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Old September 20th, 2007, 03:08 AM   #16
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Hi Jenna:

I'm a geek, so I build everything myself, that is I have total control of my own failure (or success). I don't use a hosting service, I run my own server at home. My main problem is upstream bandwidth.

I haven't ever used any of the fancy tools like Dreamweaver, my only tool is a normal editor (XEmacs) and that haven't changed for 12 years although my website has gone through numerous itterations since my first page in 1995.

I am one of those that think that WYSIWYG editors are wrong, they may not be today, but they are the main reason that you (still) see so many sites, "designed for Internet Explorer" because the web developers fail to make simple tests of compliance with the HTML standard. You can use the free validator, http://validator.w3.org.

If someone comes up to you and offer to develop a site for you, make sure he doesn't do it in flash. One thing is flash video as on youtube, but the entire site can be in flash. There are very important reasons not to do this:

- Search engines can't index flash sites -> no google references, no business
- You may lock out visitors who can't view content on your site -> loss of business
- You're locked in on that developer for any updates -> expensive maintenance

Don't get distracted by flashy functions, the site may still suck, web developers, I think, still have a habbit of developing (and get away with it) something that looks good, but suck because they don't know your business - and maybe you failed to explain what you want to communicate to who - maybe take a look at www.useit.com

As for hosting videos, there is no problem in delivering videos as any other content, images etc, via a standard web server, but you may prefer to stream content. Streaming means that the user will see the video sooner rather than wait, framedrop is prefered to achieve a continuous presentation giving a better user experience. Further it makes it more difficult to download and save your videos although tools exist.

A streaming media server is usually not included in a standard package. With the higher bandwidth of today, streaming servers are less relevant because there is less risk of data packets getting lost or arriving late.

The filesize depends on the resolution and the compression you use. You may achieve better quality with lower resolution and less compression rather than high resolution and high compression. The low resolution can be blown up in size.

Take a look at stage6.divx.com, they allow you to watch and download videos. The reasonable quality videos I have seen on their site are around 1Mbit/s (935kbit/s video, 96kbit/s audio), so, if your video is 4min. it will be 30 MB.

You may be limited as other notes to certain amount of traffic per month. To figure out if that is a problem, simply estimate the number of visitors/month and multiply with the total storage required, then you'll have a rough idea if that is a problem.

A different problem is the number of concurrent visitors. If you have 100 visitors viewing videos each at 1Mbit/s compression, then in your end you need to have 100Mbit/s connection to serve them uninterrupted. You might find that those that offer a high or no traffic limit have a physical limit on their connection that effectively achieves the same.

All this may have confused you more, hope not. Cheers, Erik
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Old September 20th, 2007, 10:04 AM   #17
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Flash sites don't have to be invsible to search engines. Take a look at:

http://kb.adobe.com/selfservice/view...6603&sliceId=1

When you read this you'll see there are lots of technical issues involved. The web used to be rather simple. It is not so much anymore and the advice of a good designer is more and more important.

Take a look at this book: http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Make-Me-T...0299853&sr=8-1

Excellent advice.

Also you need to think of a web site as part of your marketing campaign not as your marketing campaign. You aren't going to get work off the site, what the site can do is serve as a resource for potential clients to find out more about your company and see examples -- so first you need a marketing plan.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 10:34 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wiley View Post
Flash sites don't have to be invsible to search engines. Take a look at:

http://kb.adobe.com/selfservice/view...6603&sliceId=1
It may be possible, as google also notes:

http://www.google.com/support/webmas...y?answer=35267

But, I have yet to see it done. I have seen web developers creating a site as a flash application (note, I am not talking flash video), even though the only content on the site was contact details, opening hours and price list. And, it was completely invisible to search engines.

Flash is last century tech, and it should stay there - in last century. There are so many reasons to avoid flash that I can't list them here, and there is nothing I have seen done in flash that can't be done in open/standard languages.

Fortunately, all the Web 2.0 hype is based on standard languages... well, that's a step forward.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 11:51 AM   #19
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I strongly dislike sites in flash for many reasons. They're usually poorly designed too.
I've seen a few cool ones, though. But still have disadvantages like the search engine issue, and compatibility.
More often than not, I look at it as the sign of a bad web designer.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 04:39 PM   #20
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I agree that Flash should not be used for your main site; however, it's a great tool for advertisements and for video playback. Why?

1) Flash works on all major platforms,
2) almost everybody has installed it,
3) there is no need to search an ad or a video player, and
4) it supports "progressive download" which has the benefits of streaming without the need for a special server.

At ColonelCrush (link below), we use Flash for video playback. As I recall, we use 240 kbps for video and 128 kbps for stereo audio. Resolution is 480x270 widescreen. Here's an example: http://colonelcrush.com/movie/index/00150001

If you want more resolution and bits per second, that's up to you. The resolution depends on how the Flash player is constructed. The bits per second depends on how you code the video.

