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Rules to Better Websites - Layout And Formatting - 62 Rules

  1. Do you have a call to action on your web pages (aka The Banana Rule)?

    If you want users to take action on the web page content, add a "banana" - something that makes it obvious what the user is supposed to do.

    For example, if your page is selling software, make it easy for your users to make a purchase. People don't have a lot of time to read your entire page and find the right link, so it is important to grab their attention by using a "banana".

    Why do we call it "banana rule"?

    How would you get a monkey pay attention to something? You could lure them by tempting him with a banana. Once we have the monkeys attention focused on the banana, they will try to get their hands on it regardless of the barriers on the way.

    banana
    Figure: If the monkey can see the banana, they will do whatever it takes to get it

    This is how the "banana rule" should be applied:

    BadBananaQantas
    Figure: Bad example – The "Points+Pay" red button takes the attention over the red "Go" button, which should be the "banana"

    So, remember most pages need a "banana" to get them to where you want them. "Bananas" are big, simple and stand out from the rest of the page.

    GoodBananaSSWScrumPage
    Figure: Good example - SSW always have a good "banana"

  2. Forms - Do you indicate which fields are required and validate them?

    Always indicate which fields are required. Users get frustrated when they experience a wasted trip to the server, just because they did not get an obvious indication of what was required first time around.

    Required field Bad example
    Figure: Bad example - No visual indication for required fields when a user first sees the form

    A designer will know the best way to indicate required field depending on the layout. However if you are in doubt and don’t have a designer around, a red asterisk is definitely the best option.

    Redstar Good example
    Figure: Good Example - A visual indication of what fields are required (use a red asterisk if you are not a designer)

    More information on ASP.NET implementation

    You should combine these visual indicators with appropriate client and server side validators to make sure that your data conforms to business requirements. Adding a RequiredFieldValidator to the above textboxes gives you data validity check with minimal coding.

    <asp:Textbox runat="Server" ID="email" />

    Figure: Bad example - No validator used, so the user won't know the email is required

    <asp:Textbox runat="Server" ID="email"/>
        
    <asp:RequiredFieldValidator runat="Server" ControlToValidate="email" ErrorMessage="Please enter an email address"
        
    ID="emailReqValidator" />

    Figure: Good example - An ASP.NET validator in use, to indicate the fields required

    Note: For ASP.NET Dynamic Data although validation is done differently (under the covers it is using a field template + the ASP.NET validator).

  3. Forms - Do you know when to use links and when to use buttons?

    It seems nearly all web developers are confused whether they should use hyperlinks or buttons on forms. The recommendation is that whenever data is being submitted (e.g. Save, Cancel, Apply) you should use a button, otherwise use a link.

    This is because hyperlinks indicate navigation - "If I click this link, I'll be taken somewhere else".

    Whereas a button indicates that something is being processed - "When I click this, I'm agreeing that something is being submitted"

    It is important you use buttons for updating or deleting data on your website. The main reason is problems will occur when you run a link checker (we run SSW Link Auditor), and you have data driven pages with "Update" or "Delete" hyperlinks. The link checker will try to go to all associated links and potentially delete a lot of data from your website database.

    But you say "My Delete links have JavaScript protection e.g. Are you sure you want to delete?". It is still no good because link checkers ignore all JavaScript validation.

    Thus, we must have:

    • Password protected areas on the website when we can update the database records via the web
    • All update ability must be via buttons, not hyperlinks (as buttons are known on the web to submit a form).

    That being said, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule.

    1. If you want the user to be able to right click and "Open in New Window"
    2. If you want a consistent design feel (and there is no confusion that the link is accepting data)

    Figure: An exception to the rule - an "Update" button inside the datagrid would look inconsistent

    Figure: Bad Example - The "sign in" hyperlink should be a button

    Figure: Good Example - This is a perfect example of how a good sign in screen should look

  4. Forms - Do you include the number of results in ComboBoxes?

    When designing your form, you should try to help your user whenever it's possible. So it's a good idea to include the number of results in ComboBoxes.

    multiplecolumns
    Figure: Good example – combo-box with multiple columns

  5. Figures - Do you use images to reduce the words?

    An image is worth a thousand words, it's true. So if you can remove text and replace with an image, do so.

    So we need a better way to present an image on our website and it should be easy enough to create a decent look.

    You then have this pretty white flower with a green stem standing on a water pond. It is beautiful.

    Figure: Bad example - Here we have text describing a flower

    flower
    Figure: Good example - Here we have a picture (could be a screen capture) which avoids a thousand words

    What else can you do?

  6. Figures - Do you add useful text captions to images and videos?

    When you add an image to a website or application, it is so useful to add a figure underneath it to describe your image.

    It's the best way of ensuring you catch users' attention to the content of your page. When you're scanning a newspaper for interesting articles, you'll check out the pictures, read the accompanying description, and if it sounds interesting you'll go back and read the article.

    Users read websites in a similar fashion. Catch their attention with an image, and then keep it with a useful description. Don't just describe what the image is; say what it's used for in the context of the document.

    good caption
    Figure: Good example - Some nice useful and concise text describing the image

    It is especially important that images and captions serve a purpose, as opposed to graphics which are there solely for design.

    Tip #1: Use prefixes

    Prefix your caption with "Figure: ", "Video: ", or "Code: ".

    If it is a good/ok/bad example (see the next tip), then the prefix should be something like: "Figure: Good/Bad/OK example - ", "Video: Good/Bad/OK example - ", or "Code: Good/Bad/OK example - ".

    Note: The first word after the dash should be capitalized, and the caption should not include a full stop at the end.

    E.g. Figure: Good example - This is a caption

    Tip #2: Give bad and good examples

    When possible, use "bad" and "good" examples to clearly explain Dos and don'ts.

    At SSW we always show the bad example first, then the good example. You will see samples of this in the next tips below.

    Tip #3: Bold your captions

    [image]
    [Description...]

    Figure: Bad example - Caption not bolded can be mixed up with regular content

    [image]
    [Description...]

    Figure: Good example - Caption stands out when bolded

    Tip #4: Describe the actions in your captions

    Especially for screenshots, it is a good idea to have your figure describe the action the user would take:

    [image]
    Figure: This is the screen

    Figure: Bad example - Vague caption description

    [image]
    Figure: On the screen, choose the execution method

    Figure: Good example - Clear caption description

    Tip #5: Add the titles + length on video captions

    When embedding videos from others, include a caption with the video title + video length in brackets.

