If you are just getting your feet wet in Web site construction, the first big hurdle is figuring out where to start. Building a Web Site for Dummies lightens things up with humour and makes the challenge of building a site far less daunting.
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I am creating a new web site, and this time I am doing it properly. My current web site began life in the long Christmas holidays through a mixture of boredom, a desire to learn new skills and have my own space on the web where I could do as I pleased. I made it in Front Page and hosted it on freeola.net. For a first site I am quite pleased with it but now am starting to realise the limitations of a programme like Front Page. There are also other faults with my site, such as it has frames and no meta tags as I was not sure how to use them. My new site is going to be aimed at students and I am taking care and attention over this to make it a success. In my local library I found a book called "Building a Web Site for Dummies" and swiftly took it out and pored over it. It normally costs £9.99 but is a thick book with nearly 400 pages of useful content. It is also a large book in terms of size. The cover is bright yellow which is useful when like me you have hundreds of books lying around which never make their way to a book shelf. The yellow ensures I find this amongst the dead plants and discarded make up at home. There are a lot of Internet resources and advice available free of charge on the Internet but I am wary of these and prefer to use a book. This is for various reasons: - Books have no pop up advertising -You can take a book to bed, on the bus and on the toilet -You can use a book propped open whilst working on your site without having to switch between windows The For Dummies series is the number 1 selling series of computer related books at an introductory level and this is for many reasons. -They avoid complicated jargon and use a lighthearted style -The books are easy to navigate and to find what you are looking for -The books contain interesting facts and cartoons - They come with CD ROMS with lots of resources. There are "For Dummies" books written on everyt
hing from gardening to Pilate?s right through a wide range of computing topics. If you are interested, have a look at the dummies website at www.dummies.com where you can view their bookshop and find out about the success of the dummies series. -Who is This Book For? - This is NOT for people with absolutely no experience of the Internet and creating web pages/sites. The introduction explains that you need to be able to "put together something that opens in a web browser and to upload it to your website". However, this book is equally NOT for expert web designers. I found it pitched pretty well at my level- I know the basics of HTML and understand the Internet fairly well but struggle with complicated code and technical what not. Some parts of the book I already knew (such as the basic HTML and some of the Java) but others I had no idea about (meta tags and making money from your site). If you already have your own site, like me, but want to improve it and make it something you are really proud of, or if you have never made a site but have played about with a web page creation package (like Front Page or HomeSite) and want to actually do something with it, this is the book for you. -~-~-~Organisation-~-~-~-~-~ At the front of the book there is a table of contents, which clearly sets out the parts of the book so you can go straight to the information you want. There are 7 parts to the book in total each of which contain chapters. The chapters are divided up further with sub titles. The table of contents has all of the part titles in italics, the chapter titles in bold and all of the smaller sections in normal type, all of which have page references, The table of contents takes up 8 pages in total which gives you some idea of the huge content within this book. Although this sounds complicated, it is very easy to use and well set out. I think for a book on website design and construction it is important to have a clear l
ayout and not just big blocks of text. On a typical page in the book, there is a subheading in bold describing what the section explains. There are lots of diagrams and pictures throughout the book, which are all well chosen and help to explain the words. This is especially helpful when being taken through a process such as signing up with a search engine. A series of pictures of screenshots show what you should be doing on your screen, ensuring you do not make mistakes. There are certain icons used in the book which are circles with pictures in, eg for a useful tip, there is a dart board with a large arrow in the bullseye. For a warning (where there is something you need to be very careful of making a mistake) there is a bomb. You get the idea, they are simple pictures which indicate where there is something important, or if something is contained on the CD ROM or a tip. These are good visual clues dotted throughout the book to make it even easier to use. People that use the internet a lot are very receptive to visual icons and I found these pictures very appropriate. If the table of chapters is not enough for you, there is also an alphabetical index at the back of the book. At the beginning of each part, there is an amusing cartoon related to the content of that section. This livens up a not very exciting subject! -~-~-~-~Content-~-~-~-~-~-~ This book has taught me some very useful and interesting things. Not only does it teach the reader technical essentials, explaining how things work and giving code and links, but it also discusses more general internet related issues. This includes topics such as "Tapping Creativity" where the writers suggest brainstorming and meditating to get new ideas for your site. There is an interesting discussion about the right versus the left hand side of the brain and how these are used regarding web design (page 13). There is also a section about the attitude you need to create a suc
