Designing Web pages might appear intimidating, but it is actually very easy - and relatively cheap. Hugh John reports.
You can publish to the world by creating pages for a website - and it need not be time-consuming or costly. The cheapest way to get Web-building tools is by downloading them free from the Internet - the struggle between Netscape and Microsoft means the two browser giants are giving away Navigator and Explorer respectively - both of which include Web-building capability.
Navigator initially dominated, but is now threatened by Explorer. Navigator is now part of Communicator - a suite of Internet products that includes email and Composer, the Web-authoring application.
Microsoft's page author is FrontPage Express. While Netscape Composer is considered by some to be slightly better, FrontPage Express can be upgraded to FrontPage, Microsoft's more powerful and extremely popular authoring tool.
Both Composer and FrontPage Express allow users to create and edit Web pages without ever working in HTML - hypertext mark-up language. Both create links to other websites without the need to type in URLs (uniform versal resource locators) and both allow users to insert images by dragging them into the Web page.
Both offer facilities for creating a Web site with the minimum of fuss. But in terms of cross-platform support, there's really only one choice: FrontPage Express supports Windows 95 and NT and UNIX; Composer supports Mac-intosh, UNIX and Windows.
There are plenty of other authoring programs, however. For ease of use, try Sunburst's Web Workshop. Described as a four-stop Web-creating tool, the program, with its colourful interface and vivid icons, has the eye-catching appeal of children's favourite Kid Pix.
With Web Workshop, creating pages is easy:select a background and decorate it with clip art from the on-board library; add text, voice clips, pictures and an email address; add links to other sites on the Web or choose from a pre-selected list; and save the page and publish.
The schools version contains some excellent support material that explains how to publish a project to either an Internet account or Sunburst's own Web-site, as well as other handy tips.
The Web is a fluid, dynamic medium and creating and maintaining links between pages is an essential part of site-management. Five of the most successful programs that provide this and other advanced features are Microsoft FrontPage, Adobe PageMill, NetObjects Fusion, Claris Home Page and GoLive CyberStudio Personal Edition.
Would-be Web builders with bigger budgets and advanced design skills might want to investigate CyberStudio Professional Edition or Macromedia Dreamweaver and, for Web graphic creation, Adobe ImageReady and Macro-media Fireworks.
Adobe: www.adobe.com Claris: www.claris.com GoLive: www.golive.com Macromedia: www.macromedia.com Microsoft: www.microsoft.comieie40 NetObjects: www.netobjects.com Netscape: www.netscape.com Sunburst: www.nysunburst. com
BOOKS: 'Creating Web Pages for Dummies' (Pounds 23.99) explains how to design and upload Web pages. 'Creating Web Pages for Dummies' also comes as a quick reference guide (Pounds 11.99).
'The Internet in 24 Hours' (Pounds 17.95) has a useful section on Web page creation.
HTML: HTML is the language used to prepare Web documents, and requires tags to be placed in or around text to allow formatting or linking. Formatting tags define text style and usually come in pairs. Linking tags provide links to other websites.
HELP SOURCES: As well as providing Web space for subscribers, Internet service providers such as AOL, LineOne and VirginNet also give comprehensive support for anyone wishing to set up a site. AOL has a Web-building forum that includes Personal Publisher for creating a Web page step by simple step.
1 Sketch out your Web structure first.
2 Try not to build a site that is more than three clicks away from your home page. If you do, include a site map.
3 Maintain a lively balance of text and image.
4 Do not use images that take browsers too long to read. Web surfers are notoriously impatient.
5 If you do not want to learn HTML, use programs that keep it to a minimum.
6 Try to ensure topical material on your site is kept up to date.
7 Links to stimulating and interesting sites are always appreciated by anyone browsing your site. Check that sites to which you are linked still exist.
8 "Under Construction" signs on a site can be off-putting.
9 Check your page links before making your site available on the Web by viewing with your own browser.