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Evaluating Pages A Starting Point Nobody Told Me Design Tips Table It

Things Nobody Told Me

by Cynthia Lanius

I started making webpages almost exactly one year ago. I was so naive. Maybe if I'd known then what I know now I wouldn't have even tried it - too daunting. I wish I'd saved the early stuff to use as examples of what not to do. Come to think of it, a year from now, I'll be wishing I'd saved this to illustrate bad stuff. At least, I hope so, because that will mean that I've continued to learn and grow.

If I'd Only Known Then What I Know Now

What you see is not necessarily what you get. I had no idea that what I saw on my screen wasn't what everyone else saw on theirs. Lots of factors affect the way your page looks on different machines - screen size, platform type, browser type, configurations. etc.

So just don't be shocked when someone tells you that they can't read your pages to ensure that they work well regardless.

I didn't have to try every new thing that came along. First there was my frames phase - posted a frames version of my school page,not because it was the correct navigational tool to best fit the purposes of the site. (It wasn't) It was frames for the sake of frames.

Then there was the black background phase. I put a dramatic black gif as a background for my homepage. I loved it until I heard from more than one person that they couldn't read a word of it. (See above) So the moral is - keep it simple. Leave the black backgrounds to the experts, and let the page drive the tools and not vice versa.

About writing code - I learned to do this by doing, which pretty much goes to show that just about anybody can do it. But because of that, I didn't learn about how to write neat code. My original code was usually very tightly written with hardly any white space. Then I started noticing how
much easier it is to edit if you leave some spaces.

Then it became huge, and you'd have to scroll forever to get through it. (Reminds me of when I learned to knit and was trying to get a pair of slippers the same size. The first one was tiny because I knitted so tightly. Then I relaxed and the second one was huge). So consistently structure your code and leave plenty of line breaks. It'll be much easier to work with.

Now one last word... When I was brand new to the web, I was like a kid in a candystore - my eyes got big - I want to do that and that and that. Ooh, I'll put that neat animated gif on my page. Ooh, blinking text. Cool. I'll make this blink. Why? What purpose would it serve?

Word to the wise: people that have been on the web awhile have seen it. It's no big deal to them and they're going to be unimpressed. All of that is cliche by now, and frankly irritating, unless it serves a clear purpose.

What's really going to make your page is content. You must have something to say and you must say it well. Then beyond that, create a style - a look- that is appealing. Bottom line - keep it simple.

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These pages were developed through GirlTECH '97, a teacher training and student technology council program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center. Copyright 1997 Cynthia Lanius