Harley Hahn's
Internet Advisor


Chapter 15...

Creating Your Own Web Site

There is a lot involved in making your own Web site. Creating even a simple Web site can require you to understand a fair amount of detail. However, with the right tools and a bit of practice, the job becomes a lot easier.

In this chapter, I will explain the important ideas relating to creating your own Web site and show you where to find the resources you need. Before we start, I want to make sure you are familiar with the following sections from previous chapters. Please take a few minutes now to review this material, as it will make our job much easier.

Chapter 4:  Internet Addresses...

Chapter 7:  The Web...

Before you start to build your Web site, I want you to give some thought as to what you are going to put on it.

My suggestion is to devote your Web site to an area of life you find fascinating. Do you like to collect trading cards? Do you enjoy knitting or needlework? Are you a history buff? Do you write stories or draw cartoons?

Look within yourself and ask, "What do I love to do or make or collect or think about so much that I would do it all day long if I didn't have to work?"

That should be the theme of your Web page. Share your passion with the world.

— hint —

Look within yourself and ask, "What do I love to do or make or collect or think about so much that I would do it all day long if I didn't have to work?"

That should be the theme of your Web site. Share your passion with the world.

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HTML

When you look at a Web page, you see text, pictures and other objects. It is important to understand how these components are put together into a single page.

Each Web page is stored as a file on a Web server. This file contains the text that will be on the page, along with special instructions called TAGS. When your browser reads the file, it uses the tags as guidelines. The tags specify which components are to be used and how they should be displayed on the page.

The tags are written according to a set of specifications called HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). To create a Web page, you need to make a file containing the text of the page along with the appropriate HTML tags. You can put in the tags yourself, or you can have a program do it for you. When you create such a file, it will be stored with a name that ends with the extension html or htm, for example, harley.html or harley.htm.

— hint —

We use the term HTML in two ways.

First, it is the name of the system used to define the appearance and structure of Web pages. So we might say, "Every Web page has an HTML file that contains the text of the page along with the tags that describe that page."

Informally, we often use the term HTML to refer to the contents of such a file. For example, you might hear someone say, "Don't get rid of that file. It contains the HTML for the main page of my Web site."

HTML tags have a special format, so they won't be confused with regular text. Each tag starts with a < (less-than) character and ends with a > (greater-than) character. To explain what I mean, I will show you a few examples. You don't have to memorize the details. I just want you to get a feeling for what HTML tags look like.

Let's start with one of the tags used for text formatting, the <br> tag. When a browser displays text, it ignores extra spaces and blank lines. All the words are formatted as a continuous stream. The browser breaks the lines in such a way as to make them fit within the width of the page.

However, there may be times when you want to force your browser to break a line at a particular place. To do so, you put a <br> tag at that place. For instance, when the following text is displayed, the browser will jump to a new line after the word lamb:

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow.

Here is another example of an HTML tag. The <img> (image) tag tells the browser to display a picture:

<img src="cat.gif">

In this case, the picture to be displayed is stored in the file cat.gif. (The term src means "source".)

Many HTML tags work in pairs. For instance, to display words in italics, you use a "start- italics" tag <i> and an "end-italics" tag </i>. As an example, the tags in the following line tell the browser to display the word best in italics:

This is the <i>best</i> Web site in the world.

Here is another example of tags used in a pair. To create a link to another page, you use <a> to indicate the beginning of the link </a> to indicate the end of the link.

(The letter a stands for "anchor", an HTML technical term.)

Here is an example. Let's say you are designing a Web page containing the following sentence:

Visit my cat's Web page.

Within this sentence, you want the words my cat's to be a link. When someone clicks on this link, you want their browser to jump to the file little-nipper.html. To do so, you use the <a> and </a> tags to define the link as follows:

Visit <a href="little-nipper.html"> my cat's </a> Web page.

(The term href means "hypertext reference".)

What's in a Name?

