Search Boxes

Written by Richard Lowe

One of my pet peeves is webmasters which make it difficult for me to use their site. I mean, I'm there, looking at a page and I just cannot find what I want. I look everywhere for navigation, and what I want to find just doesn't seem to be covered. That's not necessarily a problem, as everything cannot be always be handled byrepparttar navigation menus.

Okay, what'srepparttar 134644 next thing I'm going to look for? A search box, a site map or some other, more general way to findrepparttar 134645 information that I need. Site maps can be difficult to maintain unless they are very general (which, in turn, makes them less useful). Search boxes, onrepparttar 134646 other hand, require no care and feeding at all once you've got them installed (although you should spend some time tuning them to make them even more useful).

If you have a site with a large amount of information or a site which is very diverse, a search box is your best bet.

- First of all, it allows your visitors to find things that they might not otherwise find.

- It causes visitors to go deeper into your site, to stay longer and to look around more.

- Just as important, very little maintenance is required.

- In addition, most ofrepparttar 134647 search utilities are free for small sites.

- The pay versions are extremely inexpensive forrepparttar 134648 benefits they provide.

- It just makes your site (no matter how large or how small) look more professional.

Some ofrepparttar 134649 unexpected side effects include:

- You make it even more likely that your visitors can wind up on any page. This means your site navigation must be very good or your visitors will get lost.

- Visitors will find themselves dumped onto pages on your site which you did not intend for them to find. Under construction pages, "spam traps" and anything else you've got. Be sure to use metatags andrepparttar 134650 Robots.Txt file to control indexing well.

You have several options when choosing a search box for your site.

- If you edit your site using Microsoft FrontPage, you could userepparttar 134651 built-in search functions. Note thatrepparttar 134652 searching facilities in FrontPage are so lame that personally I would not recommend them to anyone.

- You could use a self-hosted script if your host allows CGI routines. I would not recommend this method, as these routines tend to be very server intensive. In fact, most web hosts that I have found will not allow them to run.

- The best option is to use one ofrepparttar 134653 remotely-hosted search functions for your site.

I have found three excellent remotely-hosted search companies.

Atomz - Probablyrepparttar 134654 overall best ofrepparttar 134655 bunch, but alsorepparttar 134656 most expensive by far. I liked Atomz, but we switched because it just became too costly. Atomz allows up to 500 pages to be spidered for free, with advertisements in your results pages.

Freefind - Excellent service, andrepparttar 134657 one that we settled on because it was very full functioned and inexpensive. The version for personal or nonprofit sites is only $19 per month, a year paid in advance. Up to 32mb of pages can be spidered for free.

Whatuseek - Another excellent service, allowing up to 1,000 pages to be spidered for free.

Each of these services has it's own advantages and disadvantages, but all of them work basicallyrepparttar 134658 same. My recommendation is to try out all three services using their free versions to determine exactly which one isrepparttar 134659 best for your needs. Then go ahead and purchaserepparttar 134660 paid version forrepparttar 134661 correct fit.

How does this all work? Well, once you sign you for an account you supplyrepparttar 134662 URL for your web site. You then define a template forrepparttar 134663 results page, or you can use one ofrepparttar 134664 basic templates that each service provides. All three services allow you to define a template (in advanced mode) which looks exactly like your site. You then define any special parameters such as pages to exclude, usernames and passwords for protected pages and so on. Once that's done, you installrepparttar 134665 search code on each of your web pages, then tellrepparttar 134666 search utility to spider your site.

It's as simple as that. I fully tested each ofrepparttar 134667 three search companies in about an eight hour day before finally settling onrepparttar 134668 one that best metrepparttar 134669 requirements of my site.

Okay, so let's say you now have chosen a search function for your site, you've createdrepparttar 134670 perfect template and you've got your HTML code. What else do you need to do?

- Putrepparttar 134671 search box in a very prominent spot on your site. The upper left-hand corner is by farrepparttar 134672 most visible location, and it's a great choice. Make sure that it is at least "aboverepparttar 134673 fold".

Brief web Design Tips

Written by Richard Lowe

Here is a list of some tips to help you with your web pages. These are simply suggestions to help you create a better surfing experience for your visitors.

Avoid Under Construction signs - All good web sites should always be under construction. Includingrepparttar words "under construction", or worse yet a blinking animation, only makes you look like an amateur. These notices are so frowned upon that directories such as Yahoo will not accept sites with one onrepparttar 134643 home page. Most awards programs will immediately reject any sites displaying this dishonorable phrase.

Don't use a hundred different fonts onrepparttar 134644 same page - You can run into all kinds of problems when you use fonts onrepparttar 134645 internet. There are incompatibilities between operating systems (Unix, Mac and Windows all work differently) and browsers. Fonts have to be installed locally by your visitor - if he doesn't have it installed your page may look funny to him.

If you mix many different fonts on your page you are almost immediately known as an amateur. A font or two is fine, but work to avoidrepparttar 134646 "ransom note" effect.

Don't write your HTML to a particular browser - Browsers change very quickly. The one that is popular today may be almost unused in a few months. So don't spend any time trying to fit your HTML to Internet Explorer or Netscape or Opera. Just make good HTML and then letrepparttar 134647 browser do it's job.

Use style sheets - Style sheets (known as CSS) is a way to gain incredible control over how items are displayed on your pages. Better still, you can create one style sheet document and reference it from all over your web. This way, if you want to change, say, your text color from green to blue, you only have to change one file. Every reference torepparttar 134648 style will automatically and immediately get changed.

Include Meta Tags - Meta tags are used to tellrepparttar 134649 outside world, especially search engines, all about your pages. You should includerepparttar 134650 appropriate meta tags on each and every page. These tags need to give a description, copyright notice, author name, language and search keywords. In addition, it is a good idea to includerepparttar 134651 RSAC rating for content filters.

Include a descriptive title - Be sure and write a short, keyword heavy, very descriptive title for each page. Search engines rely on these titles in determining how to index your site. Be sure your title is accurate and honest as well.

Avoid lots of moving things - An occasional animation is great and can turn a boring page into an award winner, but don't go overboard. In general, more than one animation per page is excessive.

Don't change your visitors settings - Don't changerepparttar 134652 browser controls,repparttar 134653 window size orrepparttar 134654 cursor. Many surfers (myself included) get very annoyed when these things are changed - and annoyed web surfers tend to never come back. Two ofrepparttar 134655 worst offenses: changingrepparttar 134656 back function to do something other than go back torepparttar 134657 previous page and disablingrepparttar 134658 right click.

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