Web Development Guide
About This Guide
This guide is intended to provide an overview of topics that may be of interest to the information providers for the Monticello Avenue online community resource.
The purpose of this guide is not to teach users everything about scripting HTML, but rather to overview the major issues and topics related to web development, specifically for Monticello Avenue information providers.
If you have any questions or comments about these services, please direct them to the Monticello Avenue Coordinator.
Defining the Purpose and Audience
Determine the fundamental purpose and intent of your web project first.
Before you begin working on your web project, you must take the time to clearly decide what information you wish to provide. You should also determine how you want the information to be presented to establish guidelines for the project based on how your subject information will be designed and targeted.
What is the main information you wish to provide or promote?
Make sure that you are clear on exactly "WHAT?" information you are attempting to communicate to your audience, and "WHY?". Highlight your main points as you 'brainstorm' about the various bits of information you wish to convey. It is also wise to determine the priority of the different concepts and information you are going to present. A good starting point for 'brainstorming' would be to ask: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? If you answer these basic questions, you will have a good start.
Is the purpose of the project strictly to distribute information and awareness of a service, organization, etc?
If the main purpose of your project is to present information alone, then you should consider having the information as quickly and easily accessible as possible. This means that the web site should not use too many graphics or other devices which may cause major delays during user transfers. It is also important to design the site so that the user can easily navigate it, to reach all parts of the information. If possible, it is valuable to add a 'site map' (a hierarchically linked interactive chart) on large web sites which contain lots of important information. This will allow a user to quickly find the particular area they are most interested in reading.
Are you selling products or services?
Most information providers for the Monticello Avenue online resources will not be selling products or services. Most or all services hosted on the Monticello Avenue online services are non-profit. However for your general information, here are a few things to consider when designing a commercial presentation.
If you are taking credit card numbers, then you should strongly consider using secure commercial web services.
Commercial web sites should attempt to captivate the audience, but graphics and other attractive devices still need to transfer fast enough to keep their attention.
Make SURE to include general contact information.
Consider including an online order form as well as a printable text or graphical version of your order form.
Be sure to register your web site and promote it on a regular basis.
Include your web site address in other advertisements and on all other business materials.
Who are you targeting? How might this help shape your site?
Information focused to a particular audience should be clear to that audience right from the first web page. For example, if your information is for senior citizens, then you should make the main page less graphical and/or clear visualization. If you are designing a web site that is targeted to children, you might include large simple graphics with bright colors and big text. Clipart or images which are small in file size (i.e. a gif with very few palette colors) could be used to present large images which load faster than photographic type images. Your target group may affect your choices of colors, layouts, styles, references, and other considerations.
Keep the goals in mind during development.
It is critical to strictly follow the guidelines you setup during the project development. This will help your information to be very clear and understandable to the user. When following guidelines it is better to be too conservative rather than too liberal. It is in everyone's best interest to establish and follow the rules that are appropriate for the project.
Organizing Your Information and Materials
Get it all together.
First, you must gather all resources and materials you wish to include in your online presentation. This includes ALL text, images, sound/video files, etc. It is highly recommended that you get everything together before starting to develop your project.
It is necessary to label all materials, including photographs, files, and other materials. Make the labels make sense so the designer and user do not have to guess. Otherwise, materials may get used in the wrong place, in the wrong way, or not used at all.
Create a general outline and web chart (hierarchically linked flowchart)
Many people jump right in with the software. However, it is important to draft a general outline of your information and layout of your web site. The first step is to organize the concepts you decided to use when 'brainstorming' while defining the purpose of your project into a formal outline. This outline should cover all the main concepts you wish to present in an organized fashion.
You are encouraged to create a 'web chart' or hierarchically linked flowchart of your entire site. There is more than one way to create a 'web chart' but two styles are most common, the vertical or circular web charts. Please note that all sites do not require a web chart, and not all developers use them.
