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The Fascinating Early Days of a “Web Page”

While doing a thorough spring cleaning and sorting to our office cabinets, we found this interesting, revealing article from September 1996 issue of “MacUser”. On the cover the magazine advertises the fastest Mac or PC ever, 225 MHZ PowerTower Pro. To give some context, today computers are built in the range of several GHz.

On page 99, MacUser shows easy steps to create an “Instant Home Page” with basic proportional images (that would not break the layout structure) and text information.  The article mentions Adobe PageMill 1.0 as the most popular Mac website creation tool of the time and that PageMill 1.0 was not capable of using tables for layout or for image maps. Over the last decade there’s been a movement towards table-free layouts and instead utilizing CSS for layout and styling, so it’s almost hard to recount a time when using tables for a layout was something new and technically advanced.

The key elements of a web page were already there in 1996: According to the article, the key content areas of a Web page are “info that let visitors to get to know you, links to other Web sites, and  a way to contact you via e-mail”. The magazine also recommends a visitor counter as a “fancy twist” which does not sound like a bad idea at all considering how much emphasis is put today on “invisible” visitor traffic tracking metrics tools.

Web page development started in 1994 so by 1996 the user could already display images to the web page making them a great deal more visual. On the other hand, navigation for instance remained HTML link based and button shapes were available but made very little use of until a year later in 1997.

1996 may have felt a big step from the very early ages of World Wide Web back in 1994 when very few people were aware of this emerging technology and communication platform. Here is a popular YouTube video of NBC news team discussing Web terminology back in 1994. The terminology is new and the Internet is still something abstract and rather geeky sounding.


Alexa Indexing Engine Measures Website Popularity

In addition to following your website’s Google Page Rank, and the number of backlinks pointing to your site, another metric to check when following your website’s search engine optimization progress is called Alexa Rank.

Alexa is a website indexing engine that attempts to measure popularity of websites. Alexa gathers its data on websites as does Google by using ‘searchbots’ that crawl the Web reading and storing data from websites. Like Google, Alexa crawls the Internet, retrieving and storing lots of data about websites and the popularity of websites. However, unlike Google, Alexa builds their popularity rank from data sent to them by people who have installed an Alexa Toolbar into their web browser. If you have the Alexa Toolbar installed into your browser, every time you visit a website, data is sent to Alexa, telling Alexa what websites you have visited. In this way, Alexa is able to build a ranking popularity index of which websites are visited most. The highest, most visited/popular site, has an Alexa Rank of 1, which is currently held by Google. For example, Apple Computer’s main website has an Alexa Rank of 41 and Dell Computer has an Alexa Rank of 200. However, most websites have ranks in the hundreds of thousands or millions.

Google does not make public all the factors that go into how high your website will rank on search results pages, but tracking how your site’s Alexa rank changes over time, whether your Alexa Rank goes up or down, can be an early indicator as to how your website’s Google ranking and search engine results maybe be changing and improving.

A copy of the Alexa database is used for the Internet Archive ( ). Google and Alexa also partner on supporting the Open Directory Project ( ).


Dynamic User Account Systems

Interaria PHP/MySQL Database Driven Content Management

In case your company wants to provide any user exclusive information or create custom user experiences, then user account systems are the way to go. To summarize, we can identify three different needs for user accounts according to the website’s business model:

1) Client account systems for customers to access specific information and files,
2) Customer account systems for online stores, and
3) Member websites that require registration for participation.

Interaria develops on a PHP/MySQL database platform custom data driven user account systems to meet with the requirements of your website’s business model and the outline for ideal user experiences.

1) Client Login / Account Systems
Client accounts are very commonly needed for customers/clients to be able to access unique data and project specific files. In these cases accounts are typically assigned by the website owner (service provider). Examples of the cases for different industry based uses are many:

a) Creative industry (architects, designers, builders, photographers, consultants): sharing design and project files and tracking progress online is often crucial in order to create effective customer relationships.

b) Real estate agents: creating custom lists of properties by the customer’s specific needs creates efficiency and trust.

c) Financial and medical industry: Any monetary or sensitive information should be password protected and highly case sensitive.

Customers benefit from having an access to online accounts where they can view (and comment) project files and documents specifically designed or assigned for them. Interaria creates custom solutions based on individual needs. For instance we can create solutions that let you:

  • post a file and define users (members) who can see it
  • create custom slide shows and special image libraries
  • associate a time stamp to any shared file to specify when it will expire
  • send an automated email to your customer every time you post a new project file
  • delete and re-organize files
  • let your customer leave notes/comments associated to each file
  • let your customers reset their password

A client login and account system is one type of Web application that "talks" with a database and runs on your Web server. Visually the interface and pages can be custom designed to match with your website or unique visual requirements according to each project.

2) Customer Account Systems for Online Stores
Online stores are often designed to give an option to create a customer account. While many online stores don’t make this mandatory the benefits are faster check out times with saved billing and address information. The accounts are also beneficial in storing previous order data and receipts and tracking packages. Typically customers have an option to create an account while checking out. Standard features are also secure password retrieval/reset process, and options to manage communication settings (such as wanting or not wanting to receive promotional emails).

3) Member account systems for specified online participation
Member accounts and user systems are these days everyday life on the Web. Typically any tracked interactivity by a visitor requires some form of quick registration in order to participate to discussions, leave ratings, post comments, and engage with other members. Examples of website features that require and/or benefit from member account systems are many:

  • Posting product reviews and ratings
  • Accessing member exclusive news
  • Leaving comments
  • Participating to interactive games
  • Saving items to Favorite lists
  • Sharing photos and video
  • Scheduling a service or an appointment online

Dallas Web design & development company Interaria develops PHP/MySQL database driven custom Web applications. Setting up a user account system is typically one of the first steps in the process of designing entire database driven website features and user interfaces.

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