ERIC'S TIPS FOR WEB AUTHORS
- Make your pages as browser-independent as possible.
Don't demand that your audience upgrade their browser to Netscape before
they can read your pages. Netscape may be the best browser around, but
Netscape isn't the only game in town. Besides, technically, Netscape
is not free for most people (if you are using Netscape, see
Remember, the whole purpose of HTML is to provide a way of distributing
information in a non-browser specific format (for a browser-specific
format, look at Adobe
Acrobat). It's pretty pointless to create documents that only work
on certain browsers. Minimally, your pages should be readable
on at least Netscape, Mosaic, and Lynx.
- Don't use HTML 3.0
tables for critical content. There
simply aren't enough browsers that support tables. Pages that are
formatted with tables are impossible to read with most of the
browsers that are out there. If you insist on using tables, be sure to
provide a non-table equivalent (such as a GIF or <PRE> version),
perhaps linked like this:
Here's the <A HREF="table.html">daily schedule</A> for browsers
with table support. For other browsers, a <A HREF="table.txt">
text-only version</A> is available.
Let me stress that I'm NOT suggesting that you should avoid
using tables. Indeed, tables are one of the most useful improvements to the
HTML specification. However, if you do use tables, you should always have a
backup presentation to accomodate those who do not have table-capable
So when will it be "okay" to go exclusively with tables? In my opinion,
not until the "Big Three" browsers (Netscape, Mosaic, and Lynx) support
HTML 3.0 tables in their production versions (so beta and test versions
do not count) on the three major platforms (Windows, Macintosh, and Unix).
Since the Lynx developers have already begun to work on a version with
table support, I think we can begin to rely on tables by the beginning
- Avoid the long "Mega Document." This is often a
HTMLized FAQs (Caution: 125 Kb!)
or link lists.
(Caution: over 400 Kb!). Huge pages
take forever to load and often load more information that a reader wants
to get at that moment. Rather than just adding a table of contents to the
top of a big document, break each section into a separate page and use
a table of contents
page to link to them. If your page is over 20 Kb or takes longer than
15 seconds to scroll through, it might just be a Mega Document.
- Make an extra effort to write clean HTML source.
This will save you an enormous amount of time when you update your
pages or hunt for a bad tag. For example, feel free to insert carriage
returns within tags or between sections--the browser doesn't care. Try to
keep your line length around 80 characters--super long lines are difficult
to edit and may cause problems. Make your source as readable
as possible, since others will most likely look at your source some
time (read on!).
- Read and study other people's HTML source. That's
how you learn new techniques to incorporate into your own pages.
I learned quite a bit about both forms and formatting tags by looking
at other people's source. That's why writing clean source is so
important--someone may be using your source to learn HTML!
- Give credit where credit is due. This should
be obvious, but it's amazing how many people don't think it's wrong to
blatantly rip off ideas, content, or graphics from other pages without
giving any acknowledgment to the author (let alone asking permission).
Just because the Web allows the free viewing of material does
not mean that everything on the Web is public domain.
- Be very careful about copyrights. Just because it is
'easy' to copy items using the Web or because 'everyone is doing it,' does
not make you exempt from the legal consequences of doing so.
If you don't believe that a big company or author will track you down,
check out an actual "cease and
desist" letter to someone who distributed icons of characters from a
copyrighted television show. For further information on copyrights, the
Copyright WebSite may be helpful.
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