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Hair is something I don't understand. People spend way too much time trying to get rid of it in certain places, and add it in others. I can't think of any other animal that works so hard to rearrange its fur (and look what we do to those poor poodles!). And it doesn't stop with hair—how many of us are really happy with the way we look?

The same holds true for our web sites. Luckily, ridding your site of unsightly pixels is easier than liposuction. And adding new pixels to your site is easier than adding new follicles to your head (trust me on this).

While I've finally learned the most important thing is to accept yourself for who you are (easier said than done), I have no problem being a pixel surgeon on my web sites.

Which brings us to the latest change in how eFuse looks (and more importantly, works). This time I've changed the navigation (hopefully for the better). Now it looks like real tabs, complete with little shadows and everything. But this change wasn't just for the sake of change, it was because I made a mistake nine months ago (uh-oh, that doesn't sound good, does it?). I underestimated how fast baby eFuse would grow—I've added over 60 articles in the past seven months and the navigation wasn't keeping pace.

I always tell people to prepare for the future and leave room for their site to grow, but somehow I managed to miss this myself (do I get brownie points for admitting it?).

In the previous issue, I tried adding large icons for sections within the sections. I liked them, and a vast majority of very nice readers answered the questionnaire to say they liked them, but some people thought they were too large, and one person I greatly respect (even if I do affectionately refer to him as "Pepe Le Pew") said they were confusing.

So I went back to the drawing board. I like to be original, but I also try to avoid reinventing the wheel—sometimes you can just end up with a square wheel. I had always liked the "tab" metaphor on-screen. I think the first time I saw it was years ago in the interface of Lotus Organizer (which went all out looking like a day planner book, complete with the "three ring" binder part in the middle). I'd used tabs on an earlier site design for the "Food for Thought" section of my personal site and now, frankly, tabs are all over the web.

But I like the concept—it's easy to understand and simple, so I started to design a two-level tab which would let me have two levels of navigation in the space where I previously had only one.

I went through a lot of variations. Different shapes, sizes, colors. At one point I thought of renaming all of eFuse.com's sections to the names of various types of pasta. But that was just fusilli (it was a very hot day). I showed it to a lot of people, tried to remain calm when they explained that my latest version looked more like speedbumps than tabs, and I finally found something simple yet effective.

Once I'd figured it out, it didn't take very long to get it to work because of NetObjects Fusion. I created a primary "navbar" and a secondary one under it. I created custom "tab" button graphics in CorelXara, but for the second level, I just created a blue rectangle (with a tiny white line on the right to separate it from the next button) and I let NetObjects Fusion create the graphic type on the buttons—that way I can rename, add, move, and remove pages and NetObjects Fusion will automatically update the navigation. NetObjects Fusion even builds the JavaScript rollover buttons automatically, too. Pretty cool, huh?

And now you can see this all in action at here (or any other page on the site). Tip: If you have bookmarked any pages in the Start, What's New or Publish directories, please update your links. Those sections are now named www.efuse.com/Start/ , www.efuse.com/New/ and www.efuse.com/Grow/ (easier, isn't it?)

The bottom line: well, I'm still follically-challenged but I've come to accept that (and am all the happier for it). But you don't have to accept any part of your site that could be better. Just think about what you need, think about how you can fulfill that need, and improve it. You can do it.

Take a look, and tell me what you think

FREE FONT: You fine readers have trained me that if I want you to answer a questionnaire I have to give you something, so if you answer this one, I'll give you a free font, Astroglyph Hard, a quite original futuristic font designed by my friend Matt Burns (and his mysterious "associate").

So, whatever you do, don't go to the beach or take a vacation or anything, just look at eFuse.com's new navigation. That should be all the excitement you need for one summer. Oh, yeah...—Daniel Will-Harris (who has discovered that hats are more comfortable and look better than rugs)

 

The Value Of Design (It may be worth more than you think)

Sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in the superficiality of design that people think, "Well, that's pretty, but it's not important." But the fact is, good design is valuable. It is worth something. It is important. Good design isn't superficial. It solves problems. It creates solutions. It adds value. Read how.

When bad web copy attacks! (Don't let it get you!)

Bad web copy is quietly, ruthlessly stalking new victims. Soon, it'll be circling your business. It smells the blood you've spilled into the water with wounded prose. And when it attacks, it will take a shark-sized bite out of your bottom line! Don't want to get bitten by bad web copy? Let Marc Alan Holmes (who's written for Jay Leno and Joan Rivers, so you know we're talking high-class entertainment here) tells you (in no uncertain words) how to make the words on your site soar instead of sink.

SiteSeeing (We surf through the junk, so you don't have to)

While I'd like to think that eFuse.com is the only place you'll ever need to learn how to build a better web site, I'm not so far into denial that I think this is true! So I'm taking the "Miracle on 34th Street" approach (where Macy's department store pointed people to other stores, which only caused people to go to Macy's first), by showing you some of the best places on the web to learn more about building better web sites. Sean Timberlake, one of the lead producers for the original Snap.com joins us to share his endless hours of surfing to find the best stuff on the web.

