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   Geek-Free, Commonsense Advice on Building a Low-Cost Web Site

       Editor: Peter Kent
         Top Floor Publishing

        Over 50,000 Subscribers in More Than 100 Countries!

   ~~~ IN THIS ISSUE ~~~

   ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

   Beginner's Column:
       Checking Your Site for Problems

   Reciprocal Marketing

   Adding "Viewlet" Content to Your Site ... Free

   Do You Use PayPal?

   Poor Richard's Web Site and Other Top Floor Books

   Book Reviewers Wanted

   Reading Back Issues

   ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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   {{ Beginner's Column:
      Checking Your Site for Problems }}

   You've got your Web site up and running. Perhaps it's just a
   few pages, or maybe hundreds. However many, you've got a
   problem. Things change, and you need to know when your site has
   problems. In fact even if things _don't_ change, you may have
   problems. You may have "bugs" in your HTML, or perhaps links
   that work okay on your hard disk, but not once you've
   transferred them to the Web server. (For instance, an link may
   be an "absolute" link, the entire URL pointing to a page on
   your computer -- such as <a href="c://My Documents/index.htm">
   -- rather than a relative link such as <a href="index.htm">.
   Clearly this link won't work once the site has been moved to
   the server.)

   There are a number of ways to check a site for such problems.
   Some HTML authoring tools have built in checkers, but these
   have serious limitations. They only work when you tell them to
   work, and they are generally working on the computer on which
   you created the site, not where the site is hosted. And they
   are usually fairly limited.

   However, there are a number of online services that can check
   your site for problems. You can set these to run automatically
   on a schedule, and to send you a report. The checkers can do
   various things, from checking links to spell checking and HTML
   checking. I have been looking at a few recently, though haven't
   yet picked one. In fact I may end up picking a couple, because
   some do one or two things very well, yet omit other features.

   Most of these service provide free demo reports, by the way --
   they'll check a few pages, maybe even 100, on your site and
   send you the report so you can see what you'll get when you
   sign up. So these are also great little free tools for checking
   one or a few pages.


   I like this service, though it's drawback is that it _only_
   checks links. The cost is 1 cent/page/check; that is, if you
   have a 100-page site, and you pay $10, you'll be able to check
   the entire site ten times. You can set up scheduled checks --
   every day, week, two weeks, or month -- or run a check manually
   at any time (unfortunately you don't seem to be able to set a
   time at which the check would be done, which would be useful).
   There's also a re-check feature; if you fix link problems found
   in a report, LinkAlarm will re-check just the pages with
   reported errors.

   This is a very sophisticated link checker, so take a look at
   the details for yourself -- it will report where file:// links
   are, where passwords are required for entry (you can let
   LinkAlarm into secure areas of the site), tell you which pages
   have banner ads, and so on.

   ***Doctor HTML

   Doctor HTML is the free version of RxHTMLPro, a nice tool for a
   quick check on just a few pages. If you want to check an entire
   site, you'll need RxHTMLPro, which varies in price from 50
   cents/report to 20 cents/report, a trifle expensive when
   compared to the other services. (It's not clear what a report
   contains, whether a one-page report and a complete-site report
   are the same cost.)

   These services check a number of things: spelling errors,
   links, form structure, table structure, image syntax (are the
   HEIGHT, WIDTH, and ALT tags present), document structure
   (unclosed tags, etc.), page-loading times, and a few other
   things. But the service may also be a little out of date. The
   most recent example is from April of 1998, and there are limits
   to the form checking, too. Still, you may well find the reports
   useful -- I particularly like


   NetMechanic has a number of useful tools, two of which are of
   interest in this context: HTML Toolbox and Server Check.

   HTML Toolbox identifies broken links, spelling errors, long
   load times, browser compatibility problems, and HTML code
   errors. It even has an HTML repair feature -- it will fix the
   HTML errors and send you a replacement file.

   The price is $35 per year for up to 100 pages, $200 a year for
   up to 400 pages. But that buys you a lot of checks -- every
   week, every two weeks, every month, or manual checks at any
   time. What if your site is more than 400 pages? I guess you
   could probably use the robots.txt file to exclude the system
   from one area of your site (there are details of how to use
   robots.txt in the HTML Toolbox FAQ), then set up another
   account to check just that area.

   The HTML check finds open tags (tags without an ending >),
   badly nested table tags, unrecognized tags, invalid and missing
   tag attributes, empty tag pairs, and so on.

