Tips From A Beginner

I just caught up with the rest of the world and made a Web page. Yes, I have finally joined the millions of HTML ‘WebHeads’ and created a page on the World Wide Web! I have plunged head-first into hours of labor to produce 2.5 megabytes of a simple, but meaningful series of characters: Has ever a simple string of letters and numbers meant so much to a man?

Should I cheer? Should I congratulate myself each morning for being so bold as to take the giant leap into the dangerous, tangled Web? Should I think myself special for creating a few pages that lie in the midst of millions? Is it really that hard? No.

Anyone can make a Web page. In fact, all it takes is a little patience and an idea (some dispose of the idea part). It is really that easy! In fact, with a few pointers, the common fruit fly should be able to construct a Web page with frames, tables, and forms.

Listen up, fruit flies. I am here today to give you a few of those pointers and tips that should help get you started on the road to creating your very own Web page. Of course, I will not cover everything, seeing that I myself have a lot to learn about the subject (plus, I don’t plan on making this article a book length manuscript). But, if you’re planning on setting out to carve yourself a personal Web page on the World Wide Web, you could learn a few pointers.

First, let’s start with a short list of what you will likely need before you set out on your journey:

* Creation tools — Like I had to add this? There are tons of ’em. Products like Claris Home Page, Adobe PageMaker, AOLPress, and World Wide Web Weaver are a few of the great programs that will help you build your page. Most of the popular products are WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), which is pretty self-explanatory. What you make on the screen is automatically converted to HTML for the Web. There are, however, those of us who like to sit down and learn HTML to the core. Learning full HTML code gives you the best advantages, because you have full control over the look, feel, and features of you page. Plus, you’re not slowed down by a program that continually looks at you as a blithering fool. Once you learn HTML, even SimpleText can be used as your prime Web designing tool.

* A Web browser — Of course, you’re not stupid. Plus, if you plan on making a Web page but haven’t ever had a browser, there is something seriously wrong. The browser will come in handy. You will view other pages with it, gather ideas, and check your own page’s HTML code. By opening your HTML code in a Web browser, you can check most everything before you upload your pages to the Web.

* Memory — As you continue to use program after program for your Web page design, you realize that a good bit of RAM comes in handy. For Web page making, you’ll likely want to have at least 24 megabytes of good, real RAM (Virtual Memory can suffice, but you’ll long for the warmth of real RAM). You will want to keep your HTML program, your browser, your graphic program, and your word processor open at all times. Doing that makes it much easier, because it cuts out the time you take to open and close different programs to get a single job done. And, as many know, the more you open and close programs, the more your Mac’s stability decreases. This can lead to frequent restarts and possible data loss due to fragmented RAM.

* A Graphic program — You will likely want to add graphics to your creation. And of course, you will need a good graphic program to make and save them with. Photoshop is a great program for this use. Of course, many of us do not have the greenbacks needed for such a product. So, I highly recommend GraphicConverter, an affordable shareware graphics program. This will let you easily save your Gifs and JPEGs for use on your pages. Plus, there are many options that will help save you space and have your graphics load quicker. GraphicConverter can work hand-in-hand with other programs. I use ClarisWorks to create all my graphics, and then use GraphicConverter to compress and save them in the proper size and format (through the art of copy-paste).

* A word processor — You’ll surely add text to your Web page. In all cases, you would likely want to use a word processor for your writing. This gives you all the blessings of word processors. You have all the spell check, thesaurus, and formatting features available to you before you incorporate the text into your page. This beats typing the text directly into your HTML code. Yet another instance where we have the miracle of copy-paste to thank for saving much time.

* An HTML guide/book — There are tons of these. You don’t really need these in order to make a good Web page (if you use the WYSIWYG programs), but it really is an advantage. A good HTML book will get you out of any problem. There are many instances with WYSIWYG programs where you will want to go into the HTML code and poke around for yourself. Not only will you learn more HTML, but you can add some great features to your pages.

* A server — This is a given. There are plenty of servers out there that will give you a good Web space (usually 5 MB or more) for a decent price. Others, like America Online, give you free Web space when you join the service. Before you join a server, make sure the space they allow will be enough for your needs. If you will have files on your page that will be available for download, you may run out of room quicker than you think. You should also make sure the server gives clear instructions for uploading pages. Do they offer technical assistance if you run into trouble? How long do they take to fix problems? Check out pages of other members of that server. Test out at least a dozen pages. Check back with those pages for a few days. This will give you a better feel for the service. It will give you a relatively good idea about any problems the server has. You will not want your page to be on a server that has an unusual amount of “bad days” (server outages, etc.) and “slow spots” (slowness other than usual). You might even want to e-mail some of the other members of that server to ask how pleased they are with the service.

* Time — Building a decent Web page takes plenty of time. When building my page, I found myself up until daybreak on more than a few occasions. The code, graphics, text, formatting, linking, and testing take a great deal of time. If you make your own graphics like many do, you will take up even more time. To make one graphic usually takes at least two programs. You have to make it, format it, save it in the proper format, and use the proper size and form. Whatever route you take, you will probably find yourself at your computer for a long time. And if you’re like me, once you start a page, you don’t want to stop until it’s done!

* Goldfish snack crackers — There is nothing better to munch on while you are making a Web page than Goldfish! And get the cheddar kind, they’re the best.

