Don't just pick someone and task them to build a web site. Get
somebody excited about it who is willing to put in the work required and
wants to create a great web site. The amount of time required to
build and maintain a web site is like unto putting out a good chapter newsletter
each month. As such, your newsletter editor may not be the best choice
for webmaster, unless he or she wants to take on the extra workload.
(It can be done, though--I'm just crazy enough to do both!) As the webmaster
can be a position that can significantly influence your chapter, your webmaster
should probably have a seat on your chapter board of directors, just like
your newsletter editor. Your webmaster will probably also want to
work closely with your newsletter editor as a source of content.
Which brings up the next point...
Go To Top
Make content the first priority--good content will keep the reader and will entice him to come back again and again. After you get a strong base of content, then work on dressing it up with your own style. Try to keep the huge JPEG file of that great picture that captures the essence of your chapter (if you have one; a picture, that is) off the home page so that it doesn't kill that initial impression by slowing down the download. The farther the reader gets into your web site, the more likely he is to put up with more delays, since he's already decided to stay.
Okay, okay! You convinced me! So where do I get content? What are your chapter strengths? Do you have the best Young Eagles program in the five nearest counties? Center your site around your Young Eagles activities--information on upcoming rallies and pictures and reports of those gone by. Is your chapter very involved in the construction of a particular type of aircraft? Become a clearing house for ideas and tips on building that aircraft. Do you have the best Technical Counselor you've ever seen? Post things you've learned in workshops that he hosted. Is your chapter filled with members who have finished their airplanes and fly as groups to different locations? Post a calendar of upcoming flyouts and reports of previous trips. As you may have guessed, some of the strengths of EAA Chapter 1000 are technical expertise and the Project Police. Of course, there's our great history of meeting programs and the flight reports that tend to come from a flight test oriented group. Perhaps the real strength of EAA Chapter 1000 has been the consistent high quality of the newsletter since its inception in 1991. The EAA Chapter 1000 Web Site was literally built as a way to make the great content of past newsletters available to folks who weren't lucky enough to be members of the chapter since 1991. That's why you'll notice that the majority of the articles on this web site were published in the EAA Chapter 1000 newsletter at sometime in the past.
Don't think you have any chapter strengths? You really do--you just have to recognize them. Meanwhile, maybe you could carve yourself a niche as a useful site in some area that has not been done yet. For instance, how about an on-line index to Sport Aviation and Kitplanes articles? (Check on copyright issues first...) It's probably not a good idea to try to become the be-all, end-all aviation link site to other web sites, as many of these already exist (such as Landings).
Remember, though, that the content of the first page that your readers
see (i.e. your home page) is critical. For EAA web sites, I think
this area should at least identify your chapter number, where you are located
(you'd be surprised how often this is left out), and a picture of your
chapter logo or patch. More on style later.
Go To Top
If you are reading this directly from our web site, then you obviously have Internet access. If you are reading this on your personal dial-up account with Compuserve, AOL, or a local Internet Service Provider (ISP), then you probably have a small amount of web site space available to you already, usually about 1 to 2 megabytes. Check with your ISP for details. If you are only planning a small site, this may be sufficient space to suit you.
Another option is to check if someone in your chapter owns or runs a business that has its own established Web Server (not just a web site on a local ISP, but actually controls the computer that hosts the web site). They may be willing to allow you to host your chapter web site on their server. There is a benefit for the company in that their site name would be part of the URL, such as a site hosted by Joe's FBO might be http://www.joes_fbo.com/eaa3000.htm. I would recommend putting a sponsorship notice in your site with a link back to the host site. An occasional free advertisement in your chapter newsletter thanking them for hosting your site would be good too.