    You should also prefix with "Video: [Title] " instead of "Figure: ".

    This helps:

    • Giving a brief text summary of the video
    • Getting some extra Google Juice
    • Letting users know what to expect in terms of time required to watch
    • Serving as a reminder in case that video ever gets removed by its owner

    Note: The exception is for promotional videos where the caption may undesirably impact the look and feel of your page.
    If you don't include the video title in the caption, include it above the video as a comment so it's preserved.

    When you have someone's name in your caption, link their name to their profiles (e.g. SSW People).

    [video]
    Figure: In this video, Bob talks about Outlook

    Figure: Bad example - Using "Figure:" for a video caption + a vague text + no link

    [video]
    Video: How to search on Outlook by Bob (2 min)

    Figure: Good example - Using "Video: [Title]" as the video caption + link + video length at the end

  7. Do you show 'Bad' and 'Good' examples when giving instructions?

    The best way to emphasize your point is to show the pain first, and then the solution. Use "Bad example" and "Good example" with crosses and ticks, respectively, in captions.

    This structure can be used with images, videos, pieces of code, or text in boxes. Just make sure to include the appropriate caption for each element.

    Giving the bad example first will raise users' expectation...

    Figure: Bad example - Kid not in his seat

    Then showing the solution by giving a good example as the result, will make them feel released.

    kid in airplane seat
    Figure: Good example - Kid in his seat

    Usually, further information on how to achive the good example is added after the examples. E.g. Add a heading "More information" with extra details.

    You may also use "OK" examples for things that are acceptable but can be done better.

  8. Figures - Do you use the right HTML/CSS code to add images and captions?

    Most developers put the image and the caption in a DIV tag, where the figure is just a paragraph - this is not correct.

    <div>
      <img alt="">
      <p>Figure: Caption</p>
    </div>

    Figure: Bad example

    Instead, you should use <figure> and <figcaption> as per https://www.w3schools.com/TAGS/tag_figcaption.asp. This structure gives semantic meaning to the image and figure:

    <figure>
      <img src="image.jpg" alt="image"></img src="image.jpg" alt="image">
      <figcaption>Figure: Caption</figcaption>
    </figure>

    Figure: Good example

    The old way

    For some internal sites, we still use the old way to place images: Using  <dl><dt> (which is the item in the list – in our case an image), and <dd> for a caption.

    <dl class="badImage"> OR <dl class="goodImage">   
      <dt><img src="image.jpg" alt="Image"></dt>
      <dd>Figure: Caption</dd>
    </dl>

    Figure: Old way example

    Note: <dl> stands for "definition list"; <dt> for "definition term"; and <dd> for "definition description".

  9. Do you always acknowledge your work?

    Why do so many interesting pages have no owner? There are countless articles on the web that have left the reader wondering: "Who wrote this? What is their background?

    Sometimes, the only available link is author’s email, which doesn't say anything about them. Sure, contact info is often a good part of the biography, but it should not be the primary or only piece of data about the author.

    Different article layouts can be:

    • Articles with a column and no authors listed - Very Bad
    • Articles with authors but no link to their biographies - Bad
    • Articles with authors but only a "mailto:" link for direct email - Average
    • Articles with an acknowledgements section and a link to the biographies - Good

    Users often want to know the people behind information. Biographies and photographs of the authors help make the web a less impersonal place and increase trust. Personality and point-of-view always win over anonymity.

    So every web page or document should have an owner and include a link with more information about the author.

  10. Printing - Do you have a print.css file so your web pages are nicely printable?

    As we know portable devices like tablets and mobile phones are being more and more used as reading devices, however printing web pages is still often necessary. In general web designers don't think about printing when putting a website up, meaning we're left with web pages that frustratingly don't properly print on to paper.

    A print.css file works in the same way as a regular stylesheet, except it only gets called up when the page is printed, by setting the command media to be "print", as per below:

    <link rel="stylesheet" href="print.css" type="text/css" media="print" />

    The print.css file should have 100% width and is used to hide elements that you don't want to appear when printing a web page, such as advertising, background, menus, animations etc.

  11. Printing - Do you check for oversized images and table?

    An oversized image or table on your page can greatly reduce your page's readability and disrupt its layout. It affects page loading and can also cause problems in printing, wasting natural resources.

    That's why you should limit all your images and tables to a maximum of 800 pixels wide.

    Some have said 800 pixels is too small, if you resized a large image you can't read the text - we think if you have an image that is large, then there must be reasons.

    1. If we are trying to show an overall layout, then it is OK for the text to be too small to see.
    2. If we are trying to show specific details - either a feature or a problem, then it is OK to crop the image so that they fit the size.

    Also, if you are resizing in Photoshop you can easily resize the image and yet put the zoom out on a part that you want the reader to read (combining both options).

  12. Do you design websites and apps to be responsive (aka mobile-friendly)?

    You may be nicely equipped with a 4k monitor at work, but many people will access your content via their mobile phone or tablet.

    Your website should work nicely on any screens that vary from a mobile/tablet to a large PC monitor.

    Responsive Design
    Figure: Good example - A modern website adapts to different screens

    Google has a web tool to test how mobile-friendly your site is.

    Know more at Responsive Web Design: What It Is and How To Use It.

    Go beyond responsive design

    Responsive Web Design is great. It lets you alter the display of a web page using CSS to better suit screens of different sizes.

    When building websites targeting mobile devices it is only part of the solution, however.

    Figure: Watch the clip with Dino Esposito to find out why

  13. Authentication - Do you have a user friendly registration and sign in screen?

    For a website that expects a lot of first-time visitors, it is wise to put the user registration form on the same page as the sign in dialog. This saves having the user click on another link to enter their details.

    Figure: Bad example - non-friendly sign in screen

    The image is a bad example of a dialog box because:

    • You can easily enter the correct data and click the wrong hyperlink (i.e. Join or sign in)
    • By well-established convention, buttons should be used whenever form data is to be submitted back to the server
    • The "Forgot my Password" link is ambiguous - Does it take me to a new page or do I have to enter the email address field first?
    • A button, not a link, should be used for submitting data, as links don't allow the user to hit "enter"

    Figure: Good example - friendly sign in screen for many new visitors

    For a website that expects few first-time visitors, this is a good sign in screen, as it is clean and concise:

    Figure: Good example - friendly sign in screen for few new visitors

    Note: Generally, the action buttons should be aligned to the right.

