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PBIO(BIOL) 3660L Plant Biology Intensive Lab
THE PLANT BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
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WEB OPERATION
The intent of this section of the Website is to provide students and others an introduction to the mechanics of constructing webpages and operating the site. Both are still evolving and not all aspects of those portions that are becoming fixed are as yet covered in sufficient detail to be anything approaching a stand-alone guide. But hopefully the contents will provide explicit instructions to implement features that are described in more detail offsite. They consist of pages devoted to explaining the page layout, the code for special features, and handling images. What follows here only adds some context and can be, and probably should be, ignored.

GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF PAGE DESIGN

The philosophy of the site is first that it should function well for all viewers and second that students should be able to modify and add to its contents without extensive training. Its operation should be as obvious as possible and simple enough so that new pages can be dropped into the site with a minimum of changes to the template and a minimum number of compensating changes to other pages. And all this to be done by novices. This is taken to mean that the pages will be static without server-side content. There are at least two problems with static pages; how to change an element of style or format and how to provide an evolving, section-specific index across tens to hundreds of pages.

Following standard practice, the style of much of the content is provided by an external style sheet aided by a few in-line style tags. The layout is not yet specified by the style sheet. It still depends heavily on tables and depreciated in-line font and position tags. Lots of tables for positioning text and images: they work predictably and locally; they are obvious discrete targets for reliably substituting content; and they show up in View/Page Source and hence can be easily copied and applied elsewhere. The layout has changed several times in the direction appropriate for its simple conversion to css. It is by now hopefully fixed as to its result, if not yet reduced to the simplest way to accomplish it. It is outlined in the Page Layout.
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There should be ease of navigation. That means at least having obvious links to every page in a subject area on every page in that subject area to obviate clicking back and forth between an entry page with the section index and each of the index-free pages in the section. Although I appreciate their potential of having all links on all pages, I have yet to meet or design a mouse-over drop-down, slide-sideways, or combination menu that did not require fine control of the mouse and did not hide page content when expanded. Furthermore, they seem not able to report which page you are on or the pages you have already seen. A reasonable solution has been to use javascript to rewrite for each page the contents of a section-specific .js index file to inactivate and highlight the link to the page being viewed and create page-specific links, and potentially other information, within the index. As each index is presently configured, adding a new page may require updating several .js index files, but that is a small price gladly paid. There is almost certainly a way to use page-specific parts of a master .js index file, but learning about it is a reward that awaits another day.

Ease of navigation also explains the space devoted to the Page Title. One should instantly recognize if the page is likely to contain the information being sought; at a minium at least what the page is likely to contain. If not of immediate use, move on using links provided on that page. Additionally, every page should provide content, even those that function primarily as transit nodes, entry pages. This page, for instance, is really a transit node disguised as an introduction.

Finally, there is a third component of the philosophy of the site. It should be elegant. Simplicity of design and function is necessary, but not sufficient.
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GLENN GALAU, THE DEPARTMENT OF PLANT BIOLOGY, MILLER PLANT SCIENCES BUILDING, THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA, ATHENS GA  30602-7271
PHONE 706 542 1859    FAX 706 542 1805
MODIFIED ON 13 FEBRUARY 2010. WEB DESIGN BY GLENN GALAU

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