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January 11, 2009

2 Top 5 Lists = 1 Top Ten List: My most read Web Development Blog entries from 2008

Now that the New Year has been rung in, it seems that the meme of the moment is to blog about the year in review. So I thought I'd follow suit. I looked over my blog entries to see if I'd trended towards any new themes for 2008. While I have written more on social media this year (who hasn't?) I quickly noted that my topics overall continued to range across a wide array of Web related subjects. Next I looked at my stats to see which articles were getting the most traffic and comments.

December 09, 2008

5 Tips to ensure your readers can read your HTML e-mail messages

As the semester winds down, and the holiday season encroaches, it seems there are more and more events to publicize, greetings to send, end-of-year newsletters to distribute, holiday sales to promote, etc. T'is the season for HTML e-mails. Alas, as many of you know, creating and distributing an HTML e-mail message is far more complicated than building a regular Web site. As we struggled in the days of the browser wars, today we struggle with the myriad ways popular e-mail programs support HTML. Anyone who has had to create an HTML e-mail message, or has received one they couldn't read, knows what I mean. So today I'll present five tips that should help to make your e-mails readable by the masses.

July 23, 2008

Blogs: The Many Voices of a University

Sunday afternoon I skibbled off to Atlantic City to attend EduWeb 2008, a conference for Web development professionals in higher education.

July 14, 2008

Testing Web sites with multiple browser versions

Until recently I was one of the only nerds who had yet to upgrade to Firefox 3. I'd been waiting until I could find an easy way to install it alongside (rather than in place of) Firefox 2. When I'd tried doing this a few months ago—with the beta version of Firefox 3—it hadn't worked properly, so I'd put the idea on hold.

June 18, 2008

Tips for installing Google Analytics on Case and other Web servers.

There comes a time in every Web maintainer's life when the boss or client asks to see the Web stats for the past 6 months/year/5 years or what have you. Ideally you or your server administrator set this up long ago; you—being equally keen to understand the usage patterns of your site, and to use that knowledge to improve your content—check them on a regular basis, and can provide the information immediately. Then again, if you've been busy building and updating sites, this may be one of those projects that has been patiently waiting on your to-do list. If your server doesn't have analytics software pre-installed, and you've not yet installed any yourself, now—before the boss asks—is the time to do so.

June 06, 2008

CaseLearns: 2008 Summer Semester Classes

Registration is now open for summer classes at CaseLearns. Whether you're building your first Web site, adding video to your blog or just want to learn something fun, CaseLearns has a number of options available.

May 18, 2008

Uploading files with Dreamweaver (WebDAV)

If you've been using Dreamweaver to upload files to a Web server using FTP, and you're about to start using WebDAV—either because of the Case Web server upgrade or because you're looking for a more secure protocol than FTP—you'll find that using WebDAV with Dreamweaver is quite similar to using FTP. Simply follow the directions below to configure your sites.

Uploading files with the WebDrive WebDAV client for Windows

Whether you're about to start using WebDAV because of the Case Web server upgrade, or you're just looking for a more secure protocol than FTP, you may have heard that it can be tricky to use on Windows XP or Vista. WebDrive, available to Case faculty, staff and students on the software center, simplifies the process. Those of you in the habit of using stand-alone clients like WS_FTP for transferring files will find this a convenient and easy-to-use alternative.

May 15, 2008

Introduction to WebDAV

Here at Case Western Reserve University, we're about to upgrade our primary Web server. Part of this upgrade involves changing the way we upload content to the server. Where in the past we've been using FTP, beginning Monday, May 19, 2008, we'll be using WebDAV. WebDAV has been growing in popularity over the last few years and is now provided as an option by many Web hosting providers. Those of you using FTP on Case or other Web servers may wish to check with your network administrator or Web hosting provider to see if other protocols such as WebDAV are available.

May 13, 2008

The Web server upgrade happens May 19, 2008. Are you ready?

The main Case Web server, Aurora, will be upgraded on May 19th. If you're an end user you shouldn't notice a thing, but if you maintain a Web site on this server there are a few things you should prepare for. If you maintain a Case site and have not read about the upgrade in Case Daily and received email notifications from the Aurora managers, please read the following.

May 04, 2008

5 reasons your blog should have an editorial policy

While the medium is different, blogs have much in common with magazines. They're published periodically, can accept subscriptions (via RSS feeds), may (or may not) accept advertising and typically focus on a particular topic or niche. If you blog, you have some notion of your topical area in your head, but have you defined it for your readers? If not, it may be time to take a page from the magazines and define a clear editorial policy for your blog.

