[SFRG] Science Fiction Resource Guide [Update Log] [What's New]

Updates are handled by Chaz Boston Baden. Please read the Frequently Asked Questions before you write.

Rev. 28-Sep-2001

Things that make me cranky

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"Thanks to your use of FRAMES, I don't see any content at all when I look at your web page under Lynx. But thanks for suggesting it anyway, and please let me know if you make your site work for non-frames browsers." (E-mail sent by the maintainer recently.)

I do a lot of my work on the SFRG from a text-based editor and a Unix shell prompt. (From 1995 to about 1997-1998, I did all of it that way.) Consequently, when I check out a site it's usually from Lynx, the text-only browser. When I run across a site that just says [IMAGE] [IMAGE] [ISMAP] [LINK] [LINK], I'll sometimes tell the sitemaster that he or she can add ALT= tags and have a more-useful site. I pointed this out to one webmaster and he said: "without our graphics, you have no web site. i've chosen to write off folks who aren't interested because our look is the whole reason we exist." That's bad enough, but when the page is completely blank - because everything's inside a frame - I'm generally ready to decline adding the site to the SFRG. This is what makes me cranky...

Of late, I've been using Opera (opera.com) as my browser of choice. It's fast, it's free (they have a free version with a not-too-obtrusive banner ad at the top, and a paid option which removes 'em), and you can very easily turn on/off graphics loading, increase/decrease the font sizes and images, and so forth. I can get the best of both worlds - I can look at your page as a graphic site, and I can hit 'g' and see if you've got your ALT tags in place. [Updated Sep 2001]

On the other hand, there are people out there who are putting web pages together who don't actually know their HTML. (The guy I've quoted above does his work in a wysiwyg HTML program.) They might not realize that you don't have to sacrifice graphical bells and whistles in order to add text-capable functionality. [View with ANY browser] And, they might not know how to use "NOFRAMES" to present their page. The typical frame-using page I've seen has a "menu" or table of contents sub-page; the quick and dirty approach is to just load that page directly instead of as a subpage-in-a-frame, and that will often give full access to the site's contents just as if it was still in the frame.

(Incidentally, as long as we're on the subject of quick tricks, if you're setting up a table try adding a <BR> before each set of </TD></TR> tags. This will usually be enough to make your table rows show up on separate lines on table-unaware browsers, and won't affect the appearance on the graphical ones.)

"The key advantage that comes with the little bit of extra work needed to make your page look OK in text-based Lynx is that it automagically is more handicap accessible (for text-to-audio interfaces, etc." (Earl Cooley III (io.com)) If you're interested in this sort of thing, I recommend perusing What's Blind on the Web Twelfth Edition (nyise.org).

Anyhow, if you want to check out your own site before writing in to suggest it, I suggest viewing it with Lynx or some other plain-ascii text browser (you can do this online with Delorie Software's Lynx Viewer (delorie.com). (Delorie Software Web Stuff - HTML Authoring Servings. (delorie.com) "Delorie Software provides a number of free services to the web community to assist web authors who wish to make their information available to the largest audience. These tools provide alternate ways of viewing your pages, so that you can ensure that your content is received properly by all viewers.") Thanks to Cheryl Walker for finding this Lynx Viewer for me. [Updated Sep 2001]

You can use Doctor HTML (imagiware.com) to find broken links and other web page failures. (It'll also tell you when you don't have WIDTH=/HEIGHT= or ALT= tags on your images.)

The Web Design Group (htmlhelp.com) was founded to promote the creation of non-browser specific, non-resolution specific, creative and informative sites that are accessible to all users worldwide. Such sites need not be boring and non-graphical. They have some basic information on using FRAMES, including advantages and disadvantages.

More things that make me cranky

Large, animated GIFs. I was at one page recently that had a 55K animated compass, just spinning around. That's all it did; it didn't seem to have any overt connection to the rest of the page, and I certainly wouldn't count it worth the download time. A static drawing of a compass with a "woosh"-type cartoon flourish would have done the job. For comparison, each SFRG section is less than 50K, and averages about 21K. (And apart from this page here, I've tried to minimize the gratuitous graphics.) This sort of thing might not get you plonked the way frames misuse will, but it does help steer me away from looking around your site. It's one of the things that drives me up the wall about GeoCities (geocities.yahoo.com), by the way.

Screen Overflow. Did you know that I usually keep my browser window at about 400 to 500 pixels wide when I'm updating the Science Fiction Resource Guide? Not because I have a tiny screen (although there are still people out there using straight VGA, for example the lower-end laptops), but because I have a lot going on here. (In fact when I wrote this, I had two command-line windows open, plus the text editor for this file, a telnet session visible, Winamp (winamp.com), e-mail, and my browser. 2x1024x768 fills up in a hurry.) Almost any webmaster that tells me I need to "maximize my browser window" has delusions of grandeur.

There are plenty of websites - I even saw a Worldcon (worldcon.org) website like this - that have a massively wide "banner" at the top of the screen, and you have to use the left/right scroll bar just to read an entire paragraph. (What really takes the cake is when they've disabled the scroll bars in a frame, and then you can't get to the entire contents of the frame.) Anyhow, usually if you have a left/right scroll bar situation on the screen, it means that if you go and print out the page there will be pieces of the text missing. [Updated Sep 2001]

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Chaz Boston Baden - E-mail SFRG.

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