How to Set Up a Web Page - Part 2

Read part 2 of the three-part article on creating your own Web pages.
Published: Feb 13, 2006
Author: Dan Veaner
Related OS: Windows

Last week I broke down what you need to get your Web site onto the Internet: a domain name (the address people go to), a Web hosting account (the place the address points to) and content (what they see when they get there). This week I'm going to talk about content.

The great thing about the Internet is that your Web site can be seen by millions of people all over the world. The bad thing is that there is so much there that people will have a hard time finding out about your site. And once they do find it you will want them to stay and look around.

Web sites are like good marketing campaigns. They grab your attention and keep it, and are memorable so you will come back. The best way to achieve this is to plan your site before you start building it. Distill your message to bullet points and sound bites, and put the information people will want to see right up front where they can see it.

For example, if you are selling a product, put the price on the product page. People want to know what it is, how it will help them and how much it will cost. I can't tell you how many sites I have gone to that didn't answer any of those concerns unless you went digging (or guessed). I don't know why companies hide prices--I often click "Buy" just to find out the price, and then I don't buy. Many people don't go as far as I do--if they can't find the price on the product page they just leave and look for another product.

This approach applies to all Web sites, not just on-line sales sites. Your home page should tell what the site is about with your basic message and easy links to the details. Each sub-page should have a specific purpose and stick to it. The clearer your message and easier it is to read, the more people will respond positively to your site.

Content can include a wide variety of things, including text, pictures, videos, sounds, calendars, on-line stores, interactive elements like polls, chat rooms or message boards to name a few. But you shouldn't junk your site up with all of these things just because you can. Use these tools to get your message across in the best possible way. And use them in the context of your site.

For example, if you have a band it might be fun to hear the band playing when people visit your site. It is possible to make the song play automatically whenever people go there. Another way to do it is to have a button on the page that says something like "Hear Us Rock!" The first way is kind of cool from a techie-geek standpoint, but from the standpoint of visitors liking your site--not so much.

What if someone is visiting your site from work, or in a public library? All of a sudden your masterpiece is blasting at full volume. They didn't know this would happen until your home page loaded, but now they are a pariah in the library, or--worse--fired! That button idea is looking a lot better now, isn't it? Put it up front so visitors who want to hear the music don't have to search for it.

Also, remember that the bigger your files are, the longer the Web site will take to load. Most people still connect by dial-up, so this is an issue. And finally, some of the fancy sites are so trendy/techie/cool that they are unusable. The old Coca Cola site was one of the worst examples. If you could get the site to run, you still couldn't find anything. It was like one of those movies where the special effects overshadow the story and characters. Only it was like a movie that broke down frequently. The current site is much better, using more common technology that is more likely to work for more people.

You've heard of the KISS method? "Keep It Simple, Stupid!" That applies to Web sites as well. If people like the site and can find and do what they want there, they'll come back again and again and will tell their friends.

Next week we'll talk about how to make the content from a technical standpoint.

About Dan Veaner

Dan Veaner has been a developer and online publisher since 1989. He wrote award winning consumer and developer software, has developed several Web sites including humor sites http://mysockdrawer.com and http://Vvids.com, and worked for America Online. Currently he is working on online publishing projects and is on the board of directors of the Shareware Industry Awards Foundation.

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