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Create A Website

 Part 1 - For Beginners

OK. Say you've decided you want an online business � and you need to create a website. This won't be a vanity website where you show off your pets, your children, your model planes, etc. It's going to be a full-fledged commercial website. This page is intended to get you up to speed if you know nothing about websites � if you are a rank beginner. If you already understand the how of websites, you can skip this page and go on to Part 2, which talks about the mechanics of e-commerce.

 Starting From Scratch

Since we are starting from scratch, before we set out to create a website, let's answer the question, "What is the Internet?" In simplest terms, the Internet is a lot like the old-fashioned "hard-wired" telephone system � a large number of telephones connected together in such a way that any one of them can ring up any other. Do you remember it?

If you wanted to call a particular person, you had to know their phone number � and the party you were calling had to be willing to answer the phone.

The Internet is similar � a large number of computers connected together in such a way that any of them can communicate with any other � if you know the right address and the other computer is willing to respond. Some of the computers on the Internet are called "servers". These are set up to provide access to files on their hard-drives.

Each file has an address or URL (Universal Resource Locator). You are reading such a file right now � the one with the address, "". When you create a website, you will write your own html files and send them to a server on which you rent space.

 Connecting At A Distance

So how do you connect with a distant computer to acquire information located on its hard drive? You do so using a special program called a "browser". You are using one now. The most commonly used browsers are Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Firefox.

When you enter a URL in the box at the top of your browser window, your browser sends a message to the server at that address and requests the file that you want. If access to that file is not restricted, the server sends the file to your browser, which interprets the file and displays it on your computer screen.

 What Is HTML?

Why does the browser need to interpret the file it retrieves before it displays it? Because the file, if it is similar to this one, is written in something called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). This language is composed of the usual characters of the alphabet plus other characters available on your keyboard, like <, >, /, *, !, {, and so forth. So when you create a website, you are not manipulating unfamiliar symbols � just using familiar symbols in an unfamiliar way.

The file being transmitted is a simple text file � but besides the readable text, the file contains codes, arrangements of those familiar letters and symbols, that tell your browser how to display the readable portion of the text � the fonts to use, the colors, the arrangement on the screen, where to put pictures � in short all of the characteristics that make up the format that is displayed.

 Basic Website Building Tools

For this reason, all that you minimally need to create a website is a text editor, like WordPad or Note Tab. Of course, for you to do the job with a simple text editor you would need to know the codes that your browser reads to create your webpage. Some folks like doing this, but for most of us it requires a lot more knowledge of HTML code than we want to be burdened with.

If you click on your browser's View Menu at the top of your screen, and then click on the Page Source item in that menu, you will see the HTML text code that tells your browser how to display the words that you are reading. As you can see, it's pretty complex � and it gets more so every year as the HTML coding system evolves.

Enter the What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) text editor! This is a category of computer program that works much like a word processor. You type your message as you format the words on the screen � fonts, colors, tables, etc. � and as you do so, the program creates the HTML source document for you. There are free versions of such software �Kompozer and Evrsoft being good examples � and there are not-free versions � such as Front Page and Dream Weaver, which are probably the two most popular today.

 Hypertext Links

Another important feature of HTML is known as the "hypertext link".  A hypertext link is a specially encoded word, phrase, sentence, or image that contains a hidden address. When you click on the link, your browser goes to the new address, which can be another portion of the same document, another document on the same server, or a completely separate document on a far distant server.  The new page thus accessed may replace your current view or the link may open a new window or a new tab, so the page you have been viewing remains available to you.

By using links it is possible for you to include in your html document connections and relationships with the information in other documents � both those you have created and those that others have made available on the Internet.


Still another useful and powerful feature of HTML is the use of forms. When you fill out a form on a website and click on the "submit" button, the information you entered in the form is sent to one or more other people on the Internet, where it is often collected in a database, and your browser automatically goes to another address, also encoded in the form, where you are shown a response to your submission. To create a website for e-commerce, the use of forms is a must.

 A Good Book For Beginners

For more information about the basics of HTML and how to create a website, I recommend the book, "Build Your Own Website The Right Way Using HTML & CSS" by Ian Lloyd. The book is published by SitePoint and is available from

Now let's go the next step � where we consider how to

create a website that actually does business.

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Robert Podolsky

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