Web Site Fundamentals in a Nutshell
Many of us “check the web” before we purchase anything. If you’re in a business of any sort, your own web site will become pretty important. What do you want that site to do?
Sell something? Project an image? Provide a service? Act as a communications vehicle? The list is endless. Some seem to omit this important planning. The site may be gorgeous but there’s little reason to visit it.
The next detail is your URL or site name. I have a few biases. The name should be short and unambiguous. If your name is “themostbeautifulbedandbreakfastintoledo.com” it will be misspelled frequently. By ambiguity, I’m thinking of frequently confused terms such as “site”, “cite” and “sight” or “principle” and “principal”.
Next your name must be reserved. Many websites offer this service. One that comes to mind is Network Solutions: http://www.netsol.com/en_US/index.jhtml . You will have several “high level” domain name choices. In most cases .com is preferable unless you are an organization (.org) or providing a network service (.net). Your chosen name will invariably be gone: have some alternatives in mind. With the shortage of “good” names new domain designations have arisen. At this moment they haven’t caught on too well; further www.BandB.tv sounds a touch silly. Registering this name will cost $70 for two years. In some cases a service provider will offer a registration discount. In these cases, verify that you, not they, actually own the domain name.
On whose computer will your site reside? For most of us, don’t even consider hosting it yourself. Maintenance, high speed, communications service and backup are but a few reasons for off-site hosting.
When looking at possible hosting’ vendors there are some considerations to ponder:
ü Amount of storage
ü Amount of data transfer per month
ü Number of email addresses or aliases
ü Vendor’s operating system (Linux, Windows etc.) (If you are authoring your program with Microsoft FrontPage you may need “FrontPage Extensions” for the site to perform properly)
ü Cost. Sharing a server (computer) at the host’ site is generally not a problem for most routine applications. A plain vanilla, shared plan will probably cost $25 +/- per month. A pre-pay discount may be cost effective.
Who will design your website? There are many professionals who do a great job. Look at some of their work. Do you like it? Is it effective? What’s the pricing structure? Do they charge per page? For updates? Per photo?
Now consider “do-it-yourself”. Play with some of the available software. Is it learnable at your skill level? Can you accomplish the tasks you desire with this package? If the answer is yes, start with a quick navigation diagram (paper and pencil). Where do you want the visitor to be able to navigate to/from.
How fast will one of your pages load for a dial-up user? Some software will give you an indication. A possible client will seldom wait more than 30 or so seconds for their screen to fill. The worst offenders on slow-loading are photos. Try to keep them in the under 30K range. You may lose some resolution but it’s worth it.
Do you want your site to be found by search engines (AltaVista, Google etc.)? Although all engines don’t use them, meta-tags are very important. These are semi-invisible descriptions and terms that are noticed by those wily, engine’ scouts. (You can see them by clicking “view”, “source” in your browser).
Some software will have a menu item that lets you insert these crucial terms. It’s as easy to switch to HTML view and type them in yourself.
There are some super tutorials on the Internet, but here’s the general format:
here type a relevant, catchy, short page title</title>
Content=”A shortish description
of the page’s content.”>
<META NAME=”keywords” CONTENT=”type words,phrases,terms that a user might select,when looking for your service”>
Don’t bother with spaces after the commas in your keywords.
Now open the site in your browser. Is it previewing the way you want? Good
Our next task is to transport your masterpiece to the site you’ve reserved. Your vendor has given you a user name and password. Usually under the “file” menu will be a “publish” command. You will connect to the ‘net and your site will be uploaded. In some (very few) cases you may want to do this task manually. An FTP’ (File Transfer Protocol) program (such as Cuteftp) will allow you to do this.
Good luck and don’t forget to update the site every now and then.