  14. Authentication - Do you use email address instead of username?

    It is easier for users to remember their frequently accessed email address more so than one of their many usernames. For this reason, it is best to use email address instead of username for the sign in page.

    "I do recommend letting users enter their email address instead of a user ID: It's guaranteed to be unique and it is easy to remember."

    Jakob Nielsen , Ph.D. and Principal at Nielsen Norman Group

    bad username
    Figure: Bad example - users have to remember which username applies to this particular website

    good email
    Figure: Good example - users will always remember their primary email address

  15. Authentication - Do you have a 'Forgot my password' link?

    It's easy and common for users to forget their passwords, the vital key which grants them access to the services they are eligible for.To cater for this instance, it is important to have a 'Forgot my password' link on the sign in page.

    bad
    Figure: Bad example - what will happen for the poor user that forgot their password?

    good
    Figure: Good example - users have an option if they forget their password

    reset example
    Figure: Good example - users can enter their email to get a new password

    Do you avoid a username enumeration attack?

    This practice also opens up the risk of "username enumeration" where an entire collection of usernames or email addresses can be validated for existence on the website simply by batching requests and looking at the responses.You can read more on Troy Hunt's blog post. You should always aim to not disclose if a user is registered with your site or not.

    2016 01 05 15 20 06
    Figure: Bad example - Displaying information that a user does not exist?

    demo
    Good example - You should always aim to not disclose if a user is registered with your site or not

  16. Authentication - Do you have a 'Remember me' checkbox?

    It is always good to provide the user with an option to have their username and password remembered. Doing so means they don't have to type them again.

    sugarlearning rememberme
    Figure: 'Remember me' checkbox in a Web Form

  17. Authentication - Do you have a 'Sign me in automatically' checkbox?

    When you present visitors to your site with an opportunity to sign in, you should always include an option to have that person signed in automatically.

    signin
    Figure: 'Stay signed in' checkbox is available

    This should be implemented simply by using a checkbox. A cookie should be stored on the user's computer so that next time they visit your site the sign in process is automatic.

  18. Authentication - Do you have a 'Logout' short cut next to the username ?

    Although most of the sites have a 'Log off' submenu, we recommend adding a short cut next to the username, this will make the 'log Off' operation more convenient.

    logoff bad
    Figure: Bad example - Only has a 'Log Off' operation in the submenu

    logoff good
    Figure: Good example - Has a 'Logout' short cut next to the username

  19. Do you have a consistent search results screen? (aka the Google Grid)

    Every website out there has a page that displays the results of a search. I am amazed that no standard has been adopted throughout the Web as nearly every site seems to have a different way of displaying data.

    However, Google is a very good example for displaying search results. Their result pages are clear and efficient, especially for a large result set.

    results ssw
    Figure: Good example – adopt Google's search result layout

    So adopt Google's search result layout and it will give new and regular users a better navigation experience. Here's our standard layout for our search function.

    Want the 'Google grid'? Then follow these rules to help users to navigate:

    1. Filters at the top (if more than one search parameter,then add a "search" button)
    2. The number of results found + how many seconds the search took to execute
    3. A statement that explains the criteria that you used for searching (or keep the criteria in the text box like google does)
    4. The number of pages found (hyperlinks centered in the middle), and these hyperlinks should be shown on the footer of the page only.

    results filter
    Figure: The header of SSW results screen - filter, number of results found, search criteria and time taken

    results pagination
    Figure: Good example - The footer of SSW product order listing page has the hyperlinks for pages 1 to 10 centered

    results google
    Figure: Google's classic search results

  20. Do you know table tags should not specify the width?

    The table tag selector “width” is considered an inline styling, which should be avoided. In the cases you really need to specify the table width you should do it via the CSS file. 

  21. Do you use DOCTYPE without any reference?

    Since HTML5, DOCTYPE no longer requires a reference to a DTD. Back in HTML 4.01, The DTD links were used in to specify the rules for the markup language (Transitional, Strict, Frameset etc) so that the browsers render the content correctly. It's no longer necessary.

    <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN" "https://www.w3.org/TR/html4/strict.dtd">  

    Figure: Bad example – Old reference in DOCTYPE

    <!DOCTYPE html>

    Figure: Good example – HTML 5 DOCTYPE declaration

    For more information, see HTML !DOCTYPE Declaration on w3schools.com.

  22. Do you include the number of results in drop down list?

    When designing your website, it's a good idea to help your users where possible. When you use a combo box, it's very helpful to be able to see at a glance how many results can be expected.

    drop list bad
    Figure: Bad Example - You can't tell the number of results

    drop list good
    Figure: Good Example - The number of results is clearly displayed

  23. Do you use "Back" instead of "Previous" (or other variations)?

    According to Design Specifications and Guidelines - User Assistance, the commands for navigating through a wizard should be "< Back" and "Next >".

    When your site needs a link to iterate backward through records we recommend that you use "< Back" instead of "< Previous".

    There are a few reasons for this:

    1. This is the standard used in Microsoft Installation files. MSIs are the most widely used installation package available today.
    2. Internet Explorer and several other lesser-known browsers use a Back button to iterate back through webpages, so your visitors will automatically know what your "< Back" link does.
    3. It is important to keep consistency on your pages.

    Below is an example of a Good "< Back" link versus some Bad variations.

    Figure: This is Bad because it says "Previous" instead of "Back"

    Figure: This is bad because it has too many "<"s or it has no space between the "<" and the "Back"

    Figure: A Good example of a "< Back" link

  24. Do you use predictive-textboxes instead of normal combo or text boxes?

    When getting users to choose data from a medium-long list, or to enter data that has been predefined (such as Country names), it is a good idea to use a predictive-text combo rather than a normal combo or text boxes. A good implementation of predictive-text combos will also perform a type-ahead effect, providing the user with a richer experience.

    Also, predictive text boxes can be used with validation, or without. In instances where you don't mind if users add data to your collection you can turn validation off; however, to keep your collection clean, it is recommended to use validation.

