First Edition, June 1996
The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the World Wide Web, and explain the process of building your Web site. If you're already familiar with the Web and its jargon, you may want to skip ahead to the development checklist. However, before developing a site, it's helpful for you to have a basic understanding of the World Wide Web, and what makes it tick. So we'll cover some basic topics here. For a more technical article, please see HTTP/HTML/CGI: The Rules of the Web [http://hake.com/rules.htm], by Bruce Hake and Gordon Hake.
HTML is the language of the World Wide Web. Web browsers, such as Netscape and Mosaic, can read and display many file formats, including text, graphics, audio, and video, all of which can be "hyperlinked" to other files (pages, documents, images, scripts, etc.) residing on other computers anywhere on the Internet (or Intranets, but that's another story). HTML is the language that pulls it all together by letting the browser know what to do with the data. To see the underlying HTML code of any Web page, select "View Source," "View Document Source" or similar command from one of the pull-down menus above, depending on the browser that you're using. You'll see text surrounded by HTML "tags," which are formatting or linking commands inside left angle (<)and right angle (>) brackets.
Currently, the only widely accepted standard is HTML 2.0, which dates back to early 1994. Over the past two years, dozens of new tags have been added by Netscape and others, but they aren't all supported by all browsers. For instance, Netscape introduced tags to specify background colors; background graphics; text, link and visited link colors; centering of text and graphics; tables; different font sizes; and frames. Browser developers play leap frog trying to catch up, but there's no real consistency. A new standard, HTML 3.2, is scheduled for release in July, but there will be a lag before all browsers support that standard. In the meantime, Netscape, Microsoft, and others will be developing new proprietary tags. The bottom line is that it's virtually impossible to write HTML code that will display consistently in all browsers. That's important for you to know.
We won't go into more detail here because there are already so many excellent HTML resources on the Web. When you become familiar with what's "under the hood" it helps to take the mystery out of it. We encourage everyone with the time and inclination to learn how to do their own Web work.
For further reading, see the NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) Learning HTML [http://union.ncsa.uiuc.edu/HyperNews/get/www/html/learning.html], or Gordon Hake's W3 Writer, A Basic HTML Tutorial [http://hake.com/gordon/w3-index.html].
URLs are the Web addresses you see all over the place now, like the URL for this page: http://ilw.com/om-2.htm. With Immigration Lawyers on the Web, your URL will (or does) look like this: http://ilw.com/your_name. URLs are a way to specify the location of a file (or various other things) on a server anywhere on the network. URLs can be absolute, like the example above, or they can be "relative" or partial. Relative URLs are abbreviated to discard the top level directory (ilw.com). Web browsers are smart enough to figure out that "om.htm," when requested within the "ilw.com" directory, is the same as: http://ilw.com/om.htm.
Web browsers are the application programs used to navigate the Web, and display many types of information. By now, practically everyone's heard of Netscape, which enjoys a 70-90% market share, depending on whose statistics you believe. But Netscape didn't invent the Web, or the first Web browser. Those distinctions go to Tim Berners-Lee of CERN, who first visualized the World Wide Web in 1989, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), respectively. The first popular browser, NCSA's Mosaic, dominated the Web until late 1994.
Here are a few other browsers in use, some of which display text only: Air Mosaic, Cello, DOSLynx, Enhanced Mosaic, Internaut, InterNav, Internet Explorer, Internet Works, MacWeb, NetCruiser, Samba, SlipKnot, TCP/Connect II, WebExplorer, Web Navigator, and Web Surfer. To further complicate matters, new browsers, and new versions of existing browsers are constantly being released.
The two most important things to realize about Web browsers are that people viewing your site:
Some people will not see graphics at all. Some people will see the graphics, but everything will be left-justified on a gray background. Some people will see your pages in a four inch wide window. Some people will see your pages on twenty inch monitors. We strive to develop Web pages that display optimally to the vast majority of users -- those using Netscape, Mosaic, and MS Internet Explorer, in all their various versions.
Although not everyone will view your site in the same way, they will all see the same content. Yes, it's important to make your pages attractive and friendly, but it's much more important to provide useful information, and to make a case for why a prospective client should contact you instead of another lawyer. We'll do all the HTML coding and site design, and we'll host your site on our server, but ultimately, it's up to you to supply content for your site. Nobody knows your practice like you do. Here's your opportunity to tell the entire world!
You may want to develop new content for your site, or you may use existing material. When it comes to content, more is better on the Web. We recommend that you include some or all of the following:
When it comes to graphics, less is more on the Web. If you've spent any time at all exploring the Web, especially if you have a slow connection, no doubt you've given up on certain sites because it just takes too long to download the images. You are not alone. Millions of people still have slow connections, and/or are coming through expensive online services like AOL or CompuServe. We recommend keeping your graphics relatively sparse so that your visitors don't give up before they've had a chance to read your message.
We will work with you individually to develop the graphics for your site. You may already have a logo, letterhead, brochure, or other art than can be scanned, or digitally formatted. If so, that's great! If not, we will work together to select and/or create appropriate, attractive graphics. All graphics eventually need to be converted to GIF or JPG format for presentation on the Web.
Like everything else, there is much to learn about graphics on the Web. We won't go into detail here, but encourage you to study the following sites if you want to learn more.
Once we receive the materials, we'll start to design and code your home page. This is where the process gets fun, and we'll need to work closely together. You will be able to access your site over the Internet from the start, but it won't be linked to anything, so will be essentially private until you're happy with it. You may also opt to have a brief page posted immediately, while your site is in development, so that you can begin getting inquiries. We highly recommend this approach.
Table of Contents · Chapter 1 · Chapter 2 · Chapter 3 · Chapter 4
Hake Internet Projects, LLC.
Silver Spring, MD USA
301-589-7766 voice · 301-589-9798 fax