'Website Design' Category Results

Building a Better, Faster, Stronger Navigation Menu

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

In this article we are going to look at some very common mistakes that are made when building a navigational menu. We will then look at how to rebuild it making it better, faster and stronger. Okay, maybe not stronger, but certainly better, faster, lighter, more search-engine friendly and all around less sucky…

The navigational menu that we are going to rebuild is the one for the Rock Bottom Brewery restaurant that we love here in Denver.

Have a look at their main menu. It’s the one with: Home, Find A Restaurant, Menu, Beer & Spirits and Contact Us. You might be thinking, “What? Works just fine.” Yes is does, but why settle for “just fine” when we can make it better?

Now look at our Re-factored main menu. Once again, at first glance both menus work and look reasonable, but stick around and let’s see what makes the re-factored menu better.

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Flash Is Dying, But It’s Not Apple Killing It

Friday, April 30th, 2010

After receiving many emails and instant messages the last couple days over the whole Apple vs Flash tit-for-tat that’s been going on. I feel compelled to give my thoughts.

For starters Steve Job’s article, Thoughts on Flash, is full of truth and fiction. The biggest part that rubbed me the wrong way was his lack of distinguishing between Flash and the SWF file format that Flash produces; Jobs conveniently leaves this out. Of course the average person knows nothing about the distinction between Flash, the tool that is used to create a SWF file and the actual SWF file that is used on a website. The SWF file is ‘open’ and there are other products, not made by Adobe, that can create SWF files. So it is fair for Abobe to wave the ‘open’ flag.

As far as Apple being ‘open’. Not so fast there Jobs. I can’t even use the SDK on my Windows machine. You must own a Mac if you want to create applications for an iDevice.

Is there anyone that truly believes Apple could not get Flash to play on their devices if they wanted to? Just say it Jobs, I don’t want to support Flash. Period.

Now my final thought and it’s not a good one for you Flash developers is this: Flash is dying, but it’s not Apple that’s killing Flash. It’s three things: 1.) Ajax 2.) jQuery and 3.) HTML5. These technologies have been slowly killing Flash the last few years. Look around, sites that once used Flash have fazed it out: Yahoo, MSN, IGN and many many others. Because of these technologies, Flash’s strengths are no longer there. It’s been relegated to advertisements and entertainment sites.

ASP.NET, LINQ, jQuery, JSON, Ajax – Oh my!

Monday, April 26th, 2010

In this article we will be looking at a different type of architecture. One in which we utilize jQuery’s ability to easily transfer data (via Ajax and JSON) from the client to the server. We then use ASP.NET and LINQ to SQL to query the database and return a collection of data which gets (automatically) serialized to JSON and sent to the client. The benefits of combining these technologies include: more responsive applications, more processing on the client, less processing on the server and reduced network traffic. Everything runs faster and uses fewer resources.

Still not convinced? Here are some additional benefits of this architecture:

Benefits of the Architecture

  1. Unlike an ASP.NET UpdatePanel we only pass what we need; we only receive what we need. We don’t pass ViewStates, in fact we don’t even have a ViewState. We also don’t pass entire HTML chunks and receive HTML chunks we don’t use. For more on this; read: Why ASP.NET AJAX UpdatePanels are dangerous.
  2. By using jQuery to call the web service directly, we’ve eliminated over 100 KB of JavaScript and three extra HTTP requests that’s included when you use ASP.NET Ajax.
  3. Less dependencies – because all our code is simply xHTML we could switch to a PHP or a Java backend and none of our code for the UI would have to change. That’s right, there are no server-controls; that means no GridViews, no Repeaters, no ListViews, nothing that uses runat server will be found on the page. Not even a ScriptManager.
  4. Usability – We can create RIA interfaces AND maintain usability, giving us the best of both worlds.
  5. Cross-Browser friendly – We use nothing but xHTML code and jQuery which works across browsers.
  6. The entire presentation for the UI is done via CSS. Change the CSS and the entire UI can look different.
  7. We maintain a ‘Separation of Concerns‘ – this means we have 3 distinct and wholly separate code bases. A content or HTML level. A presentation or CSS level and a behavior or JavaScript level. We don’t have code mixed together in a web-page jambalaya.
  8. Switching architectures from Web Forms to MVC is a breeze.

