Monday, November 30, 2009

Web Site Building Bits and Tips

Just a quick post to share some links you might find helpful if you are building a new web site. I've been helping several folks with their web site aspirations lately and came across these, in no particularly order:

First, how about a menu? It is pretty easy to create a nice top level menu using css and an unordered css. The tricky bit is a drop-down menu. That link will take you to a very simple but effective design which requires very little code.

If you are familiar with jquery you can use it to create a menu like the one on the left. The html/css/js code for doing this is available from this page, linked here. But what if you want to sketch out a complete web page design with menus and page elements?

For this there is a tool called Mocking Bird that you might want to check out (works best on a very broadband connection). Another new tool that might be worth looking into is: www.wix.com. It's a web site that let's you build a web site that uses Flash (like Mocking Bird, Wix is an example of an application delivered as a service, in other words, Software as a Service or SaaS, just like Salesforce or the marketing product that I've been working on: Monetate).

With these two web design apps you can create pages or edit templates using a web-based interface. As with many SaaS offerings the feature set is continually evolving so I suggest you check them out rather than rely on my giving you a snapshot of their capabilities.

When you are designing web pages, the grid approach can be very helpful. Here is an article on grid-based design that I found useful, full of links to related content (I am finding Smashing Magazine a good resource in general, for everything from WordPress themes and buttons, to coding tips).

The ability to draw a design on a grid and then have an application generate the required CSS is a huge boon to web site developers. Here's an article that has links to 15 ways of accomplishing this. (What a difference these would have made when I first started messing with CSS layouts.) Another solution, not on the list of 15, is 960 Grid System. As the name implies, 960GS simplifies designing around a width of 960 pixels, which is a common choice these days for page width.

Finally, for this post, I want to mention XAMPP, software that let's you test a lot of stuff on your Windows laptop or desktop before putting it on a Linux/UNIX web site. With XAMPP you get the ability to run Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl (the AMPP). Of course, this then gives you the ability to install WordPress on your Windows box which is very handy when developing sites in WordPress. Fro Mac OS X users there is similar functionality in MAMP.

Happy page building!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Handy Tech Tip: Vista and Windows 7 Device Driver Uninstall


As you may have discovered by now, your PC may be able to run Windows 7 but the maker of your PC does not plan to support you in this endeavor (Sony is a "good" example of a PC maker that is telling loyal owners of "older" Viao machines you are out-of-luck and on-your-own when it comes to Windows 7 drivers).

Of course, with the aid of Google and the many good folks who like to share on the 'net, workarounds abound. However, one problem you can end up with, given the hit-or-miss nature of manufacturer support for Windows 7, is a bunch of installed drivers that you don't need. I found this page helpful in dealing with this:

Uninstall Drivers from Vista & Windows 7

Do bear in mind the author's advice to make copies of drivers before you remove them. The thing that surprises me about drivers for Windows 7 is that XP drivers often work okay. I will try to blog more about that when I get my Vaio VGN-S460P fully configured. (Hint: This is one of the machines that Sony has no intention of supporting under Windows 7, but you can do a clean install of Windows 7 and so far it is working well--thanks to a set of original XP drivers.)

FireFox + ScribeFire = A great way to blog

I just added ScribeFire to Firefox on my "new" Windows 7 laptop and I have to say, this is the way to blog, particularly if you are blogging web pages, i.e. posting links to pages of interest with some added commentary. This is a good page to start at ScribeFire:

Getting Started With ScribeFire - Scribefire: Fire up your blogging

I have barely scratched the surface of this app but already it is way ahead of things like the Blogger "Blog this" add-in. Hopefully this functionality will enable me to blog more of my experiences getting Windows 7 running on my "old" Sony Vaio, which is now my "new" laptop.