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Website creation

There are a very large number of programs available which claim to make website creation easy. The problem is we have all seen what some people create with these programs! The first rule of website creation is ‘Keep it simple’. This doesn’t mean that the design is simple, just that it is obvious what the visitor to the site has to do to get what they want. Increasingly you will come across animated sites created with the Flash program. Some of these enhance the visit, whilst others seem to be a triumph of design over content, and just get in the way. If you do want to learn Flash, there are often magazine cover mounted CD’s with a demo version for you to try. Macromedia Flash itself can be daunting to start off, and it may well be that you do not need all the facilities it offers. There are other programs such as Swish, one of our favourites, which offer all the functions you are likely to use for considerably less cost.

There is not space here to go into a full HTML (webpage design language) tutorial, but there are many books to help from beginner to ‘Webmaster’. Check out some of the suggestions at the bottom.

Once you have created your pages on your computer, you have to get them on the Internet. To do this you need something called an FTP program. This stands for File Transfer Protocol, but it is just a way of copying your creation to the ISP’s server so everyone can see. Many web design programs have a ‘Wizard’ to publish your website, this is simply an FTP program hiding behind a user friendly interface.

Just in passing, it is worth mentioning a couple of the more common design errors. When you link to a page from another page, use a relative link. This means a link that is not dependant on a disk path. An absolute link would be something like ‘C://temp/myfile.html’ whereas a relative link would be ‘myfile.html’. As you can see, the first link would only work on your computer, not on the webserver. As long as you keep all the HTML files in the same subdirectory, the second link should work every time. If you must put files in different subdirectories, the link would have to include the URL for the site ‘www.mysite/directory/myfile.html’. This would not work during the design stage unless you are using Microsoft Frontpage or another program that simulates a webserver. Finally be careful about using uppercase letters. The files ‘Myfile.html’ and ‘myfile.html’ would be the same on an NT server or your own computer, but would be two different files on a UNIX or LINUX server. If you get the ‘file not found’ error, check the case of the file name first.

Paul Wood

Website design and maintenance

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