The only drawback is that, unless you're a code jockey, you'll need to hire/bribe somebody to write the software for your player. It's not a big job. Find somebody who has done it before. You only need to do this once.

After that, you can use Sorenson Squeeze to encode your videos as you desire.

If you don't care about playing the video in your webpage, and people will download the files, Quicktime is probably the best choice. It's supported on Macs and PCs. Avoid Windows Media due it poor support on Macs. Divx and other specialized formats are fine for geeks, but not if you want a wide audience. Divx is mostly used by the peer-to-peer (dare I say "pirate"?) crowd. I have no intention of installing Divx on my machines.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 06:46 PM   #21
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I use freewebs.com

The nice thing is that you can design your website for free and if want to pay a few bucks extra, you can get rid of the banner ads & purchase a domain name through them as well. They are pretty cheap.

Last edited by Scott Jaco; September 20th, 2007 at 09:11 PM.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 07:24 PM   #22
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Jon, Flash is a plugin. As a plugin, it's fine. As the main layout of your site, it's terrible. That's what we were talking about. It does have uses, if you know what you're doing.

Scott, I don't mean this as anything against you personally, but freewebs is a terrible recommendation. It's a complete joke among web designers and certainly not the best deal if you do purchase a better package. It's out there as a gimmick to draw in those who really don't know to look in better places.
Their templates (at least the free ones; I wouldn't know about the rest) are also terrible, not to mention overused.

As an example (and hopefully give you some useful information) about your site:
1. There are an insane number of comments in the code. Messy. The tabs/spacing are passable, but not great. There's even a section of latin test paragraphs in the code (used for testing frequently).
2. Your site isn't valid HTML.
http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=ht...Inline&group=0
Even once you bypass the fact that it can't start checking because of no character encoding type, it has 60 errors. (34 with HTML 4.01 Transitional doctype as it is in the code, but that shouldn't be used. Strict will work better in more browsers.)
3. It uses outdated practices, such as the <meta> tag to set description and keywords, which don't apply to today's version of search engines. Abuse of &nbsp; is also present.
4. Despite your copyright notice, the design, images, etc., are actually owned by Freewebs. You don't really own the right to use them. Just kinda sorta, as Freewebs sees fit.
"Under no circumstances may this template be used on a website that is not hosted by FreeWebs." means that you can't take this site if you ever decide to move, or to stop paying their fees.
5. Freewebs also limits downloads, a lot. I'm not sure if this is better with a paid account, but I'm sure it's not great.
6. Your page is titled "|"... weird.
7. In terms of design the page is simplistic and not very professional (though I have seen worse). Big fonts and such strong colors without much else is not very effective.

Anyway, not a personal attack in any way. I hope this will help you (in realizing that perhaps freewebs isn't really helping that much.)

Last edited by Daniel Ross; September 20th, 2007 at 07:56 PM.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 09:32 PM   #23
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No offense taken. I don't believe freewebs is a professional web authoring tool but it's free. I pay about $30/year to get rid of the banner ads & pay for the domain name.

I don't expect it to be a great web template without paying a professional web designer big bucks. How much do you think I'd have to pay to hire a good web designer to revamp my site?

Anyway, I've cross checked my website using Explorer, Safari, FireFox, Netscape & Oprah, and the website appears consistant from program to program.

The fonts can be made smaller, but I like them big since I don't have much content on my site, I have to fill in the space, if you know what I mean.

So why do you think freewebs websites have so many HTML errors?
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Old September 20th, 2007, 09:55 PM   #24
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Well, I get that having large fonts makes sense to fill the space, but I'd suggest a smaller layout then. Some can be very effective. No huge issue, though.

$30/yr is ok, but not great. What's the bandwidth/space like?
I pay... let's see... $3.99*12 (hosting) + $7.99 (domain) with godaddy for my two smaller accounts, and got a discount paying first. That's around $55 with no discount and you get a free domain with a new purchase (if you know to ask for the deal).
There are also cheaper places, but I've just kinda gotten in the habit of using godaddy (it's a pain to move servers mostly).

The reason that freewebs has poorly designed templates... well... you get what you pay for. As I said, it's a gimmick that attracts people who haven't found the better options yet.
I can't really make any excuse for them, though. Whether or not the designs are fancy, it's not all that hard to make them valid.

Getting a good designer could be somewhat expensive (but not outrageous if you look around enough), and there are also better templates out there (probably more expensive than freewebs, but look around and you'll find they aren't too bad-- some are even free). If you have the time, there's a lot you could work out yourself, too.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 10:30 PM   #25
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One thing you mentioned is that there is no title for Video On-Sight, it's just an "I" empty space.

I just fixed this using the CSS editor in freewebs.

There is no excuse for the HTML to be bad. Freewebs should fix this. I find that editing my website with Netscape gives the best compatibility across the board. It seems Internet Explorer isn't good when editing webpages. Too many inconsistancies between browsers for some reason.

