Rant: Mistakes I've made... How to Do a Website
Article ID: 1998
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 6,136
Times Read: 25,346
Posted: May 25th. 1997
Times Viewed: 25,346
The Internet has empowered so many, so quickly and like the printing press, telephone and Television is nothing short of a revolution in the way we communicate. The Web is still in it's infancy but technologically speaking is developing faster than just about any of us can keep up with. It's a wild ride for sure but together, by sharing information, we CAN harness this beast called the World Wide Web.
This month I enter the confessional and expose the many mistakes that I have made over the past year (see rant at the bottom of this page) in learning how to create and evolve this WebSite. I have learned much and have much to learn.
A little over a year ago Wren and I discovered the Internet and in order to have some fun and increase the anemic presence of the WLPA, decided to try our hand at this Web Weaving stuff. The same weekend I "authored" our first page (a beautiful Stonehenge picture with a simple title under it) I meet the beautiful Ariadne (of Dream Roads Collective fame) on America Online and begged her to check out my "happening" page. She was merciful in her response but basically said "Looks great but it took almost 3 minutes to load". That day I learned my first lesson: If you don't know how make your graphics lean and quick loading... you better learn fast. Over the past 13 months, I have made thousands of mistakes, taken numerous wrong turns and suffered much HTML pain. However, I did learn something new just about every day.
So Fritz, What DOES it take to create and maintain
a powerful, interesting and easy to navigate web site ?
The answer is simple... It's takes days and days of hard work. At present there is no getting around this. When you surf to an AvatarSearch or a Texas Pagan Awareness web site do know that there are thousands of hours involved in "getting it right". Web design involves literally thousands of variables and lots of experimentation. Do know that you are never really done, it takes constant polishing to to get a stone to shine.
Your Website's Content...
Are you going to do a Business Site? Information Site? Personal Site? Everyday I thank the great Goddess for allowing me to help educate and expand awareness related to Modern Witchcraft. If it wasn't for the Witches' Voice it would be difficult to say if Wren and I would even have a Web site. What content will you include on your WebSite? The possibilities are simply unlimited. Our Your voice matters form has rendered some excellent suggestions on what the Witches of Gaia would like to see. Do some magic and ask the Great Ones... They know all about the Pagan Web and will be glad to help.
Web Weaving Netiquette...
(image permission, copy permission, code permission - look and feel) basic courtesy stuff...
Just last week we got a piece of email (once again) accusing yours truly of using images on the Witches Voice WITHOUT permission (they saw one on another site) AND like the other 4 times they were images that I freakin' created myself!!! This is starting to irritate me. If you don't know the images creator and decide to simply pinch a graphic, DO know that you may be held accountable legally and karmically for using it without permission. I can't wait to be accountable to the religious right for the picture of Ralph Reed that we will be "using" on this weeks homepage...
A little posted credit won't kill anyone...
In 1996 a lad named Marc Shannon created a icon for the Witches League web site and emailed it to me... The now famous "Spinning Gold Pentacle" (a beautiful piece of work) is one of the staple images of the pagan net. Marc tells me a few people have asked for permission to use it (I have an email link under the image)... Surf the pagan web and take note of how many people actually give him credit or thanks vs. how many sites have simply "pinched it". - Once this Photoshop "watermark" thing becomes a standard it will help to clarify exactly who is the creator... TIP: Few people realize that many animated gifs have their creator's name embedded in the file (open Ms word and they open the animated gif as a text file)... How many people have even bothered to thank the kid that created the famous fire.gif? I have ! (for some bizarre reason many people think that I created the flames - don't I wish) The information is right there in the last line of the code along with his email address... "Don't flame me! firstname.lastname@example.org (c) 1996 Demon Systems"
And guess what... I tried this email address last year when I wanted to use the fire.gif and it WAS a real Email Address, I thanked him for his work and he cheerfully granted permission.
Our Precious Source Code...
On several occasions Witches have grabbed entire pages from this web site to help celebrate the work or to enhance their Web site. Basically we have no problem with this but it always nice when they ask... What left me feeling a bit empty was the fact the pages were pinched in their entirety, meticulously crafted source code and all... a good webmaster slaves over this stuff and it's quite time consuming... They didn't even ask ! It's not unreasonable to want your work to speak for itself - it gets horrifying when folks think that YOU were the one that pinched the source code with almost no modifications at all... I don't do this for fame or glory but damn I don't like to be used without a kiss... We ALL look at source code to give us ideas and to help inspire. Back last year when this all seemed "like a cool time" had I gone out and found a site I liked, ripped all the source code, changed the names, graphics and the links I could have easily saved myself a thousand hours of code "experimentation". The AvatarSearch, EarthWisdom, Apple Computer and Claris web sites would have been some real good "models". In cgi land the scriptors embed credit in the code and ask that you altar what you like but leave the credit info intact. Just because I spent a weekend hacking Matt's guestbook script into what we now know as the "live Feedback Forum" do I have the right to call it my creation ? I don't think so... Modification ? for sure. Did I leave the credit in the Cgi even though it was a simple delete key away from oblivion ? You bet I did, I also emailed Matt and thanked him for his work.
