Web Sites for Craftsfolk:
HTML Basics, Frames, Search Engines
I've been intending to write an article on websites for craftspeople for a long time and haven't done it.
This will be just some of the basics dos and don'ts.
First let me tell you that I review and look at all the web sites on our link lists and our web-rings and I am also the Blacksmithing Editor for the DMOZ directory.
I see a LOT of web sites!
Most are pretty bad.
AND I also know what it is like to start at the amature level of web development and now do professional web development for other people.
Web sites do not advertise themselves.
Search engines are only part of a web strategy.
Links on major sites help.
You also need to advertise your URL in print, direct mail, put it on your business card, stationary, brochuers. . .
You have to advertise in the right magazines$$$$ (be sure your URL is in your ad).
Having a web-site is not a cure-all to doing business and you may starve if you depend on it no matter how good your work is.
It is one of many tools to help sell your work.
Today there are thousands of blacksmiths sites and hundreds of millions of web-sites.
Yours will be a needle in a haystack.
- Always register your own URL.
- NEVER use free hosting with pop-ups or banners
- DO NOT "do-it-yourself" unless you want to spend a LOT of time learning ALL the techy stuff.
- Never use an amature web developer.
There is more going on behind what you see than what is visible.
The invisible things get your site properly indexed or can get your site flushed down the digital toilet.
- Be sure to support as many browsers as possible. This is complicated and changes over time.
Many editors used to only create Microsoft IE compatible web sites and say screw the rest of the world.
Today (2011) many sites no longer support MIcrosoft IE. . . (the winds of chnage).
Can you afford to raise your middle finger to possible customers?? Many sites do.
- NEVER use Microsoft FrontPage to developed a web site (same reason as above) PLUS it makes code that is impossible to maintain.
If it is all your web developer uses get someone else.
- Always use professional quality photographs of your work.
- Don't forget your name address and phone number!
- NEVER use fancy animated Flash splash pages.
It wastes everyone's time, sucks your pocketbook dry and does nothing except annoy everyone .
- Same goes for sound files.
- Beautiful and artistic is good only if it works the same in multiple browsers and does not take too long to load.
Clear your cache and load your website from scratch.
If folks are waiting for over 10 seconds to see something then they are not going to wait.
- Tell any web developer that your site MUST be tested under the most common older browsers (back to at least 5 years or several versions)
- ALAWAYS be sure images are sized the same as they display on the web.
- NEVER cover your pages with off-site icons in the hope of getting traffic.
One or two organizations or web-rings is suitable, no more.
- Never have anyone submit your site to "hundreds or thousands" of search engines.
There are only a handful that count.
The rest are SPAM engines that sell YOUR e-mail address and or harvest all addresses from your web-site.
- It can take up to a year to get properly indexed on the search engines.
If you botch it the first time because you don't have the proper TITLEs and META tags with Keywords and Description (those things I said you don't see), you may wait another 6 months.
AND botched META tags may stay in the search engines forever.
- If you use a "Frames" page like anvilfire then there are very important things that must be done in regards to META tags and indexing.
The "How-to"s and rights and wrongs are not in any book.
Most web developers (Even the high dollar ones) don't have a clue.
They expect you to hire a specialist to do this as part of your web promotion.
- AND last but not least, your web pages should ALWAYS fit in a reasonable (previously 640 pixel wide space - now 900 wide)
and NEVER force horizontal scroll bars.
If I have to pan over to see something on your over sized page, I am not going to look.
Making pages oversized is techno snobbery and you will be hated for it.
There ARE times to break this rule but they are far and few between.
Announcing "this page is best viewed at 730 x 1040" (or some larger than common size) or larger is saying "F-you" to busy clients that may be browsing the web in a reduced window even though they have a top of the line high res monitor.
The same goes for "This page best viewed with IE, or Netscape or Firefox".
NOTE: Since this was originally written in the 1990's most people now have at least 1024 wide monitors at least and some over 2000!
But even folks with higher resolution monitors often have them set at 1024 wide for readability AND those that take advantage of multiple windows may be browseing your page in a window that is only 40 to 50% of their monitor width.
This means pages are best designed to be viewd at 800 to 900 pixels width or less.
While we have been redesigning anvilfire for a wider format most pages float in width (to the max) and still work down to 640 pixels but are designed for and optimum of about 850 pixels.
There are also tens of thousands of rip-off artists in the web business.
They will promise you cheap web hosting or a low cost web-site and in the end you get nothing for your money.
An amature web-mill generates a web page using a form and then hosts it on a virtual hosting system with no indexable URL where nobody in the world will ever find it. . .
