Beginning websites designers will find this information helpful to getting you off on the right foot.
Editor: Sharla R. Hicks
Newsletter index for all issuesTable of contents for this issue
Two Articles included on this page, click on title of interest
Are you one of those people who works better under stress? I never used to think I was but in the last three weeks I've accomplished incredible amounts of stuff. I can't even begin to tell you how much. Now that might sound a little braggy but listen to my story (and learn from my lessons) and I know you'll find it's justified.
I have a quilt site and I'll mention it later but the story starts here I wrote a book called You Can Be Debt Free to market a get-out-of-debt guide. I decided to self publish and hired a web designer and host in the southern states to set up a web site for me. (I live in Canada) He did a good job for a reasonable price until it came time to make changes. I was reading some "marketing on the internet info" and wanted to "tweak" my site. It took him five weeks (yes five) to NOT make the connection between my site and my credit card outlet. Now it's almost impossible to make sales on the internet if you have no way of collecting money. So after five weeks I decided to find a different host, physically closer to me, in Canadian funds, and move my site.
Lesson 1 - When I went to transfer the site I found out that the original host had registered the web site in his name not mine. Why I asked? He wouldn't tell me. We'd been getting along fine but I suddenly realized I didn't know this guy, he lived real far away from me and what was he trying to pull anyhow.
Polite, angry e-mails were sent back and forth while he refused to tell me why the site was in his name and I refused to pay the bill until he authorized the name change and he refused to authorize the name change until I paid the bill. Finally, only after I sent a SOS email to Network Solutions with a cc: to him, did he tell me that he'd been burned in the past and this was his policy. Hey, I could understand that. I paid the bill, he authorized the change and I moved on.
Key point - make sure your site is registered in your name.
Lesson 2 - I'd already been playing in my site by this time. I'd gotten the authorization code and made the changes to the credit card connection myself. I'd even changed things in the HTML code. How really brave!
When I talked to the new host and he told me I'd have to republish the web once it was moved over, I knew exactly what he was talking about - NOT. The next day when I went to view my site, I found nothing there but a white page and a few lines of text that meant nothing. Now, the original host knew for a fact I didn't have a copy of the files and he knew for a fact this was going to happen but did he give me a copy of the files even though I had just paid him. NO.
Key point - make sure you have a copy of your files and get regular updates or download the site to your own hard drive.
Lesson 3 - So I'm staring at a blank screen and I realize I've got ads out and that anyone reading them is clicking through to nothing. Yikes! That's not too professional. I've never pulled a book off the shelf so fast as I did that day. I got Microsoft FrontPage 2000 and did the tutorial and spent the next four and a half days putting my site together from scratch. Anything that had to be learned, I learned the hard way.
The amazing thing about the FrontPage manual is that, short of the tutorial, it takes 308 pages to say absolutely nothing. You'll go to the index and look up "forms - creating" and then go to the page listed and it'll say "You can create HTML forms on your pages " That's real helpful. What you have to do is get a good, step-by-step manual - one of the ones with great coloured pictures - from the stationery store and dive in there. I learned to drive a standard car the same way - took it out on my own.
Key point - If I can learn to do this, anyone can. Don't be afraid to try designing a site on your own. You can do it.
Lesson 4 - At this point, I had my new web host all set up. And, I had a functional, interactive site. People were signing up for my be debt free newsletter and I was actually getting their names. It was amazing! I wanted to brag to someone but my secretary was out for lunch! That was the first - and so far only - time I've regretted working by myself! I phoned some people - okay a lot of people - and told them to go look at my wonderful, incredible, made it all by myself site.
Oops, I digress, back to the point The mail comes and I get my royalty check for my book Press for Success by That Patchwork Place. It's next to nothing which is pretty disappointing considering what a wonderful book it is and all the positive feedback and workshops that have come from it and the time and expense it took to write. Not to knock That Patchwork Place, they're a great company, but books are only marketed in the quarter in which they're released. It was the same with my other four. That means that in the second quarter, the book is on its own and gradually sales drop off unless there is fresh advertising and if there is fresh advertising, it's up to the author.
