Building a website

With special consideration for Twin Towns

Some Food for thought

This brief article is not an in depth feature on how to build a website, but merely a suggestion of some of the things you need to do before you start.

The first thing to do is to consider what you want to achieve with your website, who are your audience, and what information do you want to give them.

The best thing to do is to get your group together and discuss with them what they would like to see, that way you will get a fairly broad picture of what everyone wants, you may think that you know just what to put in it, but as sure as anything someone will come up with something you had not thought of.

Some suggestions for the content are as follows:-

History of the Link.
Details of Your Town and the Twin Town (include any relevant links to the websites of the two towns).
Details of your latest visits in either direction.
A photo album.
An activities calender.
A newsletter.
Feature articles from the twin country.
Contact details.

There are many more ideas, but these will do to illustrate the possibilities.

It is important to plan your site ahead of actually starting to build it, and as it is for an organisation it is equally important that the whole group is in at least a majority agreement with the proposals.

Once you have produced and agreed your working plan it is time to consider the actual site production and hosting upon the World Wide Web.

You should now consider your domain name, your association name may be something like “Blogsville on Sea” and that would be fine for the title of the site, e.g. “Blogsville on Sea Twinning Association” but, for the domain name you should ideally try to get something which is easy to remember and quick to type, such as the acronym BoSTA which is both easy to remember and quick to type. Another possibility is to use a key word associated with your activities, for example, the Sandy Twinning Association uses the domain name which indicates to one and all that the subject of the site is towntwinning and that it is a non-profit organisation based within the United Kingdom.

How do you intend to host the site? The two main ways are to purchase a domain and a hosting package or to go for one of the free hosting packages that are available on the web.

The first is probably the ideal option as you get to choose the best domain name for your purposes and you can normally purchase a hosting package for one or two years at a very reasonable cost. This option gives you the most freedom and keeps your web pages clear of any extraneous advertising.

The second option, of using a free hosting package normally means you have a somewhat more difficult domain name for your visitors to remember, and you are normally stuck with some very prominent advertising banners which will detract from your content.

Colour is a vital part of your site, without colour it would look very bland and too much colour will tend to detract from the content and be very tiring for the eyes of the surfer. Consider the balance of colour between the background, the headings, any banner and the text. Far too many sites use a very fussy background with a text colour that makes it very difficult to read. Whilst some colour will lift the appearance of our web pages the old adage of “less is more” can often apply here.

Use “white space” (Blank areas) to good effect, do not make sentences or paragraphs too long, otherwise it becomes difficult and tiring to read. You will notice that this article is mostly composed of a lot of short paragraphs. Try to use a font that is easy to read, “Sans Serif” is normally better that “Serif” fonts. It is also useful to specify a choice of fonts in the initial coding of your site as not all browsers and computers can read all possible fonts.

Try to avoid overuse of active elements such as Flash where elements of your page move about or slowly come into focus; this is not only annoying to the viewer but also extends the time taken to download the page to the extent that the visitor can easily get fed up with waiting and decide to look elsewhere before your page is fully loaded onto the screen. Go on, admit it, we have all got so tired and annoyed that our precious time is being wasted by a page that never seems to open.

This has been a far from complete guide to building a web site, but rather, a suggestion of a few things that should be considered before starting to build your site. If you feel you have no one available in your group who is capable of producing the site you will still need to have some idea of these basics when you hire someone else to do it. The more detailed the briefing you give them the quicker and cheaper it will be for them to do the job.

Finally, below, you will find links to a few useful resources. : a huge database of independent web designers who could be approached to build a site for you, almost certainly there will be one in your area. This site also has some useful articles on web design and a very active and helpful forum : A good site for some easy to read tutorials on web design issues and another very helpful forum. : A totally free service to have your web site checked for , content, accessability, useability and rendition in almost any operating system and almost every browser. ; A new free, bi-monthly online magazine aimed at web designers and developers from all levels from novice to expert, with interviews with top industry figures, articles, tutorials, news, advice and an active forum.

There are many more similar sites to be found on the web, but I quote these as an illustration due to personal experience of them.

Copyright 2005 Alan Wicks

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