As far as bandwidth, I get 1GB per month. It sounds small but I hardly use any of it because all my videos & photos are hosted by blip.tv which is a free video hosting site.
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Old September 21st, 2007, 12:08 AM   #26
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I agree about the HTML. That's the major reason freewebs is a joke in the web design world. (Same with most of the free hosting sites for similar reasons.)

1GB is way too small for that price. For $55 (not including any discounts) you can have more than 100x that from many companies.

Free hosting for videos is nice, but aren't there a few downsides?
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Old September 21st, 2007, 03:05 AM   #27
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It's a mess figuring out formats for videos: wmv (Windows Media Video) is supported by default on Windows, mov (Quicktime) on Mac. Flash requires a plugin on both. Divx is really MPEG-4 v2 and may be natively supported. MPEG-4 is also commonly used for vodcasts (video podcasts) so it is gaining popularity on all systems.

Of all these formats, the only one that I can't get working on my system is Flash (which of course also explains why I despise it), I have to download the clip and play it externally. This is because the video is often embedded in a flash application that adds video controls and I need to strip that before I can watch it.

WMV 9 is a direct competitor to MPEG-4 and offers better compression, but is not yet widely supported AFAIK. Beware that there are some "Microsoft MPEG-4" codecs that are not MPEG-4 compatible.

You can create a javascript that check for plugins, if you watch the code on stage6.divx.com they check if divx is installed. Then you can serve the appropriate format. It is not uncommon to see both wmv and mov offered, and even a high quality version for download to view in an external player.

Secondly, it may be worth investigating hosting the video files on one site and the web source a different site. You may find cheap do-it-all-yourself storage with greater bandwidth and less restrictions on bandwidth consumptions - suitable for the video files, and then a different host service with advanced tools to maintain your site.
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Old September 21st, 2007, 04:56 AM   #28
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If this website is for your business I seriously recommend having the site designed and built professionally. It will cost you money but believe me, the difference between most amateur sites and most professional sites is vast!
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Old September 21st, 2007, 05:10 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Robinson View Post
If this website is for your business I seriously recommend having the site designed and built professionally. It will cost you money but believe me, the difference between most amateur sites and most professional sites is vast!
I was trying in my first post to draw attention to the problem that many "professionals" create sites that are visually attractive, yet suck at reaching your target visitor.

Whether you do it yourself or have it done by someone else, you really need to sit down by yourself and analyse what you're trying to achieve and understand the media and it's limitations in order to avoid such pitfalls.

Visitors spend less than 30 seconds before they decide to go away, if you can't present the information they need in that timespan you loose business. One of the reasons you may not get your message through is bad use of tech.

Simplicity rules, and a do it yourself site may be just fine if you have limited information to present. Think first content, then presentation, then function. If you separate these, you can update presentation without having to change content, and you can add functionality later. And you can add content maintaining a consistent presentation.

Bad developers have a tendency to do the reverse: In order to present something that compels they add functions for no particular purpose, make a flashy presentation and completely forget about content. And worse yet, they may just blend the three things so it's a mess to sort out later. You don't see it because you just see the page as presented by the browser.

Cheers, Erik
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Old September 21st, 2007, 02:59 PM   #30
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Jenna (the thread originator),

For those of us who are just getting into HTML, I'd recommend any of the recent books on the subject by Laura Lemay. She has an inviting writing style that is very accessible.

Also, any serious work should use CSS for the layout and style. Unfortunately, this gets ugly due to differences between IE, Firefox and the rest. The best book that I've found for untangling this mess is Pro CSS Techniques by Jeff Croft, et al. It's not great for learning CSS, but is great at describing the workarounds and hacks needed to get Internet Explorer to behave properly.

As mentioned earlier, Flash is great for embedded video, and Quicktime is great for downloadable video. For portable devices you might need to code in Quicktime and Windows Media to cover all your bases.

For advanced sites (requiring real software skills), you need a database back end. For my money there is no better solution than Ruby on Rails for making custom sites. http://hostingrails.com does a great job as an inexpensive and competent host. InstantRails is the one stop download for all the tools you need - and they're free. http://instantrails.rubyforge.org/wiki/wiki.pl

With a database, you can implement your own forum, enter your content using forms, have the content automatically published at a certain date and time, and so on.

I've found Java Servlets and Enterprise Java to be much too heavy and require too many pieces to be stitched together for a working solution. Consider this only with a big development team.

I've found PHP to be too light. It's fine for small tasks, but unless you are very disciplined in creating well structured code, there's the risk of creating spaghetti software.

Like Baby Bear's porridge, Ruby on Rails is just right. It's well structured, object oriented and made specifically for web development. All the pieces are right there, and it's powerful and fast. It's also scalable, so it can grow to handle high-traffic sites.

Another good option from the software side is Web Objects. The downside is that it's tied strongly to Apple hardware. Apple isn't exactly the king of the server market. (Rails runs on PCs with Linux/Apache.)

Anyway those are my recommendations, ranging from books for the newbie to the tools for the small (in my case, one man) programming team.
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