Tools to Create Your Web
Finding a Host for your Web Site
Creating a web site is easier than you might
think. If you've used a text editor such as Microsoft Word, then you can practically
type your whole web site into the computer using commands you'll find familiar. Then
there are a few extra things you'll need to do, such as linking your pages together, but
you can do that by dragging and dropping them.
The tool I used to create this web site is
Microsoft FrontPage. If you use the Microsoft "Office" suite of desktop
software, then you'll find FrontPage very easy to learn and use. It comes with a
"personal web server" that lets you store your web on your own PC, and then
serves the pages to your browser (either Netscape or Microsoft) just as your
"host" will (see next paragraph for more about hosts). It might be helpful
for you to understand that FrontPage maintains all information about your web in the
web itself. In other words, there is no distinction between "source
code" and "executable code" for your web. Whatever you create using
FrontPage is stored directly into the web you're creating. If you don't want people
to be able to browse a half-finished web as you're creating it, then you should have a
"test version" and a "production version" of your web. Whenever
you want, you can copy the entire "test version" of your web onto (overlaying)
the "production version". FrontPage is smart enough to copy just the
changed pages (unless you ask it to copy the whole thing). FrontPage uses the word
"publish" to mean copy, so don't be confused -- publish and copy are exactly the
After you create your web site, you'll need
to find a "host" for it -- that is, a computer that is always connected to the
internet that will store your web site, and respond to requests from anyone in the world
with a browser. If you understand the difference between an "internet service
provider" and a "web hosting service" then skip to the next paragraph.
If not, here it is: the former is the on-ramp and the latter is the off-ramp of the
information superhighway. The Internet Service Provider connects surfers to the
Internet. The Web Hosting Service connects Web Sites to the Internet. Often,
the same company provides both services. But there's no need to use the same company
for both services -- you should shop around and choose the best provider for each service.
Also, pick a web hosting company that offers POP3 email accounts. Then you
can have your web site and email all part of the same domain, which will be less confusing
to people who want to reach you. Also, and perhaps this is more important: if you
ever become dissatisfied with your Internet Service Provider, you can change without
changing your email address. Similarly, if you become dissatisfied with your hosting
company, you can move your domain name over to a new hosting company without changing
domain name or email address.
I did a pretty thorough search for hosts
that support webs created by FrontPage in March, 1998. At that time, I found that
the least expensive hosts charged start-up fees ranging from zero to $35, and charged
monthly fees as low as $10. Some cut-rate hosts offered 5 megabytes of disk storage
while others offered as much as 50 megabytes. Additional megabytes of storage ranged
from 20 cents to $2. Some hosts limit the amount of data transfer. Of all the
low-cost hosting services, SoftCom Canada (now to myhosting.com)
had the least restrictions, so I chose them. This brings up another point. I'm in California, so it makes sense that my
Internet Service Provider should be a local company. The hosting company, on the other hand, can be
anywhere in the world that has fast access to the Internet. So the fact my host is
in another country doesn't bother me. (Except that all time-stamps generated by the
host server are in Eastern time, but I can live with that!)
Features that were important to me included:
This means I can register my own domain, which is assigned a static IP address. Some
companies offer "Virtual Domain Hosting" which means many web sites will share a
single IP address. Modern browsers put the domain name in the HTTP header, which the
host server uses to distinguish which of the web sites the user intended to access, so
Virtual Domain Hosting would have been OK for me. Note: to register a domain, you'll
need to pay $70 for the first two years to Network
Solutions and possibly a one-time start-up fee to your hosting company.
There are some features that can be incorporated into a web site developed using FrontPage
that require special programs to run at the host's server. For these features to
work properly, the host must have FrontPage98 extensions loaded in their server. Be
sure to ask for FrontPage98, not just FrontPage, because there was a FrontPage97 that was
different, and does not support all FrontPage98 features.
I hate to do this to you, but I'll need to define some terms. POP3 means
inbound email, i.e. email that I can receive from anyone in the world. SMTP on the
other hand means outbound email, i.e. email that I can send to anyone in the world.
It would be nice if your host provided both POP3 (inbound) and SMTP (outbound).
Some hosts provide just a single POP3 email address, such as email@example.com. SoftCom Canada offers
your own POP3 mail server and a bunch of unique email accounts, each with their own
password so several different people can handle the incoming email, such as firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Also, any other email
that's not a defined email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org
is forwarded to a single central email account so I won't miss any email.