Study your materials and information
It is very important to take the time to closely review all of the materials and information you have gotten together. Double check items that need to be labeled, and make sure all parts are together and organized. If you are working for a client, make sure that you have all necessary contact information to reach them during the production phase of the project. If you are working with others as a team, you should all review the materials and information together to make sure everyone is clear on what needs to by done, when it needs to be done, and who needs to do it. Also, if you are working as a team, make sure to have contact information for all other members of your development group so that anyone can be contacted if information or materials are needed during development. Before beginning development, you should be sure that your information and materials are together and accurate so that you do not have to struggle to get it during production.
Presenting the Information
Consistent Layout and Design
When presenting information, make sure that the layout and design of your entire web site is easy-to-use, attractive, and consistent. Keep the design as well as the content directly related to your most important points and the audience you wish to reach.
Textural content can be produced in almost any word processor, other such program, and exported as plain 'raw' ASCII text. The necessary HTML codes can be placed around the textural content to create the basic web page content. Or, this text may be imported into other web development packages and the necessary HTML codes can be added from there. Some programs will attempt to export HTML files, however it is very commonly necessary to edit the HTML files by hand in order to perform better control of the content or function of your web site. Also, many programs which attempt to automatically generate HTML code add many unnecessary and perhaps incorrect tags due the average interpretations it uses to generate the site based it's perception of your design intentions. It is almost always necessary to have some well-founded knowledge of HTML code to produce highly quality or highly interactive web sites. If you use other programs to assist you in producing web sites, be sure to know the HTML code well before relying on the software to meet your development needs.
General Design Guidelines
This varies depending on design and audience. If you expect an audience with a very short attention span (common), then you should keep all pages short and to the point. In such a case, it is good to average no more than 1.5 screens of text (about a single 12pt printed page.) If you expect an audience that may be interested in lots of valuable information or content, then you can use longer scrolling pages such as this guide.
Use links sparingly and only where most appropriate in your textural content to navigate the flow of traffic through and away from your web site.
Use graphics related to your subject or interest. Use your best judgment when considering design vs. loading times. If it takes too long to load your page, consider smaller or less graphics
Be sure to include necessary navigational links on every page within a web site. If you use graphical navigational links within your web site, you should consider also using textural navigational links. Include internal links within multi-part web pages.
Keep your entire site accurate and up-to-date! Make sure all links are working. Check your grammar and spelling. Check the layout and design on different browsers and machines.
Important web site Items:
- Name of the organization or business
- Business postal contact/address information
- Online contact information (E-Mail, contact forms, other web sites managed by your organization, etc.)
- General information about the organization or business (the purpose, goals, people, etc.)
- Navigational links to your home page and other major sections of your web site
- Webmaster contact information, if different than the organizational contact information
- Date of creation/when last updated
- Copyright message
Learning HTML Code:
This overview was designed to cover the basic topics related to producing web sites for Monticello Avenue. It was not designed to teach you the HTML language, however we have included some links below which will provide you with a variety of good HTML language instruction and guideline sites.
Development FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
How do I add a clickable image map on my web page?
To add a client side 'image map' to your web page do the following:
Client side image maps do not require a .MAP file, and can be used without a web server.
Create a simple 'client side' coordinate script with software such as Mapedit.
Place the mapping coordinate code in your web page with the proper reference:
<AREA SHAPE=RECT COORDS="19,160,142,247" HREF=link1.html>
<AREA SHAPE=RECT COORDS="361,161,484,248" HREF=link2.html>
<AREA SHAPE=default HREF=index.html></MAP>
<a href="index.html"><img src="mymap.jpg" ISMAP usemap="#coolmap"></a>
Promoting Your New Web Site
It is VERY important that you register your web site with all the standard web index and search sites, if you want people to find it. Since this outline is for the information providers of Monticello Avenue, you must first make sure that the Monticello Avenue Coordinator is aware of your web site and your intentions to register a domain name and the site itself for search engines.
