Building sites

3rd March 2000 at 00:00
* One way for a site to make an impact, especially soon after it has been launched, or after major updates, is with a splash page. This is an introductory page that automatically takes the visitor on to the main site within a given number of seconds.

The effect is achieved by a single line of code in the HEAD section: META HTTP-EQUIV="refresh" CONTENT="n"; URL="page2.html" "N" is the number of seconds delay, and URL is the location of the next page.

The effect can be used anywhere within the site, and on consecutive pages to create a mini-presentation.

One point to bear in mind is that the delay period has to be carefully calculated to allow for variations in download time and viewer comprehension, but not to be so slow as to leave visitors tapping their fingers. A "jump" link for regular visitors who've seen the splash page before is helpful.

* One of the most effective ways of stamping a house style on a site (I covered style sheets in more depth on February 18) is changing the display of hyperlinks. By default these are underlined: blue when active and purple when visited.

Most professionally-designed sites have long since dispensed with the underlining, so retaining default hyperlinks immediately marks a site out as a little amateurish or behind the times. With careful planning of background colours and hover colours (the colour a hyperlink changes to when you put your mouse over it), you should be able to create hyperlinks that blend in well with the overall scheme of your site. The STYLE coe needed is very simple: A:link, A:visited, A:active yy (text-decoration: none;) A:link (color: NoNo______ ) A:visited ( color: NoNo______ ) A:hover (color: NoNoFF80FF; background: NoNo000000) This code first strips the underlining, then assigns the colours for unvisited and visited links. The "hover" line creates, in this example, pink text on a black background.

* Image "rollovers" (where the image changes, shifts or creates a sound effect) are achieved with the onMouseOut and onMouseOver commands. Brief sound effects, such as a click, embedded in a rollover or other action, can be effective if used with restraint, but sound files are greedy on memory so keep your sounds consistent throughout the site.

Once a "click" has been run on one page, the soundfile will not need downloading again when called up by a rollover on a different page. Another sound, of course, would.

Soundfiles can be embedded in a page so that they play automatically on loading, but the download caveat needs to be made even more emphatically in this regard.

* The only practical way of giving your visitors access to extended soundfiles - a commentary by children, or a recording of the school choir - is to use streaming audio. This can be achieved using Real Producer software from Real Networks.

In order to listen to the audio, your visitors will need to download a free plug-in RealPlayer from www.real.com The long soundfile may be several Mb in size, but it will begin playing almost immediately.

MICHAEL THORN


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