    Figure: Bad Example - Using a Textbox and Combo to enter list data

    Figure: Good Example - Predictive-Text combo with Type Ahead

    Figure: Good Example - Predictive-Text combo with and without validation

    google predictive search
    Figure: Best Example - Google search

  25. Do you use the correct input type?

    HTML 5 introduced a whole slew of new type properties for forms. Gone are the days of just using type="text" for every field in a form (barring buttons and checkboxes).

    Although most of these don't do anything on desktop, on mobile devices they bring up the correct keyboard. As we move into a more mobile digital age, small things like the proper numerical keyboard or a keyboard with a quick ".com" becomes increasingly important.

    <label for="phone">Phone</label>: 
    <input type="text" name="phone" />

    Figure: Bad example – This field is using a text type and shows a standard keyboard on mobile

    <label for="phone">Phone</label>: 
    <input type="tel" name="phone" />

    Figure: Good example – This field is using the correct field type and shows the keypad on mobile

    Here is a table of some useful input types and what they do:

    TypeWhat
    ColorThis is a color picker. This is not supported on mobile or in all browsers.
    DateThis brings up the date picker on mobile
    Datetime-localThis brings up a date-time picker on mobile
    EmailThis adds ".com" and "@" to the keyboard on mobile
    FileUse then when you want a button to upload files. This will also allow users to upload from their mobile device’s photo library.
    MonthThis brings up a month and year picker on mobile
    NumberThis displays as a number selector on desktop and can be set with upper and lower limits. However, it does not work on mobile yet.
    PasswordThis masks the characters and should be used for any privacy sensitive information
    RangeThis will show a slider control and works on mobile
    SearchThis should be used to define search fields
    TelThis brings up the number pad on mobile
    TimeThis brings up the time picker on mobile
    URLThis adds ".com" to the keyboard on mobile
  26. Do you know to not use FONT tags?

    The <font> tag is supported in all major browsers, however it is deprecated since HTML 4... so it should not be used. Learn more at w3schools.com.

    <font>Some text</font>

    Figure: Bad example - Using deprecated HTML <font> tag

    <p>My brother has <span style="color:blue">blue</span> eyes.</p>

    Figure: Good example - Using <p> for texts and <span> for texts' variations

    Tip: The best practice is to CSS classes to define the font family, size, and color.

    We have a program called SSW Link Auditor to check for this rule.

  27. Do you know how to effectively use non-standard font on your website?

    In some cases you may need to display text content on your page with a specific font. Unfortunately web browsers don't provide an easy way to deliver rich typography without sacrificing some functionality. Common approaches include:

    1. Display the text as an image
    2. sIFR
    3. Font stacking
    4. Google Fonts
    5. Self-hosting
    6. Webfont services

    Each method mentioned above has their disadvantages. We discourage #1 - Images are bad for Google juice and cannot be selected; and #2 - sFIR uses old technology based on nearly dead Flash.

    For more information on the differences between the other methods read: The best way to serve fonts to your website.

  28. Do you know it's important to make your fonts different?

    If your styles are going to be different, then make it obvious that they are different. Don't be timid about it! This is a great time to be daring!

    "Different" can mean many things: different font family, different style, different size, and different color. But the most important thing is to make it obvious that they are different.

    Partial differences make people get confused and start asking things like "this looks a bit strange, but I don't know why. Is that intentional?"

    Compare the follow two examples:

    choosingFontsbad
    Figure: Bad Example - The heading and body text is very simlar, only 2px font-size difference.

    choosingFontsgood
    Figure: Good Example - The heading as been bolded and the content font size decreased to make it more obvious that the two are different styles.

    Picking your fonts carefully applies to all forms of design where text is involved. Unfortunately, deciding what sort of differences look good and what doesn't is extremely subjective and is a skill that gets developed overtime.

  29. Do you avoid having "Reset" buttons on webforms?

    Why do web pages have "Reset" buttons? I have been entering forms on the web for more years than I care to remember, but have never needed to click this button. The worst thing is I have accidentally hit it a few times after - I have a habit of doing 3 things at once - it happens just after I have finished entering everything and click the first button.

    More detailed information about this rule can be found in this article: Reset and Cancel Buttons.

    Figure: The "Reset" button isn't useful at all

    We have a program called SSW CodeAuditor to check for this rule.

    We have a program called SSW LinkAuditor to check for this rule.

  30. Do you show the progress and the total file size on downloads?

    When a user downloads a file from your site, they should see a progress bar along with the total size and estimated time, this way they will see the size of the download increasing and will knowing when it will finish.

    bar progress bad
    Figure: Bad example - there is no indication of the total size of the download or the percent complete, thus no estimate of how long left

    bar progress good
    Figure: Good example - percent complete, time left, total size and a progress bar are all shown

  31. Search Results - Do you always give more information when searching doesn’t find anything?

    When you ring up a company and ask “do you sell boxes?” it is not expected to hear them say “no” and hang up. They should answer the question and suggestion something, for example: “No, but we sell plastic containers, would you like that instead?”

    Websites should do the same by giving more information instead of just say “404 – page not found” or “your search did not match anything”. It can be a simple “Try one of these instead” giving a number of links.

    amazon search
    Figure: Good example - If you don’t match anything on Amazon, it gives you some other choices to click on

  32. Do you avoid using bold tags inside headings?

    You should avoid any extra style tags in your heading text, because it is unnecessary and generates inconsistency.

    heading with bold tags
    Figure: Bad example – bold tags being used within header tags.

    heading styled with css
    Figure: Good example – all styling is being done through CSS.

    Tip: You can do all the styling via CSS.

  33. Do you avoid having a horizontal scroll bar?

    One of the most annoying things when you're surfing a site is to have to use a horizontal scroll bar to view all of the information. Not being able to view all the information from left to right of screen, makes the web page harder and slower to read. The Reader should find the web page easy to navigate, to make viewing the website an enjoyable experience.

    Therefore it is bad web design to use a horizontal scroll bar. When designing your site, the page text should respect the user's desire to resize the browser window and have text wrap correctly. Also, you should take into consideration the effect that different screen resolutions will have on how much can fit onto the screen.

    BadHorizontalScrollBar
    Figure: Bad Example - Using pre code tags and having lines exceed screen size

    GoodHorizontalScrollBar
    Figure: Good Example - Using pre code tags and having lines not exceed screen size

  34. Do you display date and time in a human friendly format?

    Remember to format time and date on your website in a human friendly manner:

    bad timeformatting
    Figure: Bad example - Detailed date formatting is difficult to read

    good timeformatting
    Figure: Good example - Humanized date formatting is easy to read

  35. Do you know how to format addresses?

    Use a consistent format when writing addresses.

