Creating HTML Pages?

Subject: Creating HTML Pages?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 9 May 2003 09:05:29 -0400

Jill Renaud reports: <<We need to come up with a system that allows anyone
in our organization to create web pages that will be posted our intranet.>>

Something like Macromedia's Contribute
( might work. I have no
experience with this, but it sounds like a suitable product. However, I have
serious reservations about the underlying concept:

<<These pages will contain mainly tech notes and procedures about various
development tools and products. Basically, we want to provide a framework
that can be used by development groups to share information.>>

The biggest problem with intranets arises when nobody plans their
development and nobody controls the quality of the information. Without both
planning and control, you'll end up with an unusable monstrosity that
somebody (probably you!) will end up having to redo from scratch at some
point in the future. Experience has shown that the people who know the most
about the technical details are often the least-qualified to describe it to
anyone else. Isn't that why we're all employed? <g>

Before worrying about the tools to use, spend some time thinking about how
you will structure the intranet to make it usable and how you'll provide
quality control. Odds are excellent that letting staff randomly contribute
whatever they feel like saying is exactly the wrong approach. A formal
process may not be necessary (hello, Andrew! <g>), but you definitely need
to think of a means of keeping the information under control--someone always
has to manage an intranet. You, for example, might be the ideal candidate to
edit and post this information.

<<The constraints for this project are: (a) We can't force the users to code
HTML (although some may choose to do so), (b) The pages must have a
consistent look and feel>>

Thinking a little outside the box, it might make far more sense to put all
this information in a database rather than in HTML pages. This has several
advantages: First, with a little work planning the creation of an input
form, you can ensure that everyone enters the same information in the same
places (fields). Second, it means you can standardize the content both as a
result of the previous point and because you can provide validity checking
rules to "clean" the data; for example, the product a technical note refers
to can be picked from a list rather than typoed by manually entering it.
Last but not least, well-designed databases are much easier to search than
chaotic Web pages--particularly if you clean the data to prevent errors such
as the typo I just mentioned.

<<(c) The implemented system must be relatively easy-to-use and require
minimal training, and (d) It must be fairly cheap!>>

You can't get much simpler than a well-designed database data-entry form. No
training required, particularly if you create useful embedded help!
Moreover, there are dozens of inexpensive database solutions available, and
some of them (e.g., FileMaker Pro) let you automatically publish consistent
(form and content) pages in HTML format.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my
telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my
telephone."--Bjarne Stronstrup (originator of C++ programming language)


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