Meanwhile your name and address have been sold to SPAMMERs, telephone solicitors and junk mailers. . .
If you hear about IT (anything) via SPAM then it is bad, it is a rip off, the people behind the offer are theives.
Not sometimes, ALL the time.
Because of the anonymity of the web it has attracted every pedephile, thief, con artist and scammer on the planet.
Many are in the business of crooked URL registration and web development including on-line shopping and credit cards.
Good web development is not cheap.
It starts with drop dead gorgeous professional photos of your work.
If you don't already have these for your portfolio and other advertisement then you don't have any business getting a web site. The quality starts with the photos and no matter how good your web developer is they can't make gold out of cow dung. I've built several web-sites for folks that spent a LOT of money and what I usually get is cow dung for photos.
It is very difficult to build a site with bad source material.
You also need to write your own sales or advertising copy OR hire a copy writer.
Your web developer should not have to read your mind.
Writing copy for the web is different than for other media.
Not only do you need to get your message across to the customer but the copy must be search engine friendly.
It must have the key words in it that you want OR that your possible customer base will use to find you.
Often these are NOT the words you want to use in your copy.
SO, a talented word smith is needed.
People like graphics and photos and a pretty web site.
But search engines do not see images they only see text and the words you feed them.
So, copy for the web is different, as it is different for print and different for audio. . . .
These words must also be in the right place on your web site.
IF the first thing on your site is an image and the ALT tag says "Logo copyright Joes Studio", you will be indexed under logo, copyright, joe, studio.
If the first thing on your frames NOFRAMEs code is "Whoops! Sorry this website requires frames." then you will be indexed under "whoops, sorry, website".
And THAT is what you have, a sorry web-site. Whoops. . .
There are many $10,000 and up commercial sites out there that have these mistakes.
But they can afford these screw-ups when they are going to flood radio, TV and print with their advertising AND their URL. . .
But if you can't afford that, then the pages MUST be right and you must be willing to wait. . .
I think every artist and craftsperson should have a web site.
But remember that it is a portfolio that people used to seeing nothing but the best are going to compare it to.
There are some wonderful, drop dead gorgeous web sites out there.
But the majority are road kill on the information highway.
- guru - Friday, 06/28/02 02:30:01 GMT
Doing it Yourself (Web dev):
Yep, I KNOW you are going to ignore my advice above no matter how dearly it cost me to learn it.
You are a blacksmith and you are hard headed and DO EVERYTHING yourself.
So. . . a little help.
That is a start. . . You will need several pieces of hardware and software as well as learning to use them ALL. And THAT is the important part. After doing this full time 12 hours a day for 5 years I am still learning a LOT about the simple tools I use. . .
- You will need a URL (web name). The shorter the better.
Not all names are available and it takes time and imagination to come up with a good one.
- Arrange for webspace (no banners or ads) and let the ISP register the URL in YOUR name.
Better yet, register your name directly with someone like Dotyou.com and get hosting anywhere you choose.
- You will need FTP access and an FTP program. I use WS-FTP Pro.
- You MUST learn HTML.
Using a WYSIWYG editor hides the code from you and you learn nothing.
- All WYSIWYG editors create horrendous code.
If you put your cursor on a tag and insert something else you end up with a broken tag and screwed up HTML.
They also use formatting systems that NOBODY can hand edit so when you screw up you have to start from scratch.
- I use an editor called Hippie98. It is very non-technical and does a good job. But you MUST learn HTML
- As an add-on to Hippie you can get CSE HTML Validator. DO IT and use it often.
Some search engines "score" pages on HTML mistakes.
If you have enough mistakes you may get dropped from the index.
- Dreamweaver is a very good HTML editor but it is VERY technical and has a LONG learning curve.
Its too much for me and *I am* a computer professional!
- TEST your pages in multiple browsers. This MUST be done. See the reasons in the post above.
- Digital photos generally work better on the web than those scanned from prints.
Taking good photos is an art and takes time and preparation as well as good equipment.
Some older inexpensive digital cameras use too much compression on images and they cannot be fixed.
- Learning how to edit images is a big part of creating a web page.
Every image you see on these pages has anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours work in them.
That does not include graphics created from scratch. Top end image editors have a long difficult learning curve.
Images processed for the web are different than for other places.
See the anvilfire NEWS volume 26, page 11, bottom, for an example of editing photos for the web with explanation.
- Unless you have a VERY good monitor with good color balance you are wasting your time trying to edit and adjust photos.
- Web images are never "high-res".
