Making websites


Making a website is not difficult, it's just confusing. The process can be broken down to just a few steps; so long as you have a computer with an internet connection, some bodgy software, and plenty of perseverance (or an unhealthy obsession with computers), web publishing is within the grasp of any computer literate person.

If you want to put info on the web, but are unsure of the steps, try this.

Why the Web?

Designing a website is the counterpart of web browsing, but in process it is more like using a word processor or page layout program. Putting info on the World Wide Web is a kind of publishing - compare it with email or print media as a means of conferring information or graffiti as a message board.

Publishing on the web is cheap, immediate, requires few resources, and can be seen from any web browser in the world. The main restriction with Web publishing is it excludes people who don't have access to the internet.



There are three elements to getting a site up:

1 You need content, which you need to format in HTML. (eg a file called SNAFU.HTML)
2 You need the content to be published on a server.
3 You must have an address on the server, so people can find it. (eg - which could direct toward any server on the Web).



The content is the key to the site. The other steps are procedural.

Work out what you want to put on the site - text and pictures are the best place to start. Then start assembling it.

The standard format for WWW documents is HTML - hypertext markup language. It's like a special word processor format that can handle text, tables (for fancy formatting), layers (even fancier interactive formatting), and links to other locations on the WWW. It can embed pictures, sounds, motion clips and other electronic documents. A web site can become a very confusing place!

Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer are browsers: they can read HTML (and surf the web), but they do not write HTML. There are specific programs for compiling HTML content: try Dreamweaver by Macromedia, or there are others.

If you have used word processors or programs like HyperCard or PowerPoint, the basic concepts of programs like Dreamweaver are similar and pretty easy - but expect to be confused all the same. Insert a table to position the text, enter your text (cut and paste from a word processor), and insert pictures using the Insert Image command. There are plenty of books around on how to use these programs.

Being able to format text, insert pictures, and hyperlink to other documents are the primary skills to learn; the rest are flourishes. For very simple HTML, it is possible to save even a MS-WORD document in HTML format, and upload it to the web.

Skill in programs like Photoshop 5.5 or Flash are invaluable for adding look to a site. Websites are best kept small, and both these programs can assist that.

Photoshop combined with a scanner is a really good setup. Many scanned photos will want to be cropped, resized or filtered before putting on the web.


Advanced web sites

The simplest website contains no more than ascii text: web browsers can show txt files as easily as HTML. Contrastingly, sites like use server-side programs to build a complicated and versatile interface. 'Plug ins' allow other programs to run within a browser window, so your computer can stream video, animate flash files or show Acrobat documents.

Web sites are a blank canvas, you can express yourself using any of its tools.

Serving over the WWW

You could publish (or serve) your own site over the World Wide Web from your own computer with the right software - so long as you remained connected to the Internet. But as this is expensive and difficult, you will need find a host and put it on their server.


A host can be arranged for free (through a university or sites like geocities or xoom - with annoying advertising), or you can find commercial servers by searching for "website hosting" on a search engine. A commercial server costs money, but should give a good connection and allows you to have your own domain name. Servers may be anywhere in the world - but a proximity to your audience helps. Eg Melbourne users should get a faster connection to a Melbourne server than one in the UK.

Putting your content on a free site has advantages of anonymity too: has its own web-browser based FTP interface, which means it is possible to upload documents from a café computer to the web.

Sites and Address

A 'website' is a fairly vague term: it can refer to a single page or a cluster of pages. There is no need to have a front page, but it may help users to have a beginning.

An address is crucial. This is how the HTML documents are located on the ever-changing directory of the internet. An address is centred around a Domain Name. A domain name consists of a name and an extension - eg or There can be subdomains, like, and directories, like is a directory on

It is possible - at a price - to purchase your own domain name. This domain can be directed to any server. Domain names and hosting can be arranged as a package: search for "domain registration web hosting" on google.

The domain name system is regulated by ICANN, which meets in Melbourne on 10-13 March 2001.


Uploading to the web

When you're content is complete and your server and address are known, you will need to upload your content to the server. There are different protocols for uploading to your server according to the server's preferences. Normally File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is used: Dreamweaver has an FTP interface inbuilt, or programs like CuteFTP allow you to upload files independently. This is just a procedure to verify that you know the server's password and to enable you to read and write to the server's hard disks freely.

Once uploaded, anyone browsing the web who requests the right document will see the document that you uploaded to that address.


Paranoid shit

The internet is an anarchy - do as thou wilt, but exercise caution. If you are doing anything controversial which starts making news, expect (at the least) threats of legal action. Try to deal with them creatively.

The internet is also a complex digital arena, which is ever changing and always uncertain. It is not a good place for confidentiality. Is Back Orifice on your computer?

A few simple precautions will assist anonymity though - don't use your real name, use a friend's credit card when purchasing online etc.


More info

The internet is the internet. It was designed by the military, but came into the public domain via academia - there are a lot of older systems and sites that coexist with the flashy consumer driven websites advertised on billboards; sites like apparently pre-existed the public internet. Anything and anyone you need to find is hidden somewhere online. Search engines like are a good start. You can teach yourself endlessly.