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Where to Draw the CSS Line

Posted on: 9/15/2008 9:00:10 AM under Web Design » Tips 
 
Stefan at KillerSites.com raises some good points about CSS. In his recent post, he talks about the limitations of CSS, and -- perhaps more interestingly -- why those limitations exist.

CSS is very powerful for many reasons. It is great for "standardizing" your websites, especially if you design for a living. Once you have your basic template, you simply tweak those values to give each client a unique palette of colors, fonts, and backgrounds. It also helps keep your pages organized and makes SEO efforts more efficient.

However as Stefan points out, using CSS to completely design a page can be counter-productive. It is not a programming language like VBScript, yet essentially that is how people are using it.

So where do you draw the CSS line?

That's a personal choice. At DMXReady, we feel that if you start having to make "work-arounds" for IE (still the world's most popular browser by far) then you have probably crossed the line. In essence, using tables is still the easiest way to organize page elements and ensure that your page will look the same across all browsers. This is especially true for beginner web designers.

The other method, and one that Stefan mentions, is to start with a CSS template. In most cases, these have already been cross-browser tested, so that you don't have to worry so much about these issues. The work-arounds are all included as well (though we still recommend browser testing before you send your website live!).

It is good to learn the basics of CSS. And it is likely that in the future, it will become a more efficient method of designing web pages -- especially as web browsers continue to accept CSS standards. But for now, draw the line at your comfort level. If you don't want to "de-bug" your website, stick with tables for your design layout, and use CSS for the basics like color and fonts.

The DMXReady Team

 
 

Using Color Effectively

Posted on: 9/11/2008 1:13:08 PM under Web Design » Tips 
 
We’ve all seen this before: you surf the web for some information and come across a very colorful (and very loud!) website. The designer obviously had fun with this one. The only problem is that it is very difficult to read the white text on the screaming orange background. Not that the flashing symphony of colors in the background would let us read anything anyway…

Yet it is easy enough to fall into the same trap ourselves. We might not create the Herb Tarlek of websites, but we may forget the most important rule of web design: don’t let it get in the way of the content!

Except for the rare occasion where the visuals carry the story, your visitors are there to read information. Reading on a screen is a challenge for most people as it is, and crazy color palettes can just make it worse.

Aim to make the main content area as easy to read as possible. Black lettering on a white background is usually the easiest to read. But even this is flexible – try dark grey for a more soothing effect.

This does not mean, of course, that you need a plain black and white website. Add photos or images throughout your main content area to take away the starkness of the white background. Add color to your headers – these short pieces of text are usually bigger and easier to read anyway, and injecting color here can really keep interest in the main text. And of course, color all around your main content area is definitely encouraged.

A simple rule to remember: the color, design, and layout are what attracts readers but it is the content itself that people are there for.

The DMXReady Team
 
 

Avoid Spam - Hide Your Email

Posted on: 9/8/2008 9:35:04 AM under ASP » Scripts and Tips 
 
Spammers use bots called email harvesters to spider websites all across the Internet and collect email addresses. Most look for the basic "yourname@yourdomain.com" arrangement. You can avoid getting your email (or those of your clients) scraped using a simple encoding method. There are actually several different ways to do this -- just Google "email encoding".

Here is one JavaScript method:

<script language="JavaScript"> <!--
document.write ('<A HREF="mai')
document.write ('lto:yourn')
document.write ('ame')
document.write ('&#64;')
document.write ('yourd')
document.write ('omain.com">contact')
document.write ('yourname')
document.write ('&#64;')
document.write ('yourdo')
document.write ('main.com</A>')
// -->
</script>




Note that no method is perfect -- email harvesters are becoming more sophisticated all the time. But this will at least allow you to confuse the majority of spammers.

The DMXReady Team
 
 

Google Chrome - A Glimpse of the Future?

Posted on: 9/4/2008 10:46:57 AM under General » Browsers 
 
Although it may not be apparent right now, Google Chrome may represent a serious turning point for the Internet, and the way that we interact with websites. Google Chrome is described as a "browser" but the media giant seems to be prepping users for something very different than your standard web brower.

For one thing, it handles web page information more like applications than content. The example Google gives in its descriptive comic book is a JavaScript application. In a standard single-thread browser, the user cannot do anything until the JavaScript stops running and returns control back to the browser. But Google Chrome can handle what it calls "multi-threads" or, to take it one step further, multi-processes.

This is where things start to really get interesting. The most telling quote is this one: "We're applying the same kind of process isolation you find in modern operating systems" (emphasis ours). Yes, Chrome not only represents Google's first browser, but is also the forerunner of its first operating system. In fact, it seems it will be an operating system that will essentially integrate the Internet rather than have it running as a separate process. Our computers will become little more than a workstation on a global network.

In retrospect, this shouldn't be too surprising. Google has been preparing us for a 100% online world for quite a while now with things like Google Docs and Calendar. We were quite sure how that would work, but Chrome may just well be a glimpse of our online future.

So what does this mean for web designers? Will the website as we know it disappear? Perhaps. Websites of today look nothing like they did on Netscape Navigator 1.0. In another 15 years, websites will probably look just as different. But what hasn't (and what won't) change is the need for designers to build and maintain those sites. We may be doing it differently, but we'll still be doing it.

The DMXReady Team

 
 

CMS Dress for Success!

Posted on: 8/26/2008 9:02:05 AM under DMXReady » Product Tips 
 
Content Management Systems, or CMS, are very easy to use. That being said, your clients still might have a natural fear of the "technology" behind it. Yes, if they know Word and they know how to open a web browser, they will be able to update their content (using DMXReady applications, anyway -- we can't vouch for other systems!). But sometimes there will be a bit of hand-holding on your part to launch the CMS. Here are a few ways to make that easier:

Go Through the CMS With Your Client

Walking your client through the CMS is the best way to get them familiar with the system. If you can do it in their office, all the better, but usually the CMS is user-friendly enough that simply walking through it over the phone will be enough. Make sure too that you point out the Help files. Once they've seen how the CMS works and know where they can get help, they will be much more comfortable going on their own.

Create "Editable" Areas

Sometimes giving your client too much freedom is a bad thing. You want to make editing or even adding new pages as easy as possible. You can do this by making each web page "modular" with editable areas. For example, keep images the same size and at the same spot so your client simply has to replace it with their new image. Text is the same thing -- they can add/remove/change their own text in the same spot without disturbing the overall design.

You can also save generic templates that they can copy so that anytime they want to add a new page, they have something to work from. This way they have the freedom of managing their own content without disturbing the main design.

Train the Eager Staff First

If your client has more than one person who will be using the CMS, go through it with the person who seems most eager to learn it. Not only will it be easier for to teach someone who wants to learn, but that person will most likely pick it up faster and be the person in the office that fields questions from the others -- taking some of this responsibility off your own shoulders.

A CMS system is designed to make things easier for your client. But you have to remember that things that seem "obvious" to you may not be so obvious for a worker who is suspicious of technology. Fear, anxiety, even an unwillingness to learn will make it difficult sometimes. But once you push through that with your client, it will be easier for both of you in the long run.

The DMXReady Team
 
 
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