Summary of eHow articles for February

Warholized What's down there?

It was cats and kids month in my personal life. In my writing life, here’s what I did at eHow in February. (The CSS attribute selector article appeared here first, in an easier to use format.)

Summary of eHow articles for January

State Fair Sights Cowpokes

Two young cowpokes at the State Fair last summer caught my eye. At eHow, I’m still working through the various free web design tools and writing how-tos for them. And Tribbit is really cool if you’ve never heard of it. Here’s what I wrote in January.

A Look at SynthaSite

The final free web page building tool I know about is SynthaSite. This will end the series about free online web building tools that include Weebly, SiteKreator, and Webnode.

I’ve been writing corresponding how-to articles about each of these tools for eHow. If you are interested in exploring these sites from a personal use prospective and want to see screen shots and step by step instructions, visit my eHow page.

To summarize the free online tools, I found Weebly to be the easiest and most beginner friendly. Weebly has a huge array of widgets to add Google maps, RSS feeds, Flickr images and other content to a page. I found the site for today, SynthaSite (still in Beta), to also be very easy for a beginner. But SynthaSite has some features that would appeal to someone with a bit of knowledge of both HTML and CSS. Therefore, it was my favorite among the four. None are perfect and none come close to achieving results anything like you would expect from a professional designer and developer.

SynthaSite is free for everything. It uses a drag and drop interface. You drag text areas, images, and columns into a page. There are many page designs to choose from. The pages are posted free with a URL leading to a subdomain at Or you can choose to download the pages and publish them elsewhere.

Each thing you add as a widget to a page opens up a Properties panel where you can do some CSS if you like. Right now it’s only setting top, right, bottom and left margins for text and images. Although I think the Properties panel should offer a way to add alt text to an image, it does not. To be fair, none of the other sites I tested let you add alt text either. But SynthaSite’s more sophisticated options with its Properties panel would work well for this, and seems like a logical addition to the interface. SynthaSite has an HTML widget that will accept any HTML (and inline style rules) you might want to add that way.

Since I went ahead and published a demo test site, I was able to do some testing. SynthaSite did much better on HTML and CSS validation tests than the other sites tested in this series.

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A Look at Weebly

I recently tried out Weebly. It’s a site that offers drag and drop web page creation, along with free hosting of the pages you create. You can publish the pages you create on a domain of your own choosing.

They offer a blog among the choices as to what you can make with their interface, but if you add a blog to a site, it must be hosted at Weebly to work.

I was trying it out because I was writing a how-to article about it for eHow. I made a test web site, which reflects my quickly done effort while testing for the eHow article.

It is easy. Very easy. But if you run an HTML validator on the test site I made, you find 48 validation errors on the first page. The blog, where I didn’t go as wild dragging and dropping widgets and elements onto the page only (only?) has HTML 22 errors.

I didn’t make an effort to create anything real that I would use. I just tried out the elements to see if they fulfilled the promise of letting an inexperienced user create and publish their own information in a web page. Weebly does that. However, I don’t think it provides any useful fodder for education in web design. If you are teaching programming and want to look at a smoothly working example of a web 2.0 site, it could be instructive.

Are sites like Weebly going to eliminate the need for instruction and education in web design by making it so simple to get published on the web that even a kid could do it? I don’t think so. They have a place, a niche. For example, if you were getting married and wanted a short-term, fast and easy site to store information about the wedding and its related events, maps, gift registration sites, and such info, Weebly would be a solution. But Weebly is limited. Which means a solid grounding in the web development nuts and bolts is still necessary for most web site creators.

ADDENDUM: July 27, 2010. Weebly made news today with a new drag and drop image editor called Image Perfect. You can read about it at TechCrunch.

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Related Posts: SynthaSite, SiteKreator, and Webnode

Summary of eHow articles for December

Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus is about to bloom. A sure sign that winter is here.

Check out my latest on eHow.

Today’s useful links

Wikipedia Competitor Being Tested by Google is mentioned at the NY Times. The service, called Knol, allows multiple entries by competing writers and develops a sort of reputation rating for the authors. The article mentions some of Knol potential competitors, but does not specifically mention eHow. Since I’m an eHow writer and am getting familiar the user generated content there, I would certainly consider eHow competition for Google’s new service, too.

Letting Them Know It’s Christmas in Liberia by Kim Pearson isn’t the kind of link I normally provide here. It has nothing to do with web design, and everything to do with the spirit of Christmas. It begins, “This is a story about an extraordinary young woman—really, three extraordinary young women—who will make you believe in angels all over again. At its center is MacDella Cooper, who literally walked out of the Liberian civil war at the age of 13 to triumph in the fashion world and create an eponymous foundation that brings the treasures of home and love to so many of the children she left behind.”

Hannah Montana Tickets on Sale! Oops, They’re Gone. I was royally ticked off because I couldn’t connect by Internet or phone to ticket sales for Hannah Montana tickets for over an hour, at which point they were all sold. I immediately went to eBay and found some already there for about $250 each. How can a slimeball profiteer get a batch of tickets when someone like me who just wants to thrill some of Miley Cyrus’ pre-teen fans cannot? The New York Times has the sordid tale. A plague upon StubHub and their damnable software.

Too Much Accessibility by Patrick Lauke has slides, audio, and information about getting carried away with a little accessibility knowledge and making a mess of things.

Summary of eHow articles for November

sandhill cranes in tall grass

Yep, I went down to the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge this month to see the wintering birds, especially the magnificent sandhill cranes. These few were among the first to fly in for the night. Most cranes return at dusk.  They fly in batches, calling to each other, turn their 96 inch wing-span into the wind at the last minute and drop to the ground on spindly, toothpick-like legs.

 I also wrote a few articles for eHow in November. Check these out.