    The structure should follow: Number, Street Name, City, State (abbreviation) Postal Code, Country

    • Beware of the commas positioning (inexisting between State and Postal Code)
    • Don't use dashes, slashes, or bars to separate the elements (OK if it is in the Street Name part)
    • Country is not always necessary depending on the audience
    • If you have enough space, it is OK to write it in 2 lines
    • We're in Australia and this should work for most countries' addresses, but some specific locations might have different address structures that won't allow following this rule

    Level 1, 81-91 Military Rd | Neutral Bay - NSW, 2089 Australia

    Figure: Bad example - SSW main office address not following the standard address formatting

    Level 1/81-91 Military Rd, Neutral Bay, NSW 2089, Australia

    Figure: Good example - SSW main office address following the standard address formatting

  36. Do you help the user to enter a URL field?

    Most developers seem to validate a URL and tell the user what they have done wrong only after the error happens. URL fields should show how the users must enter it.

    url field bad
    Figure: Bad example - Using a validation message to tell the user to enter a correct URL

    The better way is to have the user avoid the error with a good default.

    url field bad2
    Figure: Bad example - The user has a good chance of entering the URL in the incorrect format

    url field good
    Figure: Good example - User immediately knows the format expected

  37. Do you make sure that all your tags are well formed ?

    Do you know how to form HTML/XML tags on webpages?We need to make sure that all HTML/XML tags which open once, must be closed properly.

    <div>
    <p>Hello HTML</p>
    </div>

    Figure: Good Example

    <breakfast_menu>

    <food>

    <name>Homestyle Breakfast</name>

    <price>$6.95</price>

    <description>two eggs</description>

    <calories>950</calories>

    </food>

    </breakfast_menu>

    Figure: Good Example

    <div>

    <p>Hello HTML  

    </div>

    Figure: Bad Example

    <breakfast_menu>

    <food>

    <name>Homestyle Breakfast

    <price>$6.95

    <description>two eggs

    <calories>950

    </food>

    </breakfast_menu>

    Figure: Bad Example

  38. HTML/CSS - Do you know how to create spaces in a web page?

    There are many scenarios where you need some extra space in a web page. No matter which one you are at, CSS is the answer.

    Sometimes the first thing that comes to the developer mind is to use the "break line" tag <br />, or the ASCII character codes for "space" &#160; / &nbsp; to create these extra spaces. It's wrong!

    CSS is the way to go. You can use both "margin" or "padding" CSS properties to get the result you want.

    <ul>
      <li>&#160;&#160;&#160;List item</li>
    </ul>

    Figure: Bad example - Using the "space" ASCII character to create a padding on that list

    <ul>
      <li>List item</li>
    </ul>
    <br />
    <br />
    <br />

    Figure: Bad example - Using the <br /> tag to create a space at the bottom of that list

    Note: If you cannot use CSS to create some breathing space, using <br /> maybe acceptable as last resort for better readability.

    ul {margin-bottom:15px;}
      ul li {padding-left:10px;}  

    Figure: Good example - Using CSS to add a margin at the bottom of the list a the padding on the left side of each list item

    Tip: You might be not familiar with editing a CSS file... In this case, contact a designer, they will be more than happy to help you.

  39. Do you know how to use named anchor links?

    The attribute "name" allows you to link to specific places within the page, via the <a> tag.

    This is especially useful in long pages that can be separated into sections. You can create a named anchor in each of these section headings to provide "jump-to" functionality. In other words, you can have a different URL for each piece of content on the same page.

    <h2><a name="get-started"></a>Get Started</h2> Figure: This is how you add an anchor name to an specific section of your page. Note it doesn't have the hash mark and the anchor tag is empty You now have a custom URL that points to the specific section of the page. It is the page URL followed by the hash mark and the name you chose: http://www.yourpage.com#get-started Figure: This is how your custom URL will look like You can use this new URL to point users to that specific section of your page.

    To create a link to your anchor named section inside the same page, simply add a new "href" anchor tag - now with a hash mark followed by the name you chose:<a href="#get-started">Go to Get Started section</a> Figure: This is how you add a *link* to that anchor name you created inside the same page. Remember to add the hash mark

    Tip #1: Use the hash mark only to go to the top of a page.  E.g. <a href="#">&Go to top</a>

    Tip #2: Some browsers consider capitalization for anchor names (E.g. Firefox). Always check your links and anchor names are identical, matching the capitalization.

  40. Do you check your website is multi-browser compatible?

    You should design a website to look good when being viewed in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, the latest version of Edge and Safari unless the client specifically requests otherwise.

    There are a lot of other browsers available, but it is important to consider that most other browsers are based on the most used browser nowadays.

    Note that readable is not perfect. There may be some page elements that are less than perfect, but it's just not worth of time to fix small bugs in every single browser, except for Google Chrome.

    You must test your website on the major browsers, though, because that there will be more differences and problems than you would think. The typical things that you will need to fix are:

    • Menus
    • Dynamic HTML
    • VB Script

    You should be able to fix all formatting and layout bugs by editing the CSS file.

    BrowserUsageStats2020
    Figure: Browsers statistics in 2020 – Know more in W3C Browser Stats

    Note: If a browser represents less than 2% of your website views in Analytics, then you shouldn't bother.

    E.g. Google archived this link - https://code.google.com/archive/p/html5-js/ - which was used as an HTML5 shim and Respond.js for IE8 support of HTML5 elements and media queries. Since IE represents a small percentage of views it can be removed instead of updated to a new working shim.

  41. Do you have a clean “no match found” screen?

    When a user looks at a search result, they expect to see a list of items to look into. If there are no results, don't give them noisy text because it can be taken as a search result. An icon also can be understood as a broken page. Your "no results" page should be clean.

    search result bad list
    Figure: Bad example - The list of "suggestions" is just noise and can confuse the user

    search result bad icon
    Figure: Bad example - Having an icon implies that an error happened which is not the case

    search result good web
    Figure: Good example - Plain and clean screen

    search result good iphone
    Figure: Good example - Plain and clean screen on mobile

    Note: In case the message you're showing is a "pass" or "fail, it is recommended to use an icon as per Do you use icons to enforce the text meaning?