A third option is the way the Chapter 1000 web site is hosted. Contact the ISPs in your area and explain to them that you want to set up a web site for your EAA Chapter, which is a non-profit organization in the ISP's area of coverage. Many ISPs will provide web site space for FREE for non-profit organizations in their area of coverage. It's good advertising for them, and the disk space is cheap. However, you will still need a dial-up account or an account at your workplace (assuming you have your employer's permission) to get access to the Internet to upload the files and to send and receive e-mail, because the only thing that is free is the space on the ISP's server to store your web site (even so, this is still a great deal!). A possible additional benefit is you may be able to get a virtual domain name, such as ours (www.eaa1000.av.org). A virtual domain name is one that is easily recognizable as belonging to you, and not just a directory hanging off of the ISP's server. For instance, EAA Chapter 49's URL was originally http://www.av.qnet.com/~prosales/eaa.html. Not exactly easy to remember or obvious that it belongs to Chapter 49. Now the URL has been changed to a virtual domain name of http://www.eaa49.av.org, which is much easier to remember and obvious who it belongs to. Again, it is a good idea to include a sponsorship notice, such as ours for Quantum Networking Solutions, our gracious web site host. (See, there's another advertising benefit for our host!) You should definitely include one of these if you are using a virtual domain name, since your host's name won't appear in your URL. Don't forget the occasional blurb in your chapter newsletter.
If you can't find a local ISP willing to give you space gratis, you can still have you web site hosted at no expense to you. Some ISPs have been set up offering free home pages (web sites). One that a lot of EAA Chapters are using is GeoCities in the "Cape Canaveral" neighborhood. GeoCities requires you to accept advertising (not controlled by you) to be shown alongside or over your web site, and has requirements for links back to the main GeoCities web site. That's not unreasonable, since that's how they get the revenue to operate the servers. If you have no problem with that, then this may be a good option for your chapter.
If none of the options above work for you, then you may have to start forking up some buck$ to make this happen. There are outfits that advertise host services for web sites at nominal fees, such as Web-Span which advertises on www.canard.com. Web-Span offers 10MB web sites for $9.95/month. Virtual Domains are available, but at the higher rate of $29.95/month. This is understandable, since their name will not appear in a virtual domain name. (Note: This is not an endorsement of Web-Span. I know nothing about them other than I saw the ad. I do know that www.canard.com is a reputable site, which does make an implication. Web-Span is used here strictly as an example.)
However you choose to host your site, avoid paying business rates if
at all possible! Emphasize to the ISP that this site is for a non-profit
organization. Business rates are typically significantly higher, since
they expect a business would be getting a monetary benefit from the site.
Go To Top
Of course, there are many fine software programs out there that you can pay the big bucks for to create your web pages. This is similar to building your homebuilt from a kit. A lot of the work is done for you, and you are not required to learn as much to create a quality product.
If you're interested in saving money and willing to climb the learning curve, then all you need to create quality web pages is simply a text editor. This is the web site equivalent of scratch-building your homebuilt. You probably already have such an editor, such as Windows Notepad or MS-DOS Edit. Any word processor that will save files as ASCII text will also work. I built the initial release of the Chapter 1000 Web Site using Microsoft Word for Windows. An excellent text editor that I primarily use now is TextPad. This is a shareware text editor with many of the features of high end word processors. One of my favorite features is a simple as an asterisk in the title bar that tells you changes to the current file have not been saved yet. An HTML verifier is also available with the current version. The current registration is $27 if you download the software or $35 if they send you diskettes. Highly recommended.
Microsoft Word for Windows 97 has the capability to save to HTML files if you install the appropriate add-in. This can be updated from the Microsoft Web Site to keep up with changes in HTML. As expected, I don't care for some of the ways it translates stuff into HTML, but it sure makes a good start converting our newsletters from Word format into HTML. For those times that I have to override Word's formatting or fix its errors (it has a problem with improperly nesting tags), I select "View HTML Source" and it allows me to edit the HTML directly.
If you don't have Microsoft Word for Windows 97, you can get a copy of Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01. If you get the full 25 MB download (you can also order it on CD), you will also get FrontPage Express, which is a smaller version of FrontPage, Microsoft's full fledged HTML editor. I have not personally tried this software package.
Another zero-cost option is to jump to the other side of the computing
river and download Netscape
Communicator. This will get you
Netscape Navigator 4.0 and Netscape Composer, along with a few other programs.