April 20, 2008

Embedding YouTube Videos the Standards Compliant Way—SFWobject 2.0

As video becomes easier to produce, more and more people are creating and sharing videso online. Whether you are a professor demonstrating your research, a student working on a film project, or me creating how-to instructions, you've realized that there are times when video can enhance your Web content. Back at the turn of the century, embedding video was complicated. Streaming required a special server, you had to decide what format(s) you wanted to stream, then you had to provide links to whatever software users might need to view your video—in case it wasn't already installed on their computers. With YouTube, that's all changed. Now you can just go to the YouTube page for the video you wish to embed, copy the coding they provide, paste it into your html file or blog entry and publish the page. It's just that easy—unless, like me, you care about adhering to Web standards. In that case, it requires a few more steps, but don't worry, they're not that complicated.

April 03, 2008

How did I get by before Firefox Add-Ons?

Last night, whilst catching up on my RSS feeds, I discovered Paul Fenwick's video, "How to Fix the Web with Greasemonkey in 3 minutes." The video offers some clever tips on how one can use the Firefox add-on, Greasemonkey, to make Web sites (not just yours) behave the way you wish. I was particularly amused by the way he made MySpace content disappear. But it also reminded me of just how dependent I am on Firefox add-on's.

February 14, 2008

Common Craft's Plain English Video Series

Alas, I've not yet finished the article I had planned for this week. In the meantime I highly recommend the amusing and informative videos produced by commoncraft. These easy-to-follow videos cover a variety of Internet related topics and provide a great introduction to everything from RSS to photo sharing.

January 16, 2008

Your home page is NOT your index; it's your store front

Space. Designers want to preserve it and clients want to fill it up. Whether you're a designer, a writer or a client you've all participated in this debate. What goes on the home page and what does not?

January 03, 2008

CaseLearns: 2008 Spring Semester Classes

Registration is now open for spring classes at CaseLearns. Whether you're building your first Web site, adding a podcast to your blog or just want to learn something fun, CaseLearns has a number of options available.

December 26, 2007

Web Content: Not just YOUR words and pictures

If they read what you write, they may also want to read what you read. Webmasters and bloggers know this. That's why we'll embed links within our text, build pages with links to recommended sites and/or add linkblogs to our side bars. In a world where most of us don't have the time to research and write everything we'd like to share, such resources add value to our existing content and give readers guidance on where to look for additional information.

November 14, 2007

A picture is worth a thousand words, but that's not always enough

How to add captions to images in Photoshop On the Web it is preferable to place your caption in the HTML. If that won't work and your captions are long, you should also link to a place providing a description of the image and an alternative rendering of the text. Colleagues of mine are involved in a project that involves adding captions to photographs. Like many of you, they aren't full-time designers and haven't spent a great deal of time using Photoshop. While they know how to crop and resize photos, they've not yet worked with type. For those...

November 08, 2007

Usenet Newsgroups: Anachronistic Service or Useful Communication Tool?

Earlier this week ITS announced that it would be taking down the Usenet news server as of December 5, 2007. In a fit of nostalgia, I opened up my newsreader (Mozilla) to leave a farewell message on cwru.general. Oddly enough, my message got a response; others (not many) were still using Usenet! This led me to wonder what had happened to newsgroups. Did the generation that grew up on the Web not know about newsgroups, or did they know about them but prefer the Web? In this age of Web 2.0, where some update their Facebook status by the hour, users pose questions on discussion boards such as, and writers merge their Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku posts into central RSS feeds that can be shared on their Tumblr blogs, is there still a place for Usenet news?

October 30, 2007

Don't build your Web site in a vacuum

This is the fifth in a series of posts that discuss Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and other Web marketing strategies. This week we'll go beyond the Web.

October 01, 2007

CSS Tip: Positioning photos with floats

In the past I've discussed how the use of photos can enhance a Web site, but I've not discussed the code one uses to incorporate them. On campus, and elsewhere, Web designers use a variety of techniques to include their photos.

August 28, 2007

An Introduction to Web Standards

I've recently come to the conclusion that a great number of Web developers either don't know about Web standards, or simply don't care. For those who aren't already aware of the standards I'll offer a brief introduction along with resources for additional information. For those who don't care, or who are anti-standards, I'll offer some examples as to why I feel they're important.

August 09, 2007

Enhance your reputation & increase traffic by joining discussions on other blogs

As you know from my earlier post on commenting, people (and robots) like to leave comments on other people's blogs in order to provide links back to their own Web site.

July 27, 2007

Using blogs and Web pages to raise your professional profile

Yesterday Jeremy Smith and I gave a presentation to faculty entitled, "Using blogs and web pages to raise your professional profile."

