How did I create the "Museum"?

    The first thing, obviously enough, that needs doing when one is about to undertake a project like this is to get one's mind together. For me, that was the difficult part.

    Next up, you've got to learn HTML (HyperText Markup Language), the "language of the Web". This project was my introduction to World Wide Web "publishing" and my first stab at HTML. It's quite an easy thing to learn, and I was writing decent (at least I thought so) documents within a couple of hours. Perhaps the leap to true decency hasn't happened yet......

    Probably the most agonising decision that needs to be made is the determination of which Web "browser", or "user agent", you wish the pages to look decent on. This usually involves weighing the non-standard benefits of one browser (e.g. Netscape ) versus using only standard HTML tags. Mosaic , for instance, will only handle the standard tags defined in the HTML 2.0 specification; pages highly optimised for use on a Netscape browser may look quite different on a Mosaic display than intended. Some folks don't have graphics at all, using (as an example) the Lynx browser, so if you desire that they be able to use your information get ready to do some heavy writing.

    In some instances, the "target browser" decision may take on philosophical overtones; I discovered a minor display problem with the Microsoft® Internet Explorer that caused appearance oddities with my pages. I decided to ignore it on the grounds of my personal opinions about M$.

    Once those decisions are made, it's time to gather all the information you're likely to need and start formulating what you want your Web "site" to look like. Personally, I'm big on consistency between pages, and tying logical groups of concepts together using certain styles. The World Wide Web Project has excellent documents on standards and style and I recommend them.

    If your site is going to include photographs, they will need to be found, sorted, organised, and finally scanned into a format that your computer (and web browser) can properly display. I chose to use the JPEG (short for "Joint Pictures Experts Group") format since images compress nicely with it, don't take up a lot of disk space, and (here's the best part) load quickly over phone lines. The scanning will, unless you've got a scanner or a friend does, usually have to be done professionally. A tip to remember when you're setting up pictures for a web site is to think in pixels, not in centimetres or inches when judging the size of the image on the finished product. I'm lucky, my wife and I run a start-up business called "Carbon & Silicon Alliance" that specialises in digital manipulation of photographs so we've got a scanner.

    Recently a lot of attention has been focussed on various WYSIWYG tools for HTML authoring. I've chosen to avoid that route, and instead create the HTML files (they're plain ASCII text) using "vi" on my machine here. I could just as well have done them in NSPEED on a Nova or TECO on one of my pdp11 systems. The most important thing is that you're comfortable using whatever environment you chose.

    As all my HTML writing was done on a system running Linux (which I can't recommend highly enough!) and X11 windowing software, I was able to prototype the pages "on the fly". I usually have two text windows open when I'm working (so I can steal bits and pieces from one and paste into the other) as well as a Web browser (on another virtual screen). Most of my pages were prototyped on X11 Netscape 1.1, and were double checked in a Mosaic window. To check a work in progress, I'd force a write from vi and do a "reload" in the browser. All would become clear at that point, errors and all.

    I usually save putting in the hyperlinks for last, unless I am absolutely certain that I want one at a certain point in the "first pass". If I'm positive about a link while writing the first draft, I put it in on the fly; otherwise I wait 'til I'm done with the inevitable rewrites to locate where I want links to be, then do it. It's an iterative process.

    Once the pages are all written, the images all inserted into their proper places, and proofing complete it's time to upload them to the machine that will "host" them on the Internet. Right then and there is where the troubles with "version control" start. If I ever figure out how to get an absolute handle on that issue, I'll pass it along.

    Happy writing!

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Last Modified: Thu Feb 29 19:43:35 EST 1996