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    Creating Web Pages Introduction

    Before you begin...

    Planning before you start saves headaches later.

    by Alan Zisman (c) 2002; now in Czech! - nyní v češtině ~ and in Ukrainian by Anna Matesh ~ and German by Jonas Wintergalen

      Think of your purpose

      • There are many valid reasons for schools, teachers, and students to create websites.
      • Be clear of what your reasons are before you start.
      • Think about your time commitments, and what you can reasonably devote to this project
      • Think about how often you want/need to be updating your web site. Weekly? Monthly? Twice a year? Once a year? Your content may vary depending how current it needs to be kept.

      Think of your end-user

      • Most home users still access the Internet using dial-up connections (i.e. phone line and modems). Limit the size of graphics to help keep your pages speedy. (And resize graphics in a graphics program, not directly in Composer). Don't use spashy special effects unless you have a real need for them-- not just to show off.
      • Many users have their displays set to 640x480 resolution. Design your pages for this resolution-- otherwise they will be difficult to read.
      • Don't try to post scans of student writing. They are difficult to read on-screen, and take forever to display on a slow connection. Do post scaled-down scans of student artwork, with the text (if any) retyped.
      • If you want to include many pictures or a few large pictures, create small 'thumbnail' versions of the pictures, and link them to larger versions. Then the main page will display relatively quickly, and viewers can choose whether or not to wait for the larger version to display.

      Set up a structure

      • Plan and create a structured set of folders on the hard drive of a single computer. Keep up-to-date copies of everything for your website in the proper location on that computer, and when ready, upload it to your server, mirroring the folder structure.
      • Each different page should have its own folder, organized in logical groups. For instance, if you are posting your monthly PAC newsletters, create a PAC folder, and within it, folders for each month. If each class will have a page, create a folder for each class. If desired, individual students can have folders within their class's folder.

      Plan for the future

      • Plan for future years. Perhaps, make a folder with this year's dates: 2000-2001. Make all of this years contents in a series of subfolders within this main folder-- a sub-folder for each division, folders for major activities: sports, PAC, etc. Then it's easy to expand or change each year.

      Don't reinvent the wheel

      • The Weir Elementary librarian has researched educational links for elementary subject areas, and posted them on her school's website: http://weir.vsb.bc.ca/library/research.htm. Since she's done all this work, instead of trying to duplicate it, why not just post a link to her page? The Internet makes it easy to link and share information-- there's no need for each of us to repeat on another's work.

      Testing, 1, 2, 3...

      • Check all your pages on your computer. See if the graphics display properly. See if the links bring up the correct pages, both on your computer, and across the Internet. Change your video display to different screen resolutions (640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, etc) and see how your page looks. (Generally, if it works at 640x480, it will be OK at the higher resolutions-- with some blank space along the right). Check at 256 colours. Your photos will look awful-- but you probably will choose to live with this.
      • Upload your pages to your server, go online and check that all your graphics display and that the links still work. If they don't, fiddle with the links in the copy on your computer, and upload again. (Remember when you're checking again after you upload the revised version, click the Reloadbutton on your browser-- otherwise it will show you the old, un-edited version!)

      Live with it for a while...

      • Most times, we have to live with our web sites online for a while to see what works and what doesn't. Don't be surprised if you'll have lots of ideas of things you should have done. Get students, parents, teachers, and friends to try out the site and tell you what works and what they found hard to do.
      • Schedule time for a major revision. Version 2 is almost always one you're much happier with.

      For more information...

      Here are some books that I have found useful, both for detailed information on HTML, but also for giving a focus on creating Web pages that are effective and look good:
      • The Non-Designer's Web Book- 2nd Edition, by Robin Williams and John Tollett (c) 2000, Peachpit Press (US$34.99, CDN$52.50). If you only read one, pick this relatively slender, nicely designed book.
      • Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 4 in 21 Days, by Laura Lemay (c) 1999, SAMS Publishing (US$49.99, CDN$71.95) A big volume with a series of lessons.
      • Web Pages That Suck (c) 1998 and Son of Web Pages That Suck, by Vincent Flanders (c) 2002, Sybex Books (US$45.00, CDN$72.00). Learn good design by looking at bad design. Check out the website at: http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com
      • Writing for the Web, Geeks' Edition, by Crawford Killian (c) 2000, Self-Counsel Press, $21.95. Focus on making your text work on the Web.

      Web Page Creation and Maintenance:
      Before you begin- an Introduction 
      Using Netscape Composer to create web pages 
      Webpage Creation hands-on practice 
      Using Netscape Gold to create web pages
      Adding sounds and music to your webpages  new!
      Using WS_FTP to upload and maintain your web pages
      Making web animations with free tools new!
      Tricks of the trade: Extend Composer with hand coding new!


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    Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at alan@zisman.ca