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A Newbie’s Guide to Site Building: Part 2

A Newbie’s Guide to Site Building: Part 2

October 21, 2002
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" If your site contains only a few pages, it may be quicker to lay it out by hand in HTML. "

In my first article I told you about how important it was to plan your Web site before building it, and then we looked at some tools and techniques for laying out your new online empire, using the very newbie-friendly Microsoft FrontPage 2000 software as an example. Now we’ll become more familiar with some of these basic tools in a ‘hands on‘ environment while tackling our next challenges: adding content and publishing your site to the Web!

Entering Content and Working in FrontPage
Once you have become comfortable with the skeleton version of your site, you're ready to start plugging in your content. For a simple free site, 30 photos should suffice, and you can usually get them for free from your sponsor. Top Bucks (a ‘sponsor’) gives away CD’s full of photos and videos you can use on your site - and will even pay you for putting a banner on your site, too!

Whether you've already written something in Microsoft Word or will be writing from scratch in FrontPage, content population is very easy. Simply click on an area with text and begin typing. Just as in Word, your grammatical and spelling errors will be (politely) called to your attention.

By default, FrontPage allows you to work in the Navigation mode. This is the basic WYSIWYG approach; you're also free to work directly with the raw coding by clicking on the HTML button. The advantage of working in Navigation mode is clear: you can see your work as you work.

If your site contains only a few pages, it may be quicker to lay it out by hand in HTML. However, if your site is to include a page dedicated to each of your “models” as well as full page sponsor ads, specials, and anything else you can think of, Navigation view may then become somewhat difficult to work in, especially if you need to format any pages quite differently than the others (galleries, for example). You may become frustrated by the lack of flexibility of the linked nav bar - the function that automatically generates your site's navigational links.

The key here is to experiment: read the software’s help files if you get stuck, or buy a book to help you out - there are many titles available, and every popular piece of software will usually be covered in great detail. For instance, FrontPage has dozens of books devoted to the subject of mastering its intricacies. Become familiar with your tools - their strengths and weaknesses.

Next Steps
Now that you've got your basic site hammered out, you're probably ready to take FrontPage's other features out for a spin. If you've been working in Navigation mode, take a look at the code. This is the best way to really know your site, and it also allows you to make pinpoint adjustments. Here you can get a good sense of the use of tables for layout and structure. You can also try out the VML (Vector Markup Language) capabilities of FrontPage, which allows for the use of line art, word art, border manipulation, and other features. Once again, feel free to experiment and above all, have fun - if it isn’t fun at this point, it never will be!

Let the World In: Publishing Your Site
Just as getting a book published involves getting your manuscript to the printer, publishing your site to the Web is a process of transferring your content to the web server that will host you live. The Publish Web dialog box walks you through the process, and after the first time will report to you which files will be published. Select the files you're ready to publish (most likely all of them), right-click, and then select "Publish selected files." If you haven't yet found an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to host your site or gone through any of the domain name hoops, then try finding a decent free host to start with - some will even offer full FrontPage compatibility. You can find a list of free hosts here: http://xbiz.com/resources/hosting-free.shtml To truly harness the power of the Internet, the key is presenting fresh content.

Final Thoughts
To truly harness the power of the Internet, the key is presenting fresh content. Even if your copyright, advertising, or legal information doesn't change, your visitors will appreciate having a "last updated" date that is within the same calendar year. FrontPage also offers a number of site management features that will encourage you to keep an eye on your Web site: for instance, the program can give you an ongoing reminder of things that need updating, a number of detailed usage reports, and other custom reports that will help you to manage who's doing what, and lots of information that tells you how your visitors are interacting with your site. After all, a site is only as good as it is useful - even if it’s a porn site!

Now that you’ve built your site and posted it on the Internet, compare it to the sites that you used as examples when developing your site plan: how does your new site compare? Once you are comfortable with the basic tools and techniques needed to build a Web site, the next thing to do will be to figure out a way to attract customers and make money! Stay Tuned!


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