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Suggestions for Student Web Builders - Page 2

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Page 2 has:
Pick an audience.
Build the Web Page.
Miscellaneous Advice
Further Reading and Good Examples

Just like Robinson Crusoe. . . Marooned!


Pick an audience.

In the magazine trade, your audience is called your "Market". For instance, If you want to sell your article to "Hot Rod", it should be written for men, and be about cars. If you want to sell an article to "Better Homes and Gardens", it should be written for women and be about home decorating, gardening or cooking.

With a personal web page, you have to aim at either people who share your interest, or people who have never done it and wonder what it is like. If you picked your subject correctly, your potential audience will be bigger if you decide to write for people who have never done it.

If you decide to write for people who share your interest, deciding what to put on the page it is easy. Start with a picture of yourself in action, list the prizes you have won or the peaks you have climbed to establish your credentials, and share some tips.

Your web page will be more interesting, and get more visits, if you go the other route. Ask yourself what kind of people would be interested in your subject. For instance, if you write about backyard horse keeping, your audience is going to be girls 9 - 14 who don't have a horse but would love to know what it is like.

If you decide to aim for fellow practitioners, you won't have to explain why you do it, or the basic requirements of the craft. If you aim at people who have never done it, you will have to explain how and why. Going back to my previous example, if you are a college student describing basic horse keeping to younger girls, you'll have to keep your words and sentences short.

Did you hear about the cow that ate bluegrass and mooed indigo?


Build the Web Page

Once you've chosen your subject and audience, build the web page. You have to describe yourself, but don't be so general that you don't say anything. If, for instance, you are a senior girl in Keya Paha High School, which do you think would be more interesting:

What is it like? That's the basic question you ask anyone, whether they've sailed around the world single-handed, flown across the country in a hot-air balloon, eaten in a three-star restaurant in Paris, grown up in Manhattan, grown up in a small town, scored the winning touchdown, missed the winning basket, danced with a princess, kept a horse or kissed a frog. That's the basic question you can answer about your subject, for the edification and delight of your audience.

Again, put yourself in an opposite person's shoes and ask yourself what you would like to know about the subject. You can always rely on the "est" questions:

You don't post the questions and the answers, of course; think about them, work them into an essay, add a relevant picture or two and post it on the web. People will love you.

"Compare and Contrast", that old standby from English class, comes in here too. If you are writing about living in a huge city, or living in a small town, or having a deaf step-brother who, nevertheless, plays the piano, just like Beethoven, you should compare and contrast your life to other life styles. This brings up another problem. If you always lived on the 47th floor in downtown Chicago, or six miles out a dirt road in Outer West Virginia, you are not going to know what it is like to live somewhere else. It will be hard for you to compare your life to other people. Here is where stereotypes can help.

You know the stereotypes. Everyone in California lives next door to a movie star, spends half his time in workshops on personal growth, and the other half on the beach. Everyone in the Ozarks makes moonshine, drives a fast Dodge and marries his cousin. Everyone in New York is snooty, goes to the Opera every week and wears three-piece suits to high school. Everyone in small towns sees movies two years after they come out, goes to church every week, wears feed-store overalls and grows corn in his backyard.

Write about the stereotypes - are they true? What do you do instead? Do they make you mad, or do you laugh at them? What sort of stereotypes do you have about other people?

Orange you glad these are going to stop?



You can't be all things to all people. Good personal Web pages are like magazines and restaurants, because they concentrate on one subject and have a limited audience. You don't sell an article about apple pie to "Hot Rod" magazine. I personally avoid restaurants that advertise they are Italian but also "specialize" in steaks and seafood. If you have the only Chinese restaurant in town, you won't get any business from people looking for a hamburger and fries, but everyone who is in the mood for Kung Pow Shrimp is going to be at your door.

For example, my web page gets 1,000 - 1,500 visitors a day during the Christmas News letter season, November 15 - December 15, because I have one of the largest on-line collections of them. The rest of the year my visits are about equally divided between fellow genealogy buffs and people interested in the Peace Corps. I don't get visits from people looking for babes, movie reviews, MP3 downloads, free clip art, or a link to Yahoo.