Netscape Composer is Netscape's HTML editor. The version I was using was the first big
public release. It has some quirks, but it is an improvement over using
a text editor. The current version seems to have fixed some of the bugs.
Go To Top
As an off and on computer programmer of many years, I approached creating web sites by learning the actual HTML coding. If you plan to just use a simple text editor to create your web site, this is the route you will need to take. I have found it useful to be able to look at the raw HTML and understand it to be able to debug web pages even when using authoring software. It is also a convenient way to force a page to do your bidding even if the authoring software doesn't want to let you. For instance, if using Netscape Composer to edit the Chapter 1000 Home Page, I had to then re-edit the page with a text editor because Netscape Composer insisted on putting unwanted blank lines before and after the table that contains the masthead at the top of the page. The only way to remove these lines was to directly edit the HTML.
The first book I bought to learn HTML was IDG's HTML For Dummies. Despite the name (which has actually done wonders for sales), this is an excellent book. It is very well written and easy to understand. Only a small part of the book is required to cover the details of HTML code; the rest of it deals with issues such as style and how pages are hosted. Be sure you pick up the 3rd edition, which is current through HTML 3.2.
Another good book that is available is HTML 3.2 Manual of Style from Ziff-Davis by Larry Aronson and Joseph Lowery. There are many other books available, and many more will follow as authors determine that HTML is a hot topic and a money-making book subject.
An excellent online reference is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html32.html.
When you're surfing the net and come across a page that does something
cool that you would like to include on your web page or are just curious
"How'd they do that?", simply use the "View Source" command in your browser
to see the raw HTML of that page. Once you understand the general way HTML
works, it should be fairly easy to figure out what was done.
Go To Top
Another key point is that browsers will wrap the text to fit the size of the browser window. This means that line feeds and carriage returns in the HTML file are ignored by the browser. To force a line break, a <BR> tag must be used. The paragraph tag <P> is similar, but inserts a blank line between the two sections of text.
A side note: If we are used to DOS file paths using backslashes (\)
to separate directories, why do URLs all seem to use forward slashes (/)?
A clue to the answer is that typically web servers, the computers that
the web pages are stored on, are typically UNIX machines, and UNIX uses
the forward slash to separate directories.
Go To Top
Unfortunately, GIF and JPEG are not supported by Windows' Paint program. To work with GIF and JPEG, you will need another image editing program, such as Paintshop Pro from JASC. This program will import virtually any graphic file format, including some vector file formats, and write to GIF, JPEG, or many other bitmap formats. You can download the shareware version, and it is reasonably priced at $69. This is the program I use, and it works very well.
In the IMG tag that loads your graphics, use the HEIGHT= and WIDTH= attributes. These tell the browser how big the image is so that it can save the appropriate amount of space for the image. Otherwise, the browser has to read the entire graphics file to determine how big it is, then re-read it to load the file. Using the HEIGHT= and WIDTH= attributes speeds up the page loading.
"But what about these images I see on some web pages (like the Chapter 1000 Home Page) that are moving?" Those are animated GIF files, which consist of multiple images within one file, and the browser rotates through the images, giving the illusion of motion. If you are interested in creating animated GIF files, download the GIF Construction Set. This program will allow you to combine the multiple images into a single file. PaintShop Pro 5 now supports animated GIFs as well.
Of course, if you see a graphic on someone else's web page that you
would like to
steal use (assuming it's not copyrighted),
simply point to it, right click the mouse, and pick the option to "Save
Image As...". This will save the image file to your hard drive (or wherever
you told it to save).
Go To Top
A Link To Your Home Page: Many surfers may enter your site at some point other than your home page. They may follow the results of a search engine that takes them straight to a page in your site that covers a specific topic they were interested in. Or a link from another site may dump them right in the middle of your site. In either case, they probably would not see the rest of your site because they wouldn't know how to get there. The simple solution to this is to have a link in your footer to your home page. This is also a good place to show a logo representative of your site. In the case of an EAA Chapter Web Site, this is an ideal place to put your chapter patch. Clicking on the patch image should also link to your home page.