July 13, 2007

An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts that will discuss SEO and other Web marketing strategies. Before we dig into our first discussion of SEO, it is worth remembering that search engines are not the only way visitors get to your site.

July 06, 2007

Image Formats 101: From Bitmaps to Vector Art which do you use when?

Since we released the logos on Monday, I've received a number of questions regarding file formats. The .gif files I made for the Web are pretty easy to use, but many of you are also incorporating logos into your print projects, and aren't sure which version to use when. To help you choose the best format for your project, here is a bit of background on the differing file formats and some recommendations on their use. Follow the links within the text to learn more about each of these formats.

July 02, 2007

The logos are here! Updating the logo on your Web site

Since the new logo was announced many of you have been asking when the new files will be available and what will be involved. Well today is the day!

June 12, 2007

When one image just won't do; incorporating slideshows on your Web site. Part 2: Flash

ast week, I showed you one way to make a slideshow for your Web site using an existing javascript. Today we'll build a slideshow in Flash.

June 06, 2007

When one image just won't do; incorporating slideshows on your Web site. Part 1: Javascript

It's funny how people get the same idea at the same time. Last week I had two different people ask me how they could use a slideshow instead of a still picture on their Web site.

April 25, 2007

Converting Word documents to HTML

While I write my own copy for this blog, and some of my other sites, much of what I post on the Web is written by others. This material comes to me in a variety of formats, from Open Office to .pdf files, but most of it is in Microsoft Word, and all of it needs to be converted to HTML. There are a variety of ways to do this, but I'll just review three, two common approaches and my preferred method.

April 19, 2007

Embedding Flash Objects for Internet Explorer

Due to a lawsuit between Microsoft and Eolas, Internet Explorer no longer processes , or in the way that it used to. Now instead of using to embed a Flash file, you need to use javascript in order for Internet Explorer users to load the content automatically.

March 28, 2007

Writing to be understood by your audience

One of our campus Web maintainers recently asked if our department advocated writing to a certain reading level. I responded that while "fours years below the level of your audience" is a decent rule of thumb, the most important thing is to write clearly.

February 27, 2007

Flickr: Tags, Groups, Interestingness and Social Networking

Back on January 11th, when I first wrote about using Flickr to archive photos, I promised to follow-up with more information on keywords and groups. These tools serve organizational purposes, help users explore each others work and allow users to interact with one another. In other words, Flickr's easy-to-use photo archiving system also functions as one of the Internet's more popular social networking sites.

February 21, 2007

The site is up and running, but is anyone visiting? Find out with Aurora stats.

Finally, you've launched your site and can begin to relax. But as soon as you do that the question begins to nag, is anyone visiting? If your site is on the main Case server you can find out using the statistics generated by the Aurora Project Administration System.

January 30, 2007

CaseLearns courses to enhance your Web development skills

For those of you interested in learning more about some of the tools we use in Web development, CaseLearns is offering the following classes this semester.

January 03, 2007

New Year, New Copyright Date?

This is also the time of year when people ask me if they should now change the copyright date on the bottom of their Web sites. The short answer is no; don't change the copyright date unless you've made other changes to the site and are using a multi-year format such as © 2004-2006.

November 16, 2006

Using CSS to deliver Web content to different media types

Earlier this week Jeremy Smith wrote Delivering Web Content to Mobile Devices in which he discussed some of the different options, and concluded that by using CSS, one can configure pages for handhelds just as easily as one can for print or other media options.

September 27, 2006

Dreamweaver and Photoshop Classes

For those of you interested in learning more about some of the tools we use in Web development, Case Learns is offering the following Dreamweaver and Photoshop classes this semester.

September 20, 2006

Benefits of using the preferred first.last e-mail style

I had a request recently to edit a page that contained a list of contact addresses. For the record (and generaly speaking), Heidi and I don't actually do a lot of that for sites outside of our responsibility. When the requests come in though, we usually route the e-mail on to the maintainer of the site in question. This time though, the request came with another question to consider. Wasn't it a 'rule' at Case to use the first.last e-mail naming convention, and shouldn't their department contact list be formatted this way? If it was in fact 'a rule', they...

August 31, 2006

I'm not going to teach you CSS: Lesson 2

In our first lesson on CSS, I introduced you to the concept, gave you a new homework assignment and showed you an example of a simple site—with and without its accompanying stylesheet. For that example I used the Wolf site I had built as part of our first homework assignment for learning XHTML/HTML. Today I am going to show you how I added the styles to that site. Incorporating a stylesheet into your site involves two basic steps Create a stylesheet file: Using a plain text editor, such as Notepad or Textedit, open a new file and save it...

