7. He who laughs last probably made a back-up. - Murphy's Laws of Computing

Web Development Tips

Web Development Tips

Saturday 12th November 2005

Categories: Guides, Internet, Code

Browsers

When designing a web page, you must bear in mind the different browsers that people may be using. The main three to consider are Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera. While Firefox and Opera generally follow the standards set by the W3C, Internet Explorer prefers to go wandering off, and occasionally doing what it feels like with a section of code. That's not to say that Internet Explorer randomly interprets code - it just consistently gets it wrong.

To make sure that your page works and displays properly, you should check your page in all three browsers. Don't forget - Internet Explorer cannot handle transparency in PNGs, or XHTML that isn't sent as text/html.

When providing a feed, such as Atom or RSS, make sure that you add both a link on the page itself, as well as the link tag in the head of the page. If, for example, you just provided the link tag in the head of the page, Internet Explorer users might be completely oblivious to the feed.

Content Type

What I mean by that vague heading is the different formats of file and languages that are used in your page. Your page should be usable using just HTML and CSS. There are some people that intentionally use browsers that only support these languages, while others surf the internet using a simpler device, such as a mobile phone, which cannot support other languages or formats.

I try to avoid using Javascript, since some people can't or won't have it on their browser. Although it might be acceptable to add it to some parts of the page, never use it for crucial parts e.g. navigation. Around 10% of people don't have Javascript turned on, but I'm sure you still want those 10% being able to use your site.

Another format people seem fond of is Flash. Where possible, try to avoid using it. Obviously, there are areas where its animations are required, such as creating a short. However, there is absolutely no need for Flash when creating your navigation, or, even worse, your entire site.

Accessibility

Following neatly on is accessibility. If you use something like Flash for your site, then some people will be severely hindered. For example, some blind people use a program to read out the contents of the screen to them. If you start using Flash on your website, they can no longer have its contents read out to them.

There are various other aspects of accessibility to consider, such as creating the correct Link tags in your pages that allow navigation. You can see these if you use Opera, and select the Navigation Bar from the Toolbar list. This provide links to other relevant pages, such as the previous and next page.

I could go on listing accessibility features, but instead I will point you towards an excellent site for making your site more accessible: Dive Into Accessibility. You can also see what the W3C has to say about accessibility by looking at the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. You can also grab a checklist for the WCAG.

Hopefully the information in this guide has helped you even slightly in creating your own web page - if it hasn't, send me your own tips!

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