A 640 x 480 image is HUGE on the web. Most images are much smaller and MUST be resized for the web.
Not resizing them wastes the users time waiting for them to load.
Note that as everything becomes faster you can use larger images but they should be reserved to slide shows and places that do not affect the initial loading of your page.
- Web images always use some type of compression so they load faster.
Image editors usually have settings for the amount of compression. 75-80% is good and does not effect the visual quality of the image.
Properly processed images can be 50% smaller than those that are not.
- Commercial web-sites and most web developers generally hire computer graphic artists to create graphics and edit images.
It IS an art.
- Besides a digital camera you will need a scanner.
Generally the lowest resolution cheapest scanner you can get is good enough for the web. However, you MUST learn to use the software as well as understand DPI vs screen resolution and how to adjust lighting contrast and color balance. Where a digital camera image can be fixed, scanned prints can rarely be fixed. The information to adjust the photo was in the NEGATIVE and is not in the print. Use a good professional developer to handle film. I prefer Kodak for all color film and I prefer to make my own B&W prints (yes, I can do THAT too . . .).
- Friday, 06/28/02 04:00:19 GMT
Search Engine basics
An HTML page has a basic minimum format:
Amature, do-it-yourself and inexperienced web authors such as yourself often make the mistake of not learning HTML or studying about how search engines work.
The result is web pages that may never get indexed in the search engines or worse, indexed wrong.
<TITLE>Title displayed by browser goes here</TITLE>
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="Similar to the title but may contain up to 25 words.">
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="Words, or phrases, found, in the document, to be, indexed">
<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="INDEX,FOLLOW">
The information displayed in the browser window goes here.
The first three items in the between the opening and closing HEAD tags above are the absolute minimum and are critical.
The first thing you must understand is that "search engines" search for NOTHING on the web.
They search their databases or index.
The search index is composed of items found on your web page (after submission) and notably in the TITLE and description and keywords META tags.
How these items are written and their contents are very important.
Not using these three items properly are the biggest mistakes that web developers make.
Often very highly paid "professional" web page designers omit these critical tags.
They produce beautiful web pages with no substance as far as the search engines or indexes are concerned.
To make it worse most web editors do not help create META tags.
As I mentioned earlier, writing the copy and creating the keyword lists is a specialty as well as an art.
- Often used as the key description of your page.
It should be short and contain the most important keywords that you want to be found under.
Search engines start here when your page is submitted and before it is searched and indexed.
Pages without titles may not be listed as soon as those without. The difference may be months or never.
Some important search engines will not list your page at all if the TITLE is missing or broken.
Really BAD titles are your URL, or "Home page" or "Welcome".
These say nothing about your site or its contents.
- META NAME description
- This is similar to your title but can be much longer. Most search indexes truncate it to 25 words so more is a waste of time.
The description you write will often be what the user sees when looking for your page on a search engine.
It should be clear, concise and contain your primary keywords.
Note that the better indexes will manually edit your description and title.
This takes time and effort and may delay your getting indexed. Most indexing is done by machine.
If the information is there and in good format (no too long, not ALL CAPS) then a human may never look at it.
But if the information is missing then a person may have to create it.
This is a huge delay and may keep you off the index for a long time.
- META NAME keywords
- This is a comma delimited list of words or phrases found in your document that you would like it to be indexed under.
The words listed must be used in the document or your search engine ranking may be reduced.
It is best if the more important keywords are used 3 to 5 times but not more.
More may be considered SPAMing the index and get your page reduced in rank or removed from the index.
The keyword word count may include ALT tags for images. So it is very important to use those ALT tags.
NOTE: In the past year (2004) there have been some huge changes in the search engine industry.
The keyword META TAG is still used by some but it is now largely ignored by Google.
You can be better off to have NO keywords than bad keywords.
- META NAME robots
- This tells the search engines to index your page or not and to follow the links on your page or not.
Generaly absence or a robots tag is considered a YES to both. Look it up and use it.
NOTE: An important place to use NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW is on contact form pages.
Having these indexed on searech engines makes it dead simple for Form Spammers to put your form on their list.
You may also want to leave the TITLE and Description blank other than site name.
One common mistake is not including these tags on the frameset page of a frames page.
Frames pages present some special web indexing problems that are not covered in any book or manual that I know of.
Frameset definition pages need the TITLE and META tags as well as a robots META tag (just to be sure the frame links are followed).
The NOFRAMES area is VERY important.
It needs to contain the text for your keywords and is usually a duplication of the main page content.
Since it is most often seen by search engines you may want to target it as such and not worry about it being pretty.