   The Server Check program is $9.99/month, for which you'll get a
   check every 15 minutes, every hour of every day. If there's a
   problem, you can be notified by e-mail or pager, and you can
   define what sort of problems you want to hear about: server not
   responding, slow responses, performance below a certain level,
   and missing keywords. The keywords check is a way to ensure not
   just that the server is responding, but that it's serving pages
   correctly -- you can specify keywords that are found on
   particular pages, so if Server Check does _not_ find them it
   assumes there's an error.

   Server Check works from two locations, one in the U.S., and one
   in Europe, so you get a view from two different backbone
   connections in different parts of the world.

      ... More Services and Programs
          I don't have time to check all of these, but here's
   information on some other services ...

   ***Web Site Garage

   Another service with a number of tools, including Tune Up,
   which tests for browser compatibility, search-engine readiness,
   load-time, link problems, link popularity, spell checks, and
   HTML syntax. This has recently become part of Netscape
   Netcenter, a free service. However, it only checks a single
   page, and although there used to be a way to buy a full-site
   service, that seems to have gone, at least for the moment.

   ***CSE HTML Validator

   The nice thing about this product is that it's an offline
   product -- it runs in Windows 95/98/NT/2000 -- so you can check
   your site's HTML before you upload. It's a $90 product that
   seems to get great reviews: 5-cows at Tucows, WUGNET Shareware
   Hall of Fame, and others. But there's also a Lite version that
   is free, so you can download and try it. (The commercial
   version has "link checking, a more powerful built-in HTML/text
   editor, a batch wizard, better syntax checking, XHTML support,
   and much more.")

   ***Tucows Library

   Go to the Tucows software library and search for "HTML
   validators" and "link checker." I found six different programs
   (including CSE HTML Validator).

   ***W3C HTML Validation Service

   This service is from the World Wide Web Consortium, the
   organization that is responsible for promulgating versions of
   HTML. It checks HTML and reports on problems, but it's not very
   convenient, only doing one page at a time.

   ***Dr. Watson

   I did try Dr. Watson, but didn't like the report very much; I
   found it very complicated and hard to use. It analyzes HTML
   syntax, checks links, spell checks, calculates download speeds,
   checks search-engine compatibility and link popularity.

   This system is specifically for testing Web pages for their
   accessibility to people with disabilities. It's a free service.

   ***And more ...

   You can find more services at Yahoo, under the HTML Validation
   and Checkers page.

   Did you know that 95% of all e-commerce systems don't allow the
   merchant to ship products overseas? Did you also know that
   companies that _can_ ship overseas often sell 20% or more of
   their products outside the U.S.? Do you want to throw away

   You need more than a toy, you need the real thing, with
   flexible shipping options, sales tax calculations, built-in
   affiliate programs, all bundled with full web hosting,
   e-commerce education, and responsive customer service. You need
   BizBlast.com: http://BizBlast.com/

   {{ Adding "Viewlet" Content to Your Site ... Free }}

   I recently ran across Qarbon.com and their "viewlets" system --
   in fact Kent McBride, who runs BizBlast.com's learning center
   told me about these things, as he plans to use them in our
   E-Biz Training Center.

   Viewlets are little Java-based animations that can be used to
   demonstrate a process of some kind. At the Qarbon.com site
   you'll find viewlets demonstrating how to use AOL menus and
   tools, how to work with Web browsers, how to use PowerPoint,
   how to work with Linux, and so on. (At the moment they're
   mostly used for demonstrating software, but you could put any
   kind of images into them to demonstrate any process, really.)

   Now, you can work with these viewlets in a variety of ways.

   1. Borrow from the viewlet library ... and make money
   There are hundreds of viewlets in Qarbon.com's library. You can
   download these viewlets to your site, so visitors to your site
   can view them. Not only are they free, but you'll even share in
   the advertising revenue -- at the top of each viewlet is a
   banner ad, and you'll get paid 25% of ad revenues generated
   when the viewlet is used from your site.

   2. Create your own viewlets ... and make money
   You can create your own viewlets and add them to the Qarbon.com
   library. If anyone else downloads and uses the viewlets, you'll
   earn 15% of the advertising revenue. If someone comes to your
   site and views a viewlet that you created, you get 40% of the
   ad revenues.

   3. Create your own viewlets ... but kill the banner ads
   Qarbon.com has programs that allow you to create viewlets -- or
   use viewlets from the library -- without displaying banner ads;
   you can place your own images (a logo or perhaps your own ads)
   in the banner ad space. For $49 setup and $49 a month you can
   have up to 30,000 viewlet downloads a year; for $99 setup and
   $399 a month you can get up to 350,000 downloads a year.

