Explanations of Web-Site-Related Terms
The following items are an attempt to explain some of the
more frequent terms you will encounter as we make the
decisions necessary to build your Web site and get it
installed on a Web server at a web hosting service.
We've tried to go for clarity and understandability
rather than technical completeness. These explanations
are intended to be used in conjunction with the companion
page, More About Artists' Web sites.
Click on any of the list of topics to go to that subject.
- Internet Service Provider (ISP)
- E-Mail Addresses
- Web site Hosting
- Domain names, URLs and Web site names
- What does a Web site consist of?
- What are browsers and why do I care?
- How are Web sites built?
- What tools do we use?
- Maintaining your own Web site
Internet Service Provider
If you have access to the internet, an e-mail account,
or have a Web site, you have it through one or more
Internet Service Providers (ISP). The same ISP which
provides your internet connectivity probably provides
your e-mail account as well, although that is
not necessary. (But it may be less expensive than having
multiple providers.) And that ISP may or may not
host your Web site if you have one. For example, cable
modem companies like Comcast or Cox, which provide
connectivity to the internet, often provide e-mail
service. AOL is an ISP (although a lot else) as is
Yahoo. And companies like Humboldt Internet,
Northcoast Internet, etc. are all ISPs as well.
The ISP who provides your internet connectivity, via
dial-up, DSL modem or Cable Modem, is probably local to
you, has a local office or at least local phone numbers
to call for dial-up unless you call an 800 number. But
it doesn't really matter where their e-mail server or
Web server computer systems are located. Nor is there
any particular advantage to choosing a "local" e-mail
or web hosting company if you decide to get those
services from companies other than your internet
connectivity provider. Back to top.
An e-mail address such as firstname.lastname@example.org contains a
unique name ("artists") at a particular provider or
domain ("dcta.com"). Usually your e-mail address
contains your e-mail ISP name, for example
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. However, you
don't have to use the e-mail service provided by the
same ISP who provides your connectivity, and many
people don't, often because they don't want to have to
change their e-mail addresses when they change ISPs.
The down side of this is that you may be paying one
company for internet connectivity, another for e-mail
hosting (of course you could have free e-mail from
Yahoo or the equivalent), and maybe a third for hosting
your Web site.
If you have your own "domain name" (see below), you
probably want to have your e-mail address at that name.
For, example our company is DCTA Inc. and our domain name
is dcta.com. Our Web site is www.dcta.com,
and our e-mail addresses are of the form email@example.com.
One nice thing about this is that we could move our web
site and e-mail from one ISP to another and the names
would not change. The down side to this is that it is
sometimes more expensive for your ISP (or ISPs)
to handle your unique domain name. Back to top.
- Web site hosting
A Web site exists on a computer called a Web server.
The computer must be permanently online on the internet,
and has a fixed address called an "IP address." When
the name of a Web site is defined to the internet, it
points to that computer's IP address. That name is
often called a "URL" which stands for Uniform Record
Locator and looks like: http://www.dcta.com or
http://www.amazon.com etc. Generally a Web site
is developed and maintained on a different computer and
then uploaded to the Web server, as you don't want to
be changing the live Web site on the fly.
Most ISPs which offer you internet connectivity and e-mail
will include at least limited Web site hosting as part
of the monthly fee, so you can have your own Web site on
their Web server. Sometimes there are restrictions on
such Web sites, such as the amount of disk space for the
site or the amount of traffic to and from the site per
month. Some ISPs will not host Web sites with domain
names other than themselves.
There are also ISPs which do not offer Web site hosting,
and there are also some Web site hosting services which
don't offer internet connectivity or sometimes even
There are a myriad of free or low cost Web site hosting
offers available on the Internet. Generally the free
or very low-cost offerings involve some combination of
advertisements on your web pages, limited web page
builders, etc. Choosing your ISP for internet
connectivity, who provides your e-mail service, and
where you want your Web site to be hosted, is a cost,
convenience and flexibility tradeoff. However as noted
above, having your e-mail on the same service as your
Web site is important if you want your own domain name.
Back to top.
Domain Names, URLs and Web site Names
In its simplest form, a Web site is a folder or
collection of folders on a Web server computer which
hold all of your web pages, graphics, pictures, and so
forth. Some kind of name has to exist which directs
people to that specific folder so they can view your
Web site. Whether you have a company name or enterprise
name such as Complete Arts or use your name as an
artist, such as Barbara Jones, Painter you probably
want the Web site name associated with your site to
reflect your name or your company name in some form.
If you don't purchase your own domain name (and many do
not) your Web site provider will give you a name that
is a combination of their own name plus some qualifier
that directs the request to your specific site. In
effect this points to the specific folder on the web
server which holds all of the pages and pictures
associated with your Web site, and hopefully they will
name that folder something like completearts or
barbarajonespainter using the examples above. If you
do this, then your Web site name might look something
In these cases www.provider.com is the URL of the
Web site provider (for example, verizon.net or
humboldt1.com) and the elaboration is the pointer
to your Web site folder on the Web server. This kind of
name doesn't require you to have your own domain name
and is the least expensive option with most Web site
providers (and with some it is the only option they
Another options is to acquire your own domain name
(which generally costs something like $10-$25 per
year). If nobody already has registered completearts.com
or barbarajonespainter.com then you could
purchase that name. This gives you two choices for what
your Web site name might look like:
In the first example, the Web site provider is able to
ensure that your URL points to the right folder on their
computer. In the second example, they simply point your
URL name to their Web server, but the "foldername" would
be the name of the actual folder on their Web server.
In general, the first example is the simplest and most
elegant, but can cost more (perhaps an additional
monthly fee) from the web hosting service. This is
because it is a more complex thing to arrange on their
end and they have to dedicate a specific web address to
your URL even if it points to their Web server.