  42. Do you know how to arrange forms?

    There are two ways of arranging labels and inputs on an html form, but each should be used in a specific scenario.

    When arranging labels and inputs on your html form, align labels next to the inputs on medium and large displays.

    forms desktop
    Figure: Labels besides their respective inputs on regular displays

    When arranging labels and inputs on your html form, align labels above inputs on small and extra-small displays.

    forms mobile
    Figure: Labels above their respective input on smaller displays

    Bootstrap makes this easy. Read Do you use the css class "form horizontal" to arrange your fields and labels? to know more.

  43. Do you use "list" tags for lists only?

    The HTML list tags <ul> and <ol> should be used for unordered and ordered lists only .

    Tip: If your list tag (<ul> or <ol>) doesn't have a list item (<li>) inside it, then it's not a list. Consider using another HTML tag (E.g. <p>).

    <ul> A normal text </ul>

    Figure: Bad Example - Using the <ul> for a text

    <ul><li>A list item</li></ul>

    <ol><li>A list item</li></ol>

    Figure: Good Example - Using the <ul> and <ol> for lists

  44. Do you use Gravatar for your profile pictures?

    To keep profile management simple and make it easier for users to have a consistent experience across applications, you should use Gravatar for showing profile images in your application.

    Your Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog.

    Setting up Gravatar in your application

    It is simple to set up and if you are developing an MVC application, there are even several Nuget packages to make your life easier. The GravatarHelper is recommended.

    @Html.GravatarImage("MyEmailAddress@example.com", 80, new { Title = "My Gravatar", Alt = "Gravatar" })

    Also, check out the Gravatar API documentation for all the options available.

    The below short video shows how to get up and running with Gravatar in your ASP.NET MVC application.

  45. Do you use Hyperlinks instead of JavaScript to open pages?

    If possible you should always use hyperlinks to open new pages on your site instead of using JavaScript.

    There are two good reasons for avoiding JavaScript-powered links:

    1. Copying and pasting sections of the site to an email or a document will maintain the clickable links
    2. There's an (ever-decreasing) chance a user won't have JavaScript enabled and won't be able to click the link
    <div onclick="window.open('mynewpage.html');">Open a new page</div>

    Figure: Bad Example - This link can't be clicked on if you paste it into an email or if JavaScript is off

    <a href="mynewpage.html">Open a new page</a>

    Figure: Good Example - This link can still be clicked on when pasted and when JavaScript is turned off

  46. Do your page URL’s use dashes between words?

    The text of a URL should make sense and relate to the content of the relevant page. Apart from helping with Google Juice users frequently read URL's.

    There are a few options for how you format the text of a URL. The following suggestions are in preference order:

    1. Dashes between words: **rules-to-better-website-layouts.aspx ** [RECOMMENDED] This option appears to be most common and Craig Bailey's  preferred way
    2. Capitalize each word (Title Case): RulesToBetterWebsiteLayouts.aspx
    3. Upper case for appropriate words: RulestoBetterWebsiteLayouts.aspx
    4. Underscores between words: rules_to_better_website_layouts.aspx
    5. Lower case for all words: rulestobetterwebsitelayouts.aspx

    More info

    You can install the IIS URL Rewrite Module for IIS7 you can make ugly URL's much more friendly.

    friendly url rule
    Figure: Rewrite both the HTML in the page and the incoming URL's to be friendly

    The caveat here is that it will only work if the URL is in the clear on the page.

    Note: This could only be done with certain links as others are postbacks as well.

  47. Videos - Do you have a video on the homepage of products websites?

    The best way to show the features of a product is creating a video. The information you are able to communicate in seconds of a video would take hundreds of words of text to explain.

    Videos are also important for services, but for products, it should be on the homepage .

    dropbox homepage
    Good Example - Dropbox homepage has no text but a video that shows nicely how it works

    Videos are also good for SEO

    By embedding videos onto your website it will help get the videos more views, which is a determinant for Google nowadays.

  48. Do you know the right format to display a video time length?

    The following table shows the right format for writing video time lengths (hours, minutes, seconds) on the web.

    DurationCorrect format❌ Bad examples✅ Good example
    Less than 1 minute{{x}} sec30s / 30secs / 30 secs30 sec
    1 to 59 minutes{{x}} min25m / 25mins / 25 mins25 min
    1 hour{{x}} hr60 mins / 1 hour / 1h 00m1 hr
    More than 1 hour{{x}} hr {{x}} min1h 05m / 1h5min / 1h 5m 10s / 2 hrs1 hr 5 min / 2 hr

    Notes:

    • "1 h" is also accepted, but we prefer "1 hr"
    • You should ignore seconds for anything longer than 1 minute
    • Although "mins" is a commonly used abbreviation for minutes, you should be aware that it is not correct for scientific use. See when to use "mins" or "min" as an abbreviation for minutes for more information

    For a real example of displaying a video time length, see this rule on being a good Product Owner.

  49. Do you have a master template for your website layouts?

    Consistency across your similar pages (such as standards pages in this case) is very important and should be made easy to implement.

    Guidelines and standards for the SSW website pages can be found at SSW Web Design References .

  50. Do you have a stylesheet file for all your formatting?

    A stylesheet file (.CSS) should be used to dictate how the fonts, headings, tables, captions and everything else on your HTML should be displayed.

    This makes your site very easy to maintain. If you ever want to change the entire look and feel you should only have to change one file.

  51. Do you keep the URL next to each link on printing?

    We have a rule on using relevant words on links. How to make sure people will know which words are links and what the links are after printing a page?

