Why a Philosophy?
A philosophy is nothing more than a school of thought.
I think it is necessary for one to develop their own style to be
successful. It is not my objective to impose my style on you.
The guidelines that I set forth here are not on their
own unique or original, but rather my philosophy based
on the advice offered by many other webmasters and my own
trial and error learning experience.
HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is a very general
language designed to place information on web pages. It is
not a word processing or desktop publishing tool. The sooner
you come to grips with this fact, the faster you will become
an effective webmaster. Here's why:
No two browsers show a page quite the same way.
Even if everyone were to use the same browser, not
everyone would have the same resolution as you.
It really never was intended to be as specific as
a word processor, and its fundamental structure
Nobody owns the web. Therefore, standards are
rather difficult to enforce.
Design Considerations for an Imperfect World...
Assume everyone has their screen set to 640x480 and 256
This minor detail is very often overlooked by web authors.
If you want to go "wide", then make sure that what
you consider the material of primary importance to
your reader is located on the left side of the screen.
At BNB, you will notice that the "Network Bar" is
on the right side, not the left!
Causes text to be obscured by side margin artwork.
Forces the user to use the right-left scroll bar
to read the text.
Banner and navigation art can be unrecognizable.
Even worse scenarios are possible with background
Do use TABLES (now supported by almost all browsers)
to create some white-space in your pages.
Use very basic color schemes and avoid noisy
Always use ALT (image descriptions) with your
images so that people with text browsers can use and
understand your pages. Not doing this prevents a lot
of students from enjoying your site.
Nobody has their own personal T-1 connection to the web.
Okay, so maybe you have one, but most people are using either
28.8K or 56(haha)K modems. As a rule of thumb, do not create pages
that take more than 30 to 60 seconds to load at 28.8K. You
can accomplish this by:
Using graphics sparingly, and using color reduction when
Use Interlaced GIF images (89a standard) when possible.
These provide a nice fade-in effect that allows
people a sneak preview of your image as it comes into view.
If you do have a lot of images to present on one page,
use thumbnails (small versions) and link the
larger images to them. If the reader wants, they can
then view the picture in its full glory!
Always indicate the HEIGHT and WIDTH of your images. Many
browsers cannot display any part of the page until it knows
all of the dimensions of the objects that the page consists
Not expecting your personal web space that came
with your Internet service to be fast. It may seem fast
to you because you are on the same server, but page
requests coming from the outside may be served
at a very low priority.
Do not include the http:// directive when linking to
pages and images located on your server. This prevents
most browsers from caching (storing data for reuse)
and causes the information to be reloaded as your readers navigate
around your site.
Reuse navigation icons and provide a consistent look
and feel to your site. There is also nothing wrong
with using the same buttons as everyone else. In
fact this can make people more comfortable with your site.
Pick a color theme and stick to it. Changing color schemes
every page is confusing. This applies to background colors
as well as colors for text, links, etc...
Stick to your mission. Do not fill your site with stuff
that does not matter.
As an aid to becoming more consistent in your page layout, work out
a set of page layouts that you feel work for your site. The examples
below are the layouts or grids that I use at this site. The
one on the left is the Home or usual point of entry screen.
The one on the right is what I use for most of the other screens.
Avoid Glitz and the Cutting Edge of Web Technology.
Use animation sparingly. An animation is a nice touch and
a great way to draw somebody's attention to something you
want to feature. There is however, nothing as annoying and
distracting than a collection of flashing images all over
Keeping in mind that no two browsers handle things quite
the same, avoid what are called browser specific
tags. If the viewer's browser does not support the tag,
the item will either be ignored, or displayed as plain
Java and VBscript are great, but, not all browsers support
them. Provide an alternative means of viewing your information.
Do not tell them to get a real browser or don't come back.
Do not use FRAMES for the sake of using them! Although you
can use the NOFRAMES tag to allow non-frames browsers to
view your pages, you must design your pages to work in that
environment. Simplicity and clean design are the keys. Please
take a look at The US
Jaycees web site for a fine example of this.
Use the Right Tools.
There is no point in trying to hammer a nail with a chainsaw.
Do not expect one program or another to be a Swiss Army
Knife. See my tools page for what I have found to be a
great collection of programs. I have tried (and am always
trying new programs!) just about everything out there. Most
packages are great at a few things, but I have yet to find
the Nirvana HTML editor!
Do not use an HTML generator for anything other
than converting large text files to HTML. I say this
for two reasons: you will lose creative control over
your site- and you will not learn anything.
Do use an HTML generator if your primary job
is not in systems, and you do not have the time to
really mess with this stuff. If you decide that you
want to, you can always start doing things by hand.
Have more than one browser on your system. If nothing
else, be sure that you view your work using both
Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer. If you happen
to have an AOL account (or have a friend that does)
check it out on that as well.
If you have a 56K modem or better, also try to have a
28.8K one as well. This way you can experience
your page at the same speed(s) that 90% of the world
will. When timing page loads, be sure to clear your
browser cache first!
A utility such as quickres that allows you to
change your resolution and colors on the fly. This is
very handy in designing pages that can be viewed by
A good book. Read some HTML and Web Design books. Find
one you like and keep it close by. Even with my background
I find it easier to lookup something I forgot in a book
than to page through the web looking for it.
Make sure you put your site where it belongs.
If you are placing your site on your personal
webspace that came with your Internet service, make
sure you are aware of any restrictions. These include:
Maximum number of page accesses per month.
Maximum number of bytes downloaded per month.
Restrictions on commercial messages. Some providers
even consider naming your employer a violation that
could cause you to be charged commercial rates!
Can you have CGI-BIN and Server Side
Includes. If not, you cannot have a nice
Consider a virtual host. This is what I used before
the site got extremely busy. It ran
about $30 a month and I had:
My own domain name.
Several different mailboxes.
10GB of monthly bandwidth.
An unrestricted Unix environment.
The ability to provide FTP downloads to my audience.
Freedom from having to manage the server!
SPELLING & GRAMMAR: I cannot stress the importance
of proper spelling and grammar strongly enough.
Never include an image in any page that you are
calling from somebody else's site! It is very rude in
that it steals bandwith from the owner of the image.
This can cause them to incur charges as well as have
their site slow down. Actually, the odds are it will
be your page that suffers! If you must, just take
a copy and put it on your server. Do give credit
where credit is due.