What is the internet?? Many people have asked me that question and it is a difficult one to answer. At one level it is a new way of communicating and at another level it is a new way of interacting with the world around you. The majority of people who use the Internet use it for Email and with their browser "Surfing the Net".
At a basic level the Internet is your computer connected to
another computer through a phone line or cable communicating with each other.
Add to this the ability to connect to any other computer and communicate with it
in fractions of a second and you have the Internet in a nutshell. The terms 'net'
or 'web' are a way of visualizing this interconnectedness.
When working on a website there are a couple of key concepts
that need to be understood.
display and ends an HTML document
used to add non-displaying text
adds the document name displayed on the title bar
contains the main or displayed part of a document (see
<Hl .. H6>
formats text for headings from 1 (the largest) to 6
</Hl .. /H6>
bold the text (<strong> also displays bolded
text but is listed as a depreciated tag </strong>)
italicizes the text (<em> also displays
italicized text but is listed as a depreciated tag </em>)
underlines the text (underlined text is often
reserved for a hyperlink)
determines where a paragraph begins and ends (end
tag not currently required)
creates a hypertext link to another spot on the
current page or another document (see below)
*Exceptions that don't use closing tags
displays an image defined by the information typed
into the tag (see below)
adds a line break
displays a horizontal rule or line across the page
adds a non-breaking space (not really a tag but
handy to know)
Indents the enclosed text on the left and right
Encloses a number (ordered) list
Encloses a bulleted (unordered) list
A list item within an ordered or unordered list
Creates a table (see
Modifies the font (see
Following is a sample basic web document that includes many of the most common HTML tags. It can be copied by selecting it with your mouse, copying it and pasting it into a text editor and modified it for your own use. To view it simple save the file as a text document and open it in your browser (or double click on it).
<meta name="Description" content="This is where you describe your company or organization for search engines.">
<meta name="Keywords" content="add, keywords, separated, by, commas">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="stylesheet.css">
<body bgcolor="#BBCAC5" background="background.jpg"
text="#000000" link="#990033" alink="#3333CC"
<h1>Heading Level 1</h1>
<h2>Heading Level 2</h2>
<h3>Heading Level 3</h3>
<h4>Heading Level 4</h4>
<h5>Heading Level 5</h5>
<h6>Heading Level 6</h6>
<p><blockquote>Indented Paragraph Text</blockquote><p>
<p><a href="http://www.pipcom.com/~bmc/"><img src="http://www.pipcom.com/~bmc/pics/logo99.gif" width="59" height="30" alt="joansvoboda" border="0"></a></p>
<table border="2" width="300" cellspacing="2" cellpadding="2">
<td>Cell One Row One</td>
<td>Cell Two Row One</td>
<td>Cell One Row Two</td>
<td>Cell Two Row Two</td>
<li>Bulleted Item One
<li>Bulleted Item Two
<li>Numbered List Item One
<li>Numbered List Item Two
<p><a name="anchor">Clicking the anchor above will jump to this spot.</p>
<!--Comments can be added if they are enclosed by these tags -->
Once you have retrieved a document from a website the links
on that document only need to point to other files in the same site and may
contain partial or relative links. An example would be...
The text between the open and close anchor is displayed on
the page as information about the link. By default the text is blue and
Though a full path reference or URL is always more accurate
and must be used when moving to another site, a relative link works well if the
destination document is located on the same site. To create links within a
An anchor can also point to a specific spot on the same page
or a specific spot on a different document. The spot that the link points to
must have a named anchor (target) attached and the reference link must include
the number symbol (#) then the name of the anchor. Use the same naming rules as
above. An example of a link to an anchor would be...
An example of an named anchor would be...
Images have a number of attributes that can be added as
ALIGN = CENTER|LEFT|RIGHT
VALIGN = TOP|MIDDLE|BOTTOM|BASELINE
ALT = Descriptive Alternative Text ("placed in quotes")
BORDER = 0 for no border or 1 and up for place a border around the image
HEIGHT = defines the height of the image
WIDTH = defines the width of the image
Images are treated like a text character to a browser. Unless
you use attributes to modify how they are displayed, images will be placed in a
document as if they are the next character in a string of text. This allows them
to be used as references for links.
BORDER = "0" - removes the default 2 pixel border
that is placed around an image if it is used as a link
ALT = displays the alternative text if visitor is not using graphics or reads alternative text. This text is also displayed when a cursor moves over the picture
BGCOLOR = "rrggbb" - can contain a red/green/blue
hexadecimal number (see below) or a named
LINK = "rrggbb" - the link color
ALINK = "rrggbb" - the active link color
VLINK = "rrggbb" - the visited link color
TEXT = "rrggbb" - the text color
* note that COLOR is the American spelling
Images can also be use in the <BODY> tag to display
backgrounds. Some care should be used to match the image with the text as this
is a common mistake made by designers. The background image goes in the BODY
tag. An example would be...
