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Creating a Web Site: The Missing Manual 2nd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0596520977
ISBN-10: 0596520972
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Get everything you need to plan and launch a web site, including detailed instructions and clear-headed advice on ready-to-use building blocks, powerful tools like CSS and JavaScript, and Google's Blogger. The thoroughly revised, completely updated new edition of Creating a Web Site: The Missing Manual explains how to get your site up and running quickly and correctly.

5 Tips for Budding Web Site Creators
By Matthew MacDonald

These days, aspiring Web site creators like you pick up a lot of Web-design theory before you start working on your pages. But as deadlines loom and the value of “do it right” falls victim to the imperative to “do it right now,” even the best of us sometimes toss good practice out the window. That’s perfectly understandable and no cause for panic—after all, if Web weavers waited until their pages were perfect before uploading them, the Internet would be a very lonely place indeed. However, sometimes innocent-seeming shortcuts can cause headaches later on. Here are a few pieces of Web advice that site creators ignore at their own risk:

1. Always include a doctype.
Web browsers can translate two languages into Web pages: old-school HTML and today’s XHTML. You have to tell the browser which language (called markup) you use, and you do that with a document type definition, better known as a doctype. Doctype is arcane code that looks like this:

< !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN” "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd">

If you forget to include a doctype, your pages will appear annoyingly inconsistent. That’s because some browsers, including Internet Explorer, switch into a backward-compatibility state known as quirks mode when they encounter unidentified markup; in essence, they attempt to act like an outdated browser from the 1990s. Common problems that result include text that appears at different sizes in different browsers and layouts that wind up in different configurations depending on your browser.

2. Keep formatting instructions out of your markup.
In a rush, it’s easy to get lazy and apply inline styles (or even worse, formatting tags like < font > ) to a page’s XHTML or HTML. But it’s rare for a web site creator to use a particular format just once. Most often, you’ll use a design--say for a column, heading, or note box--elsewhere on the same page or on another of your site pages. To ensure consistency across your site and to make it easier to fine-tune the look and feel of your pages, move all your formatting instructions to a central location: an external style sheet. That way, when a browser processes a page, it grabs this central set of instructions and applies them to the page (see the illustration for the sequence of events).

3. Be under renovation, not under construction.
Think of your favorite store. Now imagine shopping there if you had to wander around half-lit floors while dodging ladders, pylons, and heavy-duty construction equipment to find the aisles that still have products on the shelf.

It’s a similar story on the Web, where a site with empty pages, “under construction” messages, and vague promises of upcoming content will send visitors away in droves. Yes, it’s true that your Web site won’t be complete when you first upload it. But make sure that what’s there is genuinely useful on its own, and don’t draw attention to gaps and shortcomings. Instead, keep improving what you’ve got.

4. Think twice before you adopt copy-and-paste design.

Typically, Web sites use the same page design across all their pages. For example, noodle around Amazon and you’ll always see a menu header at the top of the page and a sidebar on the left.

There’s a very special circle in Dante’s Inferno reserved for Web developers who try to achieve consistent design by copying and pasting their XHTML from one page to another. It’s almost impossible to manage or modify this mess across all your pages without making a mistake, even if you have a small Web site.
If you need a repeating page design, pick a suitable solution from the available options, each of which comes with its own caveat. Your can use server-side includes (which require Web host support), page templates (provided you have a Web design tool like Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expression Web), frames (which can exhibit quirks), or a Web development platform (if you’re willing to take a crash course in programming).

5. Keep an eye on your visitors.
Is anyone here? There’s no point in having a Web site if you’re not willing to pay attention to what content draws and keeps visitors and what falls flat on its face. Remarkably, the best way to do that is with a free yet industrial-strength service called Google Analytics. You simply copy a small bit of tracking code to each of your pages and within hours you’ll be able to answer questions like “Where do my visitors live?”, “How long is a typical visit?”, and “What pages are their favorites?”

About the Author

Matthew MacDonald is a developer, author, and educator in all things Visual Basic and .NET. He's worked with Visual Basic and ASP since their initial versions, and written over a dozen books on the subject, including The Book of VB .NET (No Starch Press) and Visual Basic 2005: A Developer's Notebook (O'Reilly). He has also written Excel 2007:The Missing Manual, Excel 2007 for Starters: The Missing Manual, Access 2007:The Missing Manual, and Access 2007 for Starters: The Missing Manual, all from O'Reilly.

