GUIDELINES FOR CREATING A WEBSITE
Planning a website may seem to be daunting prospect. Many people have
thought for years that they "ought" to have a website, only
to be discouraged by what seem to be technical mysteries or the thought
of committing oneself to world view. I have prepared these guidelines
in the hope of removing some of the obstacles by breaking down the process
into manageable steps. Some of these steps are common to all websites,
while others are specific to the way that I work. Please feel free to
contact me by phone (914) 472 1390 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
if you need clarification.
webmaster will usually take care of these steps for you:
Obtaining a domain name. Some Internet Service Providers (e.g.
Earthlink, Verizon) provide a free website to anyone with an email account.
This is usually about 10 MB worth of space, plenty for a personal website
with some pictures. There are two limitations: you generally cannot
have a unique domain name. The "address" of your website
will be something like http://home.earthlink.net/~smith rather than
a unique domain name such as www.sybilbarten.com. An ISP-provided website
is for do-in-yourselfers. The ISP provides software and instructions
for creating web pages and posting them. So if 10 MB worth of web pages
is enough, you know just what you want to post, unfamiliar software
doesn't faze you, and a non-unique domain doesn't bother you, this is
a good option.
How to obtain a
domain name. Amazingly, every one of the millions of domain names (www.joeblow.org,
www.joeblow.net, www.joeblow.com) is unique, so there has to be a way
to find out whether a particular name is already "taken".
If it is, you can't have it unless the "owner" is
willing to sell it, often for a lot of money. One way to check on the
availability of a name is to go to www.internetsolutions.com. There
you'll find a form where you can enter the name you'd like
and you'll instantly be told whether it's available and
how to register it. You cannot reserve a name forever, and you must
pay yearly. Most people register for at least two years, and the cost
is in the neighborhood of $20 a year. It remains your property (unless
you choose not to renew) and you will be reminded when you must pay
Another way to obtain and register a domain name is to combine the process
with obtaining a web host. Most web hosting services now offer domain
name registration with providing space on their server for your website,
often at no additional charge.
Deciding on a web host. Again,
if you obtain your website through your internet service provider (ISP),
you don't need a web host – the ISP is your web host. Otherwise,
you will need to decide who should host your website. This is a server
(or set of servers) where your website "lives." Some web
hosts are free, but there is usually a price to pay for these in ads
or limited space. One example is www.tripod.com, which features both
free and paid websites. The free Tripod websites require ads (sometimes
you have a choice of which ones), and the URL or web address of the
free sites includes the tripod name. So, for example, one website on
tripod, "Zal's Photography," has the URL http://zals.tripod.com/
Many web hosts are responding to the increased computer savvy of people
who want to have web sites and their plans include software, usually
called "web builder" or some such term that allows people
to create their own website, often with lots of bells and whistles such
as blog-builders and the like.
Which web host
to choose. There are thousands to chose from, and the decision is
usually based on discussions between you, the owner of the website,
and your webmaster. The variables include: cost, size and complexity
of the website, and features offered. The cost ranges from a low
of about $6/month (at www.pair.com) to about $15/month, though for
business sites, it can easily be $300/month and much more. $15/month
will buy plenty of space for most non-business websites, and also
provide one or more email boxes and even a chat room and database.
The main difference between a host that costs $6 and one that costs
$15 is that with the latter, you get access to statistics (e.g.
number of hits) and live technical support, sometimes important
for the webmaster.
When to obtain
a domain name and web host. There is no need to reserve the domain
name and web host before the web site is designed. It only takes
a couple of days for this process, and you might as well wait till
the website is almost ready to "go live".
Designing the website: General
The issues listed here are somewhat overlapping, and some of them may
change in the process of designing the website. The more thought given
to these questions at the beginning the better.
What is the
purpose of the website? The first (non-technical) question to ask
yourself, and one that the webmaster should ask you, is why do you
want a website? The answer to this question might be a brief mission
Who is the
targeted audience? Your family and friends? Potential clients? Anyone
who might be interested?
do you want to project? The answer to this question in part determines
the "look and feel" of the website. You might begin
by thinking of a number of adjectives, such as "warm,"
"professional," "accessible". Often it helps
to think in metaphors here. For example, on the website I designed
for the composer Nicolas Flagello the colors and background subtly
reflect the personality and music of the composer (see www.flagello.com).
If you want to include a picture of yourself, the one you pick and
where you put it will be important, and the color scheme of the
photo will have to be consistent with other colors on the page (and
the home page look like? This is the front door to the website and
is particularly important in setting the tone for what is to come.
Also, the rest of the website should be consistent with the front
page, so it is usually the first page to be designed. Some more
specific questions are:
Do you want
a picture of yourself here or elsewhere? What kind of picture? What
Do you want
a logo? Do you have a business card whose design you would like
to use in some way?
Do you want
a mission statement or a personal statement?
Creating the structure and content
Structure Usually, a web designer does not begin work until all
the general design questions are answered and all the content is submitted.
Although it is crucial that all the design questions are addressed at
the outset, sometimes it is not possible for all the content to be prepared
ahead of time. What is vitally important, though, is to be clear on
the structure of the website. This means:
Deciding on the number of major categories of content. These are the important section of the website, and are usually accessed by buttons or links on every page (the navigation bar). The number of categories determines the breadth of the website.
the sub-categories. Not every major category has to have sub-categories.
For instance, the category "Contact Information" rarely
includes any sub-categories. By contrast, the category "Publications"
might have links to some or all of the person's publications,
either directly or indirectly, or to types of publications (e.g.
books, reviews, articles...).
sub-sub-categories. For example, if the category is "Publications"
and there are three kinds of publications, each kind of publication
might have links to a number of publications. The number of sub-
and sub-sub-categories determines the depth of the website.
Although websites generally have a hierarchical structure, as the term
"web" suggests, there can be links in many directions --
up, down, and sideways.
Content. After you have worked out the structure of the website,
providing the content is the next step. This is the heart of the website.
Since all web pages need to be coded to appear on the Internet, you
must prepare all material in a format that can be converted to HTML
or whatever "language" your website will require. All text
should be provided as WORD or WordPerfect documents. If you want pictures
on your site, you'll have to provide them either in digital form
(preferably as jpegs) or in a form that can be scanned easily. If you
plan to have music on your site, it will have to be in a digital form
that I can convert (or compress) so that it can be played on the Internet.
(As a rule of thumb, one minute of music takes up 1 MB of website space.
Simple pictures take up less space, depending on their detail and resolution,
and words of course take up even less.)
One important fact to keep in mind is that a website relies on visual
thinking. This is true of text as well as graphic elements. Text often
needs to be shorter and "snappier" than in a book or magazine
article. Here, your web designer may function as an editor, and suggest
ways to make the text more appropriate for this medium. The font that
is chosen also should conform to the look and feel of the web site.
My preferred way of working
I usually do not begin the actual work until I have received most of your materials.
Once we get started, I expect you to adhere reasonably closely to the schedule that we will establish so that I can proceed as efficiently as possible. We will work closely together on the project, and you will have the opportunity to see and comment on versions of the website before it is "live"on the Internet.