Hacking It: make your site work for visitors

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The first page of a web site is known by many names: splash page, landing page, home page. Whatever its name, a good home page follows the same principles of any attractive presentation:

Albert Einstein once said that if he had only one hour to save the world, he’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem. The same is true of good home pages: The more time you spend thinking about what you want your users to see, read and do on your home page, the happier you’ll be with its design.

What are you offering on your home page? Maybe it’s a way to keep in touch with your family? Your home-based business? Pictures, poems, pastimes? Any one of thousands of approaches can be used for a good home page, depending entirely on what kind of content you want to present.

If you’re looking to do something friendly or fun, think in terms of bold designs and lively colors. (Try to avoid looking like someone melted Skittles on your home page, though.) If you’re using software that offers color themes or templates for your web site’s home page, don’t be afraid to use them – and don’t be afraid to change them to something you like better.

Give your page a focal point, so your users know where to start. These days, there are all-in-one printer/copier/scanner machines that can turn Junior’s finger-painting into a digital art file in no time at all.

If you’re using your home page to present your business, think about what your customers might expect. After all, you wouldn’t be very likely to trust an accountant who puts up a wild-and-crazy home page, would you? Or a medical clinic whose home page looks like Mad Max at Thunderdome?

Try to think like your clients/users when creating your home page. What do you think they’d most like to see first? Should something be animated? How do you think they’d like to move about your page? What do you need to provide for them on your home page so they’ll know how to move around the rest of your site?

Interactivity is the crown jewel of the Internet, so be sure to give users a prominent way on your home page to get in touch with you, either by an online contact form or an email. That way you can be sure to give them what they want or need.

The point is, make your home page design correspond to the content you’ll be presenting. Home pages don’t have to have flashing lights and screaming headlines in order to attract people through the hustle and bustle of the Internet. If anything, pages that present calm, pleasing appearance can be more likely to get a user’s attention – if for no other reason than that you’re giving them a nice place to rest their eyes on.

Optimise your pages

Although you may think of your home page as your site's front door, visitors don't always cooperate. Every page in your site with a URL that can be indexed by search engines, bookmarked, or emailed is a potential entry point for visitors, so be sure they all contain links to other pages. Otherwise, stranded visitors may just click away from the site entirely.How often have you just leave a site after coming to a dead end ?

a page that is linked to by another page in your site, but which has no hyperlinks to other pages in the site." Since it's a page without navigation, visitors can only leave it by using their back button or clicking away from your site entirely. An orphan page is simply a more extreme version of a dead end page. Orphan pages aren't linked to any other pages in the site.

Dead end and orphan pages are often the result of a quick design process or major site overhaul. When multiple pages are under construction simultaneously, it's easy to forget that a changing one page may affect many other pages. When you're making a lot of changes to your site, be sure to update the links on other pages to reflect the changes.

Some HTML editors help you with this: FrontPage offers an Unlinked Files Report that alerts you to files that contain no apparent hyperlinks. NetMechanic's HTML Toolbox can help too: it contains a link checking tool that follows and verifies internal and external hyperlinks.

Both orphan and dead end pages frustrate visitors and deprive you of the opportunity to have them visit other pages in your site. Be diligent about finding them and correcting the problem.

Use Consistent Navigation On Every Page

Experienced Web users usually know what to do when they encounter a dead end page. They click on their browser's back button or look at the page's URL to try and decipher the home page address. But new users may get confused and just leave the site.
Avoid confusion by ensuring that each page has

Basic navigation information: Every page in your site should contain some navigation information, even if it's just a link to your home page.

Visual cues: Let visitors know where they are. Include your site's name and logo on every page.

Top and bottom navigation: Place navigation links at the top and bottom of your pages. Visitors may reach the bottom of your page and think they're at a dead end because the navigation is all at the top of the page.

You're taking a big risk if your navigation structure relies on your visitors' knowledge and skill.

With a little effort, you can eliminate dead end and orphan pages from most sites, but they are always a concern on framed sites. Most frame designs include a content frame and a navigation
frame. Visitors require both frames to
navigate through the site.

However, some search engines don't index framed sites correctly - if at all. The search engine spider would index your site's product information page and offer searchers a link to that page alone - outside the main frame that contains the navigation information. So visitors could read about your wonderful product selection, but that's all. They can't visit any other page in the site.

A simple JavaScript test on every page of your framed site will keep visitors from opening pages outside the frame. The script checks to see if the page is loading as the main window. If so, the script tells the browser to load the frameset instead.
RSS is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines, and podcasts in a standardized format.[2] An RSS document (which is called a "feed" or "web feed" or "channel") contains either a summary of content from an associated web site or the full text. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with web sites in an automated manner that can be piped into special programs or filtered displays.

The benefit of RSS is the aggregation of content from multiple Web sources in one place. RSS content can be read using software called an "RSS reader", "feed reader" or an "aggregator", which can be web-based or desktop-based. A standardized XML file format allows the information to be published once and viewed by many different programs. The user subscribes to a feed by entering the feed's link into the reader or by clicking an RSS icon in a browser that initiates the subscription process. The RSS reader checks the user's subscribed feeds regularly for new content, downloading any updates that it finds and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds.

The initials "RSS" are used to refer to the following formats:
•Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0)
•RDF Site Summary (RSS 1.0 and RSS 0.90)
•Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.91).

RSS formats are specified using XML, a generic specification for the creation of data formats. Although RSS formats have evolved since March 1999, the RSS icon first gained widespread use in 2005/2006.

The RSS formats were preceded by several attempts at syndication that did not achieve widespread popularity. The basic idea of restructuring information about web sites goes back to as early as 1995, when Ramanathan V. Guha and others in Apple Computer's Advanced Technology Group developed the Meta Content Framework (MCF). For a more detailed discussion of these early developments, see the history of web syndication technology.

