Importing HTML

If you read the user question section or visit the newsgroup at:
newsgroup you will have noticed that one of the most common
support questions we receive relates to apparent HTML errors
when a user Previews or Publishes their Web Pages. This is especially
true when viewing the pages with Netscape.

As I have previously mentioned no software is bug free, not
even ours. The IMS applications however, have been available
for over a year now and all known bugs related to exported
HTML have been corrected. When we receive a support
request that a Web Page is not displaying correctly, the first
thing we consequently suspect is that the problem is caused by
imported HTML.

There are many legitimate reasons why a user may wish to
import HTML. The most common are to add a 3rd party
component such as a counter, banner ad, bulletin board and so
forth. These are often supplied as a block of HTML code that
you are supposed to copy and paste to your web page. If
everything works as intended, the imported code will operate
as expected generating the component desired. When it
doesn't, your web pages can appear to be a disaster.

How reliable is 3rd party code? Can it adversely affect your
web page's performance? Why does it work when you test it
but not when some of your visitors view your pages?

The answers are a very definite "it depends". There is no
reason why you should avoid reliable 3rd party HTML and
Scripts. But you need to use them with care. The first thing to
consider is the source. Is the code being provided by an
established well supported site or does it come from an
unknown source? Note that the apparent size of the company
is not the important factor. Large sites can often provide code
that was created someplace else and is now out of date.
Smaller sites that actually develop the code will quickly post
corrections if a problem is found. In either case you should not
simply assume that the code is viable.

A lot of imported code is designed to work online. The
consequence of Previewing your project with imported HTML
when you are not online will depend upon what the code is
attempting to do. A lot of counters for example, will attempt to
display a smaller banner with the current count. This should
work without a problem if you are Previewing while
connected to the Internet but will fail if you are not. This not a
problem provided you are aware of why your code is not
operating correctly. It should work once you connect or when
it is published.

Performance can be more problematic. Imported code will
often attempt to link to another site to retrieve information and
images or banners. If the Internet is slow, the source site is
experiencing heavy traffic or worse, the source site is offline,
then it can significantly slow down your web page load time
and/or display an empty box where an image should be. The
more external code you add to your web page, the greater the
potential problem. The best solution here it to set up your
project so that the code will display last. You can do this by
selecting the code Object and selecting the To Front command
from the Arrange menu. Then if there is a problem or delay,
your visitor will still be able to view the rest of the web page.

Although an error may exist in your imported HTML, when a
problem does occur it is far more likely that is was caused
when the code was transferred to your project. Code is often
supplied either in an email or from a form on a Web Page. The
correct way to transfer it to your IMS project (or any other
authoring tool) is to Copy and Paste. Use your mouse to select
the code and then press Ctrl-C. In your IMS Editor select the
HTML button to open the text editor and press Ctrl-V to paste
it into the editor window. Exit the text editor and Preview
while online as the first test to confirm that it works.

Correctly transferring your code is critical. It definitely helps
to know a little HTML so that you know exactly what to copy
and can identify any possible errors.

When the code is supplied from an online web site it will often
be displayed in a text box. Simply select everything in the box,
CTRL-C and CTRL-V into the IMS Text editor. When it is
not in a text box or is provided in an email, you will have to be
more cautious.  

A typical email with a block of code may look like:

Here is your special HTML code.

<!---Start Code---><P>
Visit Ed's Diner.
</p><!----End Code--->

Copy and paste it to your Web Page.


In this example, the code starts with the first Less-Than
bracket .
Everything between and including these two brackets should
be copied. Nothing before or after these two brackets should.
Although this is a common format it is not necessarily the only
way you will receive your code.

Problems occur when the code is not transferred correctly.
Missing the first Less Than < bracket is common and will
definitely cause problems. I have also seen examples where
the descriptive text before or after the code segment was
included and also caused errors. A real recipe for problems is
to attempt to type the code into the text editor instead of using
Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V.

Another common cause of problems is when the code has
been formatted by another program. Forwarded email will
usually do this by adding >> double Greater-Than symbols at
the start of lines that are being forwarded. The above example
in this case would look like:

>>Here is your special HTML code.
>><!---Start Code----><P>
>>Visit Ed's Diner.
>></p><!----End Code--->
>>Copy and paste it to your Web Page.

Attempting to transfer this code is bound to cause problems.

Finally, you have transferred and tested your code, published
it to your site and tested it again to confirm that it works. Then
you start to receive messages that your web site is a mess. You
view your web site and it appears fine. After a little testing
you discover that the problems only occur with visitors that
are using Netscape. Maybe IMS does not support Netscape?

IMS does support Netscape. The problem is again likely
caused by Imported HTML. Netscape is a lot fussier about
HTML errors than Internet Explorer. IE may simply ignore a
missing tag or skip an extraneous character. Netscape may
suddenly display a mixed up mess for your Web Page. If you
have a single block of imported code, check it carefully. If you
are not sure which code is causing the problem, try deleting
your Text Objects one at a time while previewing with
Netscape. If the page suddenly starts to work after you delete
an Object, then that Object will be the cause of the problem.  

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 2000 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.

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