Web Authoring Tips

Just like we need to know whether someone is writing or speaking American or British English to interpret language correctly, web browsers need to know what version of HTML we are using in our pages. That is the function of the DOCTYPE declaration typically found at the very top of the page. Omitting it can cause a page to be rendered incorrectly.

The reason is that many browsers adjust the manner in which they render pages in an effort to best effect the author’s intent. Where no DOCTYPE, or an invalid DOCTYPE is given, the browser may switch to "quirks" mode, which is designed to display pages written for older browsers and thus ignores many newer HTML and CSS settings.

The W3 Consortium has a Recommended list of Doctype declarations on its web site.

Google periodically refines its ranking methods to improve results and thwart "tricks" used to boost position. Two February 2011 New York Times articles explain.

The first, "The Dirty Little Secrets of Search," describes how J.C. Penney got caught using questionable tactics to leap to the top of search results in dozens of retail categories. After Google took what it describes as "strong corrective action," Penney dropped from 1st to 68th and 71st in two categories mentioned in the article.

The other, "Seeking to Weed Out Drivel, Google Adjusts Search Engine," talks about changes made to demote sites described as "content farms." Apparently the sites generate articles written around common search terms in the hope they will be a magnet for search engines.

Often web authors are asked to include pictures of book covers, catalogue pages, or publication mastheads on their pages. If the original page was created on a computer, there are two easy ways to create GIF or JPEG graphics directly from the original without scanning.

One is to open the document on your computer and take a "picture" of it using a screen capture utility. Alternatively, if the program used to create the publication allows one to save a page as an EPS file, as both PageMaker and QuarkXPress do, you can do so and then convert the EPS file to a bitmap graphic by opening it in Photoshop. Usually this latter approach produces better results, although it involves more steps and requires greater system resources.

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Updated May 12, 2012.