Podcast 44: Writing for the web

This week on boagworld.com: How to write good website copy and why designers should care. Is using Dreamweaver cheating? And how to “super charge” your web feeds.

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This week in the world of web design

There are some very interesting stories that have caught my attention this week:

Zeldman on W3C

It would seem that it is no longer just Joe Clark speaking out against the W3C. Jeffrey Zeldman (the godfather of web standards) has condemned the W3C in an article on his site, saying:

Beholden to its corporate paymasters who alone can afford membership, the W3C seems increasingly detached from ordinary designers and developers.

John C. Dvorak on CSS

John C. Dvorak, don’t you love him. What I like is the way he is always so positive and upbeat! The man that has made his career from being a "cranky geek" turns his critical eye on CSS in an article for PC magazine.

Andy Budd thinks web standards are not important

Always one to make us think in new ways, Andy Budd encourages us to stop think of web standards as a goal in itself, but to use them to get on with the business of building websites. His talk at the first London Web Standards Group reflected many of the same sentiments I expressed in my post "the sin of over enthusiasm".

Question: Is using Dreamweaver cheating

Thanks to Chris for his excellent question about using Dreamweaver. This led to an interesting discussion about developer attitudes to Dreamweaver, as well as a rundown of Dreamweaver 8’s superb coding environment.

Writing for the web

This week’s main topic is about writing for the web. To be frank this is not an area I am an expert in and so this week’s show lifts heavily from a number of sources.

Calling All Designers: Learn to Write!
An excellent article on the "A List Apart" website, explaining why designers need to take more of an interest in the copy on their sites.

Jakob Nielsen: How to Write for the Web
We touched on the principle of "front loading" proposed by Nielsen in this article.

Steve Krug: Don’t make me think
This book has some excellent advice on keeping your sites content short and to the point

Mencap: Creating accessible copy
The advice in this PDF file aims to show web site owners how to write accessible web copy. However, I would argue its suggestions apply to every website, not just those focusing on accessibility.

Boagworld: Effective website copy
This previous boagworld post brings together various tips I have picked up over the years, many of which made it into this week’s show.

Also in this week’s show

Finally, we also take a look at web feeds. Why you should add them to your site and how to get the most out of them by using an excellent service from feedburner.

Web Feeds Explained

The benefits of web feeds

  • Totally agree on the Dreamweaver topic! I’ve met a lot of people here in the Bay Area who don’t think you’re really handcoding when you say you edit in DW. It usually turns out that they haven’t seen the workings of DW since DW version 3. The recent version is AWESOME and saves you tons of time with the auto-complete and auto-close features. Well basically you summed up all the great features in your podcast… using Dreamweaver is NOT cheating, it’s a great time saver (although the FTP functionality does have room for improvement).

  • Great podcast, I really hope to learn more about effective writing (especially for the web). As it stands now marketing companies or the firms themselves write the content and it is nothing but happy talk and marketing-speak that no one believes or cares about.
    Hopefully soon I can start offering copy writing services and cut down on the amount of over-marketing-ized websites out there.

  • As usual, a very informative podcast.
    I have one comment, though, about your description of Dreamweaver’s CSS panel. When your code involves lots of PHP includes and echos and things, for displaying HTML, the CSS panel is useless. It displays absolutely nothing except this bit of useful information “(no styles defined).” It can’t seem to find its way back through the php includes, to find the header file that links to the style sheet and it doesn’t seem to recognize the HTML tags within echos.
    (That’s a bit complicated, so I hope I made myself clear.)

  • If Dreamweaver is cheating then any RAD is cheating. Therefore any Microsoft Development tool is cheating. Luckily for me I know a lot of people who think Dreamweaver is a design tool and think I’m a great developer.
    Has anybody used CodeCharge?
    I’m listening in San José, Costa Rica, Central America

  • Love the podcast as usual. I’m sure some people have seen this, at least if you pay attention to digg but:
    The company that created the CSS editing software Style Master is doing a CSS Redesign Competition of Dvoraks Blog .

  • Aussie John

    3:20 W3C
    6:55 CSS
    10:15 Standards and getting the job done.
    12:57 Dream weaver
    19:56 Cariny about content.
    27:20 friendly and personal.
    28:35 avoid patronising language
    28.44 Scanning and front loading
    30:19 Knocked microphone.loI
    31:41 avoid jargon
    33:38 short sentences.
    36:20 focus on audience
    37:36 update regularly
    38:40 update with new work.
    40:18 feedbarner

  • Aussie John

    I believe standards should be handled subjectively. Cost and client demand determine the level of conformance and I also beleive that the web site owners should be aware of the cost of conformance and be prepared to wear that cost.
    If Css is hard to debug, he (John Dvorak) should retire because it is the easiest language out there.
    Code gen and IDE are fundamental to being able to compete in IT, use them, but use them as responsibly as flash should be used.

  • Andy Mortimer

    Another great podcast,
    Probably one off my favorite features in dreamweaver is the code navigation button that allows you to jump between functions. This feature for some reason is disabled by default but can be re-enabled by going to C:Program FilesMacromedia[Dreamweaver version here]ConfigurationToolbars and then opening toolbars.xml in there you will find the following block off code commented out
    <menubutton id=”DW_CodeNav”
    tooltip=”Code navigation”
    enabled=”dw.getFocus() == ‘textView’ || dw.getFocus() == ‘html'”
    If you uncomment this and then reopen dreamweaver you will see a new button in code view it looks like {} two curly braces you will now be able to use this to switch between function.
    Please make sure you make a backup off the toolbars.xml file before you make any changes.

  • Chris Battles

    You asked about other IDE’s that we might be using besides DW. Check out TopStyle – it was built by the folks who originally created HomeSite. It has a great free “lite” version as well. TopStyle

  • Thanks for the perfect points on using DW 8 as a RAD developer tool. What is scary is that compaines like Modem Media / Digitas still have developers using Homesite 5.0 because of some ancient vulture at the top.
    As pointed out already the autocomplete dropdowns allow 3 keystrokes to the “hand-coders” 17 key strokes. It is basic math.
    I own DW 8 and I can say I have probably never used the WYSIWYG editor..
    To Chris who asked the original question. Ok so even if you don’t want to shell out $500 bucks for DW8. By God at least get rid of windows notepad. Do your self a modern day favor and at least check out Notepad ++. It is what I use here at my day job. FREE!/Donataion http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm

  • I was thinking that maybe something related to the subject “Is Dreamweaver cheating” is “Are frameworks cheating?”. I mean what’s the real issue here: developers coding from scratch or developers using pre-made code?.
    The only framework I’ve used is the one Macromedia setup for DW (Configure a site, create a connection, set the login, create a recordset, use the wizards for master/detail, create and edit). And I know that depending on your IDE the structure/workflow of the site will be different.
    Is there any sort of “official” standard for developing a site?
    What frameworks would you recommend?
    I have read the Smarty (php templating system) manual, looks very good but because of my IDE (DW 8) I’ve never use it. I a my missing my soul as a developer?