To reduce page overhead it is best to keep it sparse.
When I first launched anvilfire our NOFRAMES area of the index file had the following text:
<TITLE>Title displayed by browser goes here</TITLE>
<!-- Viewer sees this title NOT frame content titles -->
<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="INDEX, FOLLOW">
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="Similar to the title but may contain up to 25 words.">
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="Words, or, phrases, found, in the, NOFRAMES, document">
<FRAMESET ROWS="70,*" BORDER=1 FRAMESPACING=2 FRAMEBORDER=1>
<FRAME SRC="header.htm" NAME="HeaderFrame">
<FRAME SRC="content.htm" NAME="ContentFrame">
The information displayed in a non-frames browser window goes here.
This is also seen by all search engines.
The words used here are important as they are the first found.
"Whoops you need Netscape 3.0 or later to view this page"
That was the first text the search engines found and that was how were were listed on Yahoo and Lycos and others . . under "Whoops. . "
It was a major setback that cost us four months to recover from. Yep, I did that. . . please take advantage of my mistakes.
USE ALT TAGS:
A What? An "Alternate Text" IMAGE tag. A properly formated image tag looks like this.
ALT tags were designed for the visualy impaired so that they could tell what an image was about even if they could not not see it.
They also display as images load and when your mouse moves over an image.
Good HTML editors automaticaly generate ALT tags and good HTML validators flag their absence as an error.
BORDER=0 HEIGHT=20 WIDTH=524
ALT="STOP SPAM Join CAUCE Coalition . . .">
Using ALT tags is not just the Politicaly Correct thing to do.
They add TEXT to your page that would otherwise not be there.
They are also a good place to add a photo credit and copyright.
The search engines cannot see images but they see and USE ALT tags like other text.
On image rich pages the ALT text may equal captions doubling the amount of text.
So, its not just being "PC" its good search engine optimization.
WARNING! Do not overload ALT tags with keywords.
For a while this was a good trick but like any trick for fooling the search engines they eventualy catch on and penalize tricks.
Also note the image SIZE tags. Always use then but NEVER, EVER, EVER use these to make an image smaller.
Resize the image in an editor and use the actual image size in the tag.
Using oversize images makes your page load slower than it needs.
I've been to sites that took FOREVER to load when they appeared to have reasonably sized images, that in fact were larger than screen size.
Sites like these often get bumped from search engine directories and link lists. Doint these things RIGHT is part of learning HTML.
Tricks to SPAM the indexes may get you black-balled.
Invisible word lists using font color the same as the background were used in the early days of the net, particularly by porn sites.
Almost all legitimate search engine spiders recognize this trick and will flag your site as using "dirty tricks".
This may get you booted from the search engines, particularly the important ones like Yahoo, Lycos and DMOZ.
Sites called "Affiliate Farms" where the content is mostly links to outside sales sites like Amazon.com may be rejected by the legitimate indexes.
DMOZ instructs their editors to not list Affiliate Farms.
This is sometimes a judgement call as you may also have real content on your page.
Besides, affiliate links WILL NOT make you any money unless you have an extreamly high traffic page so it is best to avoid the temptation.
Banner Farms and Link Farms are treated the same.
If your page has more banners than content then your page may get rejected from the index.
Outside "link exchange" banners WILL NOT earn you any money, do not bring traffic to your site and only take away from it.
They are exploitation of newbies and suckers.
Note that with the explosion of Google ads the rules have changed.
While google used to ban link farms and affiliate pages they are now in that business. . .
However, google arbitrage pages are constantly being banned by google as fast as they can.
Old URL's and PORN:
I recently received a note about a website on the Blacksmith's Ring that was a
porn site. . . When URL's (web names) are abandoned it is common practice for porn sites to register
the URL and point it at their site. This is the fourth time it has happened with sites we linked to and the
second time in six months.
Usually a user points out the problem and I remove the link ASAP. Today's link was on the Blacksmiths
Ring, one of the iForge demos and in the DMOZ.org listing under smithys.
If you find something unexpected on one of our links please let me know. Most of the time they are just
dead. But the redirecting to porn sites is a serious problem. I have been rewarding those that find these
pirated URL's with an anvilfire cap.
This problem is also one you should think about if you have a web URL and decide to drop your web-site.
Abandoning the web-site is one thing but if you abandon the URL there is a good chance it will be used
in an unscrupulous manner. If you hold the URL for a year or two without a website then it will disappear
from the the search engines and most link lists. After that it is fairly safe to abandon but it depends on
the popularity your site has developed. The people that use abandoned URL's generally do not waste
their time if the URL is no longer on the search engines or link lists. But if the URL is a good general
purpose name that someone else may be interested in then it will be bought to resell AND directed to
some other site. . .
