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Good HTML Style Style Guides There are many HTML style guides on the Web One of the best is from Yale, http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/ This talk is based on that style guide Another is from the W3C, http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/

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Style guides l.jpg
Style Guides

  • There are many HTML style guides on the Web

  • One of the best is from Yale,http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/

    • This talk is based on that style guide

  • Another is from the W3C,http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/

  • One of the more enjoyable sites ishttp://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/

    • Motto: “Where you learn good Web design by looking at bad Web design”

  • One of my favorite books on the subject:

    • Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, by Steve Krug, Roger Black


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Know who you’re trying to reach

  • What is your target audience?

    • The general public (Web surfers)

      • Like a magazine cover, your home page should lure people in

        • Use strong graphics and bold statements

        • In the fewest words possible, tell visitors what you offer

        • All your links should point “inward” to your pages

    • Occasional visitors

      • Navigation should be simple and obvious

      • Use overview pages, helpful icons, FAQs, and simple organization

    • Experts and frequent visitors

      • Provide well-organized information quickly with a minimum of fuss

      • Avoid fancy graphics, slow-loading pages, and “fluff”

      • Provide site maps and search facilities

    • International users

      • Use standard, easily understood language

      • Consider providing pages in a variety of languages

      • Avoid region-specific time and date formats, like 10-12-2002


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Know what you’re trying to do

  • A page without a purpose is like a talk without a topic

  • Are you trying to sell something?

    • Air freshener: Use beautiful outdoor scenes

    • Underarm deodorant: Beautiful people (women and men)

    • Computers: Attractive pictures and technical specs

    • Yourself: See any book on writing resumes

  • Are you trying to convey information?

    • Use a clear organization with a table of contents

    • For many topics, a FAQ is often appropriate


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New media require new formats

  • Books existed well before Gutenberg’s 1456 Bible

  • Here are some “interface standards” for books:

    • Books have covers

    • Books are bound along the left edge (in the USA)

    • The title is on the spine, top to bottom (in the USA)

    • Books have a title page

    • The pages of a book are numbered

      • Odd-numbered pages are on the right

      • The front matter is numbered with Roman numerals

    • Textbooks have a table of contents and an index

  • How long after Gutenberg did it take to establish these standards?

    • Answer: Gradually, over more than 100 years


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Web pages are not books

  • Standards are evolving rapidly, but are not “finished”

  • The Web brings new abilities:

    • Publishing is cheap; anyone can do it

      • “When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. I'm beginning to believe it.” - Clarence S. Darrow

    • Hyperlinks allow nonlinear access to information

    • Search engines make finding information much easier

      • I used to have hundreds of bookmarks; now I use Google

  • The Web brings new challenges:

    • Users can get “lost in hyperspace”

      • Good navigation tools are essential

    • Surfers flit on by, like TV “channel surfers”

      • You have maybe ten seconds to convey your message


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Very general suggestions

  • Good writing was, is, and always will be important

    • Everything you ever learned about writing well still applies

  • Use a spell checker

    • Bad spelling puts off good spellers

    • Practically every piece of software includes a spell checker

  • Don’t use a grammar checker--they all stink

    • If you are not a native English speaker, they may point out some trivial grammatical errors

    • If you don’t see the reason for their advice, it’s probably wrong

  • Make each page stand by itself

    • You don’t know how someone got here

    • Don’t use page titles like “Introduction” that require context


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Questions you should answer

  • The reader should be able to discover:

    • Who wrote the page?

      • You find a page on lung cancer. Was it written by (a) the American Medical Association, (b) someone who works for Philip Morris, or (3) a plumber in Hoboken?

    • What is the page about?

      • If you have nothing to say, don’t say it

      • Use a clear, short title--it may become a bookmark

    • When was the page written/updated?

      • You find a page about a great new drug available “next month”

      • Another page describes the “latest version” of some software

    • Where is the page?

      • Who wrote the page? Who sponsors it?

      • If I print the page out, will I ever find it on the Web again?


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Build clear navigation aids

  • When someone accesses your site:

    • What are they likely to be looking for?

    • How sophisticated are they?

    • Hardly anyone does enough user testing

  • A common problem: you find an interesting page, but you don’t know what pages “surround” it

    • Are pages organized in a simple and consistent way?

    • Can the visitor find her way to the home page?

    • Can the user tell if she’s still in the same site?

    • Button bars are good, but don’t omit text links

    • Avoid dead-end pages (those with no links)


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Help visitors find pages in your site

  • If you have many pages, you can use menu levels...