    As a good practice, you should use CSS to print the URL's next to each link when printing:

    @media print {
      a[href]:after {
        content: " (" attr(href) ")";
      }
    }

    In specific cases, like on breadcrumbs and logo, you don't want these URL's, so you should override the style:

    @media print {
      .breadcrumba[href]:after {
      content: none;
    }

    print url
    Figure: Good example - Printing links on the content but avoiding it on obvious places, like the logo and bradcrumbs

  52. Do you know the right way to embed a YouTube video?

    When you embed a YouTube video it will increase your page size from 500kbs to 1.5Mb or more, depending on how many videos are embedded on the page.

    video embed load time
    Figure: A side by side comparison – everyone wants less requests and a smaller page size

    video embed bad
    Figure: Bad example - Don’t add embed code directly from YouTube. For more details read "A Better Method for Embedding YouTube Videos on your Website"

    <iframe
      width="560"
      height="315"
      src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/eu0qhzevEXQ"
      frameborder="0"
      allowfullscreen
    ></iframe>

    Figure: Bad example – The evil HTML code

    There is a clever, lightweight way to embed a YouTube video, which Google itself practices on their Google+ pages which reduce it to 15kbs.All you have to do is, whenever you need to embed a video to a page, add the below tag instead of the YouTube video embed code. (Remember to replace VIDEO_ID with actual ID of the YouTube video)

    <div class="youtube-player" data-id="VIDEO_ID"></div>

    Figure: Good example – The good HTML code

    Note: This script needs to be added at the end of the document:

    <script>
      /* Light YouTube Embeds by @labnol */
      /* Web: http://labnol.org/?p=27941 */
      document.addEventListener("DOMContentLoaded", function () {
        var div,
          n,
          v = document.getElementsByClassName("youtube-player");
        for (n = 0; n < v.length; n++) {
          div = document.createElement("div");
          div.setAttribute("data-id", v[n].dataset.id);
          div.innerHTML = labnolThumb(v[n].dataset.id);
          div.onclick = labnolIframe;
          v[n].appendChild(div);
        }
      });
      function labnolThumb(id) {
        var thumb = '<img src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/ID/hqdefault.jpg">',
          play = '<div class="play"></div>';
        return thumb.replace("ID", id) + play;
      }
      function labnolIframe() {
        var iframe = document.createElement("iframe");
        var embed = "https://www.youtube.com/embed/ID?autoplay=1";
        iframe.setAttribute("src", embed.replace("ID", this.dataset.id));
        iframe.setAttribute("frameborder", "0");
        iframe.setAttribute("allowfullscreen", "1");
        this.parentNode.replaceChild(iframe, this);
      }
    </script>

    ..and this needs to be added in the CSS:

    <style>
      .youtube-player {
        position: relative;
        padding-bottom: 56.23%;
        /* Use 75% for 4:3 videos */
        height: 0;
        overflow: hidden;
        max-width: 100%;
        background: #000;
        margin: 5px;
      }
      .youtube-player iframe {
        position: absolute;
        top: 0;
        left: 0;
        width: 100%;
        height: 100%;
        z-index: 100;
        background: transparent;
      }
      .youtube-player img {
        bottom: 0;
        display: block;
        left: 0;
        margin: auto;
        max-width: 100%;
        width: 100%;
        position: absolute;
        right: 0;
        top: 0;
        border: none;
        height: auto;
        cursor: pointer;
        -webkit-transition: 0.4s all;
        -moz-transition: 0.4s all;
        transition: 0.4s all;
      }
      .youtube-player img:hover {
        -webkit-filter: brightness(75%);
      }
      .youtube-player .play {
        height: 72px;
        width: 72px;
        left: 50%;
        top: 50%;
        margin-left: -36px;
        margin-top: -36px;
        position: absolute;
        background: url("//i.imgur.com/TxzC70f.png") no-repeat;
        cursor: pointer;
      }
    </style>
  53. Do you use adaptive placeholders on your forms?

    "Adaptive placeholders" are form labels that become into placeholders and vice-versa, depending on which fields have been filled or not. It gives your website a great UX.

    It's also a nice way to save space and achieve a neat visual appearance. Using this method users can easily to tell which field has been filled in and which data has been entered.

    placeholder bad
    Figure: Bad Example - Having both label and placeholders can be repetitive and dull

    Figure: Good Example - Using placeholders

  54. Control Choice - Do you know when to use CheckBoxes?

    Checkboxes are presented as small square box in user interfaces. It has two states: checked and unchecked.

    When to use checkboxes in UI design

    Checkboxes are used in forms to indicate an answer to a question, apply a batch of settings or allow the user to make a multi-selection from a list. Alternatively, a single checkbox may be used for making single selections – such as Boolean True or False statements (e.g. “Do you agree with the terms and conditions? Yes or no”).

    sugarlearning rememberme
    Figure: Good example - Accepting or refusing to remember accounts when login to SugarLearning (the single selection checkbox)

    CheckBoxes are also suitable to use for enable or disable sections and to tell the user that these sections do not need configuring for the application to run.

    sugarlearning approval
    Figure: Good example - CheckBoxes are used to setup the approval workflow in SugarLearning, only need to enter the approv when the checkbox is checked

    Checkboxes allow the user to select one or more from a wide range of options. Applications use a series of checkbox groups to help the user filter search criteria.

    bookingsites
    Figure: Good example - Booking.com’s users frequently use the checkbox filters when making a booking

    If there are only 2 options available on the form (usually a yes/no answer), the use of a checkbox is more intuitive than radio buttons. Usually, use radio buttons if there are more than 2 options; or if the labels information are more complex than a yes/no.

    When to use options group Radio Buttons instead of ComboBox?

    When the options are static items (not database driven) and they can fit on the screen (about 2-5 items), they should be radio buttons.

    The bad thing about having a ComboBox in this scenario is the user needs 2 clicks to change the value...

    1. Click the little "v" button to see the available options
    2. Then click the option to select

    Figure: Bad example - ComboBox is used for "Job Type" where it contains only 2 options

    The good thing about an options group is that the user can see all the available options without clicking, and select the option with just 1 click.

    Figure: Good example - Radio Buttons are used and aligned vertically

  55. Control Choice - Do you use checkboxes instead of multi-select dropdowns?

    For multiple items selection, multi-select dropdown listboxes have a number of behavioral quirks that make it difficult for users to get used to them:

    • They require users to know that you select more than one entry by holding down the Ctrl key
    • They lose all selections if you click in the wrong place
    • You can't tell if a Listbox is single-select or multi-select at first glance

    multiple select dropdown bad
    Figure: Bad Example - ListBoxes are impractical for multiple choices

    Note: It is OK and recommended to use dropdown lists for single item selection, when there is no more than 10 options.

    Checked Listboxes are the ideal alternative for multiple items selections. They're much more pleasant to use and are a good deal more intuitive - compare to the list above. Checked Listboxes tell users immediately that they have the ability choose multiple options.