You picked your subject, and you picked your audience. Stick with it. It is better to do a small subject well for a small audience than to try to please everyone and make a hash of it. With luck you will get a reasonable amount of visits, and once in a while someone will send you an e-mail message, admiring your work.

Last pun - Cyan-ara!


Miscellaneous Advice

Fonts. Back in the Stone Age, you could always tell when someone who used to send you a mimeographed Christmas newsletter got a computer; their new and exciting effort would use every font in the book. Look at any well-designed, magazine; Smithsonian, National Geographic, Fine Woodworking. Do you know how many fonts they use ? One. Just one. They may vary the size, they may use bold and italic, but it is still one font. If someone wrote a web page about what it was like to bicycle across Australia, for instance, with a picture every 200 miles, would you care what font she used? Pick one, just one, that you like. Arial is the cleanest and most common. Times New Roman is pretty universal and pleasing to the eye. Better yet, leave the font alone. Let your visitor see your text in the font he/she likes the best.

Links should lead readers to places they wouldn't have found before, or up to a junction where they can branch. 47% of the people in the world use Yahoo as their start-up page. Putting a link to Yahoo on your web page tells people you think they have the IQ of a doorknob. If the subject you pick has an association, link to it. Link to your friends. Link to Web pages you mention, if possible. Give the web surfers who come into your page some credit for brains.

Backgrounds can make your page pretty, but remember that not everyone has 20/20 vision. Plain, pale colors or a subtle, pale pattern work the best. There is a lady on the web whose genealogy page has 200 of my dead ancestors. She uses maroon text on a Victorian floral background. I just turn off "show pictures" in my Internet options when I pay her a visit.

Spell check. A single typo in a beautiful web page sticks out like a pimple on a prom queen's nose. If your web building tool doesn't have a spell checker, bring up your web page in your browser, click on "Select All", then "Copy". Paste the copied text into Word and use its spell checker.

Further Reading and Good Examples

The Yale School of Medicine
has a web site devoted to web design.They get into topics most students don't even think about. It isn't written for people in elementary school, but they use a lot fewer twelve-dollar words than you'd expect for doctors.

Sara J and synaesthesia
Sara lives in Australia and has synaesthesia; her senses cross into each other. It is a rare and fascinating condition. A search in Yahoo! for synaesthesia (January 2001) found only 2 web sites. This is a third. As of January 2001 she used a dark background and light text, which makes it hard for us older folks to read, but she writes clearly, her web page concentrates on her subject, and it is interesting to others. Highly recomended.
[Melba Clark of Alabama read this and sent me a tip: If you have trouble reading light text on a dark background, highlight the text; it will turn to dark on light.]

Julie Gattenio,
Notre Dame class of 2015, sent me a link to her e-portfolio. It is clean, well-designed and fast. (It is also an example of how far site-building software has come in 10 years.)

Like a link here? I could use another 9 good examples. Send me your URL.

Thanks for reading this far. If I helped or hindered, if you agree or disagree with my advice, I'd appreciate a note. I'm 55+, married, with a BA in English. My favorite food is filet of salmon grilled over oak chips, served with lemon dill butter and a sturdy chardonnay. I write computer programs for a living. My web page averages 200 visits a day. On days I have an article published in the Roots Web Review, I get several thousand visits. I've sold six free-lance articles. If you already get more visits or have sold more articles, you can ignore everything I've written.

This is a page in my site's section on Web Design. The section has a page for:
Student Web Site suggestions
Church Web Site suggestions
HTML colors and Hexadecimal numbers
Usability suggestions for any non-profit organization with a volunteer web master.
You might also like the essay, My Adventures as a UU Web Master, a talk I gave to my church about being their web master.

Sections of my web site:

Home | Christmas Letters | Genealogy | Homilies | Misc. Essays | Peace Corps | Web Design

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This page updated: June 21, 2014