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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) November 13, 2000


This newsletter is sponsored by: Equilibrium, IBM, Informative Graphics and Building Dynamic Websites __________________________________________________________________


THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT IS ABOUT TO SPEND MediaRich is here - a server-based publishing platform that turns surfers into customers with interactive shopping and real- time one-to-one marketing. With MediaRich, updating visual content is no longer expensive or time-consuming. You can create one set of visual assets and deploy them anywhere, and update your site in minutes instead of months. http://www.equilibrium.com.


http://www.webreference.com http://www.webreference.com/new/ http://www.webreference.com/new/submit.html This week we show how to expand some dingbats, encrypt email, generate HTML dynamically, and create pop-out menu bars with JavaScript. We review a great new book on usability, and update our popular Internet License Plate Gallery. You can (re)-count on us to deliver!

New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. PRODUCTION GRAPHICS: 3D Dingbats: Bringing a Dingbat to Life 2. MOTHER OF PERL: RSA Encryption in Perl 3. EXPLORING XML: Dynamically generating HTML pages with XMLC 4. DOC JAVASCRIPT: Pop-out Menu Bars, Part II: Browser-Independent Version 5. BOOK REVIEW: Don't Make Me Think! 6. UPDATE: Internet License Plate Gallery 7. NET NEWS: * War of programming language may be brewing * Gates envisions browser-less future * A Triumph of Hope Over Experience

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. PRODUCTION GRAPHICS: 3D Dingbats: Bringing a Dingbat to Life

Learn how to morph dingbats into stunning 3D graphics using Photoshop and a dash of Alien Skin. By guest columnist Shirley Kaiser.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. MOTHER OF PERL: RSA Encryption in Perl

Encrypting data is becoming more important in a world where everyone wants to snoop. Learn how to protect your data in an ironclad lockbox with Perl and the Crypt::RC4 module. By Jonathan Eisenzopf.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. EXPLORING XML: Dynamically generating HTML pages with XMLC

XMLC creates dynamic content from static HTML and XML documents using Java. XMLC: a better way to dynamically create HTML. By Michael Classen.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 4. DOC JAVASCRIPT: Pop-out Menu Bars, Part II: Browser-Independent Version

We extend our JavaScript-powered horizontal pop-down menus to work with Netscape. Now with click-sensitive tabs. By Dr. Yehuda Shiran.



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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 5. BOOK REVIEW: Don't Make Me Think!

A practical Web design usability guide, "Don't Make Me Think!" is based on empirical observation not exhaustive statistics. Steve Krug's five years of usability consulting and testing are distilled down to this thin yet gem-filled how-to. Krug observed how people actually use the Web rather than how we *think* they use it, gleaning key usability guidelines. Most folks can't afford a full-blown usability consult, but they can afford to buy a $35 book. This book shows you how to conduct your own usability tests on the cheap. What follows is a summary of the book's major rules and observations:

1. Don't Make Me Think!

The number one usability rule, most often expresed by users. Web pages should be self-evident, obvious, and self-explanatory. Buttons should have short text and look clickable. The default search for your site should be simple.

2. Design for scanning not reading

By observing users Krug found that people glance, scan some text, and click on the first reasonable option (called "satisficing"). People scan Web pages, they don't read them. We don't make optimal choices, we satisfice.

Here are some things you can do to make sure users understand as much of your site as possible:

a. Create a clear visual hierarchy to show relative importance of content (H1/H2 etc.) b. Take advantage of conventions c. Break pages up into clearly defined areas d. Make it obvious what's clickable e. Minimize noise

3. Users like mindless choices

Make each click an unambiguous orthogonal alternative.

4. Omit needless words

Get rid of half of the words on each page, then get rid of half of what's left. This is especially important on home pages and gateway pages.

5. Navigation: Use street signs and breadcrumbs

Factoid: The back button accounts for 30 to 40 percent of all Web clicks. Persistent navigation appears on every page of the site and should include the following five elements:

a. Site ID b. A way home c. Search d. Sections e. Utilities

Your navigation should answer these questions:

a. What site is this? b. What page am I on? c. What are the major sections of this site? d. What are my options at this level? e. Where am my in the scheme of things? f. How can I search?

6. Your home page should convey the big picture

What is the site about? Use a good short tag line and welcome blurb. Rotate site promotions. Remove everything nonessential.

7. Most Web design usability arguments are waste of time

These "religious debates" consist of people expressing strongly held personal beliefs about things that can't be proven. All Web users are unique. There are no average users. There are no simple "right" answers for most Web design questions. What works is good integrated design that fills a need, that's carefully thought out, well executed, and tested.

The antidote for religious debate is to ask specific questions and test with real users. The last three chapters of the book show how to perform testing on the cheap with three or four users. I really enjoyed this book, recommended.

Don't Make Me Think! by Steve Krug Que, $35.00 ISBN: 0-7897-2310-7 http://www.circle.com/krugbook/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 6. UPDATE: Internet License Plate Gallery

Got a cool Net-related plate? Let us know. Our latest favorites include WWWCAR, HACKER, and WEBNERD.



Sharing information with everyone in your company is easy with the Web these days, right? Not always. As the company webmaster, do you have time to convert everything to HTML, format it, and update it the instant changes are made? If not, check out Net-Itô Central from Informative GraphicsÆ to Web publish all the documents your people need easily, quickly and reliably and make them available instantly. Click here to find out more and try a free download. http://www.net-it.com/wr.htm


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 7. NET NEWS: War of programming language may be brewing, Gates envisions browser-less future, A Triumph of Hope Over Experience

>War of programming language may be brewing

A holy war of sorts might be brewing beneath the surface of the Web between two programming languages, C# and Java. http://www.techserver.com/noframes/story/0,2294,500279315-500438136-502802597-0, 00.html Nando.com, 001113

>Gates envisions browser-less future

Bill Gates opened the Comdex technology show with his traditional glimpse of the future, which this time included a clipboard-shaped computer and a new era of software without Web browsers. http://www.techserver.com/noframes/story/0,2294,500279222-500437990-502801279-0, 00.html Nando.com, 001113

>A Triumph of Hope Over Experience

96 percent of last year's online holiday shoppers in the US intend to purchase gifts online again this year, even though more than half of them have experienced "a purchase failure." http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article/0,,4_509911,00.html Internetnews.com, 001113


Building Dynamic Web Sites * December 6 * Boston, MA Still building Web sites the old fashioned way with static HTML pages? This one-day crash-course Dec. 6 in Boston will show you how to move from a flat-file nightmare to an easy-to-manage database-driven set up. Sign up by Nov. 15 and SAVE $100. For more information and to register to go: http://seminars.internet.com/webdev/ma00/index.html


That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Managing Editor, WebReference.com update@webreference.com

Catherine Levy Assistant Editor, WebReference.com clevy@internet.com

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