RDF Site Summary, the first version of RSS, was created by Guha at Netscape in March 1999 for use on the My.Netscape.Com portal. This version became known as RSS 0.9. In July 1999, Dan Libby of Netscape produced a new version, RSS 0.91,[2] that simplified the format by removing RDF elements and incorporating elements from Dave Winer's scriptingNews syndication format. Libby also renamed RSS to Rich Site Summary and outlined further development of the format in a "futures document".

This would be Netscape's last participation in RSS development for eight years. As RSS was being embraced by web publishers who wanted their feeds to be used on My.Netscape.Com and other early RSS portals, Netscape dropped RSS support from My.Netscape.Com in April 2001 during new owner AOL's restructuring of the company, also removing documentation and tools that supported the format.

Two entities emerged to fill the void, with neither Netscape's help nor approval: The RSS-DEV Working Group and Winer, whose UserLand Software had published some of the first publishing tools outside of Netscape that could read and write RSS.

Winer published a modified version of the RSS 0.91 specification on the UserLand web site, covering how it was being used in his company's products, and claimed copyright to the document. A few months later, UserLand filed a U.S. trademark registration for RSS, but failed to respond to a USPTO trademark examiner's request and the request was rejected in December 2001.

The RSS-DEV Working Group, a project whose members included Guha and representatives of O'Reilly Media and Moreover, produced RSS 1.0 in December 2000. This new version, which reclaimed the name RDF Site Summary from RSS 0.9, reintroduced support for RDF and added XML namespaces support, adopting elements from standard metadata vocabularies such as Dublin Core.

In December 2000, Winer released RSS 0.92 a minor set of changes aside from the introduction of the enclosure element, which permitted audio files to be carried in RSS feeds and helped spark podcasting. He also released drafts of RSS 0.93 and RSS 0.94 that were subsequently withdrawn.

In September 2002, Winer released a major new version of the format, RSS 2.0, that redubbed its initials Really Simple Syndication. RSS 2.0 removed the type attribute added in the RSS 0.94 draft and added support for namespaces.

Because neither Winer nor the RSS-DEV Working Group had Netscape's involvement, they could not make an official claim on the RSS name or format. This has fueled ongoing controversy in the syndication development community as to which entity was the proper publisher of RSS.

One product of that contentious debate was the creation of an alternative syndication format, Atom, that began in June 2003. The Atom syndication format, whose creation was in part motivated by a desire to get a clean start free of the issues surrounding RSS, has been adopted as IETF Proposed Standard RFC 4287.

In July 2003, Winer and UserLand Software assigned the copyright of the RSS 2.0 specification to Harvard's Berkman Center for the Internet & Society, where he had just begun a term as a visiting fellow. At the same time, Winer launched the RSS Advisory Board with Brent Simmons and Jon Udell, a group whose purpose was to maintain and publish the specification and answer questions about the format.

In December 2005, the Microsoft Internet Explorer team and Outlook team announced on their blogs that they were adopting the feed icon first used in the Mozilla Firefox browser
A few months later, Opera Software followed suit. This effectively made the orange square with white radio waves the industry standard for RSS and Atom feeds, replacing the large variety of icons and text that had been used previously to identify syndication data.

In January 2006, Rogers Cadenhead relaunched the RSS Advisory Board without Dave Winer's participation, with a stated desire to continue the development of the RSS format and resolve ambiguities. In June 2007, the board revised their version of the specification to confirm that namespaces may extend core elements with namespace attributes, as Microsoft has done in Internet Explorer 7. In their view, a difference of interpretation left publishers unsure of whether this was permitted or forbidden.
As noted above, there are several different versions of RSS, falling into two major branches (RDF and 2.*). The RDF, or RSS 1.* branch includes the following versions:
•RSS 0.90 was the original Netscape RSS version. This RSS was called RDF Site Summary, but was based on an early working draft of the RDF standard, and was not compatible with the final RDF Recommendation.
•RSS 1.0 is an open format by the RSS-DEV Working Group, again standing for RDF Site Summary. RSS 1.0 is an RDF format like RSS 0.90, but not fully compatible with it, since 1.0 is based on the final RDF 1.0 Recommendation.
•RSS 1.1 is also an open format and is intended to update and replace RSS 1.0. The specification is an independent draft not supported or endorsed in any way by the RSS-Dev Working Group or any other organization.

The RSS 2.* branch (initially UserLand, now Harvard) includes the following versions:
•RSS 0.91 is the simplified RSS version released by Netscape, and also the version number of the simplified version originally championed by Dave Winer from Userland Software. The Netscape version was now called Rich Site Summary; this was no longer an RDF format, but was relatively easy to use. It remains the most common RSS variant.
•RSS 0.92 through 0.94 are expansions of the RSS 0.91 format, which are mostly compatible with each other and with Winer's version of RSS 0.91, but are not compatible with RSS 0.90. In all Userland RSS 0.9x specifications, RSS was no longer an acronym.
•RSS 2.0.1 has the internal version number 2.0. RSS 2.0.1 was proclaimed to be "frozen", but still updated shortly after release without changing the version number. RSS now stood for Really Simple Syndication. The major change in this version is an explicit extension mechanism using XML namespaces.

The most serious compatibility problem is with HTML markup. Userland's RSS reader—generally considered as the reference implementation—did not originally filter out HTML markup from feeds. As a result, publishers began placing HTML markup into the titles and descriptions of items in their RSS feeds. This behavior has become expected of readers, to the point of becoming a de facto standard, though there is still some inconsistency in how software handles this markup, particularly in titles. The RSS 2.0 specification was later updated to include examples of entity-encoded HTML; however, all prior plain text usages remain valid.

Source : Wikipedia


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