Web Site Philosophy 101

From   Pillar   to   Post

by Rex D. Moore


Basics are basic and available everywhere

Books with simple, straightforward examples are a good way to go for the newbie to expand his/her horizons.   The "for Dummies" series (IDG Books) is always a winner.   There is even a "for Idiots" series as well (Alpha Books).   The "easy" series (by QUE) is my personal favorite because they demonstrate each step with full color reproductions of the screen you'll be dealing with.

Web sites to help you along:

This site will check your code.

Hexadecimal values for the primary 256 colors.

http://www.sausage.com/ Hot Dog HTML Editor sales and support.

http://www.notetab.com/ HTML Editor (Light free, Standard $9.95, Pro $19.95).

http://www.arachnoid.com/arachnophilia/ Arachnophilia HTML Editor (download any version is free for a favor).

http://www.pride-unlimited.com/ URL Hosting and Web Site Development.

http://members.xoom.com/CupertinoFTP/ Download site for Cupertino FTP program.

http://www.netcom.net.uk/support/web/cupertino.html How to Set-Up and use the Cupertino FTP program.

http://www.buttonmaker.com/ Turn a ".gif" file in to a button.

http://www.MediaBuilder.com/abm.html Helps you create animated gifs.

http://www.MediaBuilder.com/fontmapper.html Maps special character fonts.

http://www.FreeCode.com/ Free CGI and Java script subroutines.

http://www.GifOptimizer.com/ Streamlines that slow loading ".gif" file.

http://www.starlingtech.com/books/javascript/ Java Scripts Workshop.

http://www.kubu.com/banner1.htm Free banners and logos.

http://www.pride-unlimited.com/ URL Hosting with up-to-date traffic reports.

http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/tut/ HTML Writing Tutorial.

HTML examples.

http://www.worldwidemart.com/scripts/ Matt's Script Archive.

http://hoohoo.ncsa.uiuc.edu/docs/tutorials/ NCSA - Image maps creation and CGI configuration.

UTex list of PC, MAC, & Unix helper apps.

http://www.olm.org/ A confederation of Christians using the Internet and computer based technologies to further the cause of Christ throughout the world.

http://www.church-of-christ.net/ To God Be the Glory. . . a search engine for the Church.

http://www.churches-of-christ.net/ Coming Soon ! ! !


Web Authoring Tools (not how to use them, but why or why not)

NetObjects "Fusion" has impressed me so far.   It is a table-based site building and management tool.   You may order a 30-day trial CD version through their customer service center by calling NetObjects at (888) 449-6400 or visit their web site at http://www.netobjects.com.

There is Adobe's "Page Mill".   Microsoft "FrontPage" is a site management tool that requires special support.   Microsoft "Publisher" and "Corel Draw" have a HTML Publishing feature built in.   Microsoft WORD 97 will also "save as HTML".   Also, these types of programs create large amounts of code which is quite often comfusing and very hard to follow.

Site management tools lean toward preset page widths that do not lend themselves to showing up well in frames and may even lose their perspective when viewed in a resolution larger or smaller than that for which they were designed.   These tools also publish a site as a unit.   This means that in order to correct the spelling of one word or to change a single date means replacing the entire site.   Likewise, going in on your own and changing something (especially a link) may bring the whole site down.

Some site management tools (and/or programmers) will also break the back(ward) link of your browser which will aggravate many casual visitors and cause them not to return (EVER).   For a broader discussion see Gremlins/Frames.

Some HTML editors out on the market are HOT DOG PRO, NoteTab and Nesbitt's.   The Arachnophilia HTML Editor is the best value.   It is a great program that you can download straight off the Internet and the author's price it that you do something good for some else.   It is the original "Pay It Forward" concept, and it was here on the Internet long before it was at the movies.   The basic difference in an editor as opposed to an authoring tool as I see it is "tweakability".   HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is an uncompiled programming environment.   That is to say, each line of code is interpreted at run time, each time the program is called.   It was developed to enhance the readability of archived documents in a research environment.   Not just to make them look better, but more importantly - make them dynamically scaleable to different Operating Systems.

The more optical illusions or tricks you put into a page will quite often (and sometimes severely) limit the manor in which it can be viewed.   Manifestations of this can be seen by the number of sites that have multiple entry points or "gateways" (i.e. Graphics or Text Only, Frames or No Frames, Netscape or Internet Explorer, and JAVA or No JAVA).   You will also see warnings such as "This site is best viewed at a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels" or other resolutions.


