By now you know a number of things about your site:why you are building it, who the audience is, what will be on the site (i.e., the content), and how the whole thing is structured. You are now ready to work on the visual design, which is often the most satisfying aspect of site design.
One of its main purposes is to provide users with a sense of place. They need to know where they are on the site, where they have been, and how to get to where they want to be. A good site structure combined with an effective visual design enables users to construct a mental map of the site.
The goal of this lesson is to take the site’s structure and map it onto the visual design. A number of tools are useful in creating the design. The first step is to make layout grids that define the structure and organization of the site as it will show up on the page level. Then design sketches will establish a general look and feel. Layout grids and design sketches together lead to page mock-ups, which in turn lead to the construction of Web-based prototypes.
At this point, you’ll need the help of graphic designers, art directors, and creative directors, as well as your production crew.
Continue Reading “Information Architecture Tutorial – Lesson 5″ »
With the proliferation of ad-blocking software, and, worse, the widespread anesthesis of the ad neuron in web surfers’ brains, the classic 468×60 banner ad is not the unquestioned moneymaking powerhouse it once was. Advertisers are looking for alternative ways to grab attention.
There is an alternate approach that’s quickly grown in popularity. Current web darling Google, which is praised for its pin-neat interface (among other things), has long been leading the charge toward small, simple, text-only ads. These ads are set apart in their own table cell off to one side, shaded a different color so they stand out and are easy to notice without being annoying. They are cleanly delineated and out of the way of those who are not interested in them, but easily accessible to those who are. In this way they are presented as a resource, an offer of assistance, rather than a hard, insistent pitch.
Some other sites offering this type of advertising (referred to in some circles as “micro-ads”) simply deal them out from a pool willy-nilly, so that any time a page is viewed it will contain a different ad. Google’s ads, however, are tied into the site’s search engine functionality, synergized or “targeted” if you will, to improve their response rate dramatically.
Continue Reading “Get Started With AdWords” »
PDF is the Portable Document Format developed by Adobe. It’s an open standard implemented by Adobe in their Acrobat series of software, but implementable and extensible by anybody who’s got the time, inclination, and knack. One trick that’s got a lot of potential is using PHP to dynamically generate PDF files and serve them via the web.
PHP can do a lot for your web operation (read our PHP Tutorial for Beginners tutorial). You can generate nice-looking printable receipts, invoices, and brochures. Disc-Cover has a test site that looks up info about a CD automatically and then generates a PDF label for the CD box that you can print, cut out, and use. And there are literally one billion other possible uses for dynamically generated PDFs.
So what are you waiting for?
You have a variety of PDF-generation options. The standard, classic way of doing it is with PDFlib. Because it’s so widely used and well-integrated into PHP, that’s the library I’ll go over today. But it’s by no means the only way of doing things. PDFlib is source-available, but not free. The license specifies that PDFlib can be used and redistributed without charge for non-commercial projects, but commercial use carries a fee.
There are also a number of completely free options. These include R&OS and FPDF, Panda. The choice is yours. (I haven’t had a chance to test these free packages very thoroughly. If you have had negative or positive experiences with them, please do let me know.)
Continue Reading “Generate PDFs Dynamically With PHP” »
In my last article, Building With Ajax and Rails I made a faintly disparaging joke about some new web frameworks that have been created in fond imitation of Rails. I got a lot of feedback about that joke. I’m not allowed to comment here about the pending lawsuits, but I would ask that the drive-by eggings of my house and threats to my family please cease. (They’ve been relocated to a secret Webmonkey farm anyway.)
Today we’re going to take a look at a couple of those frameworks for PHP:Trax and Cake. Both attempt to bring the quick, easy, helpful tools and easily understood, easily maintained structure of Rails to PHP — a boon to web developers who know PHP and perhaps have some keeper code in that language, but can’t resist the Rails buzz. Both Trax and Cake use the same model-view-controller pattern and Active Record ways of addressing data that Rails does. Makes one curious, no? I don’t have time to get deeply into them today, but both stress “rapid development,” so let’s see if I, your average not-too-bright web developer, can get a little app off the ground before the end of this article.
Continue Reading “Cake and Trax for Beginners” »
Casual users of email are only mildly irritated, and even occasionally amused, by spam. “Just click delete!” they say. “One keypress and it’s gone! What could be easier?” The more of it you see, though, and the more wear your Delete key gets, the less tolerant you become. It’s like crazy people coming up to you on the street, perhaps. If you only ever see one, you laugh about his antics forever. If you see one a day, you start to think, “What a shame! Can’t something be done for these poor, poor people?” And if, everywhere you go, you are surrounded by crazy people raving in your ears and blocking your progress, it becomes impossible to get anything done. At that point, you’re basically working in Hollywood.
Spam, for the most part, is not profitable for the advertisers who pay to have it sent. It has an incredibly low success rate, and only seems like a good idea because it’s so cheap to reach millions of inboxes. The only guy who makes a profit is the middlemen:the spamhouses that take money from hapless breast-enlargement-pill manufacturers in exchange for almost-worthless bulk mailings. They use shifty techniques like forged email headers, automated freemail accounts, and bulk-mailing software.
When you start getting a lot of spam, or when you manage email for a number of people, it becomes crucial to sort the noise out of the signal. Because sorting by hand is tedious and unfeasible on even a moderate scale, the key is, of course, finding a way that a computer can distinguish spam from non-spam. A number of interesting solutions to this problem have been attempted.
In this article, it is assumed that you are running a mail server like the one described here:Set Up IMAP on Your Mail Server. Many of the techniques described herein will still be applicable on any Unix system, even if it’s just a mail client machine; and the principles apply to any email handling process.
Continue Reading “Stop Spam on Your Mail Server” »