Consider This . . .
Your Own Web Site
So, you think you would like to create
your own web site and you have limited talents and financial resources?
There are a few procedures or steps that are required for the
simplest to the most complex web sites. Clearly the first step
is the most important. You should define the purpose of the site:
personal, community, professional association, service club, hobby
or business. Then, secure a domain name which embodies that purpose
or name. Browse the internet and check out how others might have
organized similar sites. I find this is a great source of hype-links
you might choose to add to your site later in the process or for
providing a comparison to your own site later.
There are many companies on the internet, such as www.
networksolutions.com or www.register.com
or their licensed affiliates that will assist you with the name
selection procedure. All these sites have domain name search features
which will return derivations of the name you are searching for
as well as indicate whether the name has been taken and with what
extension it has been associated. The good news is that you may
choose any one of several extensions, although most sites will
choose from the generic extensions, such as .com, .net or .org.
I discovered recently that a name that I wanted had been taken.
But I was offered an option to reserve the name for use in the
future, should the current owner ever fail to pay his annual licensing
fee. Most people don't realize that you rent the naming rights
for an annual fee of $15 to $30 per year. This cost can be avoided
if you create and maintain a web site as part of your subscription
to an ISP (Internet Service Provider).
With your name secured, the second order of business is to find
a DNS (Domain Name Server) or hosting service, assuming you have
not chosen to operate through one of the ISP's referred to earlier.
A quick search of the Internet will yield hundreds of DNS companies.
A few hosting services, like Tripod, Geocities and Fortune City,
are free, but their services do come with some costs, such as
banner ads and other minor distractions to you and the ultimate
user. The lower cost host servers minus distractions like,
are good representations of the $5 to $25 per month host companies.
A host company is nothing more than a computer company online
24/7 that rents computer file storage space and access time for
you and all the other people you hope will visit your site and
view your shared knowledge. This phase of the process can be accomplished
with little human interaction. I would recommend, however, that
you discuss your site and future plans with the technical folks
at the DNS so that any optional features you might want can be
installed at the beginning-if they are not part of the standard
package configuration. Microsoft Front Page and Adobe 5.0 users
will require certain files or file extensions to be on the server
before some applications, like forms, can be accessed by the users
of the site. These are issues that can be resolved with a simple
inquiry if it is not obvious on the site registration page of
With more people accessing the Internet by cable or DSL connections,
routine file sizes have grown and other file items, like streaming
video, are common place.
The result of this increase in access speed is that the beginning
designer can be less concerned about an efficient layout of the
site, which translates to file size, and concentrate more on the
content and mapping of the site for the ultimate user. There is
a coding language referred to as HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)
which is bedrock to this process. Fear not! If you have any of
the newer Microsoft products, one of the "Save As" options will
allow you to save your document as an "HTML" file. This feature
allows you to create any document in Word, Excel or Power Point,
and then instantly turn your creation into an Internet-ready document,
with or without graphics, that can be instantly accessible to
Internet users after you have stored or uploaded the file to your
Internet space with your DNS. If you choose one of the ISPs to
do this part of the work, your creative work will have been done
on their site. This means that the minute you save your work,
you have stored those files on the host service and they are instantly
available to anyone who knows the address of those files. If you
have chosen a DNS host, the process is slightly more involved.
You must upload your new files to the server using an FTP (File
Transfer Protocol) program. This process is quite simple. There
are many FTP programs around. I use the FTP Voyager sold at Rhinosoft.com,
but there is a built-in FTP program in Microsoft Front Page, if
you created your pages with this product.
There is a large number of books covering every step of the process
I have touched on in this brief overview. There are also Front
Page courses available locally through Anne Arundel Community
College. The bad news is that this final creative section is like
the proverbial peanuts. You start, you can't quit and it seems
you never finish. As many times as I look at my creations, I always
see ways to change a page or add a graphic. Like me, you will
begin to see other sites that you might like to pattern yours
after. This is easier than you think and particularly so if you
begin to see and understand the HTML language. Your learning curve
will be enhanced rapidly by using the "view source code" or "save
picture" options from the browser menu. I consider these two options
my own online tutorial. You have heard it said that a picture
is worth 10,000 words. Change that to 10,000 HTML characters.
Be cautious with your use of these features since you may be taking
copyrighted materials. By all means, enjoy yourself and don't
forget you can start over at anytime---but make a backup first!
If you have comments or suggestions, or have an idea for a future
computer or business topic, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimmy R. Hammond, CPA, is a resident of Annapolis and a consultant to businesses in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington D.C.