Web Content Standards for HelixCommunity.org


Web Content Standards for HelixCommunity.org

Currently, there's a lot of content on HelixCommunity.org, and a lot of authors of that content. By and large, this is a good thing. Since project owners have control of their own webspaces, they are able to solve the documentation needs of their sub-communities without relying on central management.

One thing to be mindful of in publishing new web documents is that the URLs for those documents will be the target of hyperlinks from other web documents. The author of the original document has no control of who, where, or how the person linking to them will do this. However, those inbound links are almost always a very good thing.

As anyone who has ever gotten a "404 - Document Not Found" error will testify (which constitutes practically everyone who has ever encountered a web browser), it can be very frustrating. Most of the time, these 404s are actually the result of a URL that has changed, and are entirely preventable by the recipient of the inbound link. This is the crux of Cool URIs Don't Change, a position paper written by Tim Berners-Lee describing why URL/URI stability is important.

The webmasters of HelixCommunity.org are committed to ensuring that 404 errors are a rare instance. In order to make such a mandate practicable, we're instituting the following policies for HelixCommunity.org:

  • Temporal URLs: For the vast majority of web pages, preface the URL with the year. For example, the URL to this document is https://wideopen.helixcommunity.org/2003/webstandards. This creates an automatic hierarchy that refreshes annually, thus making maintenance simpler.
  • Non-temporal URLs: When there's a very high degree of confidence that a URL is of a timeless nature (one that should point to actively maintained documentation 5-10 years from now), only then is it acceptable to drop the year from the URL. Example: https://player.helixcommunity.org/qa. However, such decisions should be subject to peer review, as well as webmaster approval. The procedure for implementing a non-temporal URL is to file an issue in the Helix Community bug tracker with the proposed URL, the proposed content for that URL, and a justification. Explicit acknowlegement by a designated webmaster is required before creating new URLs. Failure to follow procedure can result in a loss of CVS write access.
  • File extensions: most modern webservers (including the webserver at helixcommunity.org) have the ability to serve webpages without requiring the file extension in the URL. Therefore, even though this page is currently at webstandards.html and that the ".html" portion could be included, the URL to this page is still only ends with "webstandards"

All of the policies above are rooted in the principles described in the W3C position paper Cool URIs Don't Change.

Redirect syntax

Sometimes, it's highly desireable to move a document to a new location, and have a transparent redirect mechanism for making that work. The current site infrastructure has the following syntax which can be used. To redirect a web page, replace the HTML in the file with the following one line command:

...where https://foo.helixcommmunity.org/2004/bar is the location to redirect to.

Use of "click here"

If you find yourself using "here" or "click here" for hyperlink text, stop. Click here to find out why "click here" is bad.

Designated Webmasters