

by cdwise 11. September 2008 07:18

Over on the Microsoft Expression Community forum they have posted a  link to the survey  asking users of Expression Web to prioritize what they would like to see in the next version of Expression Web.

Left off the Survey:

They left off their survey choices several things that I would like to see which are:

  • The ability to customize the toolbox - there are html elements I would like to add there and it would make it much easier for people to create add-ins if it supported custom controls.
  • The ability to integrate with source control for those who are working in more than one program. Most of the people who I've talked to would like to see integration with Visual Studio Team Services.
  • Improve the FTP client, make it faster, compatible with Windows Server 2008, add the ability to set file permissions if you are connected to a Linux server using chmod and htaccess.
  • The other thing I would like to see is for Expression Web to watch for updates to files outside of Expression Web. If I've opened a page in some other program whether it is Visual Web Developer Express, TopStyle (I still occasionally use it primarily to reorder my stylesheet and format it according to the more flexible options in TopStyle), a graphics program or whatever Expression doesn't recognize the changes or prompt me to reload. That has caused the work done in an external editor to be overwritten on occasion which is rather annoying.

A couple of bugs I'd like to see fixed are:

  • The inability to FTP to a Windows 2008 server because the FTP client in Expression Web doesn't allow the pipe "|" character in user names, sigh.
  • The bug that prevents many people (me included) from seeing thumbnails of images they want to insert into their web pages using the browse button on the Insert Picture dialog box. It is rather annoying to have to open an Windows Explorer window to see them, get the file name then insert in Expression Web. Bad workflow there.

What would you like to see that was left off the Microsoft feature list?

The MS Public Forum

Speaking of bugs and improvement needed how about fixing some of the major issues with the Microsoft Expression Web Forum?

I would like to reliably be able to post replies when I click the submit button. 80% or more of the time using the submit button does not submit my posts. Since the latest update (that changed the url to http://social.expression.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/ which with the word "social" in the url is blocked by the corporate firewall of two of my students) I have been able to submit only one post by clicking the submit button. What I have to do is (using IE 7 on Vista Ultimate):

  1. Visit the forum.
  2. Login - which can take 30 sec to 2 min. depending on how well the Live sign in servers are working.
  3. Use the dropdown arrow to expand a topic to view its thread.
  4. If I wish to quote part of the question or a post in the thread go to html view to add <div class="quote"> or <blockquote> to use the proper html mark-up since quoting is not available unless you go to thread view, (more clicks and time wasting)
  5. Type in my reply then hit the submit button. Wait a few seconds to see if it will post or to see if there is a slight quiver to my browser window which tells me that the submit has failed.
  6. In the case of the submit button not working (remember that is at least 80% of the time) highlight my post and copy it using a keyboard shortcut so I don't get the alert box asking me to allow IE access to my clipboard. Then use the refresh button on my browser.
  7. Let's see some of your list so we can support each other in what we want to see in the next version (or maybe a service pack since MS isn't really clear why they are asking.)
  8. In most cases this will submit my post but it will also collapse open thread and return me to the top of the page, sigh.
  9. In a minority of cases, say less than 5% when I refresh I get logged out. I will admit that since the update yesterday I have not been logged out when refreshing to submit a post but I have to log in every time through Live since my credentials are not remembered.

I really hate to say it but I think the FrontPage 98 Discussion Board was more user friendly.

Oh, it would also help if you could search just one section of the forum such as just the Expression Web section.

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Expression Web

Website Dos and Don'ts

by cdwise 31. August 2008 12:35

Today I was looking at some of my old articles and realized that just because I wrote something a few years ago doesn't mean that it has lost its relevance to today's Internet. A prime example is an article I wrote almost five years ago called website dos and don'ts as part of a presentation I did to the Houston Area League of PC Users (http://www.hal-pc.org).

I'm going to repeat my article below with a few annotations (in purple):

What your site should always have:

A Domain Name: In an ideal world you would have your business name as your domain name.
Unfortunately that isn't always possible since the same name maybe used by more than one business. If you can't get the exact business name try variations that may include you geographic location such as BusinessNameHouston.com or BusinessNameTexas.com.
While having the .net name or one of the soon to be released Top Level Domain names such as BusinessName.net, BusinessName.us (country code) or BusinessName.biz maybe an acceptable alternative most people expect a business to have a .com extension.

A homepage that loads quickly. The main Web page for a business should load in 10-15 seconds or less.The biggest mistake made by new businesses on the net is trying to impress customers with a fancy, super-duper all-action web page that takes 10 minutes to load. Problem is, after the first 30 seconds your potential customer is gone! He or she is off surfing a competitor's page.
Only after you have captured a customer's interest, you can get a little fancier on your internal pages. Customers will wait longer once you have their attention. If your page will take longer than 30-45 seconds to load make sure that enough of the page loads during that time so that the customer can see that it is worth waiting for. Bandwidth can kill you! Just because it loads quickly on your high speed broadband connection don't expect your customer's to have the same quality connection. Remember that many people are using cellular devices such as iPhones, Blackberries and Windows Mobile phones to access the web. Optimize your site for a connection no faster than 40kb or to be safer still 28.8kb.

