…miscellaneous site development points

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This site was originally composed in FreewayExpress (on Macintosh OSX): I have recently upgraded to Freeway Pro 3.5, but have not rewritten to take advantage of its additional features. Flowcharts, such as this chart on freedom of information, were written in OmniGraffle. Freeway is powerful and intuitive, going far further than this straightforward text-dominated site, and has good online support. The purpose of this page is to note briefly, for readers developing in Freeway, some development suggestions.

This site is hosted by ICDSoft.com; I highly recommend them to anyone looking for good value web-hosting as being efficient and a pleasure to deal with, and as having the fastest IT support system I have ever come across.


Disguising e-mail addresses

There are a number of e-mail links on the site; to conceal them from address harvesters I used Spamstopper, which encodes addresses so they are not visible as such. Thus my comments or suggestions address is encoded as
mailto:websit
e1@jonathanmi
tchell.info?s
ubject=website.
This seems to have been effective; it was over six months before I received spam at any address given on this site (although some was generated through dictionary attacks on the domain name).


Using a drop-down menu for instant machine translation of the page into eleven languages

The second drop-down menu at the top of the page opens BabelFish automatic translation. If a page is translated using this, any link opened from that page should also translate, or gist, in the same language (although how translations into languages using non-Latin languages will display is dependent on the settings on the user's computer). This menu uses the same basic technique as favelets/bookmarklets and is straightforward to create in FreewayExpress; simply insert a navigation pop-up action item; target whole window; option 1 BabelFish; options 2 onwards are the languages. This works a great deal more elegantly than the Altavista BabelFish tool (for a working example of which, see Scottish Law Online).

To re-use this menu, download Babelfish Example Freeway document and copy and paste the navigation pop-up; to save as template, open Freeway package contents and place in templates folder.

The quality of BabelFish automatic translation isn't very high (it seems better in Spanish and French than in Italian), but is good enough to give the reader an idea of the sense of the text; see the BabelFish FAQs, and this commentary.

Thanks to Tantek Çelik for the idea of the bookmarklets and the original javascripts.


Search pages

The searches of this site and external sites use Atomz, automatically updating weekly. The Atomz free service allows any number of searches so long as no more than 750 pages are indexed in any one search. There's a useful MacUser how-to feature on incorporating Atomz search capabilities into Freeway.

I found, however, an incompatibility between the HTML code supplied by Atomz and Freeway navigation pop-ups. A solution was to add, at the beginning of the HTML code as supplied by Atomz, this: </FORM METHOD=POST>.

To preserve the look of, and links on, the results pages, I duplicated the master page for this site; added an HTML markup (before HEAD) as follows: <base href="http://www.jonathanmitchell.info/">; published this as a page for each search; then pasted its entire source into the Atomz template editor. See this results page for one of the results.


Site policies page

UK and European law impose requirements of accessibility, data protection, and privacy on websites, particularly public information and commercial sites. A site policies page is a useful reminder of these and of copyright issues. I have adopted the Creative Commons Licence, which effectively licenses copying if authorship and source are recognised. Should you, however, wish to stand on the last letter of your intellectual property legal rights, have a look at this site user's agreement.


Adjusting the Mondrian template so that its width will fit the browser window

With a little work it is possible to adjust the Mondrian template, used here, so that the descriptive and menu bars and the contents of the page as a whole, will grow to fill the whole width of the browser window. This took me some time to work out but only a couple of minutes to do.

The goal:

About 25% of my site visitors use a screen resolution of 800 x 600; the other three quarters have larger resolutions. While it is necessary to set the default width of the page at 550, I wanted viewers to be able to set its width wider.

The problem:

The problem was getting the menu bar, which is made up of graphic items, to expand to the width of the window without breaking up so as to show patches of white, the page background colour. The reason it did so is that graphic items do not change their width as windows and html items do, and the spaces left default to the page background.

A solution:

1. In the Master page, select in turn the following graphic items and convert their type to HTML, checking Width Can Grow, in the Inspector palette; items 2, 1a, 3, and 4 (left-side blocks of colour, vertical divider and menu bar).

2. Do the same with items 5 and 5a (text items on descriptive bar), but also change their fill to the colour of item 1, or the desired colour of the descriptive bar. You may wish to change the paragraph format of the text to HTML.

3. Delete item 1 (descriptive bar).

4. Create a new Master page. Set its size to a height greater than any likely page on the site. Insert two graphic items, each the width of the page, with heights and colours corresponding to the height and colour of the descriptive and menu bars; thus, for this site, one with a height from 0 to 80 in grey and one with a height from 80 to 96 in black.

5. Export the entire page as a gif.

6. Reopen the original Master page and in the Inspector palette set its background image as that gif.

That's it! The basic method should work for any other template with a top-of-page menu bar .

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