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.

  1. Internet Service Provider (ISP)
  2. E-Mail Addresses
  3. Web site Hosting
  4. Domain names, URLs and Web site names
  5. What does a Web site consist of?
  6. What are browsers and why do I care?
  7. How are Web sites built?
  8. What tools do we use?
  9. Maintaining your own Web site

  1. 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.

  2. E-Mail Addresses

    An e-mail address such as artists@dcta.com 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 joe@humboldt1.com or dave433@aol.com. 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 name@dcta.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.

  3. 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 e-mail service).

    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.

  4. 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 like this:

    www.provider.com/completearts or
    www.barbarajonespainter.provider.com or

    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 offer).

    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:

    www.completearts.com or

    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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

For more information, please refer to How to Contact Us or e-mail artists@dcta.com