(originally published in The
Jerusalem Post, December 2002)
DIY Web Sites
CAN ANYONE MAKE HIS OWN SITE?
Yes! A Web site can be built by anyone with a computer
and willingness to learn. All the tools you need are available
online -- some for a nominal cost, others completely free.
However, since the choice is so great, trying out
all the various options is impossible. This article will
outline one simple, inexpensive route to designing and publishing
a basic site. You can use it as a jumping-off point and then
To make things even easier, I've prepared a template and
some graphics that you can download and experiment with,
plus a list of useful links, including those mentioned in
this article. You can find all these tools here.
WHAT DO I NEED TO GET STARTED?
There are five basic components:
- A connection to the Internet.
- Content. Define what your site will
be about, draw up an outline -- including how the pages
will link to one another -- and collect the text and pictures
you want to use.
- HTML editor. This is a program that
will help transform your text into a format that displays
well on the Web. A WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
format is easiest for beginners to use. The program will
work behind the scenes, writing the code needed to design
the page layouts and style the text. One of the best free
editors is Composer, which comes bundled with the Netscape
or Mozilla browser. (Even if you already have an early
version of Netscape installed, it's worthwhile to upgrade
Tip: print out the relevant page from the Help
file for easy reference as you build your site.
- Photo editor. Whether scanned or from
a digital camera, photos require some processing to make
This program also serves as an illustration tool, enabling
you to create buttons, graphic page headers, backgrounds,
- Enhance the images by removing
red-eye, and correcting exposure, contrast, color-balance,
- Optimize photos by reducing
file size, for faster downloads. This program also
serves as an illustration tool, enabling you to create
buttons, graphic page headers, backgrounds, etc.
Tip: Although Microsoft software packages include
rudimentary photo-editing programs, if you plan on doing
a considerable amount of this sort of work, you'll get
better results from a program such as Photoshop Elements
(Download a free
trial version). This program is not free, but is an
excellent value, with powerful features usually found only
in high-end software.
- Host. This is the computer that will
store your files and make them available to Web surfers.
One sturdy, still free, host is Yahoo!Geocities. The "price" for
this service is that your site pages will be accompanied
by popup ads. Sign up here .
Tip: This free account includes access to lots
of lessons, add-on components, and even built-in HTML editing
capabilities. Just one caution: don't rush to upgrade to
paid hosting from Yahoo!Geocities, until you've compared
their package with other hosting options. (This topic will
be discussed further in an upcoming article.)
OKAY, I'VE GOT EVERYTHING COLLECTED AND INSTALLED. BUT
I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO START!
Go on a Field Trip, surfing the Web to find sites that
are similar in one way or another to what you want to accomplish,
and save some of those pages to your hard drive. Then open
them in your HTML editor and study how they're constructed.
Start with fairly simple layouts.
Now that you have some idea of what you want to achieve,
open "My Documents" and make a new folder called "My
Site" (File --> New --> Folder). This is where
you will save all your site files. Within this folder, make
another folder and name this one "images"; here
you'll place all photos and illustrations. Open your HTML
editor and start building the home page. Save it as "index.html" in
the folder "My Site". This page should include
basic information about the site and links to the other pages
that you'll be creating.
Tip: After you've completed this first page, you
can use it as a template for the other pages; just save it
under a new name for each page and replace the text and images.
BUT SO FAR THIS IS JUST TEXT AND SOME PHOTOS. HOW CAN
I MAKE MY SITE LOOK COOL?
There are lots of freebies that can jazz up the look of
- Check out the Add-Ons at
Yahoo!Geocities: arrows, bullets, button, icons, lines,
clip art -- all are available with simple copy-and-paste.
- Want animations? Try the Flaming
Text site -- countless variations are made for you
- Some excellent photos are available from FreeStockPhotos.com.
- Do you want to use new and unusual fonts? Start collecting
- which can become highly addictive! -- at About.com 's
Tip: When adding special effects to a web page,
a little can go a long way. You may want your visitors to
say "Wow!" But you don't want them to say, "Wow,
where's the aspirin?"
ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO KNOW?
On the Web, there's a wealth of freely given instruction
and resources for you to use. However, even if your site
is noncommercial, be aware of and respect copyright laws.
While nearly all Internet content can be easily copied, such
copying often constitutes intellectual theft. Sites that
permit reuse of their images and code say so explicitly in
MY SITE'S FINISHED AND LOOKS FINE ON MY COMPUTER. HOW
DO I GET IT ON THE WEB?
Upload the files to your host - using either the "Publish" directions
in Netscape Composer, or via the "File Manager" tool
And that's really all there is to the process! Take your
time, check your work in your browser to make sure it's displaying
as you intend, but above all relax and have fun building
your site. After all, nothing on the Web is irrevocable.
Even after it's published, you can continue to change your
site at will.
Now all that's left is to send the link to your family
Do you have any questions? Contact
me and I'll try to answer them in upcoming articles. Also,
you may subscribe for
free to the AtarTec newsletter, which consists of new
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estimate for your web site project.