Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Deliver First Class Web Sites 95

Michael J. Ross writes "Experienced and conscientious Web developers, in their efforts to learn from the mistakes of others and to avoid repeating them on their own projects, tend to accumulate tips and recommendations for the many aspects of successfully creating Web sites. These best practices take the form of bookmarked Web pages, saved articles, downloaded PDF files, scribbled notes on scraps of paper, and hastily created documents that will be better organized one of these days, when the developer's schedule becomes less hectic (sure...). Being difficult if not impossible to find later, these pearls of wisdom are rarely consulted before or during each new Web site project. What the developer needs is a book that brings together as many of these best practices as possible, without being overwhelming. Deliver First Class Web Sites: 101 Essential Checklists may be the answer." Read the rest of Michael's review.
Deliver First Class Web Sites
author Shirley Kaiser
pages 331
publisher SitePoint
rating 8
reviewer Michael J. Ross
ISBN 0975841904
summary A collection of Web site development best practices.


Authored by Shirley Kaiser, this book was published by SitePoint in July 2006, under the ISBN 0975841904. The publisher maintains a Web page devoted to the book, where visitors will find the book's table of contents online, a free preview (chapters 6, 12, and 14, in PDF format), editorial and customer reviews, a link to download all of the checklists (also in PDF) for all customers, links and an FAQ for ordering directly from SitePoint, and errata (none reported, as of this writing). The fact that SitePoint is willing to allow readers to post unmoderated comments and ratings of their books, suggests that it has real confidence in the quality of the book's material and readers' evaluations of it.

The aforesaid Web page also offers an online version of the index, but without any of the book's page numbers. At first glance, this might seem rather odd, but it does make some sense: Page numbers online would be of little use without the book itself, which of course already contains the index. Perhaps the index keys are offered to supplement the table of contents in helping the prospective customer learn what topics are covered in the book. In any case, this is the first time that I have seen a book's index online, and it will likely not be the last, if other publishers see the value in following suit.

In the preface, Shirley Kaiser explains that the book is intended to be "...a single source of solid information on best practices for everything from planning, designing, developing, and testing, to launching a web site and maintaining it in the long term. By compiling all this information into checklists, we've turned a vast wealth of detail into convenient, easy-to-scan, simple-to-use chunks organized by topic." A technical reader quickly scanning the book, would likely conclude that the author's goal has been achieved, because the book's 101 checklists comprise over 500 checkpoints, and almost all of them are expanded with at least a paragraph of more detailed explanation; many have accompanying code or images to illustrate the checkpoint.

The book's 331 pages of material are organized into 16 chapters, followed by an appendix that focuses on e-commerce advice. The topics covered in the chapters are: how to get started on a Web development project; planning the Web site with a client; assembling the site's content; managing that content; site usability; color schemes and functionality; information architecture; designing the site's navigation; W3C standards and recommendations; site accessibility; optimization of site performance; search engine optimization; design principles; site testing, including accessibility and usability; launch preparation and execution; post-launch follow-up and maintenance.

In terms of the specificity and usefulness of the checkpoints, they are not all consistently stellar, which arguably would have been an impossible expectation anyway. They range from the obvious (e.g., "Use consistent markup") to the not-so-obvious but equally valid (e.g., "Perform content audits"). Some of the checkpoints may on the surface appear mundane, but they could be a lifesaver further down the road, should a project turn sour (e.g., "Archive a copy of the handover package"). Some of them may seem painfully obvious to any decent developer (e.g., "Check all hyperlinks" and "Test all scripting functions"), but even the majority of those are violated on a daily basis, even by major Web sites, which have no excuse for such sloppiness.

The primary value of this book is how it neatly consolidates a considerable amount of worthy advice culled from the author's research and decade in the trenches of the Internet. The book probably will not replace all of the best practices that any top-notch developer will have assembled over the years — especially as none of it addresses advanced topics — but it could easily serve as a solid foundation upon which to add any supplemental recommendations that the book does not cover. Moreover, the book's material is presented in a fairly concise and quite readable format, making use of what appears to be a font slightly larger than is found in the typical computer programming book.

My only complaint with this title is the way that SitePoint continues to include a growing number of advertising pages, at the end of the book, with the bulk of each page black (sometimes even a bit smeared), and containing absolutely no details about the books being advertised. When SitePoint first began publishing books, if memory serves, they would only include one or two such over-the-top pages — possibly because they had so few titles to advertise at the inception. But now they are truly overdoing it. In Deliver First Class Web Sites: 101 Essential Checklists, no fewer than a dozen pages are wasted on this unwanted advertising. It would have been far more effective and efficient to simply list the 11 books' titles with a brief summary of each. Whoever decided to waste all that paper and ink, clearly did not read and understand some of the most basic checkpoints presented earlier in the book concerning type size and page content.

