Frank Schacherer Homepage
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Homepage design

All I know about home page design I learned from Philip Greenspun, Eric S. Raymond and Steve Krug. Your page has to be interesting, and the way to do this is: content. Keep the design clear, white background, black ink, blue links. It's tiring to read on dark backgrounds. People are used to blue fresh links and magenta visited ones, so no need to puzzle them with other colors. Nothing is more annoying than a slow loading page full of unneeded grafics. Keep the grafics to the neccessary minimum - you need some, or the pages look monotone and boring. Use stuff like frames and JavaScript sparingly, only to improve the handling of the page, not to satisfy your play instinct. No flashing stuff. No dead links. No "under construction" sign, every homepage is always under construction.

Use familiar navigation, like a breadcrumb trail, a tabbed menu or side menu that gives more oreintation about other options, search (with a friendly search button), and if you want other tools like a site map. Navigation and content areas should be clearly separated graphically. Name links after the pages they link to, and have a heading on each page that tells what the page is about.


Apart from very few exceptions, all the HTML has been written by hand using just SELFHTML and some O'Reilly books. I used HomeSite for a few of them, and I guess its quite ok, but apart from that, no fancy hompage-design tools, just the text editor. I use GNU Emacs which comes with a built-in HTML mode that does formating, syntax highlighting, tag completion and a lot of other neat stuff. And it'll do the same for your favourite programming language. I think that as of this writing, also most of the major homepage design environments are really good and speed you up quite a bit, saving you the nitty gritty positioning and table stuff. They also tend to use less deprecated tags than I do, and tell you which attributes you can use with which tags up front. NetObjects Fusion even lets you choose if you want your formating done with nested tables or with CSS, and chose which pages to publish - pretty impressive. So maybe it would be worth to trade control for convenience.

I use Linklint, a free Perl script, to check my pages for dead links. It's mazing how fast links get outdated.

Using a blogging site like Blogger is by far the most convenient way I know of for keeping up a "What's new" log - or any other kind of log. It's easy, comfortable, you can reach it from everywhere, and it's completely free.

All of the drawings are my own and were drawn by hand. Usually I use a 2B pencil and a Pelikan Stabilo point 88 fine 0,4 black fineliner on normal copy paper, but some are done with color pencils or ballpoint pens also. None of them were done especially for this homepage, they were just sketches I made during role-playing sessions and such. The drawings are scanned on a bland flat bed scanner. I use The GIMP for working on them, which is a really nice program, even though everyone else seems to use Adobe Photoshop.

The most interesting parts of my page from a technical point of view are the navigation bars. Since my page must run on any webhosters platform (like STRATO, where it currently is), I can not rely on server parsed html or rewrite rules, like I could if I ran my own server, to inline stuff. Also database backends and CGI-Perl scripts are out of reach. So the page is produced via a bunch of perl scripts from my internal version of the page, which pre-calculate all the relative paths and do the inlining.

use Perl;
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