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To find things and browse the internet, you don't need to know much about how it works. But if you're designing or developing a website, you might find it challenging.

With your own website, anyone with a browser and a connection to the internet can find the web pages you publish. Your site can be an advertisement for you or your organization. It can be an on-line newsletter, a catalog of goods or services, a customer support vehicle, or an employee or sales management system for remote offices. Think of what you're doing via brochures, catalogs, faxes, and forms, and chances are you can do a lot of it more efficiently over the internet, and the World Wide Web, in particular. But what's the Web?

Many professionals actually build pages - or at least fine-tune them - by typing in and editing the code directly. This requires knowledge and skills that you might not have. Using the right tools, you don't have to have this knowledge or skills.

Microsoft Word, for example, lets you save your documents as HTML-based Web pages—that's what I first used to build my own Web site. This way of working is called WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML authoring: You design a document on screen so it looks like what you want. The program you're using then generates the necessary HTML to create a Web page that a Web browser such as Navigator 4 or Internet Explorer 4 can display in full glory.

In addition to Microsoft Word's HTML features, Microsoft Publisher, Adobe PageMaker, and many others convert documents to HTML. Navigator 4 includes a Web-authoring program, Netscape Composer, and Internet Explorer 4 bundles one called FrontPage Express. Both of these are great places to start to help you build nicely designed pages.

Once you get beyond a few pages though, you need a site building system that also helps you view and maintain all the hyperlinks between pages and the links to graphics files included in those pages. When you start wanting a professional-looking site with well-integrated graphic themes that look consistent from page to page, NetObjects Fusion for Mac or Windows will get you there with the least wear and tear.

It provides very accurate layout control and also gets you into advanced techniques such as dynamic HTML and other stuff should you later want to go all the way. Note that Netscape's Publishing Suite Edition bundles Netscape Communicator 4.0 with NetObjects Fusion PE (based on NetObjects Fusion 2.0), Jasc Paint Shop Pro 5.0, and other great programs.

Building a site

A Web site is really a series of HTML-based Web pages linked together by hyperlinks which can be linked. In that regard, a Web site is really more like a CD-ROM multimedia title than a book or magazine. So start forgetting about Web "pages" in terms of the printed page. Think function: How will you design and link the pages to give folks the easiest and clearest access to the information you intend your site to serve up.

Design it

Web site design is a big challenge: You're designing pages, and you're designing the way the pages link together. But folks won't go through the pages of your site in any particular order. Not only that, but keeping the page design consistent is a monster task because you want all pages to fit your color and graphic scheme—tough when they're spread all over. Plus, you need to see at a glance how all the pages are linked, with a map view, preferably. Fortunately, NetObjects Fusion is tops in both these areas, an important combination.

This visual and functional design work takes time, which is why you build your site off-line, on your local hard disk or network server. As different staff members provide the raw text and graphics content, you need time to get everything formatted and linked correctly.

Test it

Does you final site design work? You've got to test it! If clicking a button for a hyperlink to another page produces a browser error message, you've got a link that doesn't match up. You've got to fix any broken links, and test again! With NetObjects Fusion, you never have to have broken links again, ever.

Post it!

With the kinks in links ironed out, it's time to load the HTML pages—and the linked graphics files—onto the actual Web server computer that puts your Web site on the Internet—your Web warehouse.

You'll post your site right from your computer by dialing into your ISP's Web server using some special software. The software opens what's called an FTP (File Transfer Protocol, another Internet special service) session, which opens a data pipe to the actual hard drive on the server. You simply copy your Web page files onto the server hard drive subdirectory reserved for you—your ISP provides you all the server and directory name detail you'll need.

Note that Netscape Composer, NetObjects Fusion, and most other Web authoring programs include "Wizards" or other utilities that will gather up all of your site's Web files and automatically log on to the Web server and transfer your files, making sure all the file links work on the server.

If you need a separate FTP program, try FTP Explorer, a shareware program you can download at http://www.ftpx.com . It's an easy-to-use program that lets you drag folders and files from Windows right onto your Web server.

So that's it. Now you know how the Web works (well, basically) and what a Web site is, what you need to know to get started. It's an exciting moment as you log onto your first Web site for the first time, knowing it's now available to folks around the world. So get started already!
 

 

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