Web Design Standards

PMA Consulting Policy Directive (980204A)
New Websites have been springing up like mushrooms for a number of years now, some of them are useful, some enjoyable, some invaluable and some are just plain a waste of resources. How can we help ensure that our client's Website doesn't get relegated to the category of "waste" thus besmirching their good names? The majority of our clients are going to be relative newcomers to the Internet presence scene and therefore are going to rely on our counsel to make a good "CyberImpression", so let's start them out on the right foot.

DO NOT: assume that every member of your "audience" has a huge pipe to the Internet that will allow them to load 4.8MB of Home Page in a few seconds. Your Website should be designed such that the first page (called the index) will load in less than 20 seconds when accessed by a 14.4Kbps modem. Why? Because a 14.4K modem is the lowest common denominator to the Internet and it would be a mistake to design away from the masses. This same courtesy extends to justify our policy of having no scroll bars on the Index page.
You will receive more compliments from the people accessing your site over the fact that your Webpage loads in a snappy manner than any other dozen things you can do. Does this mean you can't load graphics? No, but it does mean that you can't hang a 740K JPG of Multnomah Falls on your Index page along with a dozen 45K GIF buttons and the complete Encyclopedia Britanica in HTML. You most certainly may do all of that on later pages of your site, but the Index page must load quickly and be aesthetic.
Colorful graphics are an integral part of aesthetics, so we have to use them, but we can also apply some rules to their use that won't make snappy presentation an impossibility. Any sites built directly for PMA Consulting will be designed to 800x600x256c display which although it isn't the lowest common denominator, is close enough to service well over 95% of the people browsing the Web today (1998). 256 colors is a mightily reduced color pallette and our Graphics Manager grumbled loudly over this decision. Fortunately our Web Services Director came up with a solution. "I think the right way to approach the color issue is to use the 16bit color palette in the design of the item, and then at completion:"

1) save the 16bit color version;
2) export it to jpg using a 216 color filter (most good imaging software can do this). This algorhythm picks the 216 important colors from the image, and generates a useable picture that is pretty hard to distinguish from the original, paricularly when viewed from a browser.

Thank you Bruce, this is a good solution and is now company policy. That is all we really want to say about Graphics, 3D and animation is an issue for another body of policy. Right now, we just say no.

PMACo - Client Website design interface

This is another one of those ticklish issues that is fraught with pitfalls and opportunities for upset. Your website is another form of Publication if we really want to boil it down to fundamentals. That puts it into the realm of your Public Relations department, your Advertising Agency, the vendor that produces your letterhead, brochures, business cards and invoice forms, your company's typesetter and to add insult to injury, now it includes your Network Administrator and computer consultant as well. The coordination of that many vested interests is a political conundrum of magnitude. Of course, it is our recommendation that you appoint PMA Consulting to be the ultimate authority over the development and administration of your Website, not because we are any better at it than your company typesetter would be, but because we get to charge you an hourly rate to do that administration. Seriously, now is the time for you to decide whom is going to be the "captain" of the good ship "YourCompanyName.Domain", because someone has to be in charge and at least for now, you don't have enough data to make informed decisions with regard to your cyberpersonnae. Let us be that authority until such time as you can find someone better, life will be easier if you do. Assuming that you are going to let us fill that slot, we now have to figure out how to allow all those above entities to communicate with each other coherently.
This calls for another standard. Why? Because your office uses Word Perfect in three different versions, your clients use MS Word in two different flavors, PR uses Corel Ventura Publisher, Advertising uses Quark Express and Corel Draw, your typesetter uses Aldus PageMaker and Adobe Illustrator and some of them use IBM PCs and others use Apple Macintoshs and finally, your local printer uses MS Publisher. We have to make contributions from each of these sources become HTML, JPG and GIF files that can be displayed on the Website as well as ensure that what you THINK is going up there looks like what actually arrives. No small challenge. Fortunately, there are some excellent tools available that make this challenge quite surmountable. Adobe Acrobat is PMA Co's portable display file standard for the obvious reason that it will accept literally everyone's output and create a PDF file that anyone can look at in true WYSIWYG style. Using this tool, it is possible for everyone involved to "be on the same page" without regard to platform. Therefore, all submissions for posting to the Website are to be offered using the following procedure:
1) Design the piece in your favorite software package using 16bit color pallette.
2) "Print" the piece to a PDF file using Adobe's Acrobat in version 2.0 compliance.
3) Save any text in the piece to RTF or ASCII text in a "Temp" subdirectory.
4) Copy the PDF and any graphics files used in the piece to the "Temp" subdirectory.
5) Compose a ReadMe.TXT file with instructions about fonts, screen densities, HTML links, buttons, etc that isn't obvious from the PDF file in the "temp".
6) Use PKZip to compress all these related files into an 8.3 compliant file.
7) Attach that file to an e-mail message to Doug@PMACo.com.

Using the above procedure we can all get the work done without having to remodel the living room and the cost of Adobe Acrobat isn't enough bankrupt any of us. There is a "Testing" button at www.pmaco.com on the clients page that will ask you for a password when you access it. You'll know your password when the time comes to use this feature and behind that password will be displayed any changes that you want to make to your site after we've developed them but before we put them up on your site for the world to see. This is an important step since the only way you're going to be able to tell how these changes will look from a browser is to look at them with a browser.

I know this sounds like some pretty heavy handed "Thou Shalt"s, but these procedures have saved us an incredible amount of grief in the past and cost us a sizeable amount of trouble in their development. We are going to be quite immutable in the above because with this policy in place, our clients are going to pay a LOT fewer expensive hours in getting their websites developed and have much more effective cyberpresences then otherwise. The above doesn't eliminate the need for effective communication over the phone and fax or in person, but it will minimize it dramatically and once effected, we're confident that everyone involved will be happy with the results.

Doug Hood - President

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