HTML


When you embed tags within text, we say that you MARK UP the text. Thus, we can explain the name HTML — Hypertext Markup Language — as follows:

  • Hypertext: refers to text that contains links.
  • Markup: shows that there are tags embedded in the text.
  • Language: sounds cool even though HTML isn't really a language.

As you might imagine, the HTML system has a lot of details. There are many tags, and it can take a long time to learn how to use them well. However, it is not necessary to understand HTML to create Web pages. Instead, you can use a program called a Web page editor to handle all the details. All you need to do is lay out the page the way you want, and the editor will create the HTML file for you. (We will talk about Web page editors later in the chapter.)

Does this mean you do not have to learn HTML? For most people, the answer is yes, you do not need to learn HTML. However, if you are the type of person who likes to control every little detail of your work, having an understanding of HTML allows you to read and modify the file generated by your Web page editor.

If you know enough HTML, you can create a Web page from scratch, writing all the tags yourself without the help of a program. I do this myself. In fact, this is how all Web pages used to be created in the olden days (the mid-1990s).

To show you what HTML looks like, Figure 15-1 contains the specifications for a small Web page. The Web page itself is shown in Figure 15-2. This is a simple example, but it does give you the flavor of HTML.

Note: All the lines that begin with <!-- are descriptive comments that are ignored by the browser. The purpose of comments is to help people read the HTML.

Figure 15-1: HTML for a simple Web page

<!-- Copyright 2004, The Little Nipper -->

<!-- Start of the page -->
   <html>

<!-- Head -->
   <head>
      <title>The Little Nipper's Web Page</title>
   </head>

<!-- Start of the body -->
   <body>

<!-- Picture of The Little Nipper -->
   <center>
      <img src="nipper.jpg">
      <p>
      <font size="5" face="Arial">
         I am The Little Nipper
      </font>
   </center>
   <p>

<!-- A Message from The Little Nipper -->
   <font size="4" face="Arial">
      I was born in Southern California, on April 6,
      1991. Since then, I've lived a life made up
      of one part hard work (chasing things and
      being a good companion) and two parts leisure
      (eating, sleeping and sitting in the sun).
   <p>
   <center>
      Check out this cool Web site:
      <a href="http://www.harley.com/">
      Harley Hahn's Web Site</a>
   </center>
   </font>

<!-- End of the body -->
   </body>

<!-- End of the page -->
   </html>

Figure 15-2: A simple Web page

If you want to look at more complex examples, your browser can help you. With Internet Explorer, go to any Web page, pull down the View menu and select Source. Your browser will open a new window and show you the HTML for the page you are looking at. For some good examples, visit the pages on my Web site:

http://www.harley.com/

You will find it interesting to compare the HTML tags with what you see on your screen.

For reference, Figure 15-3 contains a list of the most important HTML tags and what they do.

Figure 15-3: The most important HTML tags

HTML Tag Purpose
<!-- text -->a comment (ignored by browser)
<a href="URL">text</a>define a link to the specified URL
<b>text</b>display text in boldface
<br>break text onto a new line
<center>text</center>center text
<font>...</font>specify appearance of font
<form>...</form>create a form
<frame>...</frame>define an individual frame
<frameset>...</frameset>define a set of frames
<head>...</head>define the head of the Web page
<h1>text</h1>display text in heading 1 style
<hr>display a straight line (horizontal rule)
<html>...</html>define the start and end of Web page
<i>text</i>display text in italics
<img...>display a picture (image)
<map>...</map>create an image map
<meta>info for Web server or search engine
<ol>...</ol>create an ordered (numbered) list
<p>start a new paragraph
<table>...</table>create a table
<title>text</title>specify the title of the Web page
<u>text</u>underline text
<ul>...</ul>create unordered (non-numbered) list

If the time comes that you want to learn more about HTML, the following resources will help you.

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The Components of a Web Page

Web pages are built out of eight different types of components. They are:

  • Text
  • Links
  • Pictures
  • Sounds
  • Tables
  • Forms
  • Frames
  • Programs

Let's take a moment and discuss each of these building blocks in turn.

