In the 1960s, people asked about your astrological sign. These days, they want to know about your web page. Your personal page is an electronic meeting place for your friends, family and potentially millions of people around the world. Building your digital domain is easier than you may think. Best of all, depending on your goals, you may not have to spend any money at all. The Web brims with all kinds of inexpensive services, from tools to help you build your site, to graphics, animation and site hosting. More than anything else, it just takes time and creativity.
Think of your homepage as the starting point of your website. Like the table of contents of a book or magazine, the home page is the front door. Your site can have one or more pages, depending on how you design it. If there isn't a lot of content just yet, your site will most likely have only a home page. Avoid the temptation to create additional pages that don't add any value. Instead, focus on making your homepage as great as it can possibly be. Your site is sure to grow over time.
Web pages vary dramatically in design and content. Some use a traditional magazine layout. At the top of the page is a banner graphic. Next comes a greeting and a short description of the site. Pictures, text, and links to other websites follow.
Organizing Your Website
If the site has more than one page, there's typically a list of items – similar to an index – often with a brief description. This list is called the site navigation and is commonly located either horizontally across the top of the page or vertically down one side of the page.
The items in the site navigation link to other pages on the website. Your site will probably also include links that are highlighted words in the body of the text. Additionally, a web page may have images that link to other content.
Before you start building your site, do some planning. Think about whom the site is for, what you want to say, and the pages that your site will need. Next, gather up the material that you want to put on the site: write the text, collect the photos, design or find the graphics. Draw a rough layout on a sheet of paper.
Two wildly popular destinations on the Web, Twitter and Facebook, let you create a business profile or page for free. While there are creative limitations, your personal profile page will be part of an enormous online community of hundreds of millions or billions of members worldwide.
While there are no rules you have to follow, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Start simply. If you're too ambitious at the beginning, you may never get the project off the ground. You can always add to more content later.
- Less is more. Most people don't like to read a lot of text online. Be brief. Break long paragraphs into smaller chunks.
- Use restraint. Avoid wild colors and fancy animations unless you are a trained designer. Focus instead on creating a highly usable website.
- Smaller is better. Not all Internet connections are created equal. Keep media file sizes small whenever possible. For tips how to do this, review our graphics article.
- Have the rights. Don't put any material on your site unless you are sure you can do it legally. Read Learn the Net's copyright article for more about this.
Stake Your Claim
Many computers come with programs for creating your own graphics. If not, check out GIMP. There's a bit of a learning curve to using GIMP, but it's the best free image and graphic manipulation software. If creating graphics isn't something you want to take on, you can also locate free and low cost images and graphics at many different stock image websites. A few of our favorites are BigStock and ShutterStock.
If you feel adventurous and want to learn more, read the Learn the Net series on Building a Website.