Contact information: If the customer can't find out who you are, where you are physically located and how to reach you by telephone and email the customer is not likely to have enough confidence in your company to do business with you. If this information is not on every page of your site a link to it should be.

Effective Site Navigation: Your site needs to be well organized and easy to navigate so that your customer or potential customer can find out the information they need to do business with you.
Simple, descriptive links that tell the customer where to find the product information, full description, price and any other information you would like to know before placing an order make doing business with you a pleasure. Customers who can't find what they are looking for within 3-4 clicks will click their way right off your site and over to a competitor.
Keep a link back to your home page on every page of your site. Give serious consideration to keeping the main category links available on each page as well.

Product Pictures: If you are selling products as opposed to services you should provide good clear pictures. Start with a small thumbnail photo and link it to a larger picture that will provide clear detail. Pictures should be optimized to load quickly but still maintain sharp quality. There are many creative but quickly loading photo galleries and other techniques such as lightboxes that give you options not available even 2-3 years ago, use them.

Appropriate Meta Tags: Carefully drawn up keywords and site description so that you attract those visitors looking for products and services your business provides. "Hits" on your website are not the goal. Being found by customers and potential customers is what your site is there for, properly crafted meta tags and page titles help reach that goal. Meta keywords are not as important as they used to be but as long as you don't try to stuff everything under the sun in them they may still be useful, if only to help you focus on what the page is about. Some search engines will display your description text so if you use the description meta make sure it is accurate.

Accessibility & Compatibility: Make your site friendly to those who are not using the "latest and greatest" technology. Also, consider those who use alternative devices to access the Internet whether it is a screen reader for the visually impaired or a net appliance for the "technology challenged".
Check your site for compliance with Section 508 of the American's with Disabilities Act, especially if you do business with the government or want to do business with any branch of the government.
Check your site in different web browsers and at different screen resolutions. While the most common screen resolution at this time is 800x600 screen resolutions can range from 544x372 (WebTV) to 1600x1200. While the vast majority of people are using version 4+ browsers it still pays to take a look at your site in at least Internet Explorer 5/6 and Netscape 4.x/6 to see how your customer maybe seeing your site. Depending on your target audience you may also want to view it in AOL and/or on one of the web appliances such as WebTV or AOLTV.

What a business site should not have:

Use A Free Hosting Service: Having a url like http://tripod.com/~businessname not only give you an unprofessional appearance after all how successful can a company be that can't even afford $15 $8 to register a domain name) but the advertising required by the free hosts are designed to take visitors from your site to someone who had paid the free host to send them customers. It could even be a direct competitor of your business.

"Cool Stuff" that serves no direct purpose on your website, such as: Sound: Unless sound is an essential part of your business sound does not belong on a business website. If you have a business reason for using sound, do not have it start automatically on page load. At a minimum give visitors the option to turn the sound off without having to turn off their speakers.

Animation: Excessive animation has several drawbacks. It has a bad effect on page load times. Why not?

  • It is associated with off site advertising.
  • It distracts visitors from other usually more important content on the page. There are exceptions which include small carefully selected and targeted animations appropriate to the company's business or part of the website's logo.

*Exception:Used sparingly animations can be an effective tool but used inappropriately they give an unprofessional business image.

Background: Busy or bright colored backgrounds can interfere with getting your message across to your customer. In most business sites the message is in the text. This doesn't mean that you have to stick to black text on a white background. Just make sure that the text is clear, easy to read and that the background does not significantly increase the load time of the page.

Multimedia: While a fancy introduction can be "cool" consider the following before adding animation to your site: Why you are using multimedia?

  • Does it serve a valid business Is it there "just because you (or your webmaster) knows how to do it?
  • Is that java wave applet really appropriate to your company's business service or product line?
  • Remember the golden rule about download times, if the application or multimedia doesn't serve a useful functional purpose think carefully before putting it on your site.

If the application does serve a business function then load it via link that provides a clear description of what will be loaded including what technology is need to view it such as Flash 4/5 player, Real Media Player, Windows Media Player, QuickTime, etc..

Small Fonts and Wide Pages: The screen does not have the same resolution as paper and small fonts are difficult to read. Remember the different screen resolutions available? What looks fine to your 20 something webmaster on his 19" digital monitor at 1024x768 maybe unreadable on your customer's 3 year old 15" 800x600 monitor especially when the customer has to continually scroll side to side in order to attempt to read the line of text.

So what do you think? Are the guidelines above still relevant?

 

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Blogging Tools for Mac?

by cdwise 17. August 2008 23:17

Like most professional front-end web developers I have both Mac and Windows computers around. Lately I've been taking with several others about Windows Live Writer which I totally adore. I love the way I can use it offline, add images, videos, and a whole bunchof other stuff to my blog. Then tag it, spell check and sent it up to either my WordPress or my Community Server based blog. 

Others use it with Windows Live spaces, SharePoint based blogs, Movable Type, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, PBlogs, MetaWeblog API and other blogs that support RSD (Really Simple Discoverability).

While I have Windows installed on my Mac via Parallels, I was wondering if there was a Mac equivalent to Windows Live Writer, preferably like Live Writer a free tool.

So tell me what is the best tool for creating posts when not connected to the net to upload once connected when using a Mac?

 

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Mac



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