But overall, Deliver First Class Web Sites: 101 Essential Checklists is a much-needed book that brings together a wide range of valuable Web development best practices.

Michael J. Ross is a computer consultant, freelance writer, and the editor of PristinePlanet.com's free newsletter."


You can purchase Deliver First Class Web Sites from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Deliver First Class Web Sites

Comments Filter:
  • Learn to spell first!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's not necessarily a checklist. It's clean, consistent design based on outstanding communication with your client. You can build the best design in the history of Web design, but if it doesn't match the vision of your client, then you are simply toast.
    • by CDPatten ( 907182 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @03:22PM (#16491581) Homepage
      I don't completely agree. Often times clients have "design visions" that just don't meet the objectives. I think a good developer solves the problem the website needs to solve while bringing the client into the know. Teaching the client and helping them alter their vision to meet their objective.

      For example, I've had a photographer once who wanted tons of high res pictures one below the other blanketing the first page of his site (like 100 of them). He thought it would be "cool".

      That vision would not meet the objective the photogrpaher had of showing his work off and growing his business. It would have just irritated people and turned them off to his site.

      Frankly, my company overcharges for our sites, but we can do that because the client gets the results they wanted. They are willing to pay for our insights and vision for them even though they don't always see it right away. The clients vision of the design doesn't always line up with the objective for the site.

      Its your job as the expert to guide them. I don't go to the mechanic and tell him how to get to the fan belt. He is the expert and that is why I pay him, I might have ideas on how to do it, but he is the one who knows, not me.
      • Frankly, my company overcharges for our sites, but we can do that because the client gets the results they wanted.


        If your clients get the results they wanted, you haven't really overcharged them, especially if their original vision was impractical or unworkable. One of the things they're paying for is your ability to turn their ideas into something that works and does what they need.

        • "There is no such word as "alot," and if there is, there shouldn't be. It's "a lot." Two words, not one."

          thankslot for the PSA!
        • by Crizp ( 216129 )
          There is no such word as "alot," and if there is, there shouldn't be. It's "a lot." Two words, not one.

          Haven't heard about "alot"? As in "your alotted time on this earth"?

      • Website design should be left to professionals. However, the SPIRIT of the website needs to be communicated to the professionals by the site owner. Don't let advertising agency determine the spirit of your business or your website. Jay Levinson talks about that, even in the pre-internet era. People come to websites for content and information and seldom just to be entertained. So give them what they want and they will buy from you.
      • Frankly, my company overcharges for our sites
        If your old customers are paying you, and you are getting new customers, you are not overcharging. Trust me, I'm an accountant.
    • shamless plug And the best way to see how the general public interacts with your web site and appreciates it is to use http://uservue.techsmith.com/ [techsmith.com] end shamless plug
      • Probably would help to create a better shameless plug if you proofread the login page before you invited the world...

    • If you don't match your client's vision you haven't made a good website. Period. Good websites are about communication. If you have communicated so poorly with your client that you build something the client doesn't like, I'd seriously doubt whether you can communicate well with the rest of the world.

      That said, there are some clients who's ideas are so far from yours that you should refer them out. You can't do a good job for someone you seriously disagree with.
      • That said, there are some clients who's ideas are so far from yours that you should refer them out. You can't do a good job for someone you seriously disagree with.

        So true, and many client's have a vision that is changed very often and you have to adapt, and some just don't know what they want at all so you have to rapidly produce examples and elicit the idea from them and their team. It is not an easy task gathering requirements.

  • by KingJackaL ( 871276 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @02:28PM (#16490657) Homepage
    conscientious adj: meticulous; careful; painstaking; particular
    From [reference.com]

    Surely by definition, a conscientious web developer would be exactly the person who wouldn't, in fact, have all their heuristics and guidelines lying around on pieces of paper/mental notes/etc?

    Not to discount the book, but I know in at least the case of the firm I work for, we wikify such matters, and they're regularly converted to a more formal procedures manual. Is this unusual for web development?

    • by apt142 ( 574425 )
      It sounds like you have a couple of web developers or at worst one guy dedicated to the task. A lot of smaller shops have just one guy who does it with other "IT" related tasks.

