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Designing your web site

Enough people ask, "How did you design your web site?" that I thought I'd tell you how I built and maintain

This web site has won awards from Microsoft, Dow Jones and USA Today, not because it's a fancy site, but because it is designed to be easy for the visitor to use and because the content is good. I can't teach you how to write good content, but I can tell you how I learned to design web pages.

I'm far from an expert. I learned by doing (that is, by making lots of mistakes), and by studying the methods of the masters. You can't learn this stuff just by reading about it. You must do it. Start with a good web development system that is forgiving of the novice. (If you become a real expert, you can move on to other kinds of software later.)

I used Microsoft FrontPage 2000 on a Windows-based system to create and I continue to use it to maintain the site. (You can use any of a number of other packages, but I'm not qualified to tell you anything about them. If you go with FrontPage, you'll probably want to get the most recent edition -- see below.) When I redesign the site, I'll do it in FrontPage (and I'll get FP 2002) because I find FP is powerful but not overly complicated. It has many more features than I'll ever use.

Order FrontPage 2000!

Microsoft FrontPage 2002
(software for Microsoft Windows) was done in FrontPage, but without using the themes and built-in structures. I had to "turn off" many of the features that automate the design process. While you can take advantage of those features, I think it's best to learn to do without them so that you can work at the HTML level as much as possible. FrontPage will enable you to create, manage and keep your site well-organized. It also simplifies the publishing process by linking itself directly to your host service. Order FrontPage 2002.

Order this book!

FrontPage 2002 For Dummies,
by Asha Dornfest

Hungry Minds, Inc, 2001)

You can't rely on the Microsoft manuals to learn FrontPage. Because web design is a hands-on skill, it's best to have a tutorial that will walk you through the process step-by-step. This book is the best starting point I could find. You will quickly outstrip its usefulness, but nothing else will get you going as quickly. It teaches not only how to create web pages, but how to get a host service and how to upload and publish the files that make up your site. Order this book.

Order this book!

FrontPage 2002 Unleashed,
by William R. Stanek et al.

SAMS, 2001)

I spent hours and hours poring over every book about FrontPage that I could find in my local super-bookstores. Bill Stanek headed the team that built Intel's web site, and he's a FrontPage expert. He also writes so you can understand him, and organizes topics in a way that makes his book a very handy tool. He not only explains how to do things, but why the methods work. Most important, he organizes the book in terms of what you will need to know -- not in terms of how FrontPage works. Stanek goes into step-by-step, useful detail on lots of complex topics, including how to launch and manage your site. If you can't find something in this book, it probably can't be done using FrontPage. Order this book.

Order this book!

Web Design in A Nutshell,
by Janet Niederst

O'Reilly, 1998)

Every discipline has it's "bible". In web design, this is the book. No matter what design environment you choose -- FrontPage, Dreamweaver, Homesite -- this is hands-down the best reference work for any web designer. Every pro I know has Niederst's book within easy reach. While Bill Stanek's book will help you with FrontPage, Web Design in A Nutshell will teach you the intricacies of web design, no matter what software you use. When you look up a topic, you'll be left with that magical "Aha, now I get it!" experience. Order this book.

Web design is a skill that takes time to develop. The more you do it (and the more mistakes you make), the better you'll get at it. Allow yourself a few months to learn how to build a site that really sings, but don't hesitate to dive right in and start creating from scratch. Just remember: the more you let the software automate the design of your site, the less you'll learn. The more you learn, the more you'll be in control of your site. I hope these notes are helpful in getting you started. Now, go for it!


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