Text: A Web page can contain any text you want. The text is stored in the HTML file along with the tags for that page. You have some degree of control over how the text is to be displayed. For instance, you can use italics or boldface, and you can specify that the text should be a particular font (typeface). You can also make text wrap around pictures, line up in columns, or be formatted into a list.

Most of the time, it is best to use plain, ordinary text broken into paragraphs. When a browser displays the page, it will automatically format the paragraphs to fit within the size of the browser window.

Links: The links on your page are what turns the text into hypertext. A link points to a specific Internet resource such as a Web page, a picture, a sound, a mail address, or a Usenet group. When you click on a link, your browser does whatever is necessary to follow that link. In most cases, this means fetching and displaying another Web page.

You can attach links to either words or pictures. One special type of picture is an image map. Within an image map, various parts of the picture correspond to different links. Image maps are often used as navigation aids.

Pictures: You can use various types of pictures on your Web pages: drawings, icons, photographs, and so on. Each picture is stored in a separate file. As a general rule, photographs are stored using a format called JPG or JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), while all other pictures are stored using a format called GIF (Graphics Interchange Format). You can tell the format of a picture by looking at the extension of the file name. For example, a file containing a photograph of a car might be called car.jpg; a file containing a drawing of a box might be called box.gif.

What's in a Name?

jpg
gif


The jpg format is used to store photographs. The name jpg (pronounced "jay-peg") comes from the organization that developed the standard: the Joint Photographic Experts Group.

The gif format is used to store all other types of images, especially drawings, cartoons and icons. The gif format was developed by a company named Compuserve, which used to run an online service. (The service has since been bought by AOL.) The original gif format was developed so Compuserve's users would have a way to store and exchange pictures.

The name gif (pronounced "jiff") stands for "Graphics Interchange Format".

You will often see people use the terms jpg and gif to refer to pictures that use these formats. For example, let's say you are at a Web page party, and you overhear two people talking in the hallway:

Person 1: I'm almost finished building my new Web site. I already put in a bunch of jpgs of my family. Now all I need is some small drawings to fill in the empty spaces.

Person 2: I have some drawings of space aliens talking to Elvis that will look great on your page. I'll send you the gifs in the morning.

Person 1: Thank you, Person 2. You sure are a good friend.

One particular type of gif you will see is an ANIMATED GIF. This type of gif consists of one file that contains a sequence of pictures. When a browser encounters an animated gif, it displays the pictures one after another, creating a simple animation. To make an animated gif, you must first create the separate pictures. You then use a special tool that puts the pictures together into a gif file using the animated gif format.

Sounds: It is possible to put sounds on a Web page. Like pictures, each sound is stored in its own file. The most common way to use sounds is to create a link to a sound file. When you click on the link, your browser retrieves the sound file and plays its contents.

There are a number of different file formats used to store sounds and music. The most common sound format is wav. For instance, you might put a file named moo.wav, that contains the sound of a cow, on one of your Web pages. The most common music formats are mid (MIDI) and mp3. For more details about sound and music files, see Chapter 10.

Tables: A TABLE is a structure that contains information in rows and columns. When you create a table, your Web page editor generates HTML tags that describe the size of the table and its contents. Figure 15-4 shows a Web page that contains a table.

Figure 15-4: A Web page containing a table

Forms: A FORM contains specific areas into which you can type information as you are reading a Web page. Once a form is filled out, you click on a button. The browser then sends the information to the Web server, where it is processed by a separate program. Figure 15-5 shows a Web page that contains a form.

Figure 15-5: A Web page containing a form

Using forms on a Web page requires special facilities. First, you need to write (or find) a program to process the information that will come from the form. Next, you need to place the program in the appropriate directory on the Web server. I won't go into the details, as they are too complicated. I will, however, mention a common technical term associated with forms, so you will recognize it when you see it.

When you write a form-handling program, the information is passed between the server and the program using a system called the Common Gateway Interface, or CGI. The term "CGI programming" refers to creating a program that processes data from a Web page form. CGI programs are often programmed in a computer language named Perl.

