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Chapter 2. Making a Web Page with HTML > Helpful Development Practices

Helpful Development Practices

Here are some techniques that can help you as you work on your Web site projects:

  • Use comments in your code. Comments are notes to yourself and other people who might have to work with your files. Whether you're working alone or in a group, commenting your code is an important habit to develop. Common things to include in comments are when the code was added to the document, what the piece of code does, who added it, and so on. Make sure your comments are clear and concise to avoid confusion and frustration. Remember, though, that some comments will be visible via View Source, so don't type things you don't want the general public to read.

    You can comment your code whether you're writing HTML, CSS, ActionScript, JavaScript, or any other code. Scripting, markup, and programming languages have their own format for how to create comments. HTML comments are contained between <!‐‐ and ‐‐>. Everything between the comment tags will be visible only to people who are editing the HTML document and to those who view source on your pages. CSS comments look like this: /* comment goes here */.

  • Use version control. Make sure you have something in place to prevent members of the team from overwriting each other's work. Even if you're working solo, it is easy to accidentally overwrite a file. Make sure you have backups so you can recover the work if something does happen. Explore your software for version control options. For instance, Dreamweaver has some tools to help. Power users like tools like Visual Studio Visual SourceSafe 6.0.

    In general, version control tools warn or prevent other members of your team from opening and working on files that are already open and being edited. They all work a little differently and some are more effective than others — that is, they prevent more than one person from opening and working on a file instead of just issuing a warning that someone else is working on the file but letting a second person work on it anyway.

    Other version and source control features include warning a user when she is trying to post an older version of a file to the server when the file that is currently on the server is newer and presumably has been posted by someone else very recently. Another way to make sure files don't get overwritten is to limit the number of people who have the power to publish files to the site. The designated person acts as a gatekeeper, making sure that members of the team are not overwriting each other's work.

    Remember to also keep track of original versions of the photos associated with your site in case you need them later.

  • Keep communication open. There cannot be enough communication between members of a Web team. The nature of the work makes it easy for members to run to their respective corners and hibernate until they're done with their piece. Typically, details of what each person is working on morphs, as planned techniques do not always work when they're put into practice. Communication is especially important when this happens.

    For example, if your team decides to use HTML to deliver a company tour and then later discovers that Flash would be a better method, tell all team members about the change of plans. If someone else is developing the content for an HTML page and doesn't realize that you've changed direction, the time spent on content development has been wasted. In fact, the team needs extra time to develop the new content.

  • Organize your supporting files. As you work on a site, you'll accumulate several files that aren't actual parts of the site. You will almost immediately start generating Word documents, Photoshop or Fireworks files, Illustrator files, Flash files, and a host of other files. Make a folder called something like Production Files to keep track of all these files. You should keep this folder with the site folder, but don't post it to your live site. You need to use these files when and if you need to revise your graphics or multimedia elements or if you need to refer back to original content documents. When you launch your site, burn a backup CD or DVD with the site and production files on it. Periodically make new backups.

  • Make all source documents available to everyone who will need to edit site elements. Ensure that everyone on the team can edit or create new graphics as needed without having to try to completely re‐create the original source files.


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