Coding with Jesse

Carnival of the Web #4

September 17th, 2006

Welcome to the fourth Carnival of the Web.

First off, Jonathan Snook explains how to maintain an ideal source order while still displaying web site elements in the appropriate positions with Stackable CSS Columns.

Next, Joe Kissell at Interesting Thing of the Day explains just what is so unconventional about text-based ads.

Violeta of All Tips and Tricks shares her results of A personal experiment on internet traffic sources, trying to understand how social software fits in to web site marketing.

Dave Gooden wonders Am I missing something?, giving a skeptical look at the use of map mash-ups for real estate web sites.

Renata Vincoletto at A geek Family wonders what effects the internationalization of companies has on the freedom of nations to enforce their own laws, when Google has bad moments in Brazil.

Dominic Foster shares a simple checklist outlining how he set up WordPress.

And finally, Benjamin Yoskovitz helps non-designers understand the importance of choosing a look and feel of a web site, explaining How To Pick the Best Theme in WordPress For You.

How to make a web site for cheap

September 9th, 2006

Even though I'm a web developer for hire, I'm not really interested in making really simple web sites. I believe most people could do it themselves, if they just learn a few things. I'd rather spend my time coding web communities or Ajax enhancements or whatever.

So your aunt or some of your clients are bugging you for a free web site (and you don't want anything to do with it), then think about passing these tips along.

  1. Get a free web design

    There are a bunch of sites out there with free web designs available to the public. The Internet is so big, it really doesn't matter if you have a one-of-a-kind unique web design. Check out Open Source Web Design, Free Site Templates, or just search Google for free web design.

  2. Find really cheap (or free) web hosting

    There's a bunch of places that offer free web hosting, but a lot of them won't let you get your own domain name, or they might put a banner on your site or whatever. Plus, you'll want to have hosted email, and the only way to get that is by paying for it. Web hosting is the only thing you really have to pay for.

    The good news is, web hosting is pretty cheap. DreamHost, only charges $9.95/month ($7.95 if you pay for 2 years in advance). Plus, you get to register your domain name for free. There are other companies out there that are even cheaper and offer different things as well, so if you shop around you can find a good deal.

  3. Create the web pages yourself

    Get a copy of Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expression or something similar. This way you can put in your content yourself. You can even learn a bit of HTML and CSS and get your hands dirty. HTML is really easy to learn, and there are thousands of books and free web sites that can get you started.

Ten years ago, the only web sites out there were ones people made for themselves. Nowadays, with so many web companies out there, most people think they have to pay big bucks to get a web site. There is so much free information on the Internet that really anyone can learn how to make a web site, and it only takes a few hours for people to learn how to do it themselves.

Running both Internet Explorer 6 and 7

September 5th, 2006

When the first beta of Internet Explorer 7 came out, the biggest complaint was that there was no easy way to have it run as a standalone browser. You're pretty much forced to upgrade your whole system to use it.

I took the plunge anyway, deciding I'd rather run IE7, but I ran into all sorts of situations where I really needed IE6 for debugging.

There are a lot of hacks and instructions for taking apart the IE7 beta so that you can run it standalone. I've decided that the extremely easier solution is to just install IE7, then download the standalone of IE6.

Now that the Release Candidate is out, you probably don't want IE6 to be your main browser anymore, right? So why not just have it around for the few times when you really need it?

5 Basic Search Engine Optimization Tips

September 3rd, 2006

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has grown into an entire industry. There are tons of companies who do nothing except help web sites rank high on Google or get lots of search engine traffic. Most of these companies charge a lot for their services. I'm going to outline a few simple things you can do to your own site for free. This isn't a complete list of things you can do, but you can do very well on search engines by following all of these.

  1. Use a strong title

    Probably the most important place on the page for search engines is the <title>. Rather than cram a thousand keywords in your titles, try to keep them simple and to the point. Describe the contents of the page in plain language. For example, I titled this page "5 Basic Search Engine Optimization Tips" rather than "SEO For Dummies" or something else tricky.

  2. Pay attention to the URL

    The worst URLs for search engines are like "". It's much better to use "". Do everything you can to get the same keywords into the actual URL of your page. Also, make sure you separate the words by a dash "-" instead of an underscore "_". Google sees a dash as a space but sees words attached with an underscore as one big word.

  3. Use header tags appropriately

    Use <h1>, <h2>, etc. whenever you can. Don't use them to increase the font size, use them to mark your titles. Doing so tells search engines that these words describe the page or section of the page. So be sure to put good descriptive keywords into these tags. This will increase the page's relevance to those keywords.

  4. Keep all the words in the HTML

    A lot of sites have titles and navigation made up of image buttons and links. It's better to just use plain text with a background image. If you really want to put words into images, make sure you at least use the alt attribute. Also, try to put the same words in the HTML, hidden by CSS if necessary.

  5. Write good content

    This is an obvious one, yet usually forgotten. Good content will have a lot of keywords relating to the topic. By using lots of synonyms and clear descriptions, you'll give more words and phrase for the search engines to find. Even having user-generated content such as comments or reviews will give more opporunities for searchers finding the page.

Hopefully following these simple tips will help you get some more traffic. There are a hundred tips and tricks out there, but the best tip of all is to just write lots of great content and make good web pages which are useful and easy to read. The rest should come naturally.