Pages can use both a background image and a background color
for visitors who don't display graphics. An example could be...
The second method is to use a "name color" such as
red or green. Most common color names can be used and there are many resource on
the Internet to help with determining page colors.
Always be aware that visitors are using a variety monitors
and color preferences and the color you choose may not display the same on
SIZE = "n" - a number between 1 (smallest) and 7
(largest). Also + or - 1 through 7 compared to baseline font
COLOR = "rrggbb" - rgb value or named color
FACE = "n" - a named font (user must have font installed locally)
An example could be...
Note: Stylesheets should be used rather
than the <FONT> tag in most instances.
<TR> and </TR> - begins and ends a row
<TH> and </TH> - begins and ends a heading
<TD> and </TD> - begins and ends a definition
Tables can be nested to create different effects. Table also
have various attributes...
ALIGN = LEFT|RIGHT|CENTER
BORDER = "n" - determines border width
BORDERCOLOR = hexadecimal value or color name
BORDERCOLORDARK = two edges of the border
BORDERCOLORLIGHT= the other two edges of the border
WIDTH = "n" - can be a percent (n%) or a number based on points (n pt)
CELLPADDING = "n" - space between content and cell walls
CELLSPACING = "n" - space between the cell and the exterior frame of the table. Some of the table attributes can be applied to individuals row, columns and cells. The table definition and heading have an extra attribute.
COLSPAN = "n" - extends the contents of a cell into the next column(s)
ROWSPAN = "n" - extends the contents of a cell into the next row(s)
It is quite important to include <META> tags in the
main documents of your website. If you don't include these tags the search
engines will define your site based on their own criteria using the first 25
words that they find, regardless of what they are. The two main tags for
defining your site are;
Description - containing a 25 (approximate) word description
of your organization
Keywords - containing words that interested people will type into a search engine
A few things to note when using frames are that the title on
the top of the page displays the parent's <title> information regardless
of the child frame contents. As well the URL in the address field also displays
the location of the parent document. When placing links in a frame be sure to
direct the page to the right frame using the target attribute.
As with any computer technology HTML is constantly evolving. The latest version HTML 3 adds various new tags and HTML 4 will/does incorporate Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language (DHTML). One aspect of DHTML are Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS allows designers to create a document with standard attributes that can be applied to various HTML documents which then inherit their attributes from this document. This allows consistency across multiple documents on a website. It also allows designers to quickly change the look of the site by making changes to style sheet that will then be applied to all the documents that use that style sheet.
Style sheet are attached to a document using a <LINK>
tag in the head of the document, embedded in a document with the <style
type="text/css"> </style> tag or defined for a specific area
of the document (this last options sort of defeats the purpose of stylesheets).
A stylesheet file name ends with a .css extension and is a
text document containing the styles that will be applied to the document.
Stylesheets can contain information on the size and color of headings and links
and can define various specialized tags to modify text throughout the site.
Stylesheets are still relatively new and only IE3 and up and NS4 and up use
them. Older browsers that encounter Stylesheets will ignore them (if the
designers uses <!-- and // --> around the style definitions) and display
the page using the browsers defaults.
Once a stylesheet has been linked to a document, styles can
be applied to tags with the class="" attribute and to text using the
<div></div> and <span></span> tags.
What FTP does is allow the website manager to connect their
computer (the Local computer ) to the server (the Remote computer). You will
need the address of your service's FTP server in order to connect to it and then
the username assigned to the directory and finally a password to connect to the
server. Once connected the FTP program will display the files with their name,
size and date information and allow the user to replace, modify or delete these
files as needed. The program will usually display the contents of the remote
computer's directory beside the local computer's directory. This allows the
maintainer to compare the files on the local computer with the ones on the
Sending a file to the server or placing the file on the
website is called uploading and getting a file from the server is called
The FTP program may refer to the computer you are connecting (the one the
website is on) as the remote computer and your computer as the local computer.
When more than one person is updating the website it is a
good policy to download the file (the remote copy) from the server before making
changes to it. This way you are making changes to the latest version of the file
rather than writing over changes someone just made. Consider the copy on the
website as the original.
There are a few commercial HTML design programs that work
quite well though it is still necessary to modify the HTML form time to time.
Most design software integrate an HTML text editor into the program.
There are also number of free alternatives which can be very
useful tools. A free text based HTML editor can provide many tools that assist
web developers. Most of these programs also integrate a web browser to allow the
developer to view the page.