Hopefully you are salivating at these benefits enough to decide to get your feet wet and follow along.

In this article will be leveraging these technologies to build a grid (or what looks like a table). Later on, in future articles, I will then show you how to implement sorting, paging and filtering on the grid. I have divided this article up into four sections: 1. Sever-side code (ASP.NET). 2. HTML 3. jQuery and lastly CSS.

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jQuery Enlightenment Review

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

jQuery Enlightenment

Over the past month I have been reading jQuery Enlightenment by Cody Lindley. Let me say now, that if you use jQuery or are thinking about using jQuery then you should most certainly buy this book. It’s a quick read (122 pages) that includes colorized code samples, easy to follow examples and solid explanations.

Author Cody Lindley is a member of the jQuery team and explains why he wrote the book.

jQuery Enlightenment was written to express, in short-order, the concepts essential to intermediate and advanced jQuery development. Its purpose is to instill in you, the reader, practices that jQuery developers take as common knowledge. Each chapter contains concepts essential to becoming a seasoned jQuery developer.

This book is intended for three types of readers. The first is someone who has read introductory books on jQuery and is looking for the next logical step. The second type of reader is a JavaScript developer, already versed in another library, now trying to quickly learn jQuery. The third reader is myself, the author. I crafted this book to be used as my own personal reference point for jQuery concepts. This is exactly the type of book I wish every JavaScript library had available.

I would argue that this book is perfectly suitable for beginners too. It’s simply a must have jQuery book. It’s the only one you need; it will take you from beginner to competent user.

I do ASP.NET / C# web development where I build web-based software for school districts. My preferred architecture is one in which I use NO server-controls. That means no GridViews, no Repeaters, no ListViews. If fact, nothing that uses runat server will be found on the page. The page will only consist of XHTML. So there is no need for a viewstate either. We end up using jQuery a lot in this architecture. We use jQuery / Ajax to call Web services that then query the database using LINQ to SQL and pass our data back to the client where we can then populate our XHTML controls. It works great and is extremely fast and efficient. The code couldn’t be cleaner. In addition, this methodology would allow you to easily change to a PHP or Java backend and you wouldn’t have to change a single thing on the frontend. I will give a full example on this methodology another time, but the point is – you need to learn jQuery.

For more information on the jQuery Enlightenment book, including a breakdown of each chapter go here. I would recommend buying the full color book from lulu.com as it’s well designed and very handy to have on your desk.

CSS – A Sticky Subject

Friday, October 9th, 2009

CSS is a sticky subject in the best of times and to make it more sticky I thought I’d run down the techniques needed to make a sticky footer that works in all modern browsers. This is unlike most examples on the web that break in either Opera, IE8, IE7 or indeed in all three.

Try any of those footers from the Google search above in IE8 or Opera (some don’t work in IE7 either). Load the page then grab the bottom of the window (not the side or corner of the window) and drag it up or down and you will see that the footer usually sticks in the wrong place, messing up the display.

Now try it on my old original sticky footer version (circa 2003 which pre-dates all those above) and you will see that my version is working in all browsers including IE8.

Before we get into details I should first explain what a sticky footer is.

What is a Sticky Footer

A sticky footer is one that sits at the bottom of the viewport when there is not enough content in the page to push the footer down. If there is a lot of content then the footer sits at the bottom of the document and will be below the fold as usual. Why this is desirable is because on short content pages you won’t have a footer right at the top of the screen looking very strange indeed as shown from Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 – normal footer close to content.
Normal footer

Figure 2 – Sticky footer at bottom of viewport.
f2

Note that a “fixed positioned” footer is not the same thing as a sticky footer as a fixed positioned footer is one that sits at the bottom of the viewport at all times and never moves. Don’t get confused between the two.

Overview

Before we get into the nitty gritty detail I will briefly explain the concept in getting a sticky footer to work.

The first thing we need to do is create a 100% high container which is achieved by setting the html and body elements to 100% height and then creating a container that is a minimum of 100% high. The footer is then placed after this container which means it will be invisible as it will be below the fold of the page but by the magic of negative margins we can bring it back into view at the bottom of the viewport.

