Systematization: The Path to an Error-Free Process
Web Menus: Giving new meaning to complexity!
Problems inherent in porting menus from applications to documents
Menus are traditionally scaleable and hierarchical navigation structures used in software applications to streamline the user's search for functions that are not obvious. Programming applications with menus is rarely a problem because the vast majority of object oriented software development platforms are largely scale free languages that assume few restrictive boundaries.
It is all too easy to forget that a page published on the internet is only a web document and not a web application. To the visitor, such pages are external in origin and therefore should be allowed no liberty to run code on internal computer systems prior to three days quarantine and scanning with the latest anti-virus package. This lack of trust that is the inevitable consequence of free will, sets severe limitations on what can be expected from a page published on the internet. You can be certain that as long as human beings have free will, then the whole concept of web (based) applications is as absurd as the concept of giving master keys to everyone! Thus in all appropriateness, a page on the internet will never be anything more than a web document.
A document is a different entity to an application. Applications run with far fewer limitations because they can operate under conditions of reasonable trust. As this is not possible for web documents, the task of porting a hierarchical system from a scaleable application platform to a very limited document platform has problems of its own. To begin with, sub-menus often require code that can only function as part of an application. Size limitations as they apply to web pages can make it impractical to have more than one level of menu hierarchy (unless you want to wind up with web pages that owe more than 75% of their load time to the web menu!) Then there is the complexity of the menu structure itself; comprising a well defined hierarchy with its own metadata. There is currently only one HTML structure that is remotely capable of representing such hierarchies. Web menus are possible, but only when HTML is combined with some of the advanced formatting methods of CSS 2.0. The task however, of combining two relatively simple formatting methodologies to produce a complex and intricate format is riddled with pitfalls.
Market Segmentation, Double Standards, & Forked Code
As if the difficulties of reliably marking up web menus is not enough, browser developers all have unique interpretations of what the combination of CSS and HTML are intended to produce. Internet Explorer 6 fails to recognise many of the features of CSS 2.0, while browsers using the Open Source Gecko engine cannot distinguish the head link of a web menu from the rest of the links on the menu. Opera browsers interpret the positioning of menus differently from Gecko & Microsoft; and everybody involved is convinced that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong! Web developers marking up menus for their site must do so to multiple interpretations of at least two standards and their interaction - and remember to do so comprehensively for every new update they make to their menu system.
All this amounts to enormous maintenance overheads relative to the fairly minor footprint that a good navigation system leaves on a web site. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not an approaching main battle tank!
Web Sergeant's fine art of automating the forgettable details
Systematization is a fairly new administrative process that uses the formal application of rigid procedures to ensure that no vital actions or questions are overlooked. ISO Standards Accreditation is an example of both systematization (in the process) and the recognition (in the award) of an organisation's own internal systematization of quality control. Web Sergeant takes the process of systematization and applies it to ensure that the web menus built by the user actually work, are error free, and that no vital compatibility coding is forgotten. If you want an easy way to set up and maintain web menus without the accompanying quality control issues, then Web Sergeant is for you!
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