cessful e-commerce site. I found these more thoughtful, reflecting sections of the book very refreshing and interesting. I for one want to make a site for the enjoyment of creating and learning something new and hopefully other people will find it useful, and this book forces you to think about your reasons for wanting a website. So many people just want a site to rake in some money for themselves but this book explains that unless you have good content and regularly update your site, it won?t work. The Parts of the Book are as follows: ~~~~~Introduction~~~~~~ Opens the book with explanations of how to use the book, who it is aimed at, conventions used in the book regarding code listings and a small section about the enclosed CD ROM (but more about that later). I found the introduction useful and helped me to understand the layout of the book. ~~~~Part 1: Moving from Web Page to Web Site~~~~ How do you make a bunch of pages into a connected site? This section explains: * how to make unity within your site *has suggestions as to how you can come up with original ideas, * makes you think about what you want to achieve with your site * asks you to think about who your audience is * introduces some basic HTML I found this section useful although I knew some of the things already. My current site is a bit of a mishmash of pages and content and I realised that for my new site I need to keep the content related so I can aim it at a specific audience (in my case, students). ~-~-~-~-~Part 2: Adding Sparkle to your Site-~-~-~-~- How to make your site work, look and sound great. Including: * Info about CGI and Java scripts * Adding a search engine * Creating drop down menus * Getting free graphics * Info about copyright * Sights and Sounds- adding musical features to your site * Tuning up your site- checking links and reducin
g bandwidth I already use CGI for my site?s guestbook but it was good to read more about how it works, and I appreciated the links to free java script resources on line. I do not want music on my site but the idea of having a karaoke room on a web site is a lot of fun. The information about copyright is very useful and something I will take on board when finding graphics for my new website. -~-~--~-~-Part 3: Drop in And Stay a While, Folks-~-~- How to get your visitors involved so they come back. Explains how to incorporate all of these into your site: * Polls * Forms * Guestbooks * Message Boards * Chat Rooms * Fun things like riddles, quizzes and games into your site * News Feeds and comic strips I have polls and a guestbook already on my site but the options discussed in this section were useful and gave lots of links to free sites offering these services. There are step by step instructions to setting up guestbooks which are clearly laid out. -~-~--~-~-Part 4:Raking in the Bucks-~-~-~-~-~- How to make money on your website. I already knew it is difficult to make any significant amount of money through the net and although I have one or two affiliate links on my site, so far I have made nothing from them. So I was interested in this section to see if it is really possible to make money from your own site. Although this is an American book and many of the sites and schemes discussed deal in dollars, there are some very interesting and useful things in part 4 about the ethos of making money online and the dissection of many of the myths surrounding the phenomena. This section of the book takes you through how to accept credit cards on your site and examines affiliate links. Although making money is not my aim, I found this section useful, although personally I think it is a lot of effort to make just a small amount of money through the net. -~--~-Part 5: Publ
ishing and Publicising your Site-~-~- Now this is what I want to know. How to get online and how to let people know you?re there. Part 5 takes you through: * choosing a host * picking a domain name * submitting to search engines * joining web rings and banner exchanges * making e-newsletters This part is essential, if you don?t know how to get a good domain name then your site won?t succeed, simple as that. The book discusses the advantages and pitfalls to all of the ideas rather than just saying they are all a good idea. It also presents ways to get around the disadvantages- for example, not allowing your newsletter to be seen as SPAM by only sending it to people who requested it and by making it interesting. -~--~-~-~Part 6: The Part of Tens-~-~-~-~- All "For Dummies" books have "The Part of Tens" This part has lists, descriptions and screenshots of 10 Great Places to Get Advice, 10 Fabulous Tools for E-Commerce 10 More Great Add Ins This part is not essential to the book but offers links to some very useful sites which will add to your site. -~-~-~-~-~-~-Part 7: Appendixes-~-~-~-~-~- There is a glossary of internet terms which is very useful for all the dummies out there (including myself). Part 7 also contains an appendix to the CD ROM. ****~~CD ROM~~~**** You get a CD ROM included with this book, which is tucked into a pocket at the back. The CD is compatible with Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. This contains: * All of the links contained in the book, grouped in the chapters they are from. This is very useful as you can use this rather than leafing through the whole book. * Freeware versions of many programmes, such Java applets which make text look as though it is on fire, and free graphics. There are some very attractive and unusual graphics here which would make a good addition to a website (although you may
end up with many other similar looking sites!) * Trial versions of Dreamweaver, HomeSite, Fireworks, MacroBot, Paint Shop Pro, StatBot, and various other web programmes. These are useful as you can try them out and see whether you like them before going and buying them. The CD ROM makes a nice addition to the book and complements it well. **-Problems with this Book-** This book came out first in 2000. The internet, HTML and everything involved with technology changes quickly and books go out of date. So far I have only found one dead link from this book and I would imagine that the visitors that the featured sites (other than the dead one) they have had as a result of this book have added to the sites success. Much of the book is about ethos and ideas which never goes out of date. I did not find any information to be outdated although if you are a cutting edge designer you probably would. But then if you were a cutting edge designer you probably would not be using a "For Dummies" book. The book is American and the only time this becomes an issue is in part 4 about making money from your site. The internet is global and the vast majority of the book was as relevant to me as it would be someone in Florida. -~-~-~--~-~-The End-~-~-~-~-~ I recommend this book to any person who wants to make or improve their website. It is easy to understand and crams a lot of information and thought provoking content between its yellow cover. I have used this book a great deal already and am only just beginning to create my new site. I am sure I will be renewing this book one or two times so I can continue to use it. Look out for my new site and you can see how much Building a Web Site for Dummies helped me. If only all the people with those awful sites with flashing backgrounds and countless pop up windows would buy copies of this book, the Internet would be a far better place.