Register a Domain Name
Your organization's URL will be http://avenue.org/yoursite unless the organization chooses to register a virtual domain name. This is an optional service. Once an organization obtains its domain name, the account manager should contact the Monticello Avenue Coordinator to facilitate support for the domain name. The Member Organization is solely responsible for any fees and/or requirements for registration of its domain name. A couple of sites are: register.com or godaddy.com
There are several ways to register your web site with the standard web searches and index sites.
- You can visit all of the main search and index sites, and enter your web site information in their forms, in the various formats they use.
- You can pay for a service to register your web site for you.
- You can use automated forms (such as Add Me) to help you quickly register your web site.
The third way is the one we suggest you use. It is a free way to get your web site listed, and it is very easy to do. In order to register your web site, try using one of the following web sites:
Each of the web sites listed above works in a similar way. First, you simply enter your web site information in their form. Then, you will be presented with the information you've entered and a list of sites that will register your site for free.
It is not necessary to register with every search and index site in order to get good exposure and recognition. Most of all, your web site needs to be linked from the Monticello Avenue web site. It would also be nice to register your web site with other local web site guides and important Internet sites, such as Yahoo: Regional Charlottesville if your organization is based in Charlottesville, or Yahoo: Regional Albemarle County if you are in the county.
To register with Yahoo, simply go to the area related to your group and select "Add URL" from the graphic Yahoo menu at the top of their web page. If a related category is not available, just click the "Add URL" button and list your site under the main area. The good people at Yahoo will make a category for you if none is available. For more information relating to registering with Yahoo, refer to their Add URL FAQ.
There are many ways to encourage more hits to your web site, other than registration alone.
Announce your web site in local newsgroups and other world-wide groups related to your subject.
Publish your web site in all of your organization's materials. (i.e. Business cards, brochures, newspaper ads, radio ads, etc.)
If you use E-Mail or Newsgroups on a regular basis, be sure to add your web site link to your signature file. (Automatically attached at the bottom of each message you send.)
Announce your web site at publicity releases or related gatherings
You may also announce your web site through a mass E-Mailing to individuals that may be interested in your web site. (Do not 'Spam' users, or flood masses of unknown users with junk mail. That would be both immoral and illegal.)
Exchange links. In some cases, you may be able to get your web site linked from a related web site on the Internet (that doesn't list all sites) by offering to link their web pages from your page.
Link Exchange advertising banner. The Internet Link Exchange is a free public service designed to help web sites advertise each other. The concept is simple: by joining, you agree to display advertising banners for other ILE members, and they agree to display banners for you. Be sure that you have permission from the Monticello Avenue Coordinator before placing any such banners on your web pages, and no commercial banners are allowed.
Making It Last
After everyone has seen your web site, you need to make sure that they have enough reasons to return. Here are some very important things to keep in mind:
ALWAYS maintain excellent relations with users who submit suggestions or criticisms of your web site. (Contact information is required)
Keep your web site interesting and most of all up-to-date!
Make sure all hyperlinks are working. You must check all links every month or so, due to the rapid expansion of Internet services and resources. Site domains and URL addresses are constantly changing.
The more your web site offers people, the more interest it will receive
The more your web site changes, the more people will be attracted to investigate the site for new information and resources. (It appears new and alive instead of old and stale.)
Balance creativity, design, and interactivity with quality, content, and the time required to load your web page and materials by the average user.
Provide alternative versions of your web site if you believe that some users will not be able to use some of the features you choose to include in your web site design.
Keep your web site linked! If, for some reason, your web site address changes, your must re-register the new address with the web search and index sites. Be sure that all sites maintain current information and active links to your web site.
Be involved! If you want to make the most of your web site, you will understand why you have produced it, and how you wish to shape its destiny. If you can, work with others at Monticello Avenue to integrate your site into the design and goals shared by all. By building a strong relationship with the other members, you will be able to keep up-to-date on new happenings, and assist each other in providing the best resources possible to the community.