Target Audience: This Article is intended for computer literate persons who are not familiar with web page creation, and would like to get started. The article focuses on Apple i-Mac users. For PC users, much of this information is helpful and Q&A #7 at the bottom is for you!
Introduction: Two years ago, I received an iMac for Christmas. I was delighted; but, soon found that my suite of favorite software was not available for Mac. In the next few weeks, I replaced all my favorites with new favorites in the Apple flavor. In general, I found the Mac products very nice; but, often quite far ahead of the PC World of Software. In the end, many of my selection were older, and all were less expensive tools that performed very well. Even the older products were in advance of my old PC software. The article below outlines:
Along the way, I will also include discussions to help you decide the approach to take when many alternatives are available.
How Difficult is Web Page Creation? Difficult comes in two flavors. First is the technical difficulty/complexity of the task. Second is the broadness of knowledge required to perform the task. For example, learning Japanese is not terribly difficult; but, the student must have instant recall of about 2500 words and many gramatic usage patterns to be effective. Thus, Japanese is quite broad, but not terribly deep in the sense that mathmatics, or C Programming are. Creating Web pages is broad but not deep. It is at the extreme "easy" end of the programming spectrum. It is really more of a "tagging language" than a programming language. But some sequential awareness of "how things happen" is needed, much like programming.
What skills are required? For basic web page creation, the following skills are required:
Getting Started: Getting started is easy and not very expensive if you already have a computer. You can create and display web pages without any special software at all; but, I will show you inexpensive software that will make the job easier. Also, it will be easy for you to view your web pages on your own computer even before you have web space (i.e. you can view web pages right off your own hard drive, using your Safari, or Camino browser).
Learning HTML the programming language of Web Pages: I recommend you buy a used copy of the book Learning HTML in 24 hours by Dick Oliver. You can find it on Amazon in "new and used" for a good price. You do not need the newest edition- an older one will be fine. Alternatively, the good people at W3 Schools have wonderful educational material for HTML and other computer languages. You can access it free off the internet.
Recommended Software: I recommend you download/buy the following software for your Mac. All of it is available at reasonable cost either directly from Apple, or from other reputable software vendors. All four suppliers allow you a free trial period before purchase. The items listed below are what was used to create my website and they were downloaded from the links shown. In many cases, you can buy the same products directly from Apple "App Store" if you are more comfortable.
Should I download all of the software at once? No! Don't do that!
Start with Page Spinner. This is the one to build web pages. When you start adding photos, you will need Compositor or some other photo editing software. If your web page features lots of drawings, you may need Sketch. Below, I provide a description of the four main software products I recommend:
There are many software tools available that can do any of the jobs listed above. If you have something you like, try it! The list above is just the combination of tools that I have found powerful and easy to use.
What Web Server Service Should I Use?: There are many good web services available. The one that is good for you will depend on what you want to do and how much different services will charge for that. If you are reading this, you are connected to the Internet in some manner. The service that you use may have free (and limited) web hosting available to you (so go find out). Below, I discuss some of the needs that you may have.
What are Script Languages & How do they work? HTML, is the language of web pages. It is able to create web pages with text, photos and links to other web pages. It has little ability to accept user input, save user information to a data base, make "moving images" on the screen etc. If you want to do those kinds of things, a script language (such as Java Script or PHP) is used. With Java Script, the entire script is downloaded and executed on the "viewing person's" computer. As a result, it can do things pretty fast. Because it runs on the "viewer's computer" it is called a "host side script language".
By contrast, PHP executes the script on the computer that hosts your web pages (i.e. it runs on your "server service computer"). It is called a "server side script language." When PHP runs, it creates the html that is sent out to the viewer's computer (i.e. none of the script code is downloaded). PHP can do things like save user information to a secure data base. In general, the complexity involved in writing these script languages is about five times as complex as a HTML web page. (note: commands in Java Script are different than like commands in PHP. They are distinct languages)If you are creating web pages and want to avoid writing your own script code, many products are available (either from your service or from other reputable vendors) that can get results without the work. Examples:
Conclusion: The article above identifies educational resources that will teach you to build a web page. It also identifies a suite of software that works well on an i-Mac and will make your job easier. None of the technical tasks are difficult, but a wide range of knowledge is needed to complete a working web page.
Q1: I am using InMotion Hosting service & my photos don't show up. They work fine when I demo the page locally, but not with the service. What's happening?
A1: try typing the photo name in ALL CAPS. Use CAT.PNG (don't use cat.png). Also make sure you got the image in the directory identified by the image link.
Q2: I uploaded my webpage, but it does not show up. Why?
A2: Did you upload it where you intended? Use Yummy & make sure. All your web pages should be loaded into the "public html" folder on your web server (or a subfolder if you structure things that way). Your main web page should be named "index.html" (or index.htm depending on the server service you use.). If you have uploaded before, your browser program (Safari, or Netscape) keeps a local copy. When you reload using the same file name, you will need to click "View/Refresh" in your browser to force a new download from the server.
Q3: How do I make a password protected page, so only my Writing Agent can see my draft manuscript?
A3: If you are using Inmotion hosting, you can do this from the control panel. Contact Inmotion technical support & they will direct you to an document explaining how to do it. Other services may have this same capability; but check.
Q4: Can I upload my web page directly from PageSpinner?
A4: The PageSpinner web site says you can. I use Yummy because Yummy is very easy to use. Confusion is your worst enemy when creating web pages
Q5: What is your worst enemy when creating web pages?
A5: Confusion is your worst enemy. After a few months break, I wanted to add some stuff to my site. I accidently used old names when creating the links, and then uploaded "new name" images to the wrong directory. Not surprisingly, nothing worked. It took me a couple of hours to figure out what I had done. Confusion is your greatest enemy. In an orderly way, write down "old photo name", edit the thing beforesaving under a new name. Then write down "new photo name" to the right. This will eliminate errors like mine.
Q6:How did you create the "moving flames" Dionysus header at the top of this web page?
A6: I used a commerical program from Alchemy Mindworks. It was really easy but I used my PC to create it because I have not yet bought an equivalent for my Mac.
Q7: Can't I just buy a "drag & drop" program that will create my web site for me?
A7: Yes, you can BUT you probably will never learn enough html to edit the thing when needed. Worse still, the html it produces will be unnecessarily complex and large. You are better off building your own html using a text editing tool such as PageSpinner
Q8: I use a PC. Can you give me some advice?
A8: The information above is good; but, you will use different software. I suggest you look at the http://www.coffeecup.com website. The "HTML Editor" looks like the right software for web page creation on PC Computers. When I used Coffee Cup products in the past, they were good and simple to use. They are very clear in their menus and help screens. Their products worked very well and without bugs.
Q9: As part of my church activities, I am trying to reach English speakers in the 3rd world. What should I do special to get my message across?
A9: Much of the 3rd world may not be on high speed Internet links. So you must reduce the size of your images to about 350 pixels wide (about 60K byte images). Also, try to reduce the number of photos per web page to about 4. If you do these things, your web pages will download at acceptable speeds.