      When you've got other tasks or responsibilities at hand it's not easy to find time to organize your notes.
      • True, point taken. I guess we're lucky - we're big enough to have a couple of designers, couple of developers, and a project manager etc. Even though I'm also the 'IT guy' here for a lot of stuff, I only have to keep proceedures up to date for development - the designers look after the web design guidelines, etc.
    • It's a great idea, but, ah, to have the luxury of that much extra time. Books like this and Web Redesign: Workflow That Works, http://tinyurl.com/y3kajb [tinyurl.com] (Amazon/TinyURL link) that provide good checklists are a godsend for the small shop.

      They may not fit your firm's policies and workflow exactly but are better than nothing and cheap compared to the number of hours maintaining a wiki would entail. And they're way better than nothing at all, which is what too many design firms have.

  • samples (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dotpavan ( 829804 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @02:28PM (#16490663) Homepage
    not to be flamebait or anything, but atleast I was not impressed with his sample creations [www.ross.ws]..
    • The first example he has on there is two huge images with some image maps...
    • Not flamebait at all, just truthful observation. One of his "creations" has a lot of text as images (oh and it's dynamically served static pages).. don't even get me started on text as images, I'll start foaming at the mouth. I'll sum it up in 4 words: wrong, very very wrong.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gordyf ( 23004 )
        Not only are images used for text, but the text is in a JPG, and covered in compression artifacts. This guy shouldn't be writing a web development book.

        • "This guy shouldn't be writing a web development book."

          I couldn't agree more. Makes you wonder about the reviewer's connection to the writer. Anyone who has a clue about web-dev would not reccomend this writer.
        • by drakaan ( 688386 )
          Maybe that's the "graphics created by the customer" part. Not that he deserves a pass on anything else, but it seemed as if he mentioned that for a reason...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Those who can, do.
      Those who can't, teach.
      Those who can't teach, write books.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Those who can't write books review them (this guy).
        Those who can't review books argue about reviews on Slashdot.
        • Those who can't write books review them (this guy).
          Those who can't review books argue about reviews on Slashdot.

          And then there are those of us^h^h^h^h^h who have no time for arguing about reviews because we are way too busy sorting through pdfs, URLs of snazzy web sites (in multiple browsers and directories labeled "URLs"), out-dated guides downloaded from a.b.e-books.etc, scraps of paper, Photoshop tips in soft covers (great bathroom reading material, by the way, uh, someone 'told me'), Webstractored si

      • by mgblst ( 80109 )
        Those who can, do.
        Those who can't, teach.
        Those who can't teach, write books.

        Those who can't write books, write silly little message on slashdot.
    • Re:samples (Score:5, Informative)

      by sartin ( 238198 ) <sartin@acm.FORTRANorg minus language> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @03:33PM (#16491757) Homepage

      not to be flamebait or anything, but atleast I was not impressed with his sample creations [www.ross.ws].

      That was actually the sample page for the reviewer, so we've established that he likely needs this book very badly. The author of the book is Shirley Kaiser and the SKDesigns portfolio [skdesigns.com] is better, though there are a distressing number of client porfolio example that are no longer online with the SKDesigns' design and can only be viewed as screenshots. The SKDesign site, however, shows a well structured approach to design with attention to web standards (and my pet requirement, accessibility) and is not visually disruptive.

  • Use more Flash, Baby!!!!
  • Use memorable URLS, and even better are guessable URLs.

    You know, foo.com/contact, foo.com/about, not foo.com/bar.xyz?asda1=324324324324324324&fds=32473 24324
    • Don't be afraid to use your .htaccess with some URL rewriting to provide backwards compatability. If you've changed your whole site to have newly renamed script files (do.task.php?id=123 instead of taskdo_v2.php?id=123) and are using friendly URL rewriting by default (site.com/task/123) then *please* also include a rewrite for taskdo_v2.php?id=123 to do.task.php?id=123.

      Why? It makes sure that old links don't fall into the realms of 404 simply because you made all your url's 'friendly', or renamed a file so
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @02:42PM (#16490883) Journal
    Never, ever, under any circumstances, for any reason, no matter how much you are paid, threatened or if everyone else is doing it, use Flash for your opening page.

    Nothing short of an excessively annoying car commercial which perpetually runs on local radio stations makes my hand move faster than to get away from a site where Flash is required to see what's there.
    • Splash pages in general turn me off. When I go to a website I don't want to have an extra page with a link to click in order to get to the content. Don't make me waste my time and bandwidth on junk like:

      "Welcome to My Web Site! Click to Continue!"