Be The Master Of Your Own Your Border (And save time)

Yes, yes, you're the master of your own domain (or maybe not). But are you the master of NetObjects Fusion's MasterBorder feature? MasterBorders are NetObjects Fusion's great way of letting you globally change your navigation—or whatever else you want on multiple pages. They're easy once you understand them, but the concept can confuse people at first. If you're confused, or just want to make sure you're getting the most out of this powerful feature, Rick Tew offers his latest Tewtorial to help you master your border.

A Marketing Idea-A-Day (Oh boy!)

Mary Gillen and Andy Attiliis are full of good ideas. For business (of course). They have so many ideas about marketing on the Web and beyond that they are able to produce "A Marketing Idea A Day," e-mail newsletter (as well as an interesting web site). Don't ask me how they manage this, since my idea of an idea a day usually involves what's for dinner.

Their tips are clever and useful and so good that I said, "Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," so I've asked them to contribute to a new area on eFuse.com

Some highlights include:

  • 42 Web Marketing Ideas,
  • Internet Marketing—Your Mother Was Right,
  • Domain Name Games,
  • Ultimate E-mail: Tips from the Internet Wizards,
  • Unsolicited E-Mail is OK (sometimes).

Sign on for ¥A-Marketing-Idea-A-Day-by-e-mail, a free subscription service from Idea Site for Business which sends you exactly what its title suggests: a marketing idea to your e-mail box every day.

Mary and Andy will be updating this area with new articles and tips—but the articles will remain on their site. In exchange, eFuse.com will have info and links on their site. Since our sites are speaking to the same people, but covering different material, it's a perfect symbiotic relationship. I love the word "symbiotic" and it always reminds me of those little fish that swim next to sharks, cleaning their gills, and in return the sharks protect them—and don't eat them.

So if you have a site with content that could work with on another site, talk to them about sharing. It's good for readers, it's good for you, so it's a win-win-win situation.

 

Where in the world wide web am i?

I am always amazed (and disappointed) at how many sites lose all sense

of place once you scroll down from the top of the page. Yes, you could use frames to keep your navigation and logo on-screen, but this also makes sites harder to use.

So what's the simplest way to create a more distinctive site? Background images. They provide a easy, effective way to remind people where they are on the web, which is valuable both for them and you.

A simple, distinctive, background border reinforces a site's name and brand anywhere and everywhere on the page and takes only a few seconds to download once, then can be used repeatedly throughout your site. It's efficient, and it's effective.

We're not talking rocket science here—do you want your site to look like everyone else's, or do you want it to be distinctive and interesting? Do you want your site visitors to know they're getting the information you worked so hard on from your site, or to simply forget and have it merge into all those other sites they've visited?

Don't lose a global opportunity to make people remember your site, and, in turn, reward you for providing it. Just because "everyone else" is doing white backgrounds doesn't mean you should, too. As so many parents have said in the past, "If all your friend were jumping off bridges, would you do that, too?"

To read more about creating background images, click here.

Easy pop up text windows?

I received an e-mail from a very nice man who asked how I made those "pop up windows that show text over graphics on your site." I thought, "Gee, that sounds really good, how did I make them?"

Then he explained that when he put his mouse over the graphics at the top of eFuse.com articles, it told him things like, "From www.artville.com," and then I realized—he was talking about ALT tags.

What's interesting is that he viewed these as a "feature," which is probably how many people view them. I just thought of them as a necessity, something you did for people who had slow connections, had their graphics turned off, couldn't see graphics, or for search engines so they would index text associated with a picture.

I had taken it for granted that everyone knew what an ALT tag was, even though many people fail to use them.

They're easy to add. In NetObjects Fusion, when you add a graphic, just look at the properties palette—it has a space that says AltTag, and you enter whatever text you want there. Make it as long and descriptive as you want.

If you're writing HTML, you add ALT= to your graphic tag, like <IMG SRC="efuse-logo.gif" ALT="eFuse.com logo—the friendly place to learn how to build a better web site." Use them.

Interesting stuff

¥Web MiracleFeed The Hungry With Just A Click

Here's a great idea. All you have to do is visit this site and click on the "Donate Free Food" button. When you do, a sponsoring corporation will make a donation to feed a starving person for one day. You can do this once a day, and it costs nothing to you personally.

This is a form of public relations for the sponsoring company. It gets their name in front of you and associates it with a good cause. It does not cost you anything to make this donation. So bookmark it, email all your friends about it, and visit it once a day!

One Final Word

I get a lot of e-mail from people asking how I get so much accomplished. I have two answers: the first is that I work really hard! I enjoy it (so, as a teenager once told me, "If you enjoy it, it's not really work,") but it does involve long hours.

And two, quite honestly, I couldn't do all this without NetObjects Fusion. I was able to change navigation on every page in almost 200 pages faster and easier than I could have done it in any other program. I don't say that to sell you anything, I say it because it's true.

That's it. Don't forget to enjoy yourself!

daniel will-harris

 

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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.