Today it only costs $10 to $15/year to maintain the registration so it is not a significant cost to keep a porn site
from using YOUR name.
IF you have a blacksmith related web-site with interesting original content and you are thinking about
abandoning it PLEASE let us know. We may be interested in hosting the content AND the URL.
Name and address:
From a search engine categorization discussion:
One of my pet peeves is the lack of a location, address or phone number on so called
"professional" sites. If someone is actually IN BUSINESS this is important information
that should be on their web site. It is amazing to me how many large corporate sites
do not have this information. I blame the web-developer for not asking but in the end it
is the owners responsibility (it is also often left out by individuals).
If you want to be ruthless in your categorization I would create a "professional" and an
"amature" sub-catagory. Any site that doesn't have physical contact information where it is
easy to find put it in "amature". This would probably split pretty evenly.
Another possible categorazation, legal, non-legal entity, and individual. If a company
name is used and the business is not incorporated then it is a non-legal entity. If it is
incorporated it is a legal entity. If under the individual's name it is obvoius.
Of course an individual can operate under a corporate guise but it is rare.
So you have:
Six logical subdivisions that all business listings could be divided along.
- legal or corporate
- (sub-catagories professional and amature)
- non-legal or unincorporated
- (sub-catagories professional and amature)
- (sub-catagories professional and amature)
An amature corporation sounds like an oxymoron but on the web there are a LOT of
amature corporations that should be categorized as such. Simple rule, no location or
place of business, its amature no matter how big.
What kind of business are you?
If you are reading this you probably have email. But like many people you may not understand some of the basics.
Cheif among these is that your e-mail address may be VERY valuable to you AND it is very valuable to spammers who will do anything to get good active email addresses.
My original email address, firstname.lastname@example.org has been made worthless by the amount of spam it was recieving.
I had to abandon it. The problem was much my fault as I had put my address in plain site on many pages of anvilfire.
I now use a contact form and I have removed my old address from many pages but it is still on many pages that have yet to be edited.
If you have an address such as mine or email@example.com it may be valuable to you. Spam can make it worthless. Then you have to change your email address.
While many folks do this like changing hats others may have their email address tied to their bank and credit card accounts, software registrations, and many other things. Changing your address(es) may be a sizable task.
How you use email can make a difference in much spam you get and how long you can use any given address.
CC, BCC and FORWARDS
Many people do not know how to use their email clients.
The most common problem is not knowing how to send mail to lists of people.
When you get an email, particularly those "Forwards" with a long list of others at the top of the mail the sender either pasted their email list into the TO field OR the CC field.
Everyone on that list got YOUR address along with the others.
If any ONE of those people have an e-mail harvesting virus OR that "funny" cartoon or joke your friend shared with you was originated by a spammer you have just been added to their list.
AND in any group of people that do not know how to properly send to a list there will be MORE and they will forward your address to others and there is NO CHANCE that a spammer will not pick up your address.
You should tell these people to take you OFF their list.
- Carbon Copy.
In email parlance this means everyone on a list gets the mail.
It is the same as putting multiple addresses in the TO field.
Everyone also gets the entire list of addressees.
- BLIND Carbon Copy. This means that everyone gets the mail but they DO NOT get the entire list of addressees.
If you wish to send to a group always BCC (some mail clients may call it "hide list from others" or some such - LEARN to use your mail client).
The ONLY time you want to CC or use multiple recipients in the TO field is if the other people on the list NEED to know you have sent the message to others such as people in a work group, your lawyer or others.
Viruses used to be just malicious nuisances.
But today the majority are profit driven and written by well paid professionals.
They collect email addresses or worse, private information such as social security numbers, logins and passwords.
Missuse of email lists by the ignorant keep these spammers and phishers in business.
The other faux pas is to request for a return acknowledgement (return recipt).
These are rude to the extreme unless there is a very important reason (such as national emergency or life threatening situation) to demand a response.
These trigger pop-up messages in mailers that are important reminders OR very rude annoyances if not justified.
If I want to respond to your mail I will.
If you demand a response I probably WILL NOT just on
References and Links
- SafeMail A method of reducing SPAMers from using your e-mail address.
- Hippie98® Originally a shareware tool now a very nice app.
- CSE Validator A plug-in for Hippie or used as a stand alone.
- WS-FTP Pro File Transfer Client for Windows
© 2002 - 2011 Jock Dempsey,