Part One: Updating your Web Presence Series
Congratulations, Web Pioneers…
You took the initiative to learn how to build innovative and successful websites and for 14 years PixelMill has been helping you. The age of Microsoft FrontPage is over, technological and social change is continuing at a seemingly ever faster pace and we all find it difficult to keep up with the times. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, Foursquare, Tumblr, Mobile Apps, Tablet Computing and a growing pile of new players are vying for you and your customer’s attention, your website looks old and boring and you need to get ahead of your competition. What to do?
First, let’s see how we got here…
Who would have imagined that AT&T’s first commercial modem launch in 1958 would have led to today’s Internet?
Brilliant efforts to link remote computers at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the 1960s led to the deployment of ARPA Net in the 70’s. This was an era of rapid telecommunications development and the underpinnings of today’s Internet were born in Bell Labs new operating system (UNIX). In 1974 the term “internet” was first used in a paper by Vinton Cerf on Transmission Control Protocol. TCP allows computers to create connections to one another and exchange data.
In 1984 the term “cyberspace” was coined by William Gibson in his book, Neuromancer and on August 6, 1991 the World Wide Web (WWW), Tim Berners-Lee’s invention, became a service that was available to the public. The Mosaic Web Browser (later to become Netscape) was released in 1993 with the incorporation of graphics and the ability to run on Microsoft’s Windows (pages looked like this: http://www.dejavu.org/1993win.htm). With graphics becoming available in Web browsers, the first banner ads began to appear and Pizza Hut began to offer pizza ordering on its Web page in 1994 and eCommerce was born. Four years later, in 1998, PixelMill Inc. was formed to help people build better Websites.
Does your Website still look like it was built in the 90s? Check this site out: http://www.keepbanderabeautiful.org/
The World Wide Web has come a long way since 1997. We now have real standards to build to, excellent design and coding tools, practical and cost effective eCommerce systems, reliable transaction processing and a myriad of opportunities for on-line success.
For many of you it just might be time for a technology update. Chances are you built your first site in Microsoft FrontPage or an old version of Adobe Dreamweaver that used tables for layout. Tables were developed in HTML for only one reason: to display data in a tabular form. In the good old days, setting the table border to equal “0” allowed designers to use a grid to lay out images and text. Please note that using tables in this manner was a “hack” and not a part of any design standard. For many years a table based layout was the only practical way of designing visually rich Websites. Over time, the table based web page layout has caused many problems with design, browser compatibility, accessibility and usability.
A tableless Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) layout has long been the answer to many Web display problems. However, even though the first official W3C recommendation, CSS level 1, was published in December 1996 the path to wide spread adoption has been so paved with bickering and infighting that practical adoption did not occur until Internet Explorer 5.5 versions of commercial Web browsers in 2000. For anyone building web sites, the transition from tables to CSS has not been easy. At times it has been necessary to resort to workarounds, CSS hacks and CSS filters to get consistently good results on major web browsers and platforms.
Fortunately, we have moved past the early CSS1 problems. With the introduction of Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, FireFox 3.5 and newer versions of Chrome, Opera and Safari we finally have stable CSS2.1 standards that facilitate new capabilities like absolute, relative, and fixed positioning of elements. Modern Web editing tools like Microsoft Expression Web and the Adobe Dreamweaver CS Series are excellent tools for building up-to-date standards based Websites.
It is time to pick a current, standards compliant, Web editor. If you work in the UNIX/Linux hosting or coding environment I recommend that you go with Adobe Dreamweaver, either CS2, CS3, CS4 or CS5: http://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver/
For FrontPage users: please upgrade to Expression Web. FrontPage 2003 has been discontinued for five years and was last updated eight years ago. FrontPage does not produce code that is compatible with modern Web Browsers and it can no longer reliably be hosted on UNIX/Linux as the server extensions were “end of lifed” in 2006 (http://www.rtr.com/fpsupport/). Also, Microsoft support for Office 2003 and FrontPage ended in April 2009. The Web Bots and many FP functions will probably not work on Windows Web Server (IIS) past 2010: http://lnk.nu/blogs.iis.net/szp.aspx.
Next Article: A Website Review and Options for Transitioning to Current Web Standards