Chess Journalists of America

The following article was published in The Chess Journalist, Vol. XXXI, No. 4, Consecutive No. 106, December 2002 (Editor: John Hillery). One-time only publication rights have been obtained from the contributor. All other rights are hereby assigned to the author. Articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the CJA, its offices or members. Copyright 2002 by the Chess Journalists of America.

Virtual Journalism:
Creating and Maintaining a Web Page

by John Hillery

Creating and maintaining a web page is not enormously difficult; there are pages out there set up by ten-year-olds. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pages which look like they were set up by ten-year-olds, and not usually the same ones. Here are a few hints to get you started.

Part 1) Creating your page

Web pages are written in HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language. This is a fairly simple programming language designed top be read by web browsers and a few other programs. You can see what it looks like by choosing "View Source" in your browser. But, while it is useful to know the basic commands (it is often easier to make a small change by editing the source code directly), it is not essential.

There are a number of HTML-creator programs available. One of the best (and certainly cheapest) is Frontpage Express. This used to come bundled with Windows 95 and 98, so you may already have it. If not, there are still some free download sites on the web. Frontpage Express (and similar programs) uses the standard Windows interface, and lets you type and enhance text much as you would in a word processor. You can also change colors, backgrounds, type size, add links, and so forth, without worrying about what's "really" there. (If you're curious, you can try "View HTML.")

It is worth noting that Microsoft originally gave this away in hopes of getting users to move up to Microsoft Frontpage, which costs real money. It does provide a number of advanced features, like interactive forms and "Template Wizards." However, it codes the page in such a way that the user cannot modify the HTML directly, and it is incompatible with a lot of non-Microsoft servers (that's why you'll see "click here to enable Microsoft Frontpage" a lot). Frankly, if you don't know enough to manage those advanced features without the "Wizards," you probably shouldn't be fooling with them. Stick to Frontpage Express or something similar.

Now, how to design your page. First of all, don't get carried away. Just because you can do something is not a good enough reason to do it. For example, I still have a headache from trying to read a page with purple type on a black background. A textured background is okay, as long as it doesn't interfere with the text. Lean back and take a fresh look: if you can't read it, neither will anyone else. Don't make the page too "busy" -- frames, animated gifs, and scrolling marquees should be used in very small quantities. As I said above, if you don't know what it is, you probably don't know enough to use it wisely. (Here is a Horrible Example I found on the Web. Of course, this is a caricature, but I've seen "real" pages almost as bad. http://www.pagetutor.com/pagetutor/frames/framz/index.html.)

Second, remember that you are not dealing with paper. You don't have to squeeze everything on one sheet to save printing costs. Also, unless you've really grabbed the viewer's interest at the start, he is probably not going to scroll down a few thousand lines to read your opus. Of course there are exceptions (if you're publishing a short story you presumably want it all on one page, for example). But, in general, you want to have the important things visible when the page comes up on the screen. A sensible design might be a title, explanatory subhead, and four or five links to other pages in your document.

Perhaps you want to include graphics on your page (photos, artwork), but there are a couple of caveats. First of all, they're large. One color photo is likely to be larger than your entire text document. This may lead to some problems with bandwidth (which will be discussed later), but more importantly they can take a looooong time to load. I doubt I'm the only one who has given up on a page because I got tired of waiting for the graphics to load. Secondly, despite what you see on the screen, an imported graphic is not part of your document. what's really there is a set of coordinates and a path to the graphic file. You are going to have to upload both files to your web server, and there may still be problems if the program you are using has listed the full path from your hard drive. The best way to deal with this is to keep all your web page documents in a separate folder, and move or copy any graphics to that folder before you import them to your document.

The first page you create (your "home" page") must be named "index.htm" or "index.html." {Web servers are designed to require this.) Other pages can be called anything you want (as long as they end in ".htm" or ".html"). However, you are going to have to type those names into any links, so make them easy to remember -- and spell. (Incidentally, if you are wondering whether to use "htm" or "html" -- well, it depends on what web host you eventually sign up with. One more feature of the wonderfully unregulated World Wide Web.) When setting up your subsidiary pages, remember to include a "Home" link (to "index.html"), especially if the pages are "nested four or five deep. It may also be useful to include "cross" links, but that depends on the nature of your pages.

Once you've got the pages of your site saved to a folder, double-click on the "index" page to open it in a browser. Then check the links. All of them. Then check them again. Few things are more frustrating to a Web user than bad links.

Now, you're ready to think about uploading it to the Web.

Next: Part 2 -- Domain Names and Servers

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