IMS Web Tips ******** ISSUE 7 August 17 1999 *********
"Free Tips and Tricks for getting the most out of your Web Site.
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In this issue:

1. Browser Differences
Promoting your site: Content
IMS Tips: Layout Guides and Snap Grids
Reader Questions. Motion Paths
In next weeks issue.

Browser Differences.

Which Browser do you use? If you design web pages and you
answered either Netscape Navigator (NN) or Internet Explorer (IE)
you are wrong. You are also wrong if you answered any other
Browser (you probably did not).

Internet Explorer (65%) and Netscape Navigator (26%) account for
by far the majority of Browsers being used. The other few percent
are mostly specialty Browsers used for a specific function although
there are still some alternative and original Browsers still being

So why is it wrong to use either of these Browsers? The reason is
because there are enough differences between how these Browsers
will display a page that it is imperative that you test your Web Page
creations with both. If for example, you import HTML into your
page with a script error, you may find it works just fine when viewed
in IE. Visitors to your site using NN may see a jumbled mess and
leave wondering what your site was all about. The reason is that IE
is far more forgiving of Script Errors than Netscape.

As we mentioned last week, the W3C is responsible for defining the
standards that the Browsers are supposed to conform to when
displaying web pages. This only works so far. There are many things
that the standards do not address and other things that either the
browser manufacturer will not or can not conform to. In addition,
the manufacturers like to include add-on features that the "other"
manufacturer does not have.

In addition to the difference in the way the Browsers handle errors,
there are many stylistic differences in the way they will display a
page. As was noted last week, Netscape will display background text
color only behind the text while Internet Explorer will fill the entire
bounding box. Other differences include Border Styles, Fill styles
and Scroll Bar styles. There are many more and probably no one
knows them all.

The only way to know how your page is going to appear to a user is
to test it the way a user may see it. This means installing both
Browsers on your machine. (Yes it is possible.) You should also test
with different system resolutions and with both Large and Small
system fonts. On Windows platforms the worst resolution is either
640x480 or 800x600 with large fonts. You should also test with
different color resolutions. That JPEG image that looks great at 24
bits may look awful at 256 color resolution. Ask your friends and
colleagues to test your pages and do the same for them.

Both Netscape and Microsoft are working on major updates to their
Browsers that will conform to a standard DOM (Document Object
Model) as specified by the W3C. This will hopefully address the
most significant incompatibility between the Browsers which relates
to Dynamic HTML. (IMS insulates its users from the worst of this.)

One thing is for certain however. While there is more than one
computer user visiting your web site, there will be more than one
way to see it. You must test across as many possible configurations
as possible.

Promoting your site: Content

I have talked a lot over the last few weeks about methods that you
can employ to attract visitors to you web site. You need to consider
of course, what you are going to show them when they visit. Just
how important is it to have a nifty looking web site? What else do
you need to consider?

Questions like these are of course difficult to quantify since it
depends mostly on what product, service or information you are
offering. If you are displaying a service or support page for a
product, your visitors are likely to hang around for quite awhile
while your nifty page loads although they may be fuming by the time
it has completed. If you are trying to entice visitors to buy a book,
displaying a dramatic opening that requires two minutes to load is
probably not a good idea. Your visitors will have probably left before
it has completed. (Unless it is a book on Internet Animation.)

When I started developing Internet Applications several years ago,
the general rule of thumb was not to have "ANYTHING" more than
a few hundred K in size since no one would wait to download it.
Although load times are still critical elements to consider in your
design, hard and fast rules should always be taken with a grain of
salt. We do not like to wait but we will if we believe it is appropriate
or necessary. It is not uncommon for people to download 2, 3, 10 or
more Megabyte programs over their 28.8 baud modem because it
means they can get the very latest program version "tonight" without
having to go out.

Here is a trick I often use. With CSS (remember that?) you can
position text anywhere on the screen. The first thing a user will see
however, is the text that the Browser first reads. Place your most
informative text immediately following the BODY tag. That way, a
visitor can start reading whatever you have to say while the page is
still loading. In IMS Web Engine and IMS Web Spinner you can do
that by moving the text Object 'To Back' in the Arrange Menu or
Align Bar. Conversely, leave you largest downloads for last so that
your visitor can be exploring your page while it finishes loading.

My architectural background tells me that a design can be both
functional and pleasing to the eye. This should certainly be your
objective when designing a web site. Strive for fast downloads, easy
navigation and informative content while providing an entertaining
and pleasing experience. Just what is the experience? Do you hope
to get your visitor to return? If so, what new information are you
going to offer? If you post a News Report but don't change the
content for 12 months you can not expect your visitors to return

So what constitutes attractive content? I am told it is a light peach
background with a shaded yellow border and 8pt Verdana black text.
But then, no one around here was ever accused of having too much
taste. I will talk more on site design issues in future News Letters.

IMS tip: Layout Guides and Snap Grids

Last week I discussed some of the positioning and alignment
features available in IMS Web Engine and IMS Web Spinner. These
include using the four arrow keys for nudging an Object into
position, using the Object Editor to set position and scaling values
digitally and the Alignment operations in the Arrange Menu to
organize Objects along a common edge or centerline.

Both programs also include additional guides and grids. These can
be found under the Options Menu and include the 'Guide Border',
'Display Grid Guide' and 'Enable Snap Grid'.

The 'Guide Border' will display or hide a dashed blue line at a pre-
selected resolution. This can be used as a guide for the visible area
of the browser. The selected resolution can be changed in the 'Set
HTML Options' dialog in the Options menu. Possible resolutions
are 640x480, 800x600, 1024x767 and 1280x1024. The selected
resolution is currently only used as a guide and will not affect the
output. Future releases of IMS Web Engine and IMS Web Spinner
may use this guide for some dynamic capabilities.

The 'Display Grid Guide' will enable or hide a dashed grid guide in
the work window. This guide will default to a grid resolution of
100x100 pixels. The Grid Guide can be adjusted with the 'Snap
Grid Resolution' slider in the 'Set Tools' dialog under the Options

The 'Enable Snap Grid' operation will enable or disable the Snap
Grid. The Snap Grid initially defaults to 10x10 pixels with the Grid
Guide set to 100x100 pixels. When enabled, the Snap Grid will
force the top left corner of the selected Object to position and scale
in pixel increments of 10. The Snap Grid resolution can be adjusted
in the 'Set Tools' dialog under the Options menu.

These guides when used in conjunction with the page layout aides
discussed last week, provide fine positioning and layout control of
your HTML project to the pixel level.
Reader Questions:

A little while ago we received a support question regarding motion

I have had a preliminary skirmish with Web Engine and can't
immediately see if it is possible to get a sprite to follow an open
path eg a letter "S" shape. I can only find closed polygons or the 8
defined straight line directions. Is it possible to draw a freehand
polygon and erase part of it to create the open contour for a
sprite to follow. - Ken Thomas

Yes. Using the Polygon tool, simply free hand the letter S. When you
get to the end 'double click' or hold the 'CTRL key and click' to
leave the polygon open.

Send your Questions to tips@VirtualMechanics.com
with "QUESTION"as your Subject. If we don't know the answer,
another reader may.

Next Week.

1. Introduction to HTML
2. Promoting Your site: Which links are working for you?
3. IMS tip: Names
4. Reader Questions.
Send your Questions to tips@VirtualMechanics.com
with "QUESTION"as your Subject. If we don't know the answer,
another reader may.

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