Mac Musings

Small Changes at Low End Mac

Dan Knight - 2002.10.22 - Tip Jar

Low End Mac has evolved in many ways since I began posting a handful of pages on my personal webspace in 1997. We added more and more computer profiles. We started linking to other sites. We began publishing our own editorial content. We began running ads and seeing income. We added writers.

We moved to our own domain. We implemented Cascading Style Sheets and Server Side Includes in our documents. We've changed the site design several times. We honed the structure of the site. We started using PHP and MySQL to manage parts of Low End Mac. And most of the changes have been pretty transparent.

Today we're officially announcing a couple changes in the way we handle links.

Accessibility

After reading the arguments against opening new windows - especially the accessibility concerns for those not using graphical browsers - we have generally stopped opening new windows. The issue here is that the "back" button or command doesn't work in most browsers when a new window appears. The only exception seems to be iCab. To improve access, as a rule we are not opening new windows when you follow a link.

There are two exceptions to the rule. Ads may open a new window. Also, some sites make it virtually impossible to hit the back button and return to Low End Mac (or any other site). For those links, we do open a new window because they have defeated the purpose of the back button.

For a lot more on this topic, we strongly recommend Dive Into Accessibility.

Internal vs. External Links

There was an interesting discussion on Coloring off-site links vs. in-site links on Holovaty.com back in August. The question: Was there a good way to visually distinguish local links from off-site links? It was even suggested that use of different colors might make sense - or be more confusing.

My contribution was to share something we've been doing on The 'Book Review for some time: Mark external links with bold text. It's already been adopted by at least one site, and we've now made this the official policy for inline links (that is, links within editorial copy).

As with every rule, there are exceptions. If the link is explicitly to a URL, such as <http://www.holovaty.com/>, the link itself already makes it obvious that the link is to an external site.

We offer both of the above as suggestions to anyone publishing on the Web, whether it's your personal homepage or a corporate site.

Other Changes

I've been publishing Low End Mac almost full-time since January 2001. The "almost" is because, due to the dot-com bust, site income fell precipitously last year. I've been working 2-3 days a week at a local camera store for over a year now, but that's coming to an end soon.

No, I won't be working full-time on Low End Mac - much as I'd like to. Instead, I'll be working half-time Power Mac G4with a new local publisher in the education field, helping them set up a new Power Mac G4 dual 1.25 GHz computer with Apple's humongous 23" display. I'll be learning InDesign and resuming work as a book designer, something I did before becoming a Mac manager at my last job.

My schedule will be mornings at Low End Mac, afternoons as Comphonix (sorry, no website yet - that'll be another of my duties), where I'll be writing, editing, and designing books that your children or grandchildren may use in school someday.

I'll miss the interaction of retail sales and having coworkers, but my feet will be much happier and the rewards will be much greater. The only drawback I can foresee is not wanting to touch my 400 MHz TiBook after working on a dual 1.25 GHz Power Mac. (I'll be sure to benchmark it and publish results here.)

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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