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Appendix 1: Golden Rules

Here is a good list of rules for web design - you may wish to refer to this when you come to actually build your own web site.

TEXT: keep it readable: use sensible size/colour fonts and avoid "blinking" text. Break text up in nice little paragraphs to make it less scary!! Also avoid capitals (other than for headings and occasional emphasis) unless you really want visitors to your site to assume you are shouting at them! I use uppercase on this site purely for emphasis. A browser does not differentiate between upper and lower case in the HTML tags, but I do! So it is that I sometimes capitalise my HTML tags - it just helps me locate the code easier! In a similar way, this is why you see some funny spacing (especially around tables) in the source code pages. These spaces mean something "very" significant to me, but they mean nuffink to a browser!

BE LIVE, BE FREE: remember: the magic of the web is the unique freedom of expression it provides - "webergy" is powerful, so feel the force and let your writing and creativity flow free - though don't be offensive or libellous: at best you will have your site removed by your ISP; at worst you could find yourself in court!

BACKGROUNDS: make sure you can read the text easily atop them: light coloured text goes with dark backgrounds, and dark coloured text with paler backgrounds.

GRAPHICS: are byte intensive: keep them small and avoid "bloat" (i.e. over-designing) otherwise you will irritate people with lengthy download time. If you wish to include byte-intensive graphics (as I have with my artwork) it is webiquette to warn people in the link with a little informational text telling them how big the file is, thus warning them they may have to wait awhile! It is also, and for the same reasons, a good idea to use thumbnail images to link to a larger image that the visitor can select if they want to, rather than them having no choice and have the whole bloomin' lot streaming down the phoneline making them wait!

ANIMATIONS: avoid too many animated gifs. These are great in the right places, but not where you don't want people to be so distracted by them that the significance of what you are trying to communicate gets obscured within the "eye candy"! Also, you can do some majorly cool stuff with Macromedia type products, such as "Shockwave" (go to my links page), but remember that not everyone has browsers and plug-ins that can deal with this!

UPDATE IT: visit your site frequently: make sure the links still work, and change things from time to time, for "ghost" sites make the web a dead place! As an example, you can use JavaScript to rotate the graphics appearing from day to day (check out my links page for more info, and I may add info on this at a later date when I've time!).

NAVIGATION: ensure every page contains a link to your index (home) page, and "forward" and "back" links - and make sure they *work*! I didn't check these properly when I once put a web site for a client on the web - I just forgot! It was very embarrassing to have the client tell me that their site didn't work!

MAILTO: make sure you put in your email address and put a note asking for feedback! This is great fun as if you do yourself a groovy site, you will be amazed at how many people from all over the world will contact you to discuss your site. The web is a friendly place - mostly! I have had people of all nationalities (thanks to them) writing to me as a result of my site, and however busy I am, this remains a major thrill: it tells me that, somewhere on this planet, I have reached out and touched someone's mind. Now that is pretty powerful stuff, and a great honour that they write to me! However, be aware that there are automated programs that scour the web for e-mail addresses in order to launch spam on them. If you want to avoid this, you can remove the mailto link and simply display your address using the word "at" in place of the @ symbol, or you can design a small graphic to display your e-mail address which is the most effective way to avoid spambots adding your mail address to their list! This does mean the user will have to manually type in your e-mail address in their mail client to send you an e-mail, but most users now understand the spam problem.

TRAFFIC: Meta Tags are what the search engines use to index your site. You can see how I have done mine by looking at the source code of my "Index.htm" start page. But in addition, make sure you inform people and search engines when your site is published, and offer reciprocal links! For, there is no point publishing a site on the web if you do not publish the fact you have published it! Oh, also it is generally deemed naff these days to have a "hit-counter" on your site - do you really want others to know how much, or how little, traffic (hits) your site gets?

SIZE OF SITE: make sure you check the size of your site at intervals during its gestation period as most ISP's (etc) have a size limit - you don't want to design a whole load of beautiful pages only to find you cannot use them all - this can be particularly an issue for photography web sites.

GENERAL: avoid "under construction" notices where it serves no purpose in having them. If a page isn't ready, don't publish it!

COPYRIGHT: don't steal other people's stuff! It is rude and illegal! There are plenty of sites that deal in "public domain" (i.e. free for all) graphics. Be wary, too, of "plagiarism" - directly copying and using somebody else's words. Conversely, if you are worried about your stuff being nicked, then make sure you have copyright notices in appropriate places (note how I have done mine at the bottom of each page). For graphics, most graphics programmes (like Corel), allow you to "digimark" your graphics (digital watermark). This is a legal "offical" ID mark that allows you to protect your material. But it is a good idea to warn people you have done this with a little note near a protected graphic, as legal proceedings are expensive and prevention is better than cure! You can also "trademark" your designs (then you are legally allowed to display the "R" or "TM" trademark which it is illegal to do otherwise). But this costs a lot of money and may not cover you in other countries than your own.

LINKING TO OTHERS SITES: it is protocol to reciprocate links - after all, why should someone link to you if you don't link to them!! Reciprocal linking is a form of barter-system to help increase traffic to people's sites. However, NEVER link directly to a graphic or anything else on someone else's site (e.g. using the code <IMG SRC="http://other person's site> tag. This is a big web no-no, because doing this means that part of their site is accessed every time someone loads up your site! Just imagine how much this could increase their site traffic if other people were doing this as well (in addition to the normal hits on their site). What happens is that bandwidth gets clogged, and may result in that poor individual or organisation having their site "chucked" by their ISP! AND anyone that links in this way can be found, as there are programmes that can detect who is linking to your site. Just don't do it, it's not worth being caught - stay ethical!

NEXT: so what makes HTML, HTML?

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