Tech Support: September 2006

PeC: I keep reading about the Web 2.0. What is that?

Brian Getting: Web 2.0 is a term that has come to represent a new way of thinking with regards to developing websites. While there is an origin to the name, that is less important than what people mean when they speak of “Web 2.0 methodology.” In a nutshell, Web 2.0 development describes standards- compliant, next generation web development. However, this can be confusing since the name doesn’t really represent one thing in particular, but rather an ideology.

Typically, websites done in the “Web 2.0” fashion will have a couple of things in common that are worth noting. The first is a separation of design, content and functionality. The content is placed into compliant XHTML documents, the design is handled by Cascading Style Sheets and the functionality handled by JavaScript. This paradigm shift in development has been driven by the increasing number of devices that can access the web, as well as by increasing competition for search engine traffic. The second common feature of a “Web 2.0” website is the use of Ajax, which is another erroneous term for JavaScript functionality. By using Ajax, developers are able to communicate with a web server asynchronously (without loading a new window), which allows for great enhancements in the area of user interfaces.

The important thing to take away about Web 2.0 is that you will not need to upgrade. There is not some new software available. You are not behind or stuck in some inferior Internet. Times are changing, and the standard methods for developing websites are changing with them. The Web 2.0 is a great example of that, and a good place to look when you want to see what the future of the Internet holds.

PeC: I keep getting spam through the forms on my website. How can I prevent this?

Brian Getting: One of the plagues of the Internet is automated spam robots. These are small applications that simply browse web pages looking for forms to fill out. It used to be that robots couldn’t submit forms, but those days are gone. Any site owner that has a contact form or a sign-up form for a newsletter has probably been confronted with this problem.

The solution to this problem depends on the type of spam that you are getting. However, one common feature to spam robots is that they usually look for form fields (text fields) that are asking for an email address. Usually these fields will be named something like “email” in the code, which is how the robots find them. Simply renaming your form fields to abbreviations or random names will frequently stop many robots from finding your form in the first place.

Another solution is to implement some sort of form validation via JavaScript. In this method, once the form is submitted, a JavaScript function will take over and review the information submitted. By requiring more information than some robots provide will also help to block them from submitting bogus information.

As a final note, it is important to understand the spammers and their tricks evolve just as web developers do. Every day spammers are looking for new ways around these defenses, writing new robots, and thinking of ever-creative ways to send you useless information. The best that anyone can do it to try and keep up.

PeC: Why don’t HTML emails retain their formatting when I forward them?

Brian Getting: An HTML email is an email message that contains HTML code that is then parsed and displayed by an email application, such as Microsoft Outlook, in much the same way that a web browser will. What makes HTML email possible is some invisible information sent with the email messages called “headers.” These headers contain information such as the format of the email message. When an email application reads that the email format is HTML, it knows to expect HTML code and display it accordingly. However, most email applications are designed to display and receive HTML email, but not to compose and send it. When you receive an HTML email and then try to forward that email to someone else, the email application will probably send the forwarded message as a text format. This is where the email formatting is lost. Since the receiving person’s email application sees that it is a text message, it is not looking for HTML code and therefore just displays it as text. To most users, this will come across as an indecipherable string of text characters that doesn’t mean anything. Your best bet when you want to forward an email that is HTML is to select the text that you want to forward, then copy and paste it into a new text message.

PeC: I just made some SEO improvements to my site. How long will it take for my rankings to improve?

Brian Getting: Changes in search-engine rankings are difficult to predict, but they happen slowly and depend primarily on the kinds of changes that are made. A good rule of thumb that I use is that it will take about a month for search-engine spiders to become comfortable with your changes, and for those changes to start making a difference in rankings. From there the gate is open, and the length of time it takes for rankings to improve tends to depend on how many changes were made and what those changes are. For example, an SEO overhaul will often involve changing the URLs within a website. In this case, the search engines will probably try to spider the old URLs for a short time. If they do not receive an error page or a redirect to the proper URL, it can take a bit longer for them to find the new URLs.

Another common benchmark that people often want to improve is their PageRank score. PageRank scores are given to each page of a website and are updated much less frequently than search engine rankings. There are many criteria that go into a PageRank score, such as relevance, incoming links and more. If you have done a recent SEO overhaul, my advice is to wait at least six months before expecting any changes, and even then it can depend on your current score. PageRank scores below five are relatively easy to bring up, and results can be seen rather quickly. However, as you get into higher scores, they are harder to achieve, so it can be quite a battle to raise your score above six or seven, and can take years.

Brian Getting
Brian Getting
Bio   •   RSS Feed