The Webmaster's E-Mail Address: If you ever expect to get any feedback on your site, you'd better give them an e-mail address to send it to. Be sure to list it as a mailto: link, such as <A HREF="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</A>.
The Page URL: While you might think that the URL of the page would be obvious (the browser shows it at the top), there are many cases where it is not. What happens if someone prints out your page? If it is not annotated with the page URL, the user may never be able to find it again. As a technique, I make the text of the URL a link to the page itself. That way, you can quickly check that it is correct by bringing it up in a browser and clicking on the link. If it reloads the page, you're good to go. If it causes an error, figure out what went wrong. Of course, this assumes that the text that shows matches the reference in the link.
A Disclaimer: There are a lot of nuts out there looking to make a fast buck by suing somebody for big bucks over some seemingly nit-noid thing, and lawyers who make big bucks by encouraging such a thing. Give yourself a modicum of protection with a disclaimer on your page. You've heard them many times before-it's the statement that sounds like "The opinions of the author are not necessarily his own."
The Revision Date: Always list the date the page was last updated.
The web is a "living" phenomenon, having the advantage over books that
it can be easily updated to be kept current. Let your readers know that
you have made changes and are maintaining your site by listing the date
you made the last update.
Go To Top
You'll want to put a counter on at least your home page so you can get some idea of how much traffic you're getting. This requires a special tag that usually is some sort of CGI script call. Check with your ISP for details on how to do it for your system (it varies depending on your host). Be sure to include with it the date that it started. Otherwise it will not give you any meaningful rate information. 1320 hits is meaningless to someone interested in your site. If that is 1320 hits since two days ago, you've got a hoppin' site. If that's since January of 1996 and it's now April 1999, maybe you should look at how to improve your site.
Develop a technique for identifying What's New at your site. Many sites will put cute little images next to items or links on their home page that says something like "New!" While on the surface this seems to satisfy the requirement, it really has many drawbacks. For instance, was that new since yesterday or new 8 months ago when the less-than-dedicated webmaster last updated the site? The technique I have adopted is to use a What's New? page which lists by date significant updates to the site. That way you know for sure just how new the new stuff is. Be sure you don't just list what is new, but link your text to the new page. I generally don't post minor changes, such as correcting typographical errors or less than good grammar, in the What's New page, but I will update the revision date in the footer of the corrected page.
Avoid gratuitous graphics in your web page. This is where the art of design of your pages really comes into play. What one person thinks is gratuitous, another person may think is wonderful and necessary. It is important to use a tasteful amount of graphics to make your pages attractive and distinctive, but don't overdo it. The real key is don't unnecessarily increase the download time of your pages, especially your home page. For an example of how NOT to slow down your initial download, look at Microsoft's Web Site. If you're on a 28.8K modem, you'll see how long it takes to load. Don't let this happen to you. Use thumbnail images (shrunken versions of the image) to represent big graphic images. If a user wants to see the bigger image, it becomes his decision to submit to the long download time, instead of you forcing it upon him. See how the Project Police Picture Pages Phor Pilots are implemented. If you are using very large image files, it is nice to specify with the thumbnail how big the image file is.
Minimize the size of your graphics files. Older books recommend assuming a 640x480 pixel screen size for designing your pages. Some people are starting to move toward assuming 800x600 pixel screens. Either way, it doesn't make much sense to post and image that is 2064x1024 pixels in size, because it won't fit on the screen. Even worse is to use HEIGHT= and WIDTH= attributes to shrink such a huge image down to a size that will fit on the screen. This relies on the browser to re-map the bitmap into a smaller size, and gives you no control over that process. A better option is to use your image editing program, such as Paintshop, to re-size or re-sample the image to the actual size you want it displayed. This gives you control over the shrinking process. Then set the HEIGHT= and WIDTH= attributes to show the image at it's native size, i.e. a one-to-one pixel mapping.