Frames: It is sometimes convenient to design a Web page that contains other, smaller Web pages. This is done by using a facility called FRAMES. A frame is a specific area of a Web page that can contain data from another page.

When you create frames with your Web page editor, it generates the appropriate HTML tags to specify the size and contents of each frame. When your browser encounters such tags, it creates the frames and fills them with the appropriate content.

Frames are useful when you wish to have a Web page that consists of several independent components. For example, let's say you are designing a picture gallery. You might use one frame to display the names of all the pictures that are available for viewing. When someone clicks on a name, the actual picture is displayed in a second frame. Figure 15-6 shows a Web page that contains frames.

Figure 15-6: A Web page containing frames

Programs: Using a program as part of a Web page enables you to utilize many different types of features on your Web site. There are a variety of tools and programming languages available for working with Web pages. However, they are all complex, and the details are well beyond the scope of this book.

If you can't program, don't worry. Programming is not necessary for building most types of Web pages. In fact, HTML was designed so that people would be able to create Web pages without programming.

For reference, here are the names of the most common Web programming tools, so if you see them, you will at least know what they are. (For a discussion of Java and ActiveX, see Chapter 12.)

  • Java
  • ActiveX
  • Javascript
  • JScript
  • VBScript
  • Visual Basic
  • Perl
  • C++
  • C

By the way, although the names Java and Javascript look similar, they have nothing to do with one another. The Javascript tool was created by Netscape, and for marketing reasons, they chose a name that sounded like Java.

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Web Page Editors

A WEB PAGE EDITOR is a program used to create, modify and maintain Web pages. Some Web page editors also have tools that make it easy to send your files to the Web server and to manage large Web sites consisting of many pages.

There are two basic types of Web page editors. The first type is called a WYSIWYG EDITOR. The name "wysiwyg" (pronounced "whiz-ee-whig") stands for "what you see is what you get". With a wysiwyg editor, you work directly with the elements on your Web page: text, pictures, tables, and so on. You create and arrange them however you want. Behind the scenes, the editor generates the HTML for you and saves it in a file. Wysiwyg editors are easy to use because you never need to look at the actual HTML.

Some people would rather write the HTML themselves. These people use an HTML EDITOR. This type of editor allows you to work directly with the HTML tags. You can immerse yourself in as much detail as you want, with complete control over the final product. (I often use an HTML editor myself.)

— hint —

Some wysiwyg editors offer dual functionality, as they can also function as HTML editors.

Once you have created a Web page, all you have to do is copy it to a Web server and the page is on the Internet. (I will discuss how to find a Web server later in the chapter.) When you copy a Web page to a server, we say that you PUBLISH the page. More formally, you upload the page from your computer to the Web server. (Remember, "upload" means to copy data from your computer to the Internet; "download" means to copy data from the Internet to your computer.)

Wysiwyg editors have a built-in feature that makes it easy to publish your Web pages. Some HTML editors do not have such a feature, and you have to upload the pages yourself using FTP (which I discuss in Chapter 2 and Chapter 9). If you use such an editor, you will need an FTP client program to do the uploading for you.

All Web page editors are complex programs that take time to master. My suggestion is to start with a wysiwyg editor and spend some time learning how to use it well. As you become more advanced, you can try an HTML editor if you want.

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Pictures and Sounds

For variety, you may want to use some non-textual components to enhance your Web pages. For example, you can put photographs on your Web site as well as decorate the pages by using drawings, icons, buttons and other types of graphics. You can even set the background to be a color or a particular design. Finally, you might want to put some sounds on your page (although this is a resource that should be used sparingly).

So where do you get such components? You can either make them yourself or find them for free on the Net. Let's start with photographs.

To use a photograph, it must be stored in a file, usually a jpg file. There are several ways you can turn your own photos into jpgs.

