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How to Make a Home Page

Introduction
Tools to Create Your Web
Finding a Host for your Web Site
Web Design
Advanced Techniques

Introduction

        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 same thing.

        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:

bulletDomain Hosting
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.
bulletFrontPage98 support
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.
bulletFlexible Email
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 mcrae@mcraeclan.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 sales@mcraeclan.com and service@mcraeclan.com.  Also, any other email that's not a defined email address, such as idiot@mcraeclan.com is forwarded to a single central email account so I won't miss any email.
bulletDisk Storage
Ten megs is probably enough, and if additional megabytes are fairly cheap (e.g. 20 cents a meg) then this is good.
bulletData Transfer
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.
bulletDatabase Access
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).
bulletSecurity
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.
bulletSubwebs
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.

 

Tools to Create Your Web

 

Microsoft Front Page 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

 

InterNIC If you need a new domain name, you'll need to use the WhoIs function on the

Microsoft Front Page 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 Logo 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.

 

Web Design

 

What Makes
a
Good
Home Page
Advice from one home-page designer.

Tri Star Web, the WebMasters ChoiceWeb Design List: A list of advertisements for web designers.

 

Advanced Techniques

 

W3C -- the World Wide Web Consortium  is
"World
    Wide
        Web Consortium",
get it?
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".

 

The Bare Bones Guide to HTML, by Werbach.Com 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 specification.

 

Web Traffic Tracking:

Extreme TrackingExtreme 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 through advertising.

Pagecount (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).
Unlimited Hits!!!

Solution Scripts -- Enhancing the Web with CGI"Webmasters, 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."