    • Look at the table of contents in a textbook; usually, there are main section headers, with subheaders

  • ...but users do not like lots of little menus

    • Studies show that users prefer dense menus with lots of choices over little, one-step-at-a-time menus

    • “Site maps” (basically, an extensive table of contents) have become popular

  • Not everyone loads graphics by default

    • Image maps are nice, but keep the text links anyway

    • Think about making pages available to the disabled

  • Consider adding a search engine to your site

  • Don’t make it easy to accidentally leave your site

    • Distinguish between local links and links that take the visitor offsite

    • Give your pages a consistent “look”


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Put the important stuff on top

  • Web pages are usually bigger than the window they are viewed in

    • The first thing visitors see is the top of your Web page

    • Many visitors will never scroll down

  • The top of a page should tell visitors what they need to know about the page

    • If a visitor is lost inside your site, she may not notice links at the bottom of the page

    • Often, links at top and bottom are a good idea

      • This is especially true for a linear set of pages, where the links are Previous, Next, and (maybe) Home or Table of Contents


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Organize your pages

  • Any organization is better than no organization

  • A hierarchy (tree) usually works best

    • Put most important or most general concepts near the top

    • Lower pages are more specific

  • Trees shouldn’t be too deep

    • Users don’t like to step down through multiple pages to find the one they want

  • Trees shouldn’t be “flat”

    • Users don’t like to wade through a huge list of links to find the one they want

  • Draw a picture of your site!


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Grid:

Linear:

Pages to be read in order, with Previous and Next links

This design is most often seen in tutorials, or in fiction

Other organizations


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Graphics on your home page

  • The “home page” is your intended starting point for visitors to your site

    • Nice graphics make your page look better

    • Complex graphics make your page load more slowly

  • Who is your target audience?

    • Potential clients

      • Appearance is important...

      • ...but most users won’t wait more than 7 or 8 seconds for a page to load

    • Existing clients, students, employees

      • Getting information quickly is most important


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Updating sites

  • Many types of sites must be updated frequently

    • Using a New! graphic may help point out changes

      • But how long does an item remain “new”?

      • Dates on items are more informative

    • If information is spread out over many pages, a central What’s Newpage may be a good idea

    • I typically put dated announcements at the top (good) and add material at the bottom (maybe not so good)


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FAQs

  • For many sites a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page, with answers, is very helpful

    • A FAQ is especially helpful to beginners in an area

    • The current best site seems to be http://www.faqs.org/

  • Biggest problem with FAQs is that many of them are “fakes”

    • A company puts out a FAQ about its product that obviously doesn’t answer questions from real users

      • “What is the biggest benefit of using XYZ hair spray?”

    • Don’t lie to your customers!


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Design standards

  • Without question, a company should have design standards for company Web pages

    • Problems:

      • Established groups and individuals have already developed their own standards and are reluctant to change

      • The wrong people may be put in charge of defining the design standards

        • They may know little or nothing about existing standards

        • They may decide on “too many” standards--things that may be a good idea individually, but don’t work well together

        • They may take forever to finish, so standards are coming “any day now”

        • They have their own goals, and ignore or forget the user


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Site “covers”

  • A site cover is a page that comes before the home page

    • Typically, they just add another mouse click and waste the user’s precious time

    • If it doesn’t add any value, users don’t want to see it more than once

  • An informational site, such as a newspaper, can have a cover that provides links to the various sections

  • A reference site, such a s Yahoo!, should “have its menu posted on the front door”

  • A handsome site cover may add interest to an art or entertainment site


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Use tables

  • HTML <table>s are your best tool for arranging text and graphics on a page

    • For simply arranging things, use tables without borders

    • Use borders if you want it to look like a table

    • Don’t use pixel values for heights and widths--that takes too much freedom away from the user

      • Use percentages instead


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Types of graphics

  • There only three kinds of graphics you can use on the Web:

    • GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)

      • Good for pictures with only a few colors

      • There are some legal problems involved

    • JPG or JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

      • Good for photographs

    • PNG (Portable Network Graphics)

      • Modern, fancy, good for everything

      • Not supported by older browsers


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GIF files

  • GIF is the most common file format

    • You can specify, in a GIF file, how many colors to use (2, 4, 8, 16, etc.)

      • The fewer colors, the smaller the file

      • This is great for charts, cartoons, etc.

    • GIFs are lossless--you can exactly recreate the original image

    • GIFs can be animated

    • GIFs can be interlaced

      • This allows pictures to appear quickly and get sharper

    • GIFs can have a transparent color

      • This lets you use arbitrary shapes on any background

    • UNISYS owns the patent on GIFs, and has tried to make people pay for using them


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JPG files

  • JPEGs provide a superior compression scheme when there are color gradients in the image

    • That is, for every photograph

    • JPEGs are lossy-- some information is lost in the compression, and the information is interpolated (faked) when the picture is recreated

    • You can set the compression ratio--the more compression, the smaller the file, and the more information is lost

    • JPEGs do a very good job of recreating photographs

    • JPEGs don’t do a good job of recreating diagrams and line drawings


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PNG Graphics

  • PNG has three main advantages:

    • Alpha channels: you can have variable (partial) transparency

    • Gamma correction, so you can get the same colors on different platforms

    • Two-dimensional interlacing

  • PNG also provides:

    • Better compression than GIF

    • A less convenient way to do animations

    • No legal hassles