Folks don’t normally put an Elementary School Web site on the same playing field as, say, a large e-commerce website that needs to be useful to a larger user base. In some respects they are correct. However, the requirements for a government or school website can also be quite limiting if you let them.
The tallest hurdles for many school Web sites are: 1) low/no budget; 2) platform/browser base; and, 3) Macintosh support.
There’s no getting around that first item: money. There isn’t any. A company needs to do everything it can to keep the time down on a low budget site. For instance, the Glade site uses “Server Side Include statements” to keep any updates to a minimum. “SSI statements” are helpful because coders can use one small snippet of code to INCLUDE a larger snippet into the main body of code. This is particularly effective in areas that repeat content, like a sidebar area. On the Glade site, the “HEY!” area on the right needs to change pretty often and because it is essentially the same on every page it is a perfect candidate for an INCLUDE. From now on, anytime we want to update that area we change just THREE files and every page will display this change. What a time-saver!
The second issue concerns the type of computers and browsers that will view the site. Generally for schools, the computers that students use to access the site will be old, video cards will be low-end, monitor resolutions will be smaller, and browsers may not be up-to-date. These are concerns that can leave web designers scratching their heads for a solution.
The third hurdle is Macintosh support. Actually the Mac itself is not the problem, but rather Internet Explorer for the Mac, which is the majority browser for Mac OS9. Although the Mac operating system has moved onto OSX and newer browsers such as Safari and FireFox render websites that adhere more closely to industry standards, many Mac folks just haven’t moved on to OSX yet. School computer labs are often Mac based so it is important to have a grasp on coding for the quirky Internet Explorer.
Fortunately, Way Cool Web Design has a testing environment that allows our websites to be hammered out on many platforms/browsers. Couple this with years of experience coding for the quirks in these various platforms and it’s no surprise we deliver such strong cross-browser code without the need to “browser sniff” or make several versions of the site tailored for certain setups.
A final note about school and government web sites: accessibility. The Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act mandates federal agencies to “make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.” The Glade website is Section 508 compliant. Now that is Way Cool!
I am very pleased with the outcome of this project. A solution that compensates for critical deficiencies in IE support for CSS was provided by John, enabling us to push ahead with a strategy that may not have been possible otherwise. My advice to you if you're considering working with John Barrick on a project is: Do it! I intend to continue working with John on this and other future projects.