First, you can use a digital camera. A digital camera stores photographs as computer files, rather than using regular negatives. Such a camera will come with an interface to connect to a PC, along with whatever software you need to transfer the files to your computer. If you have a video camcorder, you can buy an adapter called a VIDEO CAPTURE BOARD, which you install in your computer. Once you connect your camcorder to the board, you can create copies of individual video frames and store them as image files on your computer.

Alternatively, you can take regular pictures and use them to create jpgs. The best way to do this is to use a SCANNER, a device that you connect to your computer. A scanner processes an image on paper and creates a computer file containing that image. (We say that the scanner DIGITIZES or SCANS the image.) Scanners, of course, cost money. If you want to digitize a lot of photos, you may want to buy your own scanner. Otherwise, you may be able to find a place — such as a copy shop — where you can pay to use a scanner whenever you need one.

There is another way to get jpgs from regular photos. Some film processing companies will develop regular film and create not only prints or slides, but also computer files. The computer files will be stored on a floppy disk or CD. Some companies have a service where you can send in your film and download the finished files from the company's Web site.

— hint —

Once you have photos stored as computer files, it is easy to share them with your friends. To share a photo stored as a jpg, all you need to do is attach it to a mail message (see Chapter 5).

In addition to your own photographs, you can also make use of photos that are available for public use. There are many such photos on the Internet. If you are looking for a particular type of image, the following Internet Resources will help you find what you need.

You may or may not want to use photographs on your Web site, but you will probably want to use other types of pictures. For example, you can use buttons to act as links, or drawings to illustrate the text. As with photographs, you can either make your own pictures or use ones that are ready- made.

If you want to make your own pictures, you can use a GRAPHICS PROGRAM. There are lots of different programs, ranging from easy-to-use utilities to complex, sophisticated tools used by graphic artists. Using such programs, you can create your own pictures, modify existing pictures, make image maps, animated gifs, and so on.

However, you do not need to be an artist to use pictures on your Web site. There are a huge number of pictures available for free on the Internet. There are also a lot of backgrounds available for free.

When you are using the Web and you see an image you like, it is easy to save a copy to a file. Simply right-click on the image. Then select Save Picture As (with Internet Explorer). Obviously, it is easy to steal pictures on the Web. However, if you are going to use a picture on your Web site, be sure to ask for permission first. (Send mail to the person who runs the site.)

Aside from pictures, you may also want to use sound on your Web site. If so, there are many sounds available for free on the Web. In addition, if your computer has a microphone, you can record your own sounds and save them as wav files. To do so, you can use the Sound Recorder program that comes free with Windows.

To start the Sound Recorder program:

  1. Click on the Start button.
  2. Select Programs, then Accessories, then Entertainment (with older versions of Windows, Multimedia).
  3. Click on Sound Recorder.

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Web Page Design Tips

To help you develop your Web page design skills, here are a few tips.

When you finish your Web pages, look them over carefully before you upload them to your Web server. As you do, it is important to realize that not everyone uses the same browser. What you see on your computer, with your monitor and your browser, will not be the same as what other people see.

Professional Web designers always look at their designs on a variety of systems, using a number of different browsers and monitors. They strive for a design that will look good and behave correctly with a variety of configurations. You don't have to be that picky, but at the very least, I want you to look at your Web pages with both major browsers: Internet Explorer and Netscape. You probably already use one of these, but you will need to install the other one for testing purposes.

Let's move on now to some specific design points. As you explore the Web, you will see many sites — especially corporate sites — that use elaborate graphics. In my opinion, such graphics are not that important. In fact, a graphics-laden site will irritate many people, because the pictures can take a long time to download over a slow connection.

Remember, most people who use the Web are looking for information, not pictures. Strive to make your Web site easy to read, well-organized, and pleasant to look at. There is no need to make your Web pages look like an avant-garde magazine (unless you are an avant-garde magazine).

Here are some practical guidelines. First, follow your heart and your passions. Use your Web site to develop and share information about the areas of life that are important and interesting to you. Your goal should be to attract the right people to your site: the people who care about the same things as you.

There are too many Web sites out there that have nothing to say. How much time do you spend looking at other peoples' family photos and personal information?