Programs such as Paintshop also give you the option to change the number of colors that are saved in a graphics file. If you have a monochrome image or a line drawing, you can probably reduce the number of colors in the image to 2. If you have a computer drawn image with just a few colors, try 16 colors. For photographic images, you'll want at least 256 colors in GIF files or millions of colors in JPEG files. The objective here is to make the file as small as possible to minimize download time. Experiment with different color depths and their resulting file sizes. Because of the way different color depths are stored, reducing the color depth won't necessarily make the file much smaller.
Be sure to use the ALT= attribute in IMG tags to show an explanatory alternate text for graphics. The reader may be using a non-graphical browser, or may have image auto-load turned off. An exception to this recommendation is if the picture already has a text caption over or under it.
For long pages, such as this one, use a Table of Contents at the beginning of the page. This is just a set of links to the different sections in the page so that your reader doesn't have to page down through a lot of stuff he doesn't want to read to get to what he does. It's also nice to have a link back to the top at the end of each section.
Consider the use of frames carefully. Frames are what are used to break the screen up in separate sections that can be changed and scrolled separately. Not all browsers support the use of frames, although with the passage of time this will be less of a problem. Even so, you should have an non-frames option for readers who are not frames-capable. I personally have avoided this because I did not want to maintain multiple versions of the same pages. One thing to definitely avoid: A disturbing recent trend has been to display pages other than your own in a frame on your site (known as "framing"). Some people may have innocently done this in an effort to keep you in "their" site. However, on the annoying level this tends to cause the other page to reformat itself in a way that was not intended by the designer. On the questionable ethics level, this could be interpreted as trying to pass off someone else's work as your own. Don't misunderstand this though: Links to other sites are generally welcomed, and are what the web is built on. "Framing" is not. "How do I avoid doing that?" you ask? Use the TARGET="_top" attribute in your link. For example, your link to the Chapter 1000 Web Site would look something like <A HREF="http://www.eaa1000.av.org" TARGET="_top">EAA Chapter 1000</A>. This will jump out of your frames and display the next page as it was intended.
Anytime you find yourself showing an e-mail address, go ahead and list it as a mailto: link. This allows readers to send e-mail to that address simply by clicking it.
And always remember to use links to other pages of your site if
you mention anything referring to another page. For instance, a favorite
inside story around Chapter 1000 is any mention of sprinkler
heads. If I didn't make that a link, you'd have no idea what I was
talking about. Click to follow the link and you'll understand what the
Go To Top
After you've finished proofreading and spell checking your pages, have
somebody else proofread it for you also, preferably using a different internet
connection. They will catch things that you missed because you knew
what it was supposed to say, and may catch a problem that happened while
accessing the page over the Internet that didn't happen when it was local
on your computer.
Go To Top
You will need a username and password to log on to your web site space
to upload the files. Contact your ISP for information on how to do
this for your account.
Go To Top
There are other places to register your site, such as Landings, a big general aviation server. You will also want to notify webmasters of other EAA Chapter web sites and ask them to add a link to your site. Of course, you will reciprocate by putting a link to those sites on your site. A good place to start is by sending your URL to the Chapter 1000 Web Site by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, there's always room for just good old promotion. You will
definitely want to list your URL prominently in your chapter newsletter.
We list ours in both the masthead on the front page and under the return
address on the mailing side. Contact other newsletter editors and ask them
to announce the launch of your new web site. Mention it as a side note
in official chapter correspondence. Slip it into conversations with other
EAAers. This is a good time to have a chapter business card with the URL
on it that you can hand to the EAAer so he'll be sure to remember the URL
and to check it out. Remember, whenever pilots get together to talk, many
lies will be traded, so adding a little hucksterism and hype about your
web site is okay.
Go To Top
Go To Top
Visitors Since 25 April, 1998:
Contents of The Leading Edge and these web pages are the viewpoints of the authors. No claim is made and no liability is assumed, expressed or implied as to the technical accuracy or safety of the material presented. The viewpoints expressed are not necessarily those of Chapter 1000 or the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Revised -- 25 April 1998