Of course this means that the sticky footer must be a fixed height (pixels or ems will do) so that we know how to accommodate it with the exact negative margins that bring it into view. This also means that our footer is now overlapping content on the page so we will also need to protect this content with either padding on an inner element, or some other similar approach as you will see when we get into specifics later.

That’s basically all there is to it except that we have to squash a few bugs on the way to make it work everywhere.

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Lijit’s Integration with WordPress

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

lijit.png

I spoke to you back in January about Lijit. Remember I showed you that Lijit allows you to easily create your own search engine. One that searches your blog, bookmarks, photos, blogroll, and more.

I really liked Lijit then but I was disappointed that I couldn’t integrate the Lijit search functionality into WordPress. That is let Lijit take over my search box that was already there and is ALREADY there in just about every other blog too. Instead you had to put a widget on your page. I felt like this was such a mistake I actually went to visit Lijit in Boulder and told them so. Well I’m happy to say that they have listened and now allow you to let their search take over your search box. Here’s what they say:

Lijit’s integration with WordPress.org just keeps getting better! Now you can either install the Lijit Search widget OR have Lijit power your existing WordPress search box. As if that weren’t exciting enough, our Lijit stats will automatically display within your WordPress dashboard for one-stop stats viewing too.

Go ahead and have a look, try the search located in the top left corner….

If you like it you can find the Lijit WordPress plugin here.

My Favorite Geek Books of 2008

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

The above photo is my stack of geek books from last Christmas. Yes, I love books — I love the way they smell, thumbing through the pages and oh yes, the wisdom they bestow. I admit, often times I don’t make it through the entire book. Sometimes just a handful of chapters. But every now and then you come across some great books that are gems. So I thought I would share a few of my favorite books from this year.

Head First C#

Head First C#

Each morning before work I stop and enjoy a latte or cappuccino. This is my book of choice to read while sipping down my caffeine kick-start. That’s because it’s not like your typical code book which can be pretty dry. This book is very visual, full of pictures and diagrams that help to illustrate and drive home key points. Often times it finishes the chapter with a crossword puzzle helping you to retain the points of the chapter. In fact those crossword puzzles inspired this post. It’s a great read for beginners and advanced users alike.

Object-Oriented ActionScript 3.0

Object-Oriented ActionScript 3.0

If you are just starting to learn Flash or Flex or ActionScript then this is the book for you. Actually, even if you are a seasoned pro this is still the book for you. Why? Because it teaches you the correct way to do things. It teaches you true object oriented programming in ActionScript. With topics like: Encapsulation, Classes, Inheritance, Polymorphism, Interfaces, and Design Patterns you will not only learn ActionScript, but also principles of OOP. If you wish to learn proper Flash/Flex development then this book is for you.

The ASP.NET Anthology

The ASP.NET Anthology

This book takes a problem solving approach to a handful of common everyday ASP.NET developer needs. Things like: form validation, membership and access control, working with email, rendering binary content, Ajax, handling errors and more. Sitepoint says this about the book, which I agree with: “Solve specific ASP.NET problems fast — without wading through mountains of reference material — and rest assured your code follows current best practices. For the serious ASP.NET coder, this book is a must-have.”

The Ultimate CSS Reference

The Ultimate CSS Reference

Perhaps the last CSS book you’ll ever need. Written by our very own Paul O’Brien whom regulars to Search-This will know does an amazing job making sense of often tricky, finicky or strange CSS behaviors. Almost every web site created today is built using CSS, which is why a thorough knowledge of this technology is mandatory for every web designer. There are plenty of good resources to help you learn the basics, but if you’re ready to truly master the intricacies of CSS, this is the book you need.

ASP.NET 3.5 Unleashed

ASP.NET 3.5 Unleashed

Make no mistake about it, this is a reference book at almost 2,000 pages. But it may be the best ASP.NET reference book on the market. It covers everything: LINQ to SQL, ASP.NET AJAX, ListView and DataPager data access controls and all the rest. What’s especially nice is that you can tell the author, Stephen Walther, has spent time in the trenches. He knows best practices, like using CSS for all his layout work and having well-formed cross-browser friendly code all the while teaching you ASP.NET 3.5. This is a must-have book for all ASP.NET developers.

Well there you have it, five of my favorite geek books of 2008. Do you have a book that you read this year that you thought was a gem?

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