At the end of August (1998), S.A.A.M.E. (the “South Australian Association for Media Eduction,” otherwise referred to as if they were called “Sammy,” which is much easier to say) held a conference about various forms of media (primarily aimed at media studies teachers), and I was invited to give a workshop on making web pages (other workshops covered digital editing, animation, and there were talks about future media directions).
Some of the participants in my workshop asked me to provide some material for them to take back with them to help them make web pages. It looked like it might take a while before any information on paper filters back to them, so I put some notes here, as well as some references to other places with useful information.
I made a quick HTML & web page creation guide for the conference, and I've included information from it, here. It needs more work on it though, it was written as notes to go along with a lesson; and it's more of an introduction to the process, than anything else. It'll also have a fair bit of advocacy for doing things right, as it takes a lot of convincing to stop people doing dumb things. Even people who've been annoyed by websites that don't work, commonly do more of the same thing (make yet another badly authored site); it's something to be ashamed of, not excused.
I also have various friends who've expressed an interest in making their own websites (or who've asked me to do it for them), and this guide should give them some understanding of the task, as well as some instructions on producing a simple website. Either for themselves, or to aid them in supplying me with suitable information to produce one for them.
It covers the concepts, before the actual application. Which I feel is important, and is the best way to actually learn what you're doing, and to be able to work out how to deal with a situation. It's fairly technical, though; as it's a technical subject. To approach it any other way, would be ignoring what the task is all about; and you really should know the background information. If you're not interested in technical things, then you really have to ask yourself why you're playing with computers, and want to do something technical with them (like writing webpages). Particularly as authoring for the WWW involves knowing about more than just your own computing environment; to do it well, you have to understand the alternatives that'll be used by different people.
While reading the introductory pages, pay more attention to the explanations of the concepts, and learning the concepts, than learning the code examples. Later on, the pages that cover writing HTML, will concentrate more on the technicalities of writing the HTML.
This guide will show you the concepts behind making a simple website, and how to do so correctly. To make a complex website really requires you to learn (and understand) what you're doing, which means learning much more technical details. For that, you're much better off to go straight to the source (the HTML specifications). Merely copying things from some website, by rote, isn't going to “teach” you how to do it, and you're quite likely to copy someone's bad habits, mistake their technique as the authoritative definition of how to do something, or be unable to “work out” for yourself how to do something in particular.
If you're interested in finding out the proper specifications for HTML, and/or making a complex website, then the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) web site is the place to check out <http://www.w3.org/>, and the Web Design Group's (WDG) “HTML help” website is a good source of information <http://www.htmlhelp.org/>, while being less technical (the W3C is aimed more at publicising technical information, and the WDG is more of a user guide).
The internet was designed to be usable on any computer type, anywhere. So when you're making web pages, avoid doing things that limit its use to people with the same equipment as yourself, or requires them to have all sorts of gizmos to use the web page that aren't really necessary, or changes the way their browser looks so that it's unfamiliar and untuitive to use. Also remember that not everyone browses the internet with a graphical browser; so, unless your site is a graphical art site, always make sure that the essential content of your pages is text. Search engines can only really assess the content of the text, so if you want to be indexed, you'll need your content as text (remember, one of the most common ways people find a website, is through a search engine).
One of my pet hates (and many other people's too) are pages that take an age to load because they are full of large graphical files. Other annoyances are sites with masses of cookies (or any cookies, at all, that aren't really needed), and sites that don't work on other browsers. While you may think it's not that important to worry about what someone else thinks about your site, you won't get return visitors nor recommendations, if the site is painful to use; and it's pretty common to receive e-mails nitpicking everything that you did (considering that you'll be publishing world wide, that could be a lot of mail).
Publishing for the WWW, is publishing data that may be used in a wide variety of different ways, there's no good reason why someone should have to use a particular browser to look at any particular website. There's also plenty of good reasons why people can't look at websites with another browser, or change the settings of their browser to suit you (e.g. they don't have another browser, don't want to spend ages getting it, can't get it, or aren't allowed to adjust the computer that they're using, and so on). Contrary to popular misbelief, everybody does not have Internet Explorer, nor uses Windows computers, nor do Microsoft set the standards that the internet works on (it'd never work, if they had that power). If you find that a problem, then that's your problem, not the person trying to use your website.
Always remember, that if there's a problem with using a site, it's not a problem with how it's viewed, but in how it was authored. There's very little point in publishing something, if you make it difficult for people to read it.