As one of my readers, I know you are a melting pot of intelligence, creativity, imagination and good taste. Let your Web site celebrate what is special about you: share your interests and your expertise with the world.

The next guideline has to do with how you organize your Web site. Build a home page that acts as a central gateway for the whole site. This home page will often be the first thing people see when they visit your site, so choose a simple title that shows the theme of your site. Make sure this page has links to all the major features of your site, to make it easy for people to find what they want.

Remember, though, there is no way to force people to use the home page to enter your site. For example, someone might find your site via a search engine, and there is no guarantee that the search engine will point to your home page. It is altogether possible that people will jump right into the middle of the site.

For this reason, you should design your pages so that people can navigate through the entire site from any one of the pages. To do so, put some navigation aids on every page. For example, you might use a set of links at the top or bottom of the page. The links should point to the home page, as well as the other major features of your site. The goal is that, no matter where someone starts, he or she should be able to get to your home page with a single click.

I won't go on and on about Web page design. I have faith that, with a bit of practice, you will be able to create an interesting, well-organized Web site. However, I do want to offer one last piece of advice. There are a number of design techniques I want you to avoid — things that do not work well on the Web:

Blinking, Animation: It is possible to make words blink off and on. Similarly, it is possible to make animated pictures. Do not do so. Anything that blinks, flashes or changes will keep catching the eye of your reader and irritate him.

Backgrounds: Avoid bright or complex backgrounds for your pages. Use a simple, low-contrast background. Otherwise, your pages will be too hard to read, and people will just skip them.

Music: Never make your Web site play music automatically: it is too annoying. If you want to put music on your pages, set it up so the visitor must click on a button to start the music.

New browser windows: Do not design your page so that clicking on a link creates a new browser window When you create a new window automatically, it forces your visitor to close the window later, which is a bother. If someone wants a new browser window, he can create one himself whenever he wants by pressing the Ctrl-N key.

Frames: If you use frames on your Web site, make sure that a visitor who follows a link to another Web site will not find himself trapped in one of your frames. You do not need to make it convenient for people to return after leaving your site. If someone wants to return, he can click on the Back button.

Testing: It is important to test your Web pages after you upload them to the Web server. Do not assume your pages work properly just because they worked on your computer. You must test them on the server.

Links: If you link to other sites from your Web pages, test the links regularly (at least every month) to make sure they still work.

Under construction: Finally, never, ever use a notice that says your Web site is "under construction". All good Web sites are always under construction. The metaphor was cute for a short time in 1994, and that time has long since passed. If your Web site is not ready, do not show it to people. If your Web site is ready, it is not necessary to advertise that you will be improving the pages from time to time.

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Finding a Server to Host Your Web Site

In order to have a Web site, you need to arrange for the use of a Web server that is connected to the Internet. Once you upload your Web pages to such a server, they will be available to anyone on the Net. When someone provides this service for you, we say that they HOST your Web site.

When you look for a Web site host, you want a server that runs 24 hours a day and has a high- speed Internet connection. However, there is no reason why your Web site needs to be on a computer near you. A Web site can be hosted anywhere on the Internet, even in another country.

There are a great many Web site hosting services on the Internet, so you have a lot of choice. Start your search by checking with your ISP (Internet service provider). Many ISPs offer free or low-cost Web hosting to their customers.

If your ISP does not provide this service — or you want more choice — you can turn to one of the commercial providers. Some commercial providers charge money, others offer Web hosting for free.

Now, free sounds like a good deal, but I want you to think twice before you sign up. These services are free because they subject your visitors to a lot of advertising. Most likely, the Web hosting service will put ads on your Web pages, and there is nothing you can do about it. In many cases, there will be animated ads and pop-up ads, which are particularly obnoxious.

(A POP-UP AD is an advertisement that appears in a window of its own. In order to get rid of a pop-up ad, you have to stop what you are doing and close the window manually.)

