A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....
Basic Web Page Creation Tips August 28th, 2002
Fairly early in my column writing adventure, I wrote a series on making Web pages. To write the columns, I taught myself how to make Web pages, from scratch, using HTML code, following the directions available from a free Web page tutorial site. I was so inexperienced that I did not even know there are applications available to support the creation of Web pages. I don't think I will ever regret learning how to code in HTML because it helps me make changes and/or identify errors. However, I have learned so much more in the intervening years that I cringe when I come across any of those earlier columns. (Notice how I carefully do not provide a link to any of them.)
I want to update some of that Web page development advice because I think Web pages are great fun to create and they can be useful in a number of ways. Everyone's methods of creating and posting Web pages will be slightly different, so I am going to concentrate on the major items.
HINT: New computer users may be unfamiliar with some of the terms used in this column. If you come across something you are unfamiliar with you may go to the Computing With Bifocals Index for help.
HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) the code that is used to tell the server what you are doing. It has a beginning tag to tell the browser what to do with the content that follows that tag, and an ending tag to let the browser know to stop that formatting. For instance <B> signifies that what follows should be in bold. </B> signifies that the bold ends.
If you want to learn HTML, I would advise you to check on the Internet for the many free HTML resources that are available today. You can find tutorials, definitions, examples, and even sample code at a number of Web sites.
Host or Web Host the place on the Internet where your information is stored.
Integral Parts of Any Web Page There are two main sections to any Web page. The Heading section, which includes everything located between <head> and </head>, and the Body, which includes everything located between <body> and </body>. The Heading section includes instructions to the browser, keywords, and descriptions for the page (along with all sorts of advanced things that you don't have to have, and are beyond the scope of this column). The Body section is the part of the code that holds all of the content in your page; i.e., what viewers see when they choose your site.
Where Is It Going To Go?
I don't know of any well-established Internet Service Provider who doesn't offer free space for a personal Web page. There is too much competition for any of them to take the chance of losing customers by not providing it. To check out your provider, go to the company's Web site and look for information on personal home pages. You should be able to check with the company's tech support, as well.
There are two advantages to going this route to establish a location for your own page. First, you can create a page without banner ads; many of the supposedly free hosting services like Geocities will put banner ads on your Web site without any say-so from you. The second reason to use your Internet Service Provider's Web hosting service is that they are usually fairly easy to use. The secret is being able to create your pages from scratch and then post them, although I have seen at least one major provider that offers users a template.
Another great option for Mac users today is Apple's .Mac service. This service costs US$99 per year, but among the many things you get is Apple's excellent Home Page service. Home Page allows easy Web creation, and an easy way to upload your files to Apple's servers. It also features a number of templates, and a very easy way to display photographs for sharing with friends and family. I haven't used .Mac, or its free predecessor iTools, much myself, but I have been told that Home Page is really easy to work with.
Where Do I Start?
If you don't want to learn how to code HTML yourself, select an application that creates the HTML code for you as you add your content. There are a number of applications designed just for this purpose. The one with which I am most familiar is Adobe PageMill. PageMill is a basic Web page creation program that is perfect for the uninitiated. It was created in 1998 and is no longer available from Adobe, meaning you can't buy it, and the company offers no support. However, you can still download a free trial from Download.com, which I did today to make sure it was still available. I promise you that as a starter application, PageMill can't be beat. In fact, I have used it to create this column for the past 3 years. It works in OS 7 through OS 9, though I have had some trouble using it in the Classic environment in Mac OS X. There is also a good help feature included.
Briefly, with PageMill you can:
Select any background or design set and drag and drop it into your page using the Inspector which is found under Window.
Define the color scheme you want exactly by choosing custom from the color choice box in the toolbar.
Create and activate forms.
Create tables that either show on your page, or don't show, but provide structure for your page.
Include any graphics, images, or photos using drag and drop techniques and then modify size or shape in one drag step.
You can undo almost everything.
It is easy to add extras such as music, running text, mouse-overs, etc. once the basic page is complete.
There Has Got To Be More That No One Has Remembered To Tell Me.
There is always stuff that someone forgets to tell you. Such as the fact that you can't just put your Web page up and expect the various search engines to find it. You have to include additional information within the <head> </head> section.
META tags. META tags are tags that go in the Heading section that contain instructions for browsers, notes to people looking at your code, and sometimes notes to yourself.
You can also use META tags to include keywords. These are words that someone might use when doing a search on a search engine. Pick out those words that apply to the content of your own page. (If you don't want the world to come to your page then skip this part.) This is how it looks in your code:
Many of the HTML editors out there can insert this code for you, giving you a menu for adding the words. Check with the documentation your editor comes with to find out more.
META Description: If you have used a search engine much you will be aware that below some links that those engines provide are descriptions, while others seem to have only gobbledy gook for a description. Here is an actual example taken from a search engine's results page:
As you can see, that doesn't help very much, so adding the proper description is a very good thing. As with the Keywords information, many HTML editors provide an easy to use interface for adding a description to your page.
Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping. To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.
Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color,
covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.
Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.