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From the Grumpy Old Man: The style council

Isn’t it about time that the SDN admins made a clean sweep of our beloved site and carried out a cosmetic (extreme) makeover? One has to admit that the current site looks a bit dull, wouldn’t you agree? OK, most developer sites do tend to look rather flat since the focus is more on the content and not on the visuals, but appearance does count in life. There is a good reason why bread isn’t blue or purple, despite the fact that it might taste just as good, or even better, than ‘normal’ bread.
To be honest I expected some finery last year when SDN 2.0 was launched, but alas. I guess everyone was too busy solving problems with that technical upgrade. But I would have thought that any teething troubles would have been over by now. While we’re at it though there are still some things that I find rather annoying:

  • The performance is sometimes very poor, certainly on the home page. It could be due to any number of factors: the network and/or the servers which can’t cope with the high volume traffic, but it is also partly the site itself. The homepage has too many faults and HTML wise is very slapdash, sloppy and messy (as you can see, I’m using my translators dictionary very extensively).
    When I load it in Firefox I get 36 (!) errors and the Tidy HTML Validator discovers 96 Errors which can be fixed by Tidy itself. You say that those things need to be taken with a pinch of salt and you want some proof?
    • does it have multiple
      < title >SDN Homepage</ title > &
    • tags aren’t closed before a newor
    • the ,
      , have missing attributes
    • the links is the contains carriage returns or are empty? Why does one bit of coding go something like this:

      instead of

      or if one absolutely wants to use the onclick
      • and
      • have wrong id values like “branchdeveloperareas/platform” whereas ID and NAME must begin with a letter ([A-Za-z]) and may be followed by any number of letters, digits ([0-9]), hyphens (“-“), underscores (“_”), colons (“:”), and periods (“.”)
      • proprietary attributes are used like in
      • forms have empty targets:
    • You might find all this rather irrelevant when it comes to performance, well you’d be wrong my friend. Well formed HTML is the basis of a highly efficient site. You think I’m talking through my hat? I don’t think so. The best proof is the following example. It is still the case that a browser needs to know the dimensions of an image in order to show the page properly. If you omit the dimensions of an image, the browser WILL NOT show your page before it has retrieved all the images, even if everything else is loaded. It needs to determine the size of each image in order to show the page properly. If it just so happens that the gif isn’t in the browser cache, and thus needs to be loaded from the server, and the server can’t respond swiftly, you sit there waiting for the show.
      One can prevent this, and help the browser, by setting the size of the images. It’ll show the HTML as soon as it comes in without waiting for the images.
      So SDN developers, don’t program things like
    • The lack of W3C compliancy results in the above error list and the troubles one has showing things properly in non MIE browsers like Firefox. The latter isn’t error free itself, but one can’t complain to the Mozilla foundation if the site itself isn’t compliant enough.
    • The new session revoking system isn’t what it should be. I’m connected via my RSS reader and/or browser for at least 8 hours a day. After 2 hours my sessions are revoked and I’m logged out, regardless of whether I was working on it or not. On top of that, there is a difference between the portal itself and the forums, in whose case I can still be logged in. It’s SSO, but not SLO (Single Log Off). In order to continue working I need to restart my RSS reader and browser, and the homepage takes quite a while to load.
      Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t have anything against session management, in the contrary, but I think it could be done more cleverly. One doesn’t need to look at the elapsed time since log on, but rather the last actual visit to the site. Furthermore it should use the SAP passport, or the remember me option, to log on again and not only when one starts the browser. Otherwise these things are rather useless.

    The Style
    This whole article was triggered by my view of the SDN site as being rather a dull site and my desire to see its image improved. So what do I suggest that we do? Well for a start I guess that one of the problems is to do with the lack of a real CI/CD (Corporate Identity, Corporate Design). In fact the SDN site doesn’t resemble the site of its source, not that it has to, but the SAP site does have a clear and recognisable look, despite the fact that the photo themes design is also used by many other companies.
    I think that a good start would be for it to have its own logo. I have developed many SDN related tools and I know that when it comes to design I need to put quite a bit of effort in to come up with something with my limited experience/knowledge/talent. Failing which I appeal to the voluntary cooperation of my colleague Gerrit a.k.a Sh3Ll4c. Others have done the same, with the result that we now have a multitude of non certified logos. This could have been avoided if there was an official logo (which also appeared in the location bar via a favicon).
    One doesn’t need to look far to adopt a style though. There is already some decent material out there: the graphics that accompany announcements for the articles, web logs, etc. There are also the banners that announce the SDN survey, the TechEd to go, etc. and finally the cute little icons in the Contributors Corner. I heard trough the grapevine that a very nice young lady named Jodi made those graphics for the Contributor Corner, very nice work! If one could merge all these in to one generic, clear, distinctive and recognisable style, and then apply this unique style to the whole site we could have both the content AND the looks to be envious of.

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  • It’s always to read you blogs Eddy…And you’re right…Sometimes pages take a lot of time to load, and that’s not good.

    I know that there is a lot of work, and stuff running under the pages we look and work into, but, performance is a key of succefull.

    I haven’t notice the missing tags…but i’m sure that after reading you blog, the SDN web team, would fix them.



    • Thanks for your comments Eddy!  We care about “looking good” and being agile you challenge us to raise that bar of being faster, sleeker, and better looking.  From your mouth to the ears of the Design/Developer/Platform gods and goddesses.


    • Thanks for your comments Eddy!  We care about “looking good” and being agile. You challenge us to raise that bar of being faster, sleeker, and better looking.  From your mouth to the ears of the Design/Developer/Platform gods and goddesses.


  • Hi

    Eddy, thanks for your comments on the site, I would like to add a few comments from the developers of the SDN platform.

    As you may be aware (or not), we are currently running SDN on EP6 SP2. A decision has been made by the platform team to use as much of the standard product as is feasible. By doing this we are also at the mercy of the standards “features”. This, as you have pointed out, is part of the reason for some of the HTML problems, which are added by the page builder, etc. We chose not to create our own page builder to get around this problem, as this would simply create issues further down the line.

    Along with the upgrade from EP5, part of the performance issues can be down to the actual page sizes, which have ballooned considerably.

    Some of the things that I have also notice, by using the standard, is that the HTML that can be output from HTMLb, etc, is not as well formed as it can be, especially when the client is IE.

    A lot of these problems that are going to be resolved with the upcoming upgrade to NW04, where we will be using the standard EFP (Externally Facing Portal), so we should be able to fix a lot of these issues.

    We do get many problems related to the size of the site, however, the problems that we encounter are helping to make the product a more stable environment for other customers. I can’t tell you how many patches and features have been added into the product as a result of findings from the SDN platform. This is due to the fact the SDN is, by far, the largest implementation of the SAP EP, and also has the largest number of concurrent users, which is only set to grow further.

    There are, of course, some issues that we (SDN Platform team) will also take care of as part of the move to NW04. We do like to make sure that the HTML code that is produced is as well formed as humanly possible, but there are some areas that are out of our control.

    Hopefully, with the help of SDN and people like yourself, we can improve the product even further, so that SDN and many other customers will reap the rewards.



    • Darell,

      Thanks for showing us the other side of medal. If you need help or testing things, I’m glad to help you out. I’m sure that others will be heppy to do the same. You know how to contact me via the BC.