Monday, September 11, 2006

When picking a web site to review, I decided not to go with my organization’s site, because I do have the responsibility of editing and updating my unit’s web pages. I looked at other historical sites, but in the end decided on a completely different kind of site, accuweather.com. I made this decision, because I use it frequently and on the surface it seems quite complex. Looking back, I probably should have gone with a simpler site, but it did prove to be an eye opening experience.

Accuweather.com is a dynamic web page containing images, streaming videos and searchable fields. The site takes advantage of both client-side and server-side scripting. The sites rader images, photographs and other graphics are either jpeg or gif images, which have links embedded in the HTML text. For streaming videos and some graphics, the site uses either Flash or H264 Media Player, which is determined by the client’s web browser. In addition, accuweather takes advantage of every space, with multiply advertisements utilizing Flash on each page, some of which are interactive.

Probably the most widely used searchable field on the site is the local weather forecast search. I was extremely curious about this, because accuweather is constantly updating forecasts . I looked at the source code and discovered that the site uses ASP, which is used in server-side scripting. I concluded that the local weather forecast search must be interfaced to a backend database. I ran a Google search and found information on Hewlett-Packard’s web site (http://h71000.www7.hp.com/openvms/brochures/accuweather/accuweather.html) explaining that the weather data is stored and processed on what is called the Accuweather Forecast Engine (AFE), which is a internally developed and constantly updated system running on HP OpenVMS systems.

I next decided to a look at how the style and design of the web site was developed. Accuweather.com uses cascading stylesheets for its base style, which are kept in an external file referenced in the source code. I decided to copy and paste one of the CSS links into my web browser and discovered that the site uses TopStyle Lite 1.5 CSS editing software. For its ever changing content, the style is embedded within the HTML text.

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