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Archive for March, 2009

Layout Decisions: Fixed Width or Liquid

One of the greatest debates in web design has to be between fixed or liquid layouts and the proponents for either side are fierce loyalists. Which is why it is worth bringing up before you plan your perfect site design. If you don’t know the difference then there is even more reason for you to read on.

Fixed Width

A fixed width is constant and unchanging. No matter what size a users browser window is set to, the content area of the page stays the same, or “fixed”. This method affords you more control over the precise look of your design. If the width of the content area of your page is fixed then you can add graphics and text in pixel perfect layouts and be comforted in the fact that your design will look relatively the same on everyone’s computer. You have seen this before: the content area usually “floats” in the center of a simple background either of solid color or a simple repeating texture. This web site, for example, is a fixed-width design.

The big drawback to this method comes with the assumption that all users are browsing with windows open to a certain dimension. If that dimension becomes smaller than the width of your content area, the user is forced to scroll horizontally to see all the content, and if the user has a huge screen and browses with the window open wide, there will be a lot of empty space on your site dwarfing your content.

Liquid Layouts

On the other side of the argument, liquid layouts are designed to be entirely flexible: as a users browser window expands and contracts, the page layout follows suit, ensuring that the content fills the display at any window size. Liquid layout designs are subservient to the preferences of the user: as a window is resized, the text will flow to follow suit. The danger of this is that if a user browses with a narrow window, text will tend to be rendered in tall, narrow blocks as graphics or pictures squeeze them into smaller spaces and conversely, with the window open wide text can become long, unmanageable lines that are difficult for a reader to scan. Furthermore, the lack of control over the content area’s width can be difficult to balance when placing fixed-width elements such as photos into it.

So which layout do you use? The truth is that both methods have strengths and weaknesses and neither is inherently superior to the other. You can spend a great deal of time arguing over which method is best, but the bottom line is that you will have to make this decision based on the important aspects of the site: will graphic layout play a more important role? or is screen real estate the determining factor? Once you are over that hurdle, the important part can begin because the one secret is that the relative width of a design’s content area is not going to be the determining factor in the success of the site. Don’t get me wrong: a great-looking site can be impressive, even essential if the subject of the site has to do with presentation. Intuitive navigation is ultimately very important as well, but mostly, beyond the design, content is the most important factor in website success. Choosing how to display it effectively should be a consideration in the early stages of planning your site.


Rocket 88 Web

Rocket 88 Web is a full service internet provider dedicated to helping you communicate to the world. From Domain Name services to Hosting Solutions, we provide everything you need, We even help you present it all in a professional, web 2.0 compliant manner.


Spam and the BCC

or How Do Spammers Get My Email?

Spam can be a frustrating, maddening nuisance: it overruns your inbox and some aggressive email filters can prevent you from actually getting the messages you want or need. So have you ever wondered how Spammers get your email address in the first place? Have you ever hit the “forward” button after receiving one of those viral cute/patriotic/religious/silly-test emails from one of your friends?

If you answered yes to the last question, then you have your answer to the first one.

It’s called email harvesting and it is a well practiced technique used by people to amass huge lists of actual email addresses.

These lists can be sold for big money because they are verified email addresses. If you think I’m mistaken, then look closer at the next forwarded email you get from a friend or family member: you literally have to scroll down through possibly hundreds of bulk email addresses before you even get to the content of the email.

The worst culprits are the ones that don’t even try to hide their nefarious intentions and practically broadcast that they are harvesting email addresses by instructing you to include the original sender in the copies you forward. You know which emails I’m talking about: “make a wish and send this on to 16 of your fiends, but be sure and include the original sender…and within 48 hours your wish will come true” or something to that effect. Imagine the hand-wringing glee on the part of the shadowy figure who started that chain as, in a matter of days he has a list of millions of email addresses.

So What Can Be Done?

Well, the obvious choice would be to not forward any emails, but I know that is not going to happen because it is a fun, social activity, and helps you stay in touch with friends and family (I hope it is not because you believe something will happen if you send it out–or worse; that something bad will happen if you don’t). The best practice is to forward the email as you normally would, but before you hit send, edit the body of the email to remove everything but the message–just delete all the email addresses. But don’t hit send just yet. Use the power of BCC

Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) is the best thing you can do for any email you send out to more than one or two people. The reason is that BCC hides the email addresses from the public which tell’s your recipient you care about their privacy, and more importantly, prevents it from falling into the hands of thugs who would hijack the “known-good” email addresses for financial gain (and there is plenty of money to be had, hence the spam problem).

All email applications have a BCC function, usually a text field below the CC field. You could type into BCC the same way you would the TO: or CC: fields, or cut and paste. It’s good rpactice and your recipients will thank you for it.