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Prior to my coming on board, most page and feature builds were one off affairs. Each developer had their own set of coding standards; one would use strictly tables, another a CSS/Table hybrid etc.

As part of a move towards a more automated, CMS driven site, as well as an eventual transition to XHTML compliance, I developed a generic set of module based CSS/XHTML templates.

The basic concept is each module is self contained, and can be moved between columns on the page without the need for a developer to tweak style rules endlessly. This has helped speed up feature development tremendously as well as remove one level of pain from our move to to Drupal based CMS

MSN Travel: AJAX Crazy

At MSN I was a middle tier AJAX developer. The MSN Travel development team was acting as a test case for a site heavily based on AJAX delivery of content. Each one of the content modules on the MSN Travel pages is generated via. a Javascript call to an XML based service.

While it’s a questionable architecture choice, it was an excellent chance to put my cross-browser AJAX experience to use, as the department had recently decided to officially support Firefox/Mozilla based browsers and most Microsoft developers live in a very IE centric world.

It also gave me first hand experience at large platform performance optimization, as the heavy use of service oriented AJAX (each page hit requiring between 3-8 actual URL renders) required us to go through several rounds of heavy service and client-side optimization. PHP, MySQL and SEO

I build the back-end of the website from the ground up with PHP and MySQL. The product pages are completely database driven, and include a web based administrative interface.

The page also features a URL structure heavily geared towards search engine optimization. While the site back-end is entirely query string based, with a URL like this being used to pass parameters to the database …

the public URL interface utilizes the MOD_REWRITE Apache module to create clean, query string free, keyword optimized SEO friendly URLs. The public URL to the above page is

The site also recently won the Rochester Business Journal’s “Best of the Web” award in the Manufacturing category, beating out both the Eastman Kodak Company and Xerox Corporation websites.

Originally published June 19, 2007

Copyright © Alan Storm 1975 – 2021 All Rights Reserved

Originally Posted: 19th June 2007