Ten megs is probably enough, and if additional megabytes are fairly cheap (e.g. 20 cents a
meg) then this is good.
Not a major concern, because I don't expect this site to be too popular, but having high
limits (like a few gigabytes per month) or no limits is good.
Frontpage98 supports two forms of database access: "IDC" (Internet Data
Connector) files and "Database Regions", which create "ASP" (Active
Server Pages). In either case, you will create a Microsoft Access database, copy it
to the host under your web's "CGI-BIN" directory (or any directory that allows
execution but not browsing), and then ask your hosting company to define an ODBC
connection for you. You will tell your hosting company the path to your database
(for example, CGI-BIN/database.mdb), and the name of the token by which ODBC will access
the database (for example, mydb).
Security goes hand-in-hand with database access. As soon as you have a database the
general public will be able to look at (or even update) you will find you need to create
administration panels that do updates that are too dangerous for the rest of the world to
do. So you'll need to be able to define authorized users who can access some
directories but not others. Frontpage98 offers security features that allow you to
manually grant authority to users or even allow users to add themselves to a database that
grants them authority to an area, but some web hosting companies have implemented their
own security package. My hosting company, for example, has its own security package
that doesn't allow me to write web pages that allow users to grant themselves authority --
this is a slight drawback to non-Frontpage98 security.
A subweb is a web that is in the directory hierarchy of the main web, but is treated by
Frontpage98 as an independent web. That means it can have its own theme, and it can
be published separately. You should look for a web host that allows subwebs.
My host, unfortunately, doesn't allow it. I think they disallow subwebs to
prevent people from hosting dozens of tiny sites as subwebs of their own web.
Features offered by some hosting companies
that I didn't care about include: web design services, web commerce tools such as shopping
carts, on-line credit card verification, and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) which allows
customers to feel secure in giving their card numbers over the Internet.
"Advanced techniques" is a section
at the bottom of this page that includes a more thorough examination of HTML (Hypertext
Mark-Up Language), which is the language in which every web page is written. To see
the HTML for this very page, choose View, Document Source
right now from your browser.
||FrontPage is software that lets you build and maintain your web site using
commands you're already familiar with if you use Microsoft Word and Microsoft Windows.
|Finding a Host for your Web
||If you need a new domain name, you'll need to use the WhoIs function on the
||Microsoft provides a list of "Web Hosting
Services" that support FrontPage. You'll need to pick one if you don't have
your own web server. You can view all the hosting services either by geographic
location (which makes no sense because it doesn't have to be near you) or alphabetically.
||SoftCom Canada is the "Web Hosting
Service" I use. I picked one that has low fees, and offers lots of disk space,
bandwidth, and POP3 (inbound) email.
||Advice from one home-page designer.
Design List: A list of advertisements
for web designers.
- HTML and XML Specifications
- HTML 3.2
- HTML 4.0
- XML 1.0
- XSL 1.0
|To see "behind the scenes" to the file that's actually
transmitted to the user's browser, you'll need to understand the language that represents
all the tables, images, etc.
The Internet Toolbox is one of the
many useful pages presented by Howard
Wolinsky, a newspaper reporter, in what he calls the "World Wide Wolinsky Web".
||This is an "unofficial" but very well constructed guide to
HTML. The Bare Bones Guide to HTML lists every official HTML tag in common usage,
plus the Netscape extensions. Version 3.0 of the Guide conforms to HTML 3.2; I am currently working on a
version based on the recently-approved HTML 4.0
Web Traffic Tracking:
|Extreme Tracking. With the
eXTReMe Tracker you get every advanced feature required to picture the visitors of your
website. Conveniently arranged, numbers, percentages, stats, totals and averages.
All the way up from simple counting your visitors until tracking the keywords they use to
find you. It's free! You need to have an eXTReMe Tracking logo on your web
site, and the tracking information is public. eXTReMe Tracking makes their money
| (Formerly Pagecount) claims to
be the first free traffic tracker. With Pagecount you get:
1) A cool graphical page counter that shows how many times your page has been viewed.
2) Password-protected graphical and numeric statistics that show:
- How many people viewed your page.
A breakdown of page views by date, day, and time.
A list of where the requests for your page originated.
The hostnames of the visitors! (up to 100 max).
our goal is to make your web site more interesting to get people coming back again and
again, all while saving you time and making your life easier. How?? With our pre-made cgi
scripts. Change a few variables and these scripts are ready to run."