The Novice's Guide to Creating a Website

NB I have not been updating this page to keep up with developments: some of this advice may still be valid so I'm leaving it here; some of it may already be pretty much obsolete.

Or, how I created my own web pages with an absolute minimum of net-geek, webmasterly, type skills. I don't suppose this site would win any awards for web design, it's certainly not cutting-edge as far as the possibilities go, but I've learnt a few things in setting it up which may be helpful to others.

Basic assumptions: that you already have an ISP which provides server space to mount a website, FTP software for uploading your files, and word-processing software which allows you the option to create documents as, or convert them to, HTML documents (though there are also a number of free or inexpensive means available to create web pages with no HTML authoring skills required) and that you also have a plain text editor, e.g. Notepad. (Having said this, I now edit my pages, and even create new ones, using CuteHTML editing software, which unfortunately has now ceased production, but other editors can be downloaded free or as trial versions from TUCOWS) And that you have a general idea of what your site is going to be for, what you're going to put on it, etc. What follows is stuff that I have found helpful once past these basic stages.

Some structuring thoughts: keep it simple at each stage, as far as possible (as these pages of mine developed I found myself creating more and more subpages rather than cluttering up the general 'gateway' pages to each section of the site - e.g. for relevant links). Make sure that pages link back to the previous page, and also to your home page (don't you hate finding a page with a search engine which is clearly part of someone's or some body's site but without any links to where it fits in and to get to the main site?). For documents over a page or so in length, create internal links, back to top buttons, as appropriate. And make sure there are e-mail links so that people can contact you (you know how to create these of course: when creating a hypertext link, in the document address you put mailto:you@youraddress) (an extremely helpful tip - the site where I found this is now gone so I can't attribute this as it deserves - on how to get the email links to include a specific subject line is to put ?subject=Yourchosentext immediately after your email address in the mailto link, no space: i.e.

Graphic files: though these add a good deal to the visual presence of your pages, they can take a long time to load. So be cautious about putting in too many (unless you can reduce them as far as possible in size) or fancy wallpaper. Warn if they are going to take a long time to download, and consider creating links that users can right-click to download the actual file to their hard disk.

See Holly M. Burns'
The Top Fifteen Mistakes of First Time Web Design

Citing electronic resources: if you're going to be putting up original writings of your own you might want to include a link to this useful site. And bear in mind the provisos of the copyright laws!

Resources and Tools

There's a good deal of free stuff out there on the Web to improve your pages: here are some places I've found particularly helpful (you will need to insert the codes provided by opening and saving your page in a simple text editor such as Notepad if you do not use dedicated editing software): Atomz Express Search
Intrasite search engines

Netmechanic will provide a free sample check of HTML, loading times, etc

Free site statistics and counter: Sitemeter.

Publicising your site

or, what is the good of a site if no-one visits it?

If you're already on an e-mail list or newsgroup, post the information there (though it's a good idea to check this out with the moderator first).

Before submitting it to search engines, either individually or via the multi-submission means listed below, make sure you've generated meta-tags

Netmechanic provides free submission to 12 search engines

AddMe: Submission to 14 search engines/directories: this used to be a bit cumbersome, cycling through a series of input pages relating to the requirements of different engines: but it did allow you to generate metatags. May have improved. (Though it used to submit to 30 engines...)

Webrings: a way of linking to other sites on similar topics.

E-lists: create your own!
Places which provide hosting for free e-lists (with varying amounts of advertising) are

And, to find out what lists are already in existence, but this is not very up-to-date!

If you are going to be mentioning books on your site and would like to give your readers the option of finding out how to get hold of them: associate programme (if it's good enough for the British Library...) associate program
are worth getting in on.
And a good link for searching for secondhand and out of print books is the meta-search engine


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Last updated on 1 January 2009 by Lesley Hall