The beauty of building a basic website is that you really
don't need any special software to do it! For the amateur website designer,
you will most likely be creating your web site in HTML, perhaps with a
But before we go any further, let's start with a simple definition of
First, tags tell the text how to behave when displayed by a web browser. If you ever used Wordperfect before the days of Windows, this aspect of HTML will be familiar.
Second, tags give your browser simple commands to create links to other web pages and other sorts of files and to recognize different areas of your web page.
You can read more about HTML and what it can do on the web. Try visiting Webmonkey's Intro to HTML or Webreference's HTML 101 tutorial. Another useful resource is the Library of Congress Resource Page on HTML.
Before diving into building your own web pages, another good thing to do is surf the web and study how your favorite sites were built. Since the Web is based on downloading files, HTML coding for any page you see on the Web is available to you. All you do is choose "View Page Source" or "Save as Source" in your web browser and you've got the HTML. You'd be surprised how simple the commands are to create that page you thought was so complicated.
Now that you understand a little bit about HTML, let's talk about web authoring software. Most of this software makes the HTML tags invisible, displaying your web pages as they will look on the browser, like today's word processing and desktop publishing software display text formatting and inset images on the screen as they will appear on the page. This display of formatting is called WYSIWYG or, What You See Is What You Get. The HTML editing software also sets up your HTML files with the proper structure that will allow them to be read by web browsers.
For all the but the simplest of sites, WYSIWYG editors are no substitute for buckling down and learning HTML, however. In fact, to use WYSIWYG editors themselves, it's advisable to have a fairly thorough knowledge of HTML or the bulk of the software's features won't make any sense.
There are many freeware and shareware web authoring tools out there. Try browsing through CNET's list of web authoring shareware or the Info-Mac Archive's HTML editor list. Netscape Communicator comes with a basic HTML editor, Composer, and most new computers come bundled with some sort of web authoring software, such as Adobe Pagemill or Microsoft Frontpage. For reviews of a range of commercial WYSIWYG software packages, check out Webmonkey's WYSIWYG Editor Shootout. It's a bit dated, but gives you the basic idea. Many hardcore website developers eschew WYSIWYG software for the souped-up text editors, BBEdit (for Mac) and Allaire Homesite (for PC).
Information on software for creating images for the web and for adding sound files to your website can be found elsewhere on this site. You can find links to information on adding basic functionality to your site at CLMP's Building Websites Linkbank.
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