Site Planning

Pillar or Post - Are you going to be a "Pillar" of the Christian Web Community?   -or-   Are you going to be sign "post" on the information super highway?   There is NO SHAME in the latter, but MAKE UP YOUR MIND.   A "Pillar" site doesn't happen accidentally.

They call it "Web Publishing" - If you are going to primarily exhibit static information then you are a "Post".   If you intend to add to your site regularly then treat it more like a magazine.   Another way to think of a "Post" site is like a yellow page ad or an ad within a magazine.   The "Pillar" site would be the magazine itself.

If you are going to be publishing, then try to stick pretty close to the basic rules for print media.   You know, don't copy stuff to your site and call it your own.   Don't publish things on your site that are not part of the public domain.   Honor copyrights and so on.   Remember this is the Internet, just link to the source like virtual footnotes.

It helps to have a message - First things first: List them out:
  • a)   Who you are,
  • b)   Where you are,
  • c)   How to find you,
  • d)   How to contact you,
  • e)   What you stand for,
  • f)   Group History,
  • g)   Other sites with which you have some affiliation.

Look 'n' Feel - This is probably the single most important issue on this list.   When you go to a McDonald's Restaurant there is never any doubt in your mind where you are or what the menu will look like.   When you pick up a National Geographic, you know what to expect; the quality of graphics, the font, the style; the quality of stock is very consistent.

Likewise on the Internet, since there are no walls, ceilings, floors or doors you as webmaster must set the tone through use of color depth and coordination, font style, and background texture.

Simple Post -

Pooled Site -

Layered Site -

URL, or are you? - Don't mix apples and oranges when it comes to the type of site that you want or need.   When a provider (ie. www.localcity.net, or www.localguy.com ) follows their name with yours (www.localguy.com/yourname ), you are simply an extension of their internet URL or address.   This is especially true if it is "/yourname.html" or maybe "/religion/yourname.html.   If the information is kept simple and to the point with no continual changes, this is what I call a "signpost".   It is much like any other signpost along any other highway.   The ISP operator gives you a spot on a list in the hopes of gleaning business from your membership.   I do this myself. That's an apple.

If you get your own URL (Uniform Resource Locator), then you can maintain the same address no matter which ISP you choose to host with.   You have to advertise yourselves and all that time energy and money doesn't end up going down the drain if want or need to move.   It's easier to get "traffic reports" which tell you who is hitting your pages, which pages are hit the most, where the folks are coming from (necessary if spending money on advertising) because that information is generated readily at the URL level.   It is also less likely for someone else on the system to do something that will knock everyone else off the air, if each one occupies his or her own virtual space.   To accomplish this your ISP has to assign a static IP (Internet Protocol) address.  An IP is a unique number for your (virtual) computer in the whole world.   It works much like a telephone number.   That's an orange.



Download Theory - This is a visual media.   You want to use graphics so lets get a clear concept of what graphics can do to help you and hurt you.   Calculate or measure the download times on your pages.   As a rule, keep it to 15 second or less.   Some pages by their nature will need 30 to 60 seconds but no more.

Frames - At present the Internet culture is moving away from frames.   There are some complexities that make it undesirable for many sites (such as surfing forward off the site will usually cause you to stay on the site and draw the next resource on to the main viewing area of the framed site).   Also, a framed site that has a masthead, a side bar menu and a main page causes the visitors computer to make six round trips to the server in order to download and compile the page for viewing.   The casual visitor may get caught up in a small site and be unappreciative of his/her situation.

Breaking Links - (a real No, No for the purest) Imagine a visitor has come your way from a search on a large search engine that has yielded the obligatory 500,000 possible sites, and he's found his way down through a few thousand or so to get to you.   He still has a long way to go in his research.   This type of visitor is precise, from the length of time they will give your index page to load, to the number of words they will allow for you to make your initial argument.   If you cut them off from their search result list and make them search again and shuffle down to where ever you are in the list, it makes them mad.

To make things worse, many search engines do not give you the list in the same order twice.   You may have searched through many pages of links and have to start over again.   Then begs the question, How many of the sites in the first many pages of the second search are different from the first?   Very mad indeed ! - And all because of ignorance or lack of respect.

Browser Wars - The major browser vendors (Netscape and Microsoft) have promised to cooperate in design and the way they handle various plug-ins and scripts.   This is a promise that both of them have broken.   If you choose one over the other, then by default you begin to exclude the other.   Bottom line: If you design for one version of one browser, you leave out the rest of the world.

Script Errors - If you use Java scripts then "Script Errors" are bound to follow.   You have to optimize for a specific brand of browser and may even exclude older versions of your browser of choice.   If you want broad appeal in this media, think long and hard about whom you are cutting off by the latest innovations that you incorporate.