   As the viewlets are Java applets, they won't work in all
   browsers, but they will work in most: Internet Explorer 4.0,
   Netscape 4.06, AOl 4.0 and later on MS Windows (unfortunately
   they won't work in Mac versions of Netscape until Netscape
   upgrades its Java support for the Mac).

   Creating viewlets is very easy. Qarbon.com provide a special
   tool to help you drop images into the viewlet and add your own
   text callouts; you can use voice-overs, too.

   See for yourself, at http://www.Qarbon.com/

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   {{ Reciprocal Marketing }}

   A reader recently sent me an article on "reciprocal marketing."
   That's a fancy term for merchants getting together to swap
   discount coupons or gift certificates. If someone buys a
   product at one site, that site issues a coupon or certificate
   for another site, to encourage the buyer to visit the other
   store. For instance, Gap.com and ProFlowers.com played this
   game -- Gap customers spending $40 or more got a $10 coupon for

   For more information, see the Silicon Valley News article:

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   can rake in HUGE profits, we handle order taking, customer
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   {{ Do You Use PayPal? }}

   Do you use the PayPal payment service? PayPal allows you to
   send money to people via e-mail, and it's growing rapidly
   because of the popularity of the auction sites -- most ebay
   transactions are now paid for by PayPal. But there's one
   weakness with PayPal -- at the moment there are no
   shopping-cart systems enabled for PayPal (there will be soon!).

   It's a simple concept. You create an account, then load the
   account in some way. You can actually send a little money by
   mailing a check, or you can give them your bank-account or
   credit-card information, and PayPal will draw money as you
   spend it. And spending it is very easy -- you log into the
   PayPal site and use a form to "e-mail" money to someone. If
   that person already has a PayPal account, the money goes
   straight into the account and an e-mail message is sent to the
   recipient. If not, a message tells the recipient to sign up for
   an account to get his money. (Now _that's_ viral marketing!)

   But as I mentioned, there are currently no shopping-cart
   systems available to the small business that can handle PayPal
   transactions. PayPal did recently introduce a very simple
   system, called WebAccept, that is basically a Buy button on a
   Web site; when someone clicks on the Buy button the PayPal site
   opens and allows him to make a payment, but it's a far cry from
   true shopping-cart integration.

   If you've been using PayPal and want a shopping-cart system
   that handles PayPal transactions, the good news is that there
   will be one available soon -- e-mail me at [EMAIL PROTECTED]
   for more information and to hear when it's ready.

   {{ Poor Richard's Web Site and Other Top Floor Books }}

   Top Floor Publishing now has seven books in print:

   The Official Miva Web-Scripting Book: Shopping Carts,
   Feedback Forms, Guestbooks, and More

   Poor Richard's Web Site, 2nd Edition: Geek-Free, Commonsense
   Advice on Building a Low-Cost Web Site

   Poor Richard's E-mail Publishing

   Poor Richard's Internet Marketing and Promotions

   The CDnow Story: Rags to Riches on the Internet

   MP3 For Musicians: Promote Your Music Career Online

   MP3 and the Digital Music Revolution: Turn Your PC into a
   CD-Quality Jukebox

   ... we also carry the following books by Peter Kent

   Making Money in Technical Writing: Turn Your Writing Skills
   into $100,000 A Year

   The Official Netscape JavaScript Book

   Order direct from the publisher, and you'll get a 100%,
   1-Year Guarantee. If you feel the book wasn't worth the
   money, send it back for a refund!

   And remember, these books are discounted at the Web site, and
   you pay just one shipping cost regardless of how many books
   you buy!


   {{ Book Reviewers Wanted }}

   Do you review books for newspapers, magazines, newsletters
   (electronic or paper), Web sites, or other media spots? If
   so, perhaps you'd like to review one of Top FloorPublishing's
   recent books: "The Official Miva Web-Scripting Book" or "MP3
   For Musicians." Or perhaps you'd like to review "Poor
   Richard's Web Site: Geek-Free, Commonsense Advice on Building a
   Low-Cost Web Site, 2nd Edition"? Or maybe one of the other
   books I mentioned above?

   Contact Top Floor's Marketing Director, Missy Ramey, at
   [EMAIL PROTECTED] Include your full mailing address, the
   name of newspaper/magazine/whatever in which the review will
   appear and the probable date of publication, and the editor's
   contact information.


   {{ Reading Back Issues }}

   If you need to refer to back issues of this newsletter -- and
   search the archives -- you can find them at the following


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