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Smallsite Design

Technology

9. Facilities

While a product has some core functionality, there are many facilities that it can also provide.

Smallsite Design's focus is upon the written word, but all the normal HTML elements like tables and lists need to be created. Beyond those, I added a few elements that I thought would be useful, mainly because I needed them to use in the product and help documentation.

The button element provides a way of doing a POST request to a site rather than the normal GET request of a link. The diagram element provides some basic graphics capability suitable for diagrams and visual navigation. The sequence element can replace a lot of videos that are basically slideshows with commentary, enabling them to be part of the site rather than hosted elsewhere, and with a fraction of the bandwidth required. See Elements for a full list.

The different article types provide particular functionality that would otherwise require HTML and CSS knowledge to create. The general article type includes sections and subsections including their child navigation bars, but these are not common in site-builders. Procedures include two levels of steps, but can also be interlinked with others in a hierarchy up to 10 deep. Tests help visitors gauge their understanding while allowing results-dependent comments to help them. Policies and contact pages round off the offering.

We then get to the facilities that enhance operability. Banners can be created and their text can be edited and sized. A logo can be inserted for familiar branding. A site can be archived or overwritten by another archive, or just some elements can be imported from it. Redirects can be set up for individual pages, grouped by prefix, or the whole site. Links can be checked for errors.

Originally, search was simply using the site: filter with a search site like Google. However, after discovering the most search engines ignore most of a small site's pages, a home-grown one was required. While it is not as sophisticated as Google, at least it covers 100% of the pages, compared to their less than 10%, allowing visitors to find all that a site has to offer. Since Bing now covers 100%, and DuckDuckGo uses Bing and has an attribute to restrict searches to a site, using an external provider is now an option.

Any article can be cloned as the basis for another article, but an article can also be created as a template to be cloned from, but is not part of a subsite or category. They can also be repositories of commonly used blocks that can be cloned and edited.

Most operating systems offer a sort of clipboard. These usually only hold one item at a time though they might hold both formatted and unformatted versions of it. Smallsite Design has a range of complex elements that such simple mechanisms know nothing about. To handle cloning and moving elements around in a flexible way, I created what I call spikes, after the old bill spikes that were a tall spike on a base, onto which obsolete invoices were skewered. An item can be put on a spike or its children can (unwrap).

I originally developed an overengineered statistics facility that showed the referring and referred pages for each page to three levels deep. While it may have been useful for SEO afficionados, it was just too complex for the target audience. In the end, since most cPanel-based hosting includes several statistics packages, I really only needed to provide a list of the pages that were actually read, most popular first, which is something that most packages don't give. For those sites with multiple locales, each locale's popularity is included.

I contemplated adding a comments facility, as I thought that it would be fairly easy to implement. However, I decided not to because my own experience with comments was that it was counterproductive for the target product audiences. Comments have the potential to be toxic for a site, and so need a lot of time to properly curate, which can take significant time from content creation. Ars Technica has a comments facility, but not embedded within its articles, so they are not clogged up with them, though only a click away. Cross-linking to companion social media posts can serve that purpose.

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