Building A Website

Create a Plan

Once you know exactly what you intend to publish and who the targeted audience will be, the next step is to determine the mood of your page. Should the ambience be informal, professional or high tech? Will you use graphics, animation or music? How will the text be structured and which fonts will be used? How will visitors navigate through your site? Whatever you decide, try to maintain the same theme throughout your site.

The most important part of your page is the textual content. What you write should add value and make the visitor want to return. Review your web page objectives and targeted audience and make your message suit the audience. Don't forget to run a spell check before publishing your page. There are a few tricks to keep in mind regarding word repetition, use of headers and titles, but these will be discussed later. At this point, focus on content!

Publishing on the net is different from writing for a newspaper in that you are able to take advantage of multimedia capabilities. Photos, graphics, music and video can make your site interesting. Be careful, however, not to overdo it. Graphics, for example are often large files that take time to download. Most people won't wait more than ten seconds for a web page to load.

Don't forget that people use many different types of personal computers, modems and versions of software. A web page that loads quickly on your machine might not function quite as well on another. When writing web pages, the golden rule is: small is beautiful!

You can find graphics for your home page on the web by searching for "Index of GIF files" or "GIF library". When you find something you like, copy it to a directory on your hard drive by right clicking on the graphic and selecting "save picture as". To find appropriate music, search for "midi" and the name of the singer or composer. The names of these two file types terminate with ".gif" and ".mid". If you suspect that a graphic or song is copyrighted, you should ask permission from the owner before using it.

To keep life simple, all pictures, animations, graphics, music, etc. that you plan to use on your home page should be stored in the same directory as your main HTML program file. If you haven't already done so, create a directory on your hard drive to consolidate all the software components that you will use on your page.

The use of tables to group and align text can help make a page more attractive. Tables are fast to load and are easily generated from most HTML Editors. The spacing between table cells and the borders around the cells can be altered or made invisible. Text and graphics within table cells can be right justified, left justified or centered.

Downloading the Software

Unless you want to learn how to program, you will need to download a good HTML editor from the net. An HTML editor is tool that generates a computer program in HTML using a sophisticated word processor. There are many good HTML editors available and many are free.

Microsoft provides a good HTML Editor with its free Internet Explorer web browser called FrontPage Express. Netscape's Composer, is also sufficient. If you have recently downloaded one of these two web browsers, you might already have a copy of one of the HTML Editors on your computer and not know it.

For a more professional website, consider purchasing Microsoft FrontPage 2002 or Dreamweaver 4.0. These feature rich products are inexpensive and can help you create very attractive and easy-to-maintain websites.

Constructing the Page

Once the HTML editor is installed, you are ready to begin construction. The first thing to do is to orient yourself to the HTML editor. Most products have good tutorial and "help" features, which explain how to use the tool. In general, however, they function much like word processors.

HTML editors let you insert images into the body of a document and create hyperlinks to other pages. They also permit you to reference a file to be used as a background image. Most HTML editors allow you to insert additional HTML code wherever you like. This is useful, for example, should you want to add a page counter, music or video clip to your site.

Hyperlinks are words or graphics on a web page that, when clicked, take the visitor to another page or another web site. To add a hyperlink, you simply highlight the text field or graphic, select the hyperlink icon and specify the destination address (URL). You should specify the full URL address.

Your main page should always be assigned the file name "index.htm". Other pages on your web site can be assigned any names you wish however keep them short and avoid using special characters. (e.g. #, @). For simplicity, all web page file names should terminate in ".htm".

If you feel really brave, you can write your HTML program using a simple text editor such as WordPad rather than using an HTML Editor. WordPad is a utility program that comes bundled with Microsoft operating systems (e.g. Windows 98).

Edit your page

Find a simple web page on the Internet that you like and save it to your directory. Copy the graphics from the same web page to your hard drive. Print off the HTML code and see how it works! You can then make some minor changes to the HTML and watch the results in your web browser (i.e. Netscape or Explorer). Don't forget to save your program changes and "reload" your page in your browser. This method is not recommended for everyone, but is a very good way to learn HTML.

There are plenty of good HTML programming guides available on the internet which explain the basic syntax of the HTML language. Tools are also available to validate the HTML you write.

Finding a Server/Publishing your Site

The best place to put your website is on your college/university server. That way the link to your page will be on the university website and will be easy to find for prospective students. However, if this is not possible, you have other options.

At this point, construction of your home page is complete but your page still resides on your computer, not on the Internet. If you log on to the Internet, however, you should be able to test all your links to external web sites.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License

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