    • by gaggle ( 206502 )
      How about you throw us a link to that survey pointing out how the vast majority of users thinks like you. You know, something to take up to the boss to use as an argument, because honestly "some guy at slashdot said it was bad" just doesn't cut it anymore.
    • Just came across this in a Google Ad promising "Boot Up Any PC to Pure DOS. Include All Major DOS Commands!":

      http://www.pcbeginner.com/tools/pcdoctor.htm [pcbeginner.com]

      I wish this website booted into DOS.
    • by Apotsy ( 84148 )
      I have a site which proves you wrong:

      here [zombo.com]

  • I bet book orders are pouring in now that Slashdot ran this story.
    Does Slashdot at least get pay-per-click referrals?
  • "First Class"? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @03:05PM (#16491281) Homepage Journal
    I looked through the review for an idea of what the phrase "first class" might mean to the writers, but I didn't spot it. This was a way of getting at the real question: What sort of web site is being pushed here?

    My suspicion, based on lots of other similar examples of advice on building web sites the Right Way, is that "first class" means flashy and entertaining. Maybe I'm wrong, but experience here says to expect the worst.

    Not that I'm objecting to that. There's a demand for entertainment on the web. But there's also a demand for informative sites, and the design criteria for information and entertainment are very different.

    Most of the web sites I've been involved with are of the informative type. For such sites, the canonical "first class" site is google.com, not (for example) yahoo.com. For a more complex site, news.google.com works pretty well.

    But I didn't get a feel from the review or the author's web site what their criteria for "first class" might be. Unless I get a clear idea what sort of web site is being pushed, I probably won't be spending my money on any book of advice.

    (I might also obsever that most entertainment sites are really in need of good advice on how to do the job right. But I probably don't need to tell that to anyone who visits them often. ;-)
  • by caudron ( 466327 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @03:12PM (#16491409) Homepage
    Experienced and conscientious Web developers, in their efforts to learn from the mistakes of others and to avoid repeating them on their own projects
    ...and can we hire them for our WebDev team?

    Tom Caudron
    http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]
  • I don't think this author is particularly qualified to speak to "first class" web design. The author's own design company, SKDesigns, is entirely unimpressive. The portfolio [skdesigns.com] includes things like this [skdesigns.com]. So why is Slashdot heaping on the publicity?
  • Does this book include seo guide or just design issues?
  • by jesuscyborg ( 903402 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @03:15PM (#16491463)
    One thing I'd like to see more of in web development are keyboard shortcuts. (This really only applies to websites built for the backend, not so much the front end.) The problem is that websites tend to be a very cumbersome tool as far as human computer interaction is concerned; after all, web pages were originally intended to view documents! Web developers need to program more javascript shortcuts in to their code. Even just simple stuff, like instead of searching for the next button with your mouse, just being able to press 'n'. Want to view a support ticket? Just press 's' and the ticket number. Worker productivity would skyrocket.

    Most people perceive "new web technology" as an end in itself, and will rewrite all their software to be web-based without realizing the strengths and weaknesses of the new platform. When this happens, you get is really really bad software. For example, I know some people who work in customer service who were moved off of a telnet based support system to a web gui and lost their minds when a single command line entry became 5 mouse clicks and lots of scrolling with 1 second page loads.
    • Web developers need to program more javascript shortcuts in to their code. Even just simple stuff, like instead of searching for the next button with your mouse, just being able to press 'n'.

      Right... and who's going to educate users about such schemes, which will undoubtedly vary from one site to the next? Outside of involved "web apps", there's probably a trade-off in development time in building out something along these lines given how few users to whom this will appeal, who are willing to take t

      • Right... and who's going to educate users about such schemes, which will undoubtedly vary from one site to the next? Outside of involved "web apps", there's probably a trade-off in development time in building out something along these lines given how few users to whom this will appeal, who are willing to take the time to learn an ad hoc navigation scheme in the first place.

        When you pay someone to spend 40 hours a week using a web application, is it unreasonable to assume that someone could take the time

        • When you pay someone to spend 40 hours a week using a web application, is it unreasonable to assume that someone could take the time to tell them?

          My point with respect to training had to do with "websites" not a particular web application backed as you describe. Again, that's a narrow case taken in the full context of your original statements.