My mind just won't be still. I'm a classic, type A, workaholic. I'm looking at this cheque and thinking about all the people that have asked me for patterns "complete with pressing instructions" and noting that my new web host charges me half of what my old host did and the light goes on. I think - hey, I can set up another site and promote a newsletter based on the book and get this information out to more people everywhere and it won't cost me anything more than what I'm used to paying. So I did. Now I've got people asking me to set up web pages for them and I only know enough to be dangerous.
Key point - no matter what you know it's probably more than someone else; a little knowledge is dangerous - and fun. I really believe that what goes round comes round. Be prepared to share information no matter how little you think you know. I've had lots of opportunities, been burned a few times, but mostly it's been a great experience.
Lesson 5 - Every quilt site needs a gallery. We all want to see those wonderful quilts. I set up the page and promised the pictures and took the slides that I got from the publisher over to be scanned into .jpg and thought when I called them up in the image composer they'd look just like the pictures in the book. They don't! They have stuff around them and words and they're not even that clear. I don't have a clue what to do with them. And of course, I've never used an image composer before and so what do I do next?
I've been e-mailing people with my help message and calling my "computer guru" whose really a college instructor in disguise. He's making obscene statements like "Myrna you're way ahead of me now - I can't help you." Who wants to hear something like that at a time like this? And that's where I sit. A quilt site with no gallery. It's a sad sight! (Yes, pun intended!)
Key point - ask a lot of people a lot of questions, eventually you'll get the answer. RJ Hansen at Salsa Fabrics just sent me lots of info.
Lesson 6 - Quilters are wonderful caring, sharing people. (I used that line in the March 2000 edition of The Quilter's Web that will be in Quilter's Newsletter Magazine but it's such a good one and true) And, because quilters are so nurturing, quilt sites are some of the friendliest, most supportive on the web. I've been surfing the net, requesting links for both my You Can Be Debt Free site and my Press4Success: The Newsletter site and it has been by far way easier to get information, support, advise, and just plain good feelings from quilt sites than debt sites. Quilter's aren't so busy protecting their turf.
Key point - I'm really glad I'm a quilter - aren't you?
When Marc Andreessen and colleagues at the University
of Illinois and the NCSA developed Mosaic (the first graphical web browser)
and the 216 (6x6x6 for Windows and Mac) and the 125 (5x5x5 for Unix) colour
web safe palettes in 1993, only some computers could display 8 bit colours
(VGA), and many, if not most, could only display 16 colours (EGA) or less.
Only the very
Now, lets look at the present. Almost all computers being used today can display more than 256 colours. If one were to analyse the number of web surfers using 256 colour displays the numbers are in the order of < 1-5%. Any computer that can display more than 256 colours (i.e. 15, 16 24 or 32 bit displays, can display ANY colour from the full 24 bit RGB palette, but will only show a total number of DIFFERENT colours, depending on the display bit depth (i.e. 15 bit = a total of 32768 different colours, 16 bit = a total of 65536 different colours, 24 bit = a total of 16777216 colours). When 256 colour (8 bit) images are displayed on computers using 24 bit graphics cards, a total of 256 colours selected from any in the entire 24 bit RGB colour space can be displayed. Thus, we must still use 256 colours in our gifs (as that is part of the gif specification) but the colours need not be restricted.
Another point to consider: If one takes a great deal of trouble to ensure that all the gif images on their web pages are 'web safe', then, using the rationale, one should NEVER add 24 bit jpeg images to the same pages as these will not display correctly on 256 colour displays. I doubt that many people actually consider this when putting up web pages - they add so called web safe gif images and full 24 bit jpegs to the same page without even thinking about it. If web viewers are expected to see full colour 24 bit jpegs images, then there is absolutely NO point in trying to produce gifs in web safe palettes.
The Photo-Paint Optimized Palette is a very powerful gif optimizing tool and can display almost perfect photographic type images without dithering in as few as 32 colours (depending on the image). I have found very, very few images which will require dithering when converted to 8 bit using the Optimized palette. You also have a great deal of control over the way the Optimized Palette creates its colours by using the 'Color Range Sensitivity To...' feature and the 'Range Sensitivity' Tab on the Convert to Paletted (8 bit) Dialog box, both of which are ONLY available when using the Optimized Palette. Please try it out - I am sure you will not be disappointed and neither will your clients and web site visitors.
Dr. David Mutch