Some people say, "Well, what's so bad about a few advertisements? Isn't it worth it if I can have my Web site hosted for free?" My opinion is, no. Remember, you are not the one who has to look at the ads. The people who visit your Web site are the ones being imposed upon. If you want to attract people to your site, you should make it as pleasant as possible.

Suppose some company were to offer you free telephone service with the condition that every time someone called you, that person would have to listen to a short commercial before they could connect to your phone. Would you agree to such a service? I hope not. All it would do is irritate everyone who called you. So, think twice before you subject your Web visitors to a similar imposition.

Moreover, there is another potential consideration. Before you are allowed to create a free Web site, you must agree to certain limitations. These limitations are buried in legal fine print, and many people don't bother to read them. However, they are important. Some of the companies that provide "free" Web hosting assert that they own the rights to whatever you put on your Web site, including all the content. In other words, after spending many hours creating your own Web site, you may discover that it does not belong to you.

Finally, you need to ask yourself, how can a company stay in business if it is giving away Web hosting services for free? One answer is that the company can make money on ads. However, in many cases, this is not enough. The sad truth is that many free Web hosting companies have gone out of business, often without warning. When this happens, all the "customers" lose their Web sites. This is why, in all of my books, I don't use any Internet resources that are hosted on free Web servers. Such sites just aren't stable enough (and there are too many ads).

The Web hosting business is extremely competitive, and it is not hard to find such services at a reasonable price. However, like many other services on the Internet, you get what you pay for. If you are creating a Web site for a business, don't even think about using a free service. You need the support (and the ad-free environment) of a regular commercial provider.

When you investigate Web hosting services, look for the following:

Price: Get a flat rate, so you know what you will be paying. Many Web hosting services have different plans. Check how the prices will change if you need to move from one plan to another.

Disk space: How much disk space will you get to store your files? How much does it cost for extra space should you need it?

Connectivity: Does the provider have reliable high-speed access? To find out for yourself, connect to several Web sites hosted by the same provider and see how fast they load. Be sure to try this experiment at different times of the day, as the demand can vary: almost everything looks fast in the middle of the night.

Technical support: When you have a problem, it is important to be able to reach a live person. Is such support available? What are the hours? Realistically, you can't expect anyone to spend a lot of time helping you design a Web page. However, you should be able to get assistance if you have a logistical problem, such as trouble sending files to their Web server.

Frontpage support: One of the most popular Web page editors is Microsoft's Frontpage. (See the discussion on Web page editors earlier in the chapter.) Some Web hosting services use Web servers that have special built-in support for Frontpage. These services are referred to as "Frontpage Extensions". If you use Frontpage for your Web page editor, find a hosting service that offers such support.

If you have a business (or if you are an extra- cool person), you may want to get your own domain name to use with your Web site. For example, here is a typical Web site address you might have with an ISP:

http://www.undependable.com/users/harley

With your own domain name, you can use an address like:

http://www.harley.com/

If this is important to you, you need to find a Web hosting company that supports personalized domain names. (This service may cost extra.) For more information about getting your own domain name, see Chapter 16.

To investigate free Web hosting services, check out the resources below. To find regular pay-for-service companies, use a search engine to look for "Web hosting". You will find a lot of choices. (I discuss search engines in Chapter 11.)

— hint —

Many schools provide free Web site hosting for their students.

Remember, though, your Web site will only be available while you are at the school. When you leave, you will have to find another host. If you want a permanent place for your Web site, you should use a commercial provider.

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Promoting Your Web Site

Once your Web site is ready, it is only natural to want to share it with other people. Indeed, one of the most common questions people ask me is, "How can I promote my Web site."

The answer is, there is no simple way to draw large amounts of people to your Web site. One suggestion is to get your site listed with various search engines (see Chapter 11). Many search engines have a form you can fill out to submit your Web site for inclusion in their database. Another idea is to register your Web site as part of a Web ring (also described in Chapter 11).

In addition, here are some tools that can help you find good ways to promote your Web site.

— hint —

If you want people to visit your Web site, provide something for free that is valuable.

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