Well, Let's get started!!
That's what you are here for, right?

 

What is the WWW?
Simply put: the WWW (World Wide Web) is a BIG NETWORK.

You know that word? It means 'connected together' - you can "network" with other people and groups to exchange information, right? The WWW is the BIGGEST network, because it encompasses every computer, every server, and every website that is connected to the WWW.

If YOU have an internet connection through an ISP (Internet Service Provider), then YOU are part of the WWW. Wow! huh?

The WWW is also a BIG network composed of millions of smaller networks, which in turn are composed of millions of yet smaller networks, all the way down to YOUR MACHINE. This complexity of the WWW is one of the reasons it is referred to as the "WEB", but it has more convolutions and connections than the biggest spiderweb you can imagine!

Think of your computer as an automobile or, a 'compumobile' if you prefer. It is the vehicle you use to travel the 'information superhighway'. Your browser (IE or NS or some Other) would correspond to your steering wheel, windshield and dashboard. In some ways it is similar to a telephone, in that you dialup or call a specific web 'address' (URL) in the browser window and your 'compumobile' takes you there, by travelling along the internet connection through your phone lines.

(More accurately: Your browser goes out and gets your "destination" and brings it back to display on your screen. Your computer stores the images, html documents and other files that are 'downloaded' in a directory on your harddrive called the "cache'. If your cache becomes too full of such files, it can take up a lot of space on your harddrive, and slow the performance of even a fast computer. If you have noticed your machine is not responding as quickly as it once did, try emptying your 'cache' first. It often helps solve the problem.)

What are DOMAINS, and how do they work?
A Domain is the unique name of your WWW presence. They were originally setup to be

  • '.com' (commercial/commerce domains)
  • '.net' (networks)
  • '.org' (organizations/nonprofits/churches)

- but the lines have since become 'muddied' somewhat, because some '.net' domains are commercial as are some '.org'. Not long ago, the maximum allowable length of a domain name was expanded to 63 characters, greatly increasing the available possible domain names using the .com, .net, .org suffixes. There are some other domain suffixes, you may have seen, for example: .ru (Russia), .it (Italy), .uk (United Kingdom) and the like...some of these (including the .tv and the .cc) are an attempt to extend the available domain names beyond the original three, however .com, .net, and .org remain the domain suffixes of choice for most people in the US, and are the most 'recognizable'.

Some companies have even registered domains under the .to (Tonga) and .it (Italy) suffixes, creating domain names like, "sendme.to" or "forward.to" or "welcome.to" even...

Choosing a domain name:

When choosing a domain name, remember you cannot use Special Characters such as: &, %, *, $, #, @, ^, >, <, (, ), +, |, :) since these are characters that are used specifically by various programming languages and have special meanings to your browser.) You MAY use the alphabet (doesn't matter whether you use CAPS or Lower Case letters - they will go to lowercase by 'default') and dash (minus sign "-" ) and Underscore ("_") to separate words in your domain name for easier reading.

Example:

this_is_my_domain.com

Or, you can simply run the words together as in:

thisismydomain.com

There are many 'registrars' that are licensed to sell domain name registrations. This can run anywhere from 35.00 per year (Network Solutions) to 8.95 (or LESS!) per year (GoDaddy.com) - and anywhere in between...

I would suggest that if you are going to use a 'discount' domain registrar, that you try to find one that is well-established, and has decent technical support, and a way to contact them by phone, email or snail-mail. The reason for this is that should you want to move your domain to another server, or make changes in it's ownership or contact information, you will need to go to the registrar to do so, and having one that is responsive to customers' needs is very important!! Sometimes the cheapest price is NOT the best deal, especially if it COSTS you TIME and FRUSTRATION later on...

OK...Now you need to find a 'host'.

A "HOST" is a company (an internet service provider or ISP) that allows your domain name to be pointed at their server, and provides you access (usually by FTP, sometimes by TELNET) to upload your website files to your space on their server.

They will usually charge you a monthly fee for this service...and here again - there is a WIDE variation in pricing and included range of services. It's best to shop around... you will also need to know the DNS numbers (IP Addresses) for your host server, and contact information for their administrator in order to complete the registration of your domain name (your server administrator will provide you with that information...AND if you are lucky enough to have an ISP that also registers domain names, they might even take care of all that for you...for a fee).

Now...You have registered your domain name, and you have made arrangements for your local ISP (or some other ISP) to 'host' the domain for you.

 

What's Next?

You are going to need a few programs:

  • A good 'WYSIWIG' (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) HTML Editor. This is a program that allows you to 'build a webpage' by 'dragging and dropping' pictures, text, etc. into a program window - in essence, it WRITES the HTML CODE for you.
  • An FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program - for copying your files from your computer to your server's diskspace (your domain).
  • Notepad (or Simpletext if you are using a MAC) This would be for doing some minor 'tweaks' to the html when you are feeling confident enough to do it.
  • Get an HTML Book - It would not be a bad idea at all to get a primer on HTML.
    I have used "Instant HTML" for years, and found it to be easy to understand, and easy to find the code you want to use. You don't necessarily have to read it cover to cover, but you will find it invaluable as a 'quick reference'.
    There are also a number of very good websites that contain HTML Primers and I will include some of them in the links section. (You can also do a 'search' to find some on your own.)

Cautions:

Do NOT use Microsoft WORD - (even though it SAYS it can 'save a document as HTML', it does so VERY POORLY!) The most 'amateurish' and ugly pages you have ever seen on the internet were probably created using Microsoft Word.

If you MUST use a Microsoft FRONTPAGE product, use Frontpage Express (comes free with IE Browser). It will still do weird things to your pages, but on a much smaller scale than its larger cousin.
Netscape Communicator also comes with a built in WYSIWIG editor called 'Netscape Composer'. The output is not too bad, but it is limited in what it can do as well.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER USE MS/WORDPAD to edit HTML (or any other kind of ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) TEXT FILE)!!! It will RUIN it by saving special Microsoft codes and embedding them into your ascii text.

My own preferences for WYSIWIG Editors and HTML/Text Editors are:

Dreamweaver (Macromedia) - because it doesn't put any weird code into your pages, just produces the simplest and most well organized code of any WYSIWIG editor I have ever used (and believe me, I've tried LOTS).

For editing code directly, CuteFTP comes bundled with a great HTML/Text editor called CuteHTML - can't beat it for cleaning up 'dirty' code.

You may find your own preferences will differ, and that's fine.


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