    • In ASP.NET, use System.Web.UI.WebControls.CheckBoxList. If you're having problems with there being too many items in the list, use a scrolling div
    • In Windows Forms, use System.Windows.Forms.CheckedListBox

    multiple select checkbox good
    Figure: Good Example - The beauty of the CheckListBox for multiple choices

    We have a program called SSW Code Auditor to check for this rule.

  56. Validation - Do you avoid capturing incorrect data?

    When asking for an opinion do you give people the option of having no opinion at all? If you only provide "Yes" or "No" as answers to the question "Do you like apples?" then you force people to make a decision which may not be correct.

    Do you like apples?
    ( ) Yes
    ( ) No

    Maybe they only like cooked apples not raw ones. When asking any question in which "Don't know." or "Don't care." is a valid response, always include an option to opt out of answering.

    Additionally, when the user don't answer the question at all, the response you would get would be determined by the browser the user was using. Give them an answer they can agree with and you'll reduce the chance of bogus responses.

    Do you like apples?
    ( ) Yes
    ( ) No
    ( ) Cannot say

  57. Controls - Do you disable buttons that are unavailable?

    A button should be disabled if it is unavailable, if clicking it would generate an error message, or if it would carry out no function. However, buttons should not be hidden from view simply because they are unavailable, as it confuses the user.

    Different button states must have clear and distinct styling that differentiates them from each other and emphasizes them through the creation of a visual hierarchy.

    When buttons are in a disabled state the accepted standard is to “grey it out”. Using colour to create contrast like this serves to lower the emphasis on disabled buttons in favour of active ones. Lowering opacity or outline-only greyed buttons are other common ways to indicate a disabled state (Note the latter is only effective if outline buttons are not present elsewhere in the UI). Disabled buttons should also never display on-hover or on-click styles, to further convey their disabled state to the user.

    disabled button bad
    Figure: Bad Example - Low contrast between disabled and active button styles.

    disabled button good
    Figure: Good Example - High contrast creates distinct visual hierarchy

  58. Controls - Do you make Option Groups and Check Boxes simple to understand?

    There are two aspects to this rule:

    1. Arrange Vertically
    2. If your user must choose from a variety of responses, or select from a number of items, using either radio buttons or check boxes, arrange the items vertically rather than horizontally as it makes the association much clearer. NOTE: You might want to disregard this rule if screen real estate is at a crucial premium.

    Do you like apples? Yes No Cannot say

    Do you like apples?Yes
    No
    Cannot say
    1. Text on the Right The Option Group or Check Box should always be on the left, with the text following on the right. Once again, this makes it easy for the User to work out what is going on.

    Figure: Good Example - Action on the left, text on the right

  59. Do you make your fields consistent with the data?

    The widths of the fields indicate to a user the data that goes in it. Do not use a large width field when you know the entry will have only few characters (the same for small fields and large entries)

    field width
    Figure: Bad example - The 'Data Retention Days' field should be reduced

  60. Do you use an ellipsis (...) to indicate an action requiring more user input?

    In menus (including context menus) or buttons, there are generally two types of actions:

    1. ones that carry out an action without any further user intervention upon clicking;
    2. and those that require further user input before the action is carried out

    Microsoft applications use this technique to indicate whether or not the action will be carried out without any further user intervention. Your application should also follow this well-established standard, so users will not be caught off guard when an action carried out immediately after they click the menu item.

    Figure: Good Example - Options menu in Outlook, with ellipsis

    Figure: Good Example - Ellipsis on buttons that require further input

    GoodElipsis3
    Figure: Good Example - Different ways of using the elipsis

    GoodElipsis4
    Figure: Good Example - Elipsis being used on a button requiring user input

  61. Controls - Do you include a "select all" checkBox on the top?

    Do you have checkbox (on the top) that let users select or unselect all checkboxes underneath it? If you have a list of checkboxes, you are going to frustrate users unless you provide an easy way to select all. The best way to achieve this is to have a checkbox at the top.

    Figure: Good Example - Hotmail does this

    Figure: Google have done it a different way to provide multiple methods (All, All Read, All Unread, All Starred, and All Unstarred)

    SQLAuditorSelectAll Bad
    Figure: Bad Example - SQL Auditor - No CheckBox for users to perform a "select all"

    SQLAuditorSelectAll good
    Figure: Good Example - SQL Auditor - CheckBox at the top of the column

    SQLAuditorSelectAll All
    Figure: Selecting all does this - selects all

    SQLAuditorSelectAll None
    Figure: Deselecting all does this - selects none

    SQLAuditorSelectAll Customize
    Figure: Selecting some should show the Indeterminate check state - aka customized selection

    Private Sub CheckBoxSelectAll_CheckedChanged(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) _Handles CheckBoxSelectAll.CheckedChanged'Select checkbox in each rowFor Each sDataGridViewRow As DataGridViewRow In Me.DataGridViewCustomer.RowssDataGridViewRow.Cells(0).Value = Me.CheckBoxSelectAll.CheckedNextEnd SubCode: Code for selecting all checkboxes in a windows form

    SelectAllCheckBox Web
    Figure: Select all checkboxes in a web form

    <script type="text/javascript">function SeleteCheckBox(){for (var n=0; n < document.form1.elements.length; n++){if (document.form1.elements[n].type == "checkbox" && document.form1.elements[n].name == "gridview"){document.form1.elements[n].checked = document.getElementById("CheckBoxAll").checked;}}}</script>Code: Code for selecting all checkboxes in a web formWe have suggestions for Visual Studio .NET about this at A top CheckBox to "select all" in windows forms and A top CheckBox to "select all" in web forms.

  62. Control Choice - Do you use ComboBoxes instead of single-select List Boxes?

    ComboBoxes are better than List Boxes for data entry because:

    • They occupy less screen space
    • They are less trouble to scroll through, owing to the fact that you can afford to have more room for the list (as it's collapsed most of the time)
    • As you can see in the figures below, using a combo also makes the required field indicator (*) easier to see.

    Figure: Bad Example - Using list boxes

    Figure: Good Example - Using ComboBoxes - takes up less screen space and the required field indication is easy to see

    Note: When are single-select list boxes OK?

    As mentioned before, there are exceptions to this rule. It would be hard to imagine the Include/Exclude boxes in the SQL Server Enterprise Manager's Server Registration Wizard being handled with ComboBoxes, for example.

    Figure: Include/Exclude Listboxes are an example of a valid use for List Boxes

    We have a program called SSW Code Auditor to check for this rule.
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