Web Page Design
Building a web page has turned out to be a lot more fun than I imagined. Which wasn't very hard because I thought it would be about as much fun as watching Windows 95 boot up.
That is not to say that Microsoft didn't try to ruin my good time, as I will describe, they indeed gave it their best shot.
I will try and relay to you my ongoing experience of publishing a web site and do my best to give you an idea of what you'll face if you decide that you might like to give this a try.
Not being particularly bright, I had no idea how to go about starting a web page.
The first thing you need for a non-business, personal, non-expensive page is a web host. This host provides the server space necessary. There are numerous ISP's that provide web space. Two that I am familiar with are Sprynet and Mindspring.
Sprynet offers 5 MB of space with their unlimited access plan at $19.99 a month.
Mindspring offers 10 MB of space with their unlimited access plan at $26.99 a month.
I chose Mindspring for reasons other than the extra space, however Sprynet might be desirable for some depending on where you live. This is due to Sprynet's sharing Compuserve's POPs, which deliver outstanding connection rates.
What I mean by this is that I always connected to Sprynet, no matter the time of day or night. This was not true of Mindspring until Oct. 1st 1997, when fortunately they opened the new California POP. Make sure the ISP you choose has a good connection rate or uploading your page can become a tedious task.
There is one serious downside to Mindspring's offering of 10 MB of web space. They limit your total site to only 450 MB of downloads a month. This may seem like a lot, but it isn't.
For example, my site is less than 3 MB total. Yet, I am on a pace to have over 1300 MB downloaded this month. This restriction on downloads is a ploy to get you to purchase their more expensive services.
Some ISP's restrict the number of "hits" a site can receive as well. Shop around for the best deal and be sure to inquire about any "overage" charges you may be liable for if your site exceeds its limit.
A ftp software program is necessary for uploading your web page files to your server if you decide to use a HTML editor that does not provide this feature. Netscape can upload files, but there are easier, more efficient ways available.
Now you can use the ftp client that comes with Windows 95, but having to type all the commands is tiresome compared to using software that requires simple point and clicks.
The program I use is called CuteFTP 2.0.
Visit the CuteFTP Web site
Download a screenshot of what uploading a file with this program looks like - CuteFTP.jpg (73 KB)
As you can see by the screenshot, uploading a page is just like downloading a file or page from the net. What's great about ftp software is that you can automate it to bring up the drive and folder containing your web page files at the same time you connect to your server. This makes updating your page a breeze.
Another popular ftp program is WsFTP.
I have a bad habit of still paying attention to magazine reviews regarding subjects I have little first hand knowledge of. Due to the stellar review given Frontpage 98 by InternetUser, I downloaded the beta and gave it a try.
What a mistake. This isn't to say that you might not love it, especially if your a lamer, but it forced me to nearly give up on web design on my first day.
Microsoft is a very confused company. They seem to believe that if they release buggy, poorly designed software and people complain, then the reason for this is obviously their customers possess a severe learning disability and are too ignorant to use a computer properly.
For if they were computer savvy, they would inherently understand that releasing bug ridden, crash prone software is the industry standard that Microsoft strives to attain.
Check out this Frontpage 98 screenshot
Download Frontpage 98 Beta
If you need the software program to make the majority of design and style decisions regarding your planned website, then Frontpage 98 may be for you.
I grew tired of the constant problems and down right interference I encountered while trying to have the program simply follow my commands.
UPDATE: Microsoft is Evil!
Meta tags are like little dictionaries you place at the top of your page that define your site. Most online search engines (i.e. Lycos, Infoseek, etc.) copy these tags and use them as the description of your site.
Using meta tags is good for the web site author due to increased hits, as well as, the person browsing due to them receiving the info they seek. Obviously this positive situation means nothing to Microsoft.
The reason I say this is because Frontpage 98 makes it possible to create a web site without having to know any HTML code. Therefore, it stands to reason that the majority of Frontpage users are completely clueless of the importance of Meta tags.
Even worse, I wonder how many realize that Microsoft is inserting their own name in the Meta tags.
Microsoft pulls this stunt so they can perform market research on the number of published web sites that use Frontpage. I bought a book on Frontpage and not suprisingly, no mention of "Meta tags" appears in the index. The glossary describes Meta tags as "having no effect on page display."
No wonder Frontpage tries to make it easy to publish right to the web. If you use Frontpage '98 or '97, do yourself a favor and open the file in Notepad and decide for yourself what words to insert in the Meta tags
Here is a fantastic site that will create Meta tags out of the info you provide about your page.
Get more info on how to Create Meta tags.
Well I have to hand it to HotMetalPro 4.0, it achieved what I previously thought impossible. Amazing as it sounds, this HTML editor had me longing for the "good ole days" I spent with Frontpage '98.
I would advise anyone interested in using this editor to learn HTML first. The WYSIWYG editing feature is anything but. I spent more time fixing my pages coding in Notepad, than creating them in HotMetalPro 4.0.
By taking the time to learn HTML code, you can go straight to using the show tags option, which is this editors best feature.