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Web Development Articles

Redirecting web pages

There are two ways to redirect an old web page to a new web page at HSU:

Preferred method: .htaccess redirect

There may be a file called .htaccess in the public_html folder of your web account.  You will need to use an SFTP program to see it; you will not be able to see it from within Dreamweaver.  If it doesn’t exist, create the file.  Then make a backup copy of the file, and edit it using a plain text editor.  It is important to only use plain text when editing the file, do not use Microsoft Word or any other word processor. To the bottom of the file add the following line (line wraps are marked »—content marked in this way should all be on one line):

Redirect 301 /~account/file.html»
 http://newwebaddress.edu

replacing /~account/file.html with the current path to the file, and newwebaddress with the absolute address of the new file.  Upload the new .htaccess file and test your redirect.

To redirect an entire site (e.g. when moving a whole site from one account to another), use the following two lines instead (line wraps are marked »):

RewriteEngine on 
RewriteRule (.*) http://newwebaddress.edu/»
 [R=301,L]

Alternate method: meta redirect

This method can be done from Dreamweaver’s code view.  In the old file, add the following line between the <head> and </head> tags (line wraps are marked »):

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="N;»
url=http://newwebaddress">

where N is the number of seconds the page waits before forwarding users to the web page listed as the “url”.

Posted 16 Jun 06 • Permalink

CSS Selectors

There are great references for folks of all CSS skill levels over at 456 Berea Street.

For those of you new to CSS, there is CSS 2.1 Selectors, Part 1, which goes over the basics of CSS selectors, the keys to the world of CSS.  For more advanced users, there is Part 2 which goes over more advanced selectors, and Part 3 which tackles pseudo-classes and pseudo-elements.

These are great articles to bookmark and refer to whether you are learning or pushing the boundaries of CSS. 

Posted 17 Feb 06 • Permalink

Getting Started with Accessibility

Being EDU, a higher education weblog, has a nice set of links to websites, essays, resources, and tools related to accessibility.  This is a great place to start if you’re looking for more information about creating accessible web sites. 

Getting Started with Accessibility.

Posted 14 Feb 06 • Permalink

A Primer on Search Engine Optimization

Here in the Web Office, we have had a few folks ask us how they can make their sites show up in the results for specific Google searches.

This is a complicated issue, as Roger Johanssen points out in Basics of Search Engine Optimization.  However, there are a few quick things you can do to help search engines understand how to catalog your site.

First, write descriptive page titles.  Page titles are the text between the <title> tags in the HTML, and the text that shows up at the top of your browser window.  It is also the text that is used for bookmarks, if a reader decides to bookmark a page.  You should take the time to write a good title for every page of your site.  Do not just leave whatever your software puts in the page title, and do not use the same text for every page in your site.  An example of a good page title is “Projects by Economics Students | HSU Departments of Economics”.  This title describes both what the specific page contains, and the site that it belongs to.  it gives search engines a clear “idea” of what type of information the page contains, and therefore what the pages should be filed under.

A second easy way to improve your search engine positioning is to proper HTML heading tags when you write your content.  By this we mean that you should use <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc tags to mark up the subsections of your page.  This will also make your page more accessible.  So, for example, instead of making the main heading of your page bold and red, put it inside a <h1> tag.  You can then use CSS styles to make the heading look bold and red if you wish.  But by using the correct HTML element to mark up you heading (<h1> for the highest level heading, <h2> for the next highest level headings, etc), you are again giving a pointer to Google as to what is contained on your page and how your page should be indexed.

Taking the time to write good page titles and properly mark up your headings can go a long way toward improving your search engine performance.

Posted 21 Dec 05 • Permalink

Auto-Selecting Navigation

We use a technique called “Auto-Selecting Navigation” in the template that the Web Office site uses.  This technique allows the current section to be highlighted in the main navigation; if you look to the left, you should see that the “Articles” item is selected, since you are in the Articles section.

This is achieved using only a few simple CSS rules.  Drew McLellan has documented the technique in a nice, concise article: Auto-Selecting Navigation.

Posted 21 Dec 05 • Permalink

Tools for Creating Accessible Forms

Forms are one of the most useful parts of HTML.  However, they are also one of the most difficult accessibility challenges.

Fortunately, the folks at Accessify.com have built some amazing online tools to help you make sure your forms are usable by everyone.  They include an accessible form generator, a tool for creating accessible radio buttons and an XHTML-compliant select list generator.

Posted 20 Dec 05 • Permalink

Free Browser Toolbars to Help Evaluate Your Site’s Accessibility

WebAIM has published a short series of articles about how to use freely available toolbars for your browser to evaluate the accessibly of your web site. This is a great way to make sure accessibility is worked in to your web development practices. If you use Firefox as your browser (which we in the Web Office highly recommend-- a free download is available here), see: Evaluating Web Sites for Accessibility with the Firefox Web Developer Toolbar. If you use Internet Explorer, see: Using the AIS Web Accessibility Toolbar.

Posted 6 Dec 05 • Permalink

Accessible Sites are More Search Engine Friendly

Do you want your site to rank highly in search engines like Google? Making sure your web site meets Section 508 accessibility requirements (mandatory for all HSU sites) goes a long way toward making this happen. The rational is explained here: High Accessibility Is Effective Search Engine Optimization.

Posted 6 Dec 05 • Permalink

What’s Different about Writing for the Web

Users interact with web content differently than they do with offline content. The best web sites are written with this in mind. A good summary about how web writing is different from offline writing can be found here: Usability News - Feature: What's Different about Writing for the Web?

Posted 6 Dec 05 • Permalink

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