August 09, 2006

Avoid squishy head syndrome: proper techniques for sizing and cropping images

Heidi's head hasbeen squishedKevin's head is normal While I may never regain the finely sculpted cheekbones of my college years, the photo on the above right is not of me after a bad facelift. It's just a photo of me suffering from squishy head syndrome. I'm sure you've seen other examples. Perhaps you've been to the staff directory page for department X. It's a useful page with names, titles and contact information for everyone in the department. The only problem is that some of the people look a bit funny. Either their photos have been squished to the wrong proportions...

August 03, 2006

I'm not going to teach you CSS: Lesson 1

As a follow-up to the I'm not going to teach you XHTML/HTML and homework review entries, today I'll introduce you to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). If you are working on a Case site, you will have noticed that each set of templates comes with its own set of style sheets that determine the color scheme, fonts, etc. In most cases you can just leave these alone, but there may be times when you want to do something special such as adding colored borders to a table, or creating a red (cranberry) alert headline to emphasize something important. To do...

July 31, 2006

Valid code for using Flash animations on the Web

If you've ever tried to include a flash animation in your Web site you may have found that either your movie doesn't show up, your code doesn't validate, or both. Or perhaps you have found that while your movie appears on your page when viewed in Browser X, it does not when viewed in Browser Y. Sometime ago I encountered the same problem and after searching around the Web for various solutions I came across the following. It works in a variety of browsers and is much simpler than the code generated by Flash or Dreamweaver. To use this...

July 19, 2006

Using blogs and web pages to raise your professional profile

On Thursday, July 27th, Jeremy Smith and I will be giving a presentation on "Using blogs and web pages to raise your professional profile" as part of UCITE's summer seminar series on dealing with technology. Faculty interested in attending may register online on UCITE's event page. You may also wish to attend this week's session on "Podcasts, Blogs and Wikis," presented by Mace Mentch and Aaron Schaefer. The information they provide will be helpful to our session next week.   The slides and handout from my presentation are now available online at  ...

June 26, 2006

Uploading files with Dreamweaver (FTP)

Note to users of the main Case Web server (Aurora): As of May 19, 2008 you will upload your files via WebDAV instead of FTP. Learn more about the transition to WebDAV. Once you've planned your site and organized your files, it is time to start building and uploading your pages. If your site is hosted on Case's main Web server you will do this via FTP (File Transfer Protocol). There are a variety of good inexpensive FTP programs* available, but if you are using Dreamweaver—provided through the software center as part of Macromedia Studio—you can simply use its built-in...

June 20, 2006

Web File Organization and Naming Conventions

At home, entropy reigns supreme. My friends will attest that a visit to Heidiland—replete with obstacles ranging from art supplies to Pisa-like stacks of books—is an adventure that would be considered overly-taxing by the neat freaks of the world. My computers, however, are another story. Given that my active Web development folder has over 14,000 files within, and that this is but one of many folders on one of three computers, I've had to take a more logical approach.

June 09, 2006

I'm not going to teach you XHTML/HTML, but you should learn it anyway

If you are already comfortable editing in HTML or XHTML, then you may want to just skip to the bottom and bookmark some of the resources I've listed for future reference. But if you've just been given the responsibility of maintaining or building a new site for your department, you may be wondering where to begin. If you've done the requisite site planning, as described in my Planning Your Website Tutorial, then you are almost ready to begin building or editing your pages. To build a new site you will need to download the appropriate template files, and make sure...

May 26, 2006

Customize your masthead image

Recently we've been getting more requests from people who wish to customize the masthead image on their Websites, so I thought this would be a good time to release the magic Photoshop file and share the secret process for creating your own custom image. While the images provided with the templates are perfectly suitable for most sites, a photo that represents your topic or organization can add a nice visual cue to your users. Step One: Choose your photo Frankly, this is the hardest part of the process. First you have to find an image that represents your site, and...

Customize your masthead image

Recently we've been getting more requests from people who wish to customize the masthead image on their Websites, so I thought this would be a good time to release the magic Photoshop file and share the secret process for creating your own custom image. While the images provided with the templates are perfectly suitable for most sites, a photo that represents your topic or organization can add a nice visual cue to your users. Step One: Choose your photo Frankly, this is the hardest part of the process. First you have to find an image that represents your site, and...

July 01, 2005

So you want to build a website

This is the first in a series of entries on how to plan your website. Whether you are starting from scratch or rebuilding an existing site, I hope this will help you understand how with careful planning you can build a site that serves the needs of your target audience. Now that you've decided to make a site, you are probably thinking about colors, html and menus, etc. But just as one doesn't hit the ball in one's first tennis lesson, one doesn't start a website by jumping into the code. Instead, the first question you should ask yourself...