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Product Details

  • Series: Missing Manual
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 2 edition (January 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596520972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596520977
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,301,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Warren Kelly VINE VOICE on January 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
If you spend much time on the Internet at all, at some point you've said to yourself, "Maybe I should have a web site." It can be a bit intimidating, and many people don't get beyond that "Maybe I should ..." phase. If you want to progress further, this book is for you.

The book is laid out in a logical progression from concept to interaction to making money with your site. Each stage of web "development" has its own section in the book -- which is a huge plus: you don't have to wade through a lot of basic information to get to what you want.

The first section covers the planning stage of website design. There's a discussion about choosing a hosting service (including the problems with using the free space that many ISPs give to their subscribers) and an overview of HTML editing software. There's also a brief introduction to HTML -- just enough to get you started.

Section two takes it from there. You've found a hosting service, you've got the software, and you have the skeleton of a site. NOW you want to make the site look good. This section covers pictures, links, and tables, and even goes into some basic CSS. You learn to turn a bunch of separate web pages into a web site, add content so people want to visit your site, and make the site look good so people want to come back.

Section three goes where the average HTML tutorial doesn't go and talks about driving traffic. Getting search engine hits, creating your own message boards, and even (once you get the traffic) making money on your site. This is the part of the book that will have broader appeal -- the information will be valuable to novices as well as more experienced webmasters.
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Format: Paperback
Title: Creating Your Own Websites

Author: Matthew MacDonald

Publisher: Pogue Press/O'Reilly

ISBN: 0-596-00842-2

Pages: 535 pages

Reviewer: Philip High

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I'm sure we all have experienced the frustrating incompleteness and illogic of many software manuals. This book is part of an impressive series billed as: "The book that should have been in the box" put out by Pogue Press. It's the first one I have read but I would have to agree with their tag line, and if the others are anything like it I would definitely be interested in checking them out.

Of course a comprehensive set of web building tools doesn't come in one box -- no matter how hard some publishers try to bundle and brand it as such. That's one reason this overview is so handy. It ties together all the major issues in one current (for the moment) volume. A lot of territory is covered here: HTML, style sheets, graphics, tables, frames, site-promotion, merchandising, JavaScript, Audio, Video, Blogs, and more. Obviously there is only room to layout the basics for each of these topics, but the coverage is well selected, to the point, and surprisingly useful. At the same time it isn't an off-putting encyclopedia but an enjoyable walk through the essential steps in web site creation.

For web beginners this is an excellent place to start. Even the introduction is worth reading! The major subjects covered are: creating web pages, making pages look beautiful, putting it online, attracting visitors, making money, and adding frills. These topics and related material are presented in five divisions, each with several chapters.
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By Larry on January 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is my second "Missing Manual" book (FrontPage 2003 was the first), and I must admit that O'Reilly is really on to something with this series. (Assuming the rest are in the same vein as these two.)

The author has the knack of presenting technical information in a clear and straightforward - yet folksy - manner. Of course this knack is pretty useless if the material itself isn't helpful - and this is where this book really shines. If you're planning on building a website, this book covers pretty much everything you need to know. I thought that the topics and the depth to which they were covered was perfect. Not only was need-to-know technical information presented, but a lot of you-really-outta-know-about-this knowledge was imparted as well.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While a little miffed at Amazon because they highlighted this edition when the newer edition had been out for a while, I didn't discover that till partially through the book. Put together as most Missing Manuals, where the next chapter builds greatly on the preceding chapter, it also has information that is decades old.

HTML, the building block of the web, has been around along time, and the web is fifteen years and more now. Even at the time of the book, ten to twelve years in, rehashing the building blocks with too much detail is probably best left elsewhere, even if it is to be used as that step needed to create greater depth in the later chapters.

What is lacking in the resources is a book that blasts in its title, Web Site Design for the best of 2009! Wouldn't that be useful. Current tips and tricks and a way to design something that is meaningful for the times. We have HTML, and XHTML and CSS, discussed. A work around to use Forums by co-opting Google, which is the reason I looked into this resource, and then found another work-around in the notes. Blogs are covered, but the material is out of date, though a good introduction.

In the end that is what this book is. Not as good as many missing manuals because it is out of date. And not as good as many missing manuals because it does not dig deep where it should. Just a little better than average but more than enough to get you up and running with a website that has more than the canned goods your web hosting software wants you to use.
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