The bottom line is how much you want the simplest form
of the name (which is the best for name recognition and
implicit advertising, and a non-changing Web site name
and e-mail address), how much more you are willing
to pay to have it, and how much more your web service
provider wants to charge you, if anything.
Back to top.
- What does a Web site consist of?
In its simplest form, a Web site consists of one or more
web pages written in "HTML" (which stands for HyperText
Markup Language) together with graphic images, photos,
and so forth which are displayed on those pages. HTML provides
the information to tell a web browser how to display text
and other material such as graphic images, and generally
contains text to be displayed. A Web site can
also include audio and video clips and extremely elaborate
enhancements. These are collected in a folder or a set
of folders on a Web server and pointed to by a URL. By
convention, the "home page" for a Web site is generally
called "index.html" and that is what is looked for if
you don't provide a different name when you go to a URL
with your web browser.
Web sites can be very simple, or terribly complex,
depending on what features, appearances and functionality
you want. While simplicity is no guarantee of ease of
maintenance and speed of access, generally the more
complex the site, the more complex it is to maintain and
update, and the slower accessing the site becomes,
either because of the number of graphic images which
must be loaded along with the HTML to display a page,
or because of related "server-side" programs (programs
which run on the Web server rather than in the browser
of the person viewing the site). Back to top.
- What are browsers and why do I care?
A web browser is a program which runs on your own computer
and which lets you access web pages on the internet, or
web pages stored on your own or other local computers. The
best-known browsers are Internet Explorer from Microsoft, which
usually comes with new Windows-based computers, Netscape
Navigator, and Firefox. There are a number of other browsers,
of which the most prevalent are probably Safari for
MacOS, Opera, and Mozilla.
What a browser does is to read the HTML of a web page,
interpret it into display directions, text, etc., and then
display the resultant web page with graphics, audio or
other components. Other capabilities can execute browser
scripts or interact with programs on the server.
The reason this matters is because what a browser is
capable of rendering (in terms of what the HTML language
in the web page says) has become much more elaborate over
time, and because different browsers don't produce quite
the same result given the same HTML. As a result,
Web sites which take advantage of the latest features of
HTML don't work right on older versions of browsers,
and different browsers are likely to display different
results from the same HTML input. Since there are
millions of personal computers which were purchased more
than six months or a year ago, many people on the
internet certainly don't have the latest version of
whatever browser they use. The bottom line is that the
more elaborate and newer features a Web site uses, the
greater the chance that it will not work, work right,
or look right on older or different browsers.
Back to top.
How are Web sites built?
There are all sorts of tools intended to help write
HTML, prepare images, or even build and maintain Web sites, and they range from simple (and sometimes
simple-minded) $20 packages sold in drug stores to
horribly complex and expensive suites of programs.
The majority of Web site builder programs are supposed to be WYSIWYG (What
You See Is What You Get) but should probably be called
WYSIKOWYG (What You See Is Kind Of What You Get).
Probably the most well-known are Microsoft FrontPage
and Macromedia Dreamweaver.
On the other hand, HTML can be written by hand with a
text editor such as Windows Notepad with no specialized
tools at all, and there are some good inexpensive or
free programs to manipulate images.
The specialized tools like FrontPage are great
timesavers, and allow one to do fairly complex and
sexy things. On the other hand, the HTML they generate
is usually complex and cannot readily be changed without
using the same program that created it in the first place.
These tools tend to generate Web sites which require
recent versions of browsers, or perhaps do not work
correctly on some browsers. And in general, while they
do the things they are designed for very well, they make
it much harder to do anything they weren't designed to do.
Doing HTML by hand is more complex in the beginning,
especially if you follow good rules of HTML layout
and presentation to make it easy to understand. But
the result is comparatively easy to maintain,
especially if the maintenance consists of replacing
one image with another, or simple text changes.
At the other end of the spectrum, the really elaborate
and complicated Web sites are frequently done "by hand"
as the the Web site generation tools can't do exactly what
the implementors and support personnel require.
Back to top.
What tools do we use to build our Web sites?
We use an HTML editor called the "Coffee Cup HTML Editor"
which is not a visual editor at all, but more of an enhanced
line editor like a vastly expanded Notepad. It does provide
some structure and assistance in seeing the HTML one is writing.
We try to use the simplest possible HTML to produce the
Web site the client wants, so it will be fast-loading,
support multiple browsers and versions of browsers, not
require additional features on the Web server, and
be easy to change. We also write HTML which will
be simple enough to modify that the client can reasonably
maintain her own site, especially simple things like
changing the pictures displayed on the site or the
information about the picture.
We use Adobe Photoshop Elements, CorelDraw, and Corel Photopaint
to manipulate images, both photographs of artwork and
building graphic images such as page titles.
Please note that other freeware or shareware tools for
HTML writing and image manipulation exist, some of which
are extremely capable, and if you decide to maintain you
own Web site we'll help you find tools to address your
needs and within your budget. Back to top.
Maintaining your own Web site
As noted above, our Web sites are designed and written to
be as simple as possible to maintain, even for someone
who doesn't really know HTML. You will have to have some
form of text editor (Notepad works) and you will probably
need a tool to get pictures of your art into electronic
form (digital camera or scanner) and a program to
manipulate those images. Freeware and shareware programs
exist which can address these requirements.
If you decide you want to have somebody else maintain
your site, the simplicity of the design should help
keep the maintenance costs down to a minimum, especially
for minimal actions such as replacing pictures of artwork
and the like.
If you want to undertake significant restructuring or
redesign of your site, we believe that the way the site
is built should make this as simple as it can be without
locking you into any specific Web site builder program.
Back to top.