Web Design Tips

by Spiletta42

Note: This article is a bit dated.


Web Design Tips

If you are new to the Internet, it might seem a bit overwhelming at first. That's certainly understandable. But what's sad is the number of people who think web design is beyond them long after they've finally figured out how their email works.

Don't be frightened of terms like 'HTML' and 'Javascript.' HTML is surprisingly easy to learn, and Javascript isn't completely incomprehensible either. JAVA and PERL might be a little daunting, but you don't need to learn those to have a website, be it for fun or profit.

HTML, or Hyper Text Markup Language, is simply a group of commands that tell a web browser what to do with the content of a page. These commands are, for the most part, fairly straightforward. You can probably guess the uses of 'CENTER' and 'BACKGROUND.' Most HTML will make perfect sense to you fairly quickly. 'BR' is the code for a line break. 'P' signals the beginning of a paragraph. Stick those in brackets and you have four easy commands.

There are hundreds of books and computer programs available to teach you HTML or hold your hand while you use it. I recommend learning the basics and coding a few simple pages right in wordpad. If you use an HTML editing program, the code itself may still seem mystical to you. If you learn enough of the code to make a page in wordpad, it will come down to earth where you can access it.

This is rather blatant advertising, but here are the five books I bought when I wanted to learn web design. Get the first book, definitely. It's cheaper than most web design programs, and it will take all of the fear out of HTML. You'll be able to design pages very competantly when you finish it.

The other four are optional. You may very well want to go into the business of web design, but you can certainly make a website without learning JAVA or PERL. When you need the functions these things allow, there are plenty of ways to obtain those functions without learning the languages.


Visual Quickstart
Guide to
HTML 4
For The World Wide Web
Elizabeth CastroHTML explained simply yet thoroughly enough to produce results. With nothing but this book and wordpad I founded the Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame.cover
Visual Quickstart
Guide to
Javascript
For The World Wide Web
Tom Negrino
Dori Smith
You really can learn Javascript. Come on, if I can anyone can!.cover
Visual Quickstart
Guide to
JAVA
For The World Wide Web
Dori SmithJAVA is a bit tougher, but it isn't magic. This is the right book to get you started.cover
Visual Quickstart
Guide to
PERL and CGI
For The World Wide Web
Elizabeth CastroIf you want to learn PERL I can't think of a better way to start.cover
Visual Quickstart
Guide to
DHTML and CSS
For The World Wide Web
Jason Cranford Teague The complete guide to stylesheets. Give your website a uniform, professional appearance.cover

Now, here are a few handy dandy tricks that add polish to any website.

Fixed Background: This makes your content appear to be floating above your background image. It's cool, and can also make a slightly loud background work behind a SMALL PORTION of text without driving away all of your traffic. (Don't use loud backgrounds behind fic or lengthy bits of text). Within the BODY tag, simply type bgproperties=fixed. That's it. To see it in action, look at this page.

Don't forget to put a title on your page. If the user has just accidentally minimized your page, they are not going to find it amongst the clutter if all they see on the task bar is 'http://sky.proho..' But if it says 'Spiletta42's Web...' they've got a shot at getting it back up on the screen.

While we're on the subject of titles, please don't title every single page on your entire site in an identical manner. I might want to save a couple of pages off your site to read later. I'm going to get annoyed if on the second one I get that "overwrite" message, especially if I'm not paying attention and hit "yes."

Stylesheets are vital. A stylesheet is nothing more than a text file saved with a .css extension. You then link each page at your site to the stylesheet. To do that, include this, between brackets of course: LINK REL=stylesheet TYPE="text/css" HREF=jc.css This goes within the head, not the body, of your webpage.

For an example, feel free to snag mine from this site and take a look. I've used class tags for multiple types of paragraphs, which makes designing a new page within the site extremely easy. Spiletta42's Stylesheet.

Please use meta tags. You'll never get a good ranking in the search engines if you don't. They are explained very nicely in the HTML book I mentioned. They are also explained very nicely at the search engine submission site named below.

Do yourself and those you visit online a great favor. Don't disable your cookies. Cookies are harmless. Really. They help computers recognize one another, and they make it possible for web counters to tell if you are a new visitor to a site. Cookies are good. They won't hurt you. They can't contain viruses. Viruses are programs. Cookies are text files. Text files cannot contain programs.

It is really cool to make your website play music. Well, it is for the first day the site is up. Then it is the most irritating sound on earth. Your visitors won't even think it's cool on the first day. Use music sparingly.

If you must make various gifs chase the cursor, please give the visitor a way to turn the thing off. If you have no idea how to make a gif chase the cursor, then good. I'm not going to be the one to tell you.

There is no javascript so clever that it should be used just to prove that you know how to do it. Javascripts, and JAVA Applets, and other oddities should only be used when you find yourself saying 'if only I could do blah, this page would work better for my visitor.' Then go someplace like dynamicdrive.com and find something that works for you. Do not go browse at dynamicdrive.com for the sheer pleasure of accumulating javascripts just to stick 'somewhere' on your site.

Whether your site is for fun or profit, start with a free webhosting service. That will give you time to learn and work out the kinks without spending any money. There are dozens of them, and most will make the ads go away as soon as they see a little green. So when you reach the point where you don't want a free hosting service, you won't actually have to move.

I strongly recommend Prohosting.

Whether your site is for fun or profit, you need to promote it somehow. Perhaps you only wanted to make a site about your cat to show to the owner of your cat's mother. Put up the site, send her an email, and you're done. But if you want real visitors for a site with real content, submit to a search engine.

Does that sound daunting? It isn't. Click on this little ad here and follow the instructions. You'll need your url (that's your site's address) and your email and your own name. If you don't know your own name, I can't help you, but then again, it doesn't really matter since they won't know if you get your name wrong anyhow.

If your site is for fun, use the free program. If you want to make a profit in the near future, or really really want lots of people to find your not for profit site, give the nice people your credit card number and you'll have plenty of hits. They'll give me a commission, so I won't complain. But the free service is just fine. It works, it will get your site out there, and you won't be out any money.

Almost any service you could need as a webmaster is available for free. If your site is a fanfiction site, or some other tribute to a television show or your favorite comic book character, you should probably stick with free services. They'll be ads involved, but who cares.

If you want to look like a polished professional, give those same services your money and the ads will disappear. The following list of sites might all be useful to you.






© Spiletta42, 2002.