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Wizarding Up a Personal Home Page

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Many Internet service providers and online communities permit customers to bypass offline authoring programs by allowing them to create and publish Web pages online, in their browsers. Learn the advantages and disadvantages Wizards offer for developing quick, well designed Web pages.
This chapter is from the book

Introduction

The everyday, tried-and-true, best-case scenario for building a Web site is the one taught within this book: Use an authoring program offline to create HTML Web page files and then send them to a Web server.

But, for a variety of reasons, many folks are taking a different tack. Many Internet service providers, and also a gaggle of online communities, let visitors create and publish a Web page—and do the whole job, from start to finish, online, in their browsers, with no authoring program required. These online programs that help you build a Web site are called by many different names, but to make things easy, we can call them wizards.

These wizards have advantages and disadvantages, as you will soon see. Before diving in to the nitty-gritty of the best way to build a Web site, I thought it best to share with you the alternative so that you can make an informed choice.

At the end of this hour, you will be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are the ups and downs of creating a page online with a wizard?

  • Where can I find a wizard?

  • What basic steps does it usually take to build a page this way?

  • If I choose instead to go the offline Web authoring route described in the rest of this book, what do I need to know about the process of publishing my Web pages after I've created them?

Should I Create My Web Site Online?

That depends....

The benefit of a wizard is that it is a fast and easy way to get a decent-looking Web site up and running with a minimum of fuss. The problem is that you have far less control of the appearance of the results, and far less ability to make your page distinctive, than you would have if you created your page offline in a Web authoring program. Figure 3.1 shows a typical wizard-built page, although the actual appearance depends on which wizard you choose.

Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 A wizard-built page tends to look generic.

You use a wizard by responding to questions and filling in choices in a series of online forms, using the same sorts of skills you would use to order a fruit basket from an online shop. Your entries in these forms are automatically plugged in to the appropriate spots in a Web page template. The template used is a simple, straightforward home page—no more, no less.

A template is a finished Web page file that you can edit and customize to create a new page of your own much more quickly than starting from scratch. See Hour 4, "Starting Pages in Other Programs."

The templates used by most wizards are designed for personal home pages, or basic commercial pages, and are effective in that regard, even if they're a little short and overly simple.

Besides featuring limited layout options, most wizard-built pages have one more problem: ads, or banner advertisements that the server supplier inserts on your page (see Figure 3.2). With many wizards, your willingness to have ads on your page gets you the page for free.

Figure 3.2Figure 3.2 Most sites offering free Web space require you to carry their ads on your page.

Whether you should use a wizard depends on whether the overall organization of the resulting page is reasonably close to what you want to achieve—and on whether you can tolerate ads on your page. If you want a dramatically different look for your page, or if you plan to build an elaborate Web document made up of multiple linked pages and files, you might be better off with another startup strategy, such as the following:

  • Transform into Web pages other documents you already have created in other programs (see Hour 4).

  • Brave the void and start from scratch (see Hour 5, "Choosing a Title, Text Colors, and Other Page Basics").

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