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Web Publishing Resources

I am not a great author­i­ty on web pub­lish­ing. I fell into it back in 1995 because I was work­ing for an ISP. It’s de rigeur for tech­ni­cal writ­ers now, and near­ly so for just about any writer, as far as I can tell. While I’m unlike­ly to ever be a full-fledged “web devel­op­er,” I do enjoy learn­ing more as time goes on. I’ve focused on learn­ing to present infor­ma­tion in the most use­ful and acces­si­ble for­mat I can for a vari­ety of users. I’m very grate­ful to the gen­eros­i­ty of more knowl­edge­able folk in var­i­ous forums, and I see no shame in ask­ing for help.

While many pro­grams exist now to allow peo­ple to cre­ate web pages with­out ever using a tag, I think it’s very impor­tant to get com­fort­able with HTML. If you don’t under­stand a bit about the basics, it’s very hard to fig­ure out why things don’t dis­play as you thought they would, or to achieve the effect you want.

How do you start learn­ing HTML? One of the eas­i­est ways is absolute­ly free. Just use your browser’s View Source option to look at the code on pages you like! Unfor­tu­nate­ly, you won’t get much use­ful infor­ma­tion if the site is Flash-based, as so many are now. You will find that you start rec­og­niz­ing Flash sites, as opposed to more acces­si­ble ones, and that’s good.

I start­ed out using a text edi­tor, and I still do that most of the time if I’m not work­ing with Word­Press. My favorite HTML edi­tor is Home­Site, but I’m not sure it’s even avail­able any more with­out buy­ing DreamWeaver (which is overkill for most peo­ple). NVU is good, too, and it’s a free, open-source appli­ca­tion that runs on just about any plat­form (Win­dows, Mac, and Lin­ux). You can use it with­out know­ing any­thing about HTML, but you can also use it to edit and learn HTML. I’ve found the HTML Ref­er­ence Library to be a great help when try­ing to remem­ber the syn­tax for par­tic­u­lar tags. And yes, even after 13 years, there are times when I need to look things up. I’m fair­ly sure that’s true for most peo­ple.

Word­Press rocks. It’s a lot more than a blog­ging plat­form. You can use it to set up just about any kind of site very eas­i­ly. It’s anoth­er open-source project, and you can find lots of good sup­port avail­able in the WP com­mu­ni­ty. I love the way I can change the look of the entire site in min­utes by select­ing a new theme, and the added flex­i­bil­i­ty of the many plu­g­ins writ­ten for WP. It’s very easy to install on your own, but if that intim­i­dates you or you just don’t want to both­er with it, there’s the Word­Press Install4Free Team.

I find Irfan­View plen­ty of graph­ics pro­gram for most of my uses. If I need more, I use The GIMP. I con­sid­er myself some­what graph­ics-impaired, so I have to rely on the gen­eros­i­ty of oth­ers for the graph­ics I use on my site. (At least I’m bet­ter with com­put­er graph­ics, than the kind you have to draw on phys­i­cal mate­ri­als. I can’t draw rec­og­niz­able stick fig­ures!)

If you want to use spe­cial fonts on your site, be aware that your vis­i­tors won’t see the same dis­play that you do unless those fonts are installed on their own machines.1 For that rea­son, it’s best to stick with pret­ty stan­dard type­faces, like those that are dis­trib­uted with Win­dows and Microsoft appli­ca­tions. The Typog­ra­phy on the Web site is a good resource for learn­ing more about fonts.
Here are a few web pub­lish­ing resources:

Of course, if you don’t have any­thing to say, it won’t mat­ter how well you learn to say it or how many neat graph­ics you have. Spend more time on your con­tent than on how cool it looks! Links are fine, but if your site is essen­tial­ly your book­mark file with annotations–leave it to Yahoo, okay? And


1 There are ways around that, but if you’re at that lev­el you don’t have any rea­son to read this page, now do you?