          Your original post blurs distinction between what's advantageous for "web developers" (unqualified, as a general class) relative to more specialized "web gu

    • by Senzei ( 791599 )
      My problem with keyboard shortcuts is that it is almost impossible to pick ones that A) are useful/"intuitive" and B) are not already taken by a major operating system or browser. Take my favorite irritation: wikipedia. I often end up trying to go directly from wikipedia to the firefox search box. On a non-irritating website all I have to do is hold down control and press 'L'. Someone at wikipedia thought it would be a good idea to make that reload the page. Granted, I think they were around before firefox
  • <rant>

    One thing that really bothers me about many web sites is this: If I have to enter my name, address etc., I frequently find that the web page designer thinks that all countries are the same.

    I may find that I am required to write in which state I live. My country doesn't have states.

    Or I may be required to write a 10-digit phone number. My phone number has 8 digits.

    Or I may be forced to put the postal code after the city. In my country, the postal code goes before the city.

    Dear web form

    • Dear web form designers: It is not unreasonable to expect that people know how to write their own address correctly.

      You must have different users than I do.

    • beverly hills
      90210
      ca

    • I could not agree more. There is no end the the variations possible:

      The commonest problem is that they insist on a state or a region as well as a city. In most countries this is not usual. I have never lived at any address that required a state or region.

      I have also lived in a flat that did not have a street address: I had a flat number, the name of the building, and the name of the complex (which could be entered from several surrounding streets) and the city and post-code.

      Finally in Britian it used to be
      • And in England, towns are one thing, cities are another. I live in a town, not a city.
        (But I'll buy the book. For some reason, I can program anything well except web sites.)

  • All kidding aside, based on the Table of Contents this seems to be just an updated version of "How to Design A Website", albeit it looks a bit more detailed than those versions of the past. I like that they mention things like "backups" and other useful topics for the serious mom-and-pop sites (at least they will know what a backup is!)

    Still, imagine what those books from the 90's would look like to a modern website developer... :)

    The reviewer mentions that "none of it addresses advanced topics" which to me indicates that yeah, it's great for getting started (as the title suggests) but you should read it fast... the content is probably already out of date. In my opinion, the dead-tree versions of "How to Design a Website" are a bit of an anachronism in this day and age [google.com].

  • Looks like it is a book by a front page user....

    Web design and development are two different things, everyone can design but only a few can develop.
  • This is probably an excellent resource, but at this point it is one of many. The persistent problem is not developers, but clients. Internal or external, it doesn't matter. When marketing managers and O-level executives have a resource that tells them that they need to stop making decisions based on what their favorite colors are, or what websites their kids like to visit, we'll all be better off. In the mean time, at least there's Don't Make Me Think [sensible.com]. But if the decisionmakers who have the pursestrings don

    • by Xugumad ( 39311 )
      > When marketing managers and O-level executives have a resource that tells them that they need to stop making decisions based on what their favorite colors are, or what websites their kids like to visit...

      Or confusing attention grabbing, and a good website. Managers seem to confuse websites (which aer an information source) and advertising (which primarily has to grab people's attention).
      • by Infonaut ( 96956 )

        Managers seem to confuse websites (which aer an information source) and advertising (which primarily has to grab people's attention).

        Excellent point. There's also a helluva lot of "if our competitors are putting orange starbursts on their websites, we should be doing it too!" Further proof that most execs are faking it, just like the rest of us. They just get paid more and have golden parachutes in case they fail. ;-)

  • More than a book, what the developer really needs is an IDE that he can TAG with tips he creates himself for various situations. As an example, let's say you're using javascript and do a lot of for loops through arrays. You happen across something that tells you that a best practice is to turn the length of the array into a variable before you loop through it so you don't have to access the length on every itteration. It would be cool to be able to "tag" the expression "for (" so that your helpful tip wi
    • There is an answer and to find out, all you have to do is pay $....

      oh wait, maybe I'll just tell you.

      Drumroll please!!!!!

      Use comments!!

      Tada, thank you folks, I'll be here all night.

      Ben

      PS. I charge extra to actually show how they work in js.
      • Yeah, but comments still cause you to have to go back and re-read old code which is the same as having to open another resource which goes back to my original point that you don't want to have to do that.
  • Why would slashdot pimp this one book? There are hundreds of web site design books equally has horrible as this one. The website for the design company selling this book is terrible, as pointed out be a previous slashdotter. Why don't we use slashdot space for things that are important and cool. This is a pile of pulped wood created by a non-technical self-promoter. How about a good reference on Tomcat Jakarta? How about a cool book on AJAX? How about a slammin' book on integrating Tomcat Jakarta, J2

egrep patterns are full regular expressions; it uses a fast deterministic algorithm that sometimes needs exponential space. -- unix manuals

Working...