A Legend in Your Own Mind - Two of the big problems (again, my opinion) that occur with "Christian" web sites are these:
  1. The webmaster is too caught up in trying to out do everyone else with the latest do-dad and ends up forgetting or demeaning the real reason to be there.
  2. Many sites are named for the congregation they represent, but are the thoughts and opinions of one man and therefor do not represent that group of Christians fairly and honestly.

Remember ! ! !   It's not about us!   It's about Him, and them!


Letting the Son Shine Out, Without the World Playing Through

There have been arguments made that congregations should not launch web sites on commercial servers, that somehow by doing so, they have soiled themselves.   This idea is utter nonsense.   If you follow this reasoning to its absurd end, you would have to also argue that taking the road from your house to the building where your congregation holds service would be sinful if you passed by any bars or pornshops.   Likewise, a fledgling congregation could not consider leasing an empty storefront property in a strip mall in which to hold service because of the other stores that occupy the rest of the mall.

(Strictly my opinion) Congregations should be paying attention to the other sites that are being linked to from their site.   Many commercial hosting companies will donate space on their servers for nonprofit organizations to maintain a web presence.   In return they expect the donated web page to contain a link back to the main server.   Sometimes the commercial server will even furnish the page design which will include advertisements for other secular clients on the same server.   This seems to be where some groups are falling shy of my personal expectation.

When a static IP is plugged into the World Wide Web, that creates a new DOMAIN and a need for domain name resolution (DNS).   You're not just an obscure '.html' file in some obscure sub-directory any more.   If you are willing to invest the effort, a small church in the boondocks can stand shoulder to shoulder with the Vatican in Rome or the LDS Temple in Salt Lake City.   And, it doesn't cost that much.

Just a few years ago, a search using the word "Christ" in any one of the major "Search Engines" (WWW directories) would have retrieved, worldwide, a couple of hundred pages at most.   Now with 40,000 new pages per day being added to the Web and hundreds of religious organizations of every description jumping in to the mix, the Church has lost valuable space and market share relative to the exponential growth.   It is time to gain that back.

When members of the Church first came together in October of 1995 to discuss their options and opportunities, we had about 35 web sites in the world.   Now there are over 800 web sites.   A wonderful effort, but it is still not good enough.   Web users in the United States will soon approach 100% of the population old enough to sit up at a computer and click a mouse.   The largest growth is still yet to come as the rest of the worlds population scrambes ot gain access to "The Informtation Super Highway" at no less than 20% growth rate per year.   WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY ! ! !

Let me count my 3rd point back to you first.   I am offering congregations and other non-profit schools, camps, and care giving homes a full-blown Internet Presence Package.   This includes a URL domain (with internic fees paid).   An FTP account (so you can manage the site yourself).   125 megabytes of disk space (enough for 25 fully referenced Bibles).   Up to 30 e-mail accounts, and free access to a CGI server for only $270 per year.

Our system is on a redundant fibre loop to the backbone.   We have a RAID disk system with auto mirroring and backups.   It is UNIX based and Frontpage extensions can be supported.   Currently we're running on multiple DS-3 (45 megabits/second) connections.   This is no bedroom operation.   And, most important of all, Pride UnLimited will not allow a pornographic web site, PERIOD, end of story!   I also will not harbor extremist groups who advocate violence, genocide, or ethnic cleansing.   Show these last two paragraphs to "those in the know".   I am offering a Rolls Royce setup for a Hundai price.

I wish I could offer a better deal, but that's as good as I can get it.   Some of my business acquaintances have warned me that $600 to $700 each year would be more in line with other ISP's, but they are not members of the Church and don't understand.   "It is better to keep up than catch up."   That is the end of my sales pitch. Let me finish quickly.

Secondly, get members interested in working on the Web.   It is a great way to increase member involvement (especially retirees and shut-ins).   They can reach out and touch the world from the privacy of their own home.

And first, if nothing else write or call me back and let me send you a form.   You can out line your services, physical information, and even a graphic or picture (i.e. Of your church building) and for a $40 setup fee, I'll put a simple "signpost" page together and post it on the Internet.   Choose some favorite churches or organizations like World Bible School, Sunset or Bear Valley School, OCU, LCU or even Netherwood Park to link to and an e-mail address of someone in your congregation who is willing to act as a postmaster for incoming messages.

To God Be the Glory . . .

For questions or comments about any of the articles listed,
contact: info@pride-unlimited.com

For questions or comments about site layout or maintenance,
contact: webservant@church-of-christ.net
Copyright © 1999 - 2001 by Rex D. Moore - (version 1.5 - Aug 23, 2001)