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Web design, Part 2
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology 
Simple gray rule

Web design, Part 2: What you must do in 5 easy tips
 

Bit Player for Jan. 19, 1997
This is an expanded version of the column that appears in print.

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1997, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers

Creating a Web page is a piece of cake. A piece of Web Wizard cake, actually.

Web Wizard is a no-brainer program for Windows (with two versions for the old and new Windows) that asks you to fill in the blanks and then creates a Web page that looks like—well, that looks like some no-brainer program created it for you.

Web Wizard makes a page in about a minute. The page looks neat and orderly, and all the code works, but once you've created a few pages with Web Wizard (get it at http://www.halcyon.com/webwizard/) you're ready for the real thing—digging into your own HTML code.

Did I hear an "ouch!" out there? Don't fret! Hypertext markup language is remarkably simple, at least in its standard form. We'll stay away from the complications in the newest flavors of HTML for now, concentrating on tricks you can use in regular HTML.

First, get a real HTML editor. There are dozens of good ones waiting for you to grab them off the Internet. I don't write HTML on a Mac, so I'm not able to suggest a Mac editor, but I'm a lunatic, raving with glee, about one program in particular among all the many Windows 95 HTML editors.

It's HomeSite, which you can download and try without charge. (Get it from http://www.dexnet.com/homesite.html.) It's a sophisticated program that makes good use of the extra features in Windows 95. It knows how to use Microsoft's Internet Explorer as its internal browser (and can just as readily use the latest Netscape as a helper browser) and can automatically send your pages and images up to your Web site. It can even do all the coding for every HTML feature—including all the latest kinds of animations and banners. I paid $25 for HomeSite, but the price is now $40—still a bargain.

I've come to rely on five basic tricks of Web page design. I'll mention them briefly this week and explain them in more detail next week.

I use all of these tricks in my own Web pages at http://www.dreamscape.com/afasoldt/, so drop by my site and see for yourself how they work.

Never use images when text will do the same basic thing. Images take time to load; text comes across fast. (If you think I'm trying to get you to create dull, no-graphics pages, you'd better jump to my Web pages right now, and make sure you tune in next week.)

Always use a splash of color at a specific and repeated spot on your pages, to help give them a unified look.

Never print normal text in any color. Use black-and-white only (or leave out any color tags entirely for normal body text.)

Always place a menu at the same spot in all your pages, so that visitors know how to get from one of your pages to another.

Always place something at the bottom of each Web page so that visitors know when they've reached the bottom of the page. (This sounds really dumb, but ask yourself how many times you've wondered what happened when you reached the bottom of a long page without any reference point.) What you should place there is either a link back to your home page or a link to the next page in a series, along with a mandatory link that lets visitors send you e-mail.

We'll see why these five techniques are important next week.


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