GIVERS and TAKERS. The net may be loose and free but that's hardly an excuse to ignore basic common courtesy... Wren and I have always had the policy of offering all of the words and graphics on the WLPA and Witches' Voice Web sites as "Yours for the taking". ALL we ever asked is that credit be given to the artists and authors were appropriate (I must have typed this 100 times in email). Visit our Pagan Graphics Web sites listings for a celebration of what this community has to offer. Don't ASSUME these are free graphics on these links... Always Ask first FOR the pagan community. And as far as I know, there isn't another detailed book of days either... (surprisingly this IS a niche territory on the pagan web - why aren't there more sites offering these kinds of services?). There is so much YOU can give... Get creative and do the work.
The following opinion, personal peeves and suggestions are strictly my own and it's worth noting that I have been guilty of just about all of the following and I am humbled every time that I toss yet another mistake up on the web. This is hardly a complete list and I welcome any additions that you may have (email Fritz). Mistakes are made all the time... NOT learning from them is devolution.
Now I don't want to get off on a rant here but...
- Alphabetize... For Goddess sake, if a your list of links or threaded message subjects on your wwwboard are longer than a couple of dozen lines CONSIDER ALPHABETIZING THEM or accept the fact that you are making people crazy.
- Always check your site in both Netscape AND Internet Explorer... Go with the numbers and these are the big boys. These Browsers dominate 90% of way the web is viewed. Even the latest versions of these "Rulers" handle tables, spacing and font colors differently so don't spend days on your work only to find out that Unky Bill's Web Browser doesn't agree with your code or ignores "block quote" and other fundamental html tags.
- Always consider the concept of light to dark "contrast"... Is that dark blue text on the black background readable ?
- Don't link to a graphic from another server... This is called Bandwidth stealing (see link below for more details). I've never done this, EVEN when asked... The last thing I want to do is have the look and feel of the Witches' Voice at the mercy of an AOL or geocities server...
- Avoid links to counters, cgi's and clocks on other sites... If THEY are slow or down so are you - If you must do this - go with a professional and stable site.
- Banner Ads do very little for YOUR action... - "More Hits than a homer"? & "link exchange"? "computer deals"? banners offer little value to Pagan Web. If you want to accept advertising try and make it at least relevant to the Pagan Web. See AvatarSearch.com for how to do this both beautifully and correct.
- Blessed Be Creative... - There are way to many "me too sites" (find a niche). Do something cool and have some fun. The field is wide open here folks.
- Broken Links... - Don't leave them on your page. Fix them or nuke them.
- Choose your color scheme wisely... Try to limit your colors to 3 or 4 max. Make sure to have plan for each color and try to be consistent. Colors that are 180 degrees apart from each other on the color wheel compliment each other and are considered good combinations
- Consider making Frames a option... Although there are good reasons to use them many people hate Frames for many reasons. I am on the fence on this one but am admittedly drawn to its coolness and plus side.
- Don't give out Awards unless they have real meaning i.e. Why was the award given? What was the criteria? Make them special, personal and make them real.
- Don't let the latest "Neato" technology chase people AWAY from your site How many people have had to option escape out of their browser due to bad Java code ? Very few people can handle much of this stuff (mpeg2, RealAudio, QuicktimeVR, java etc.) at present - They WILL in time but jumping in too early is selling your valuable content short and limiting your accessibility.
- Don't set your visited link color the same as the background color It's amazing how many "pro" sites do this - This makes me crazy!
- If a page is REALLY under construction... it shouldn't be on the web. All Websites are in a constant state of change. "under construction" is a redundant statement on a page.
- If you have more than one page... you no longer have a webpage... Start thinking about the look and feel of your "WebSite".
- Is that "BOLD ITALIC Canary-Yellow UNDERLINED TEXT" really a good choice for body copy? usually NOT.
- If you must use those cool animated gifs... pick them wisely and use them sparingly.
- Gift wrap makes bad stationary...- David Siegel. Does that background graphic really "enhance" your site? - is the text floating on top readable? 80% of the time the results are horrifying! Backgrounds CAN work and be stunning if wisely chosen.
- Keep your site Fresh and exciting... complacency on the Web equals death... This is where the real work lies, update weekly or realize that you are putting "Your fans" to sleep. Give them a reason to return...
- Load time really DOES matter... If it takes more than 30 sec. to load your page at 28.8 with a clean cache - You are torturing those that come to your site. Most will not return.
- Spell Check... Need I say more?
- Your web site provider MUST be your friend... Get on their good side and cut them some reasonable slack when things go down (and they do at all servers). Send them food, coffee, flowers and love on a regular basis.
Some food for thought: These are indeed exciting and creative times... Many of the more seasoned WebMasters/WebMistreses of the Pagan Internet are in the process of sharing what they have learned in a more formal way... This loose knit consortium should be organized in the near future. We can learn from each other and make the Pagan Web a beautiful and easy to navigate place for all to experience. The Pagan Web has grown dramatically over the past 18 months and the future is indeed exciting. Of course this is just "my opinion".
Postscript 5/30/97: During the first week that this opinionated editorial was posted I got barraged with other opinions siding both with and against my own... One of the most amusing came from the lovely Lilith who pointed me to a site that uses bad Web Design as a way to teach. It's simply called webpagesthatsuck.com So mote it be!
Blessed Be Well!
(ALWAYS Learning - NEVER burning)
May 25th., 1997 c.e.
Location: Clearwater¼ v2, Florida
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