* Backup — Use anything, but whatever you do, backup your Web page! Sure, it will be on the server itself, but you want to have an extra copy for yourself. Store your entire page (graphics included) in at least two separate places. If possible use a Zip or Jaz disk, a floppy, an external hard drive, or anything that is outside of your main storage area. Backup!

* A map — Draw a Web map of your site’s layout before you begin (this is extremely wise if you’re going to have many pages and/or links). It’s best to draw a map, because that’s the safest way to insure that all your links and pages will be correct.

* An idea — Although not all pages have one, it’s best to have an idea about what your page is going to be about. What’s the main point of the page? Whether it be a commentary on wild oats, a deep study of winter itch, or a Tony Danza fan club page, you should have an idea about what you want.

With those ideas in mind, you should be ready to start your page. Of course, there are a few things to keep in mind as you make your Web site…

* Death to frames — Please. . . Forget the frames. Frames not only get in the way, but they distract the visitor. Frames actually make your Web page look smaller. Of course, this is all just an opinion of mine. Frankly. . . I hate frames.

* Easily distinguishable backgrounds — Background colors and patterns are nice. They add a touch of class and make your page look worthier for the Web. Those same patterns and backgrounds can get in the way, however. I myself am guilty of using patterns that blend in too well with text. If you use background colors or patterns, make sure they are light. You want the text to be very easy to read on the background. Remember, just because the background lives well with the text in your eyes, they might not live well together in the eyes of another visitor.

* Wise color — It’s wise to limit yourself to 256 colors when doing pages. If you do use more colors, make sure you test your pages with your monitor set to 256 colors, thousands of colors, and millions of colors (if possible). If you create great looking graphics or backgrounds that have thousands of colors, they might look darn pathetic on a monitor of only 256 colors.

* E-mail opportunity — Make sure you have your e-mail address somewhere on the page. Even better, add a “mail to:” link to your e-mail address. Do both! If there’s a problem with your Web site that you missed in inspection, there are others out there that will stumble upon it. You want everyone to have an easy way to reach you in case there is a problem.

* Learn from others — You will learn an amazing amount from simply studying other pages. Find pages you like, and study them closely. If your browser supports it, save the pages as “source” and review their HTML code. This is a great way to learn HTML code and improve your site.

* Make ’em return — You want visitors to return to your site, right? Well, make sure you note that there will be future additions to your site. Add some fun! Some have monthly contests, surveys, commentaries. Other sites have daily news, pictures, and sounds. Be imaginative!

Once the page is up, fully tested, and ready, you’ll want to start getting surfers to your site. How do you go about doing this? Well…

* Pals — Do your Internet buddies have Web pages? If so, ask them to put a link to your site on their page. Of course, you should have a link to their site on your page as well.

* Internet Link Exchange ( — This is truly a great service. What’s even better. . . It’s totally free! The Link Exchange is a simple program. You advertise a banner ad for another site and the link exchange advertises your ad. It’s just a trade-off. You earn points every time your site is visited. For every full point you earn, the Link Exchange will advertise your ad on another member’s site. The service allows you to check your status and observe how many hits you have received as a result from your banner ad. It really works. You even get to choose what categories you advertise and what categories advertise you. That way, you never have to worry about inappropriate sites turning up as an ad on your site. There is a ton of other features with this service, and I highly recommend it.

* Submit-It! ( — Contrary to what some believe, a Web site does not show up on a Web search (InfoSeek, Excite, etc.) simply because it is on the Web. You have to manually submit the site to search engines. . . one by one. This can be rather tiresome. That is where sites like Submit-It come in. Submit-It helps make the entire process a lot easier, and gives you fast access to many search engines and Web sites. With Submit-It, you will be able to submit your Web site to tons of search engines in half the time it would usually take. Everyone with a Web site should use a service like Submit-It.

* Webstep 100 ( — This is another site like Submit-It. It lets you submit your site to many search engines. Webstep is a good service.

* E-mail advantage — Another simple way to promote your site is through e-mail. Now, there are plenty of business size agencies that specialize in Web site promotion through e-mail. I’m thinking along the lines of a much simpler plan. When you answer all your e-mail, simply remember to add your Web site address below your name. And, if your e-mail software supports it, you can make the site a hypertext link to your site. Doing this is a good way to promote your site by word of mouth. . . or word of e-mail.

* Looks count — Obvious. If you make a site that has great graphics, easy interface, and a orderly look, you will have more visits. Word gets around fast, especially on the Internet.

* Write it in the snow — If you really feel compelled, promote your site everywhere you go. I recently came back from a trip to Red River, New Mexico. All the while there, I was writing my Web site address in the snow. I thought it was a pretty nifty idea. You might call it a desperate measure, but I call it ingenuity.

Now you have your very own Web site on the World Wide Web. Not only that, but your site is being promoted, found, talked about, and visited! You have all the hard work behind you, and you are finally seeing the results of your labor.

Make it fun! I had a ball coming up with ideas for my site. I had a blast making it as well. It’s an educational, exciting, and enjoyable experience! It takes patience and time, but is well worth the effort. You will continue to get new ideas for your site, and you will continue to add features and pages. You’ll enjoy getting feedback and remarks about your site, and you’ll love to see that counter rise.

Get out there, now, and make yourself a Web page! And don’t forget, Shay Fulton’s Web page is at

Shay Fulton (

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