Another alternative is FrontPage Express or Netscape Composer
which are free HTML design programs and publishers. Like any other HTML graphics
based program the developer will need to occasionally open the file in a text
editor to "tweak" the file. These programs also have a bad habit of
modifying the document without telling you. To publish from one of these
programs the user, usually, will need to enter the complete pathname (not the
partial one used to connect to the ftp server).
One of a web designers main tools remains a good text editor.
The program Notepad is less than adequate as it often loses line breaks making
the document hard to read. Wordpad one of the most used programs for
non-commercial web designers, just make sure to save the document as text.
Designers can also use their favorite word processor but be sure to save the
document as a text or HTML document when saving it. You may also want to
consider purchasing a professional HTML text editor if you are working on a lot
When adding graphics to a web page keep in mind the size of
the image file and how it will contribute to the speed that the page will
display on the visitors browser. Use a graphic program to "optimize"
your images before adding them to the page. Try to get your clipart image down
under 15 kilobytes if possible and keep photo's under 35 kilobytes if possible.
Generally use the .gif format for clipart with 256 colors or
less and use .jpeg for photos or images with a large range of colors.
The GIF format allows you to define one color as
which is usually used as the background color. The GIF format can also be used
to create animations.
The JPEG format allows you to set the level of compression.
Though highly compressed images produce smaller file sizes the image quality
also deteriorates. Though there is software applications that will assist you
with optimizing your images it still takes some trial and error to get that
It is possible to control the text flow around images by
adjusting the align' attribute. If you can't get that image in the exact
place consider putting the text and image in separate cells in a table.
Always use the alt' attribute to add a text definition for
your images. This will be the words that text browsers display and the words
that audio browsers read.
There are many different formats though RealNetworks and
Macromedia stand out. RealNetworks content must be placed on a server that can
stream audio and video content. You may have to shop around to find a service
that provides this and the web page visitor must have a RealNetworks player (or
equivalent player) installed to view/hear the content. Macromedia produces
multimedia development software which can be placed on any server but the web
page visitor must have a Shockwave plugin installed to view the multimedia
A simple and economical solution to placing multimedia
content on your website is to use .gif animations. GIF animations are a series
of images or frames setup to display one after the other. There are many
graphics programs that allow you to assemble and create images then save them as
.gif files. Treat them as you would any other plain (large) .gif image once it
has been saved.
MPEG is another economical way to place multimedia on your
site. You will probably have to purchase a development program but placing the
content on a website can be as simple as creating a link and most multimedia
players (including the one that comes with Windows) will play it.
The companies that develop Internet browsers often place
support for non-standard tags in anticipation of the changing nature of the
Internet. This can cause the various browsers to display the same page
differently. The way that the various companies implement the HTML tags in their
program can also be different causing a confusing situation for the web
Many web design tools use shortcuts and none standard HTML
based on the browser that they are targeting. As you are building your site keep
checking it to make sure that it conforms as closely as possible to the W3C
guidelines. There a number of resources available on the Internet and through
software applications to check your HTML for browser compatibility. Also be
aware that each browser has various versions though it is not always possible to
support the older browsers.
The best rule it to stick to standard HTML or provide a
separate page for text browsers. This is especially true when using frames or
complex programming. One should also note that browsers designed for the
visually impaired use standard HTML tags to read the information to the users.
Test your website in more than one browser and ifpossiblel a
text browser as well. It is more difficult to have various versions of a browser
but if possible this also helps.
Email can be protected using a
service or an
(program). There are others but the two that stand out currently are
and PGP. S/MIME requires the user to register with a 3 party service
which issues a digital id that you attach to your message. Though this is
usually a commercial service there is often a free introductory period (Editors
note: one service offer to renew my trail period recently). PGP is both a
freeware or a commercial application that you run from your own computer.
Both methods allow users to
sign or attach a
identification to the email message which verifies, to the recipient, that
the message is from the original person or organization and that the information
wasn't tampered with in transit. These methods also allow the user to encrypt
their message so that anyone intercepting the message wouldn't be able to read
it. You can also decide the level of encryption from low; in which a nerd with
some good software and enough time on their hands could possibly decrypt to high
(128 bit) which would take a whole mountain of experts weeks to decrypt if even
then. Most of us will choose somewhere in between as this process involves
increased time and file size.
Both methods use
key pairs of
keys. The sender signs their messages with a private key which is kept
secure. The recipient is sent a public key which, depending on their
email program, will automatically or manually verify to them that your message
is authentic. Public keys are sent to the recipient through various methods
including posting it to a service, sending it through email or sending it as a
file (you can also post that public key file on an Internet site). The recipient
can add your public key to a file (sometimes called a
key ring) and use
it to verify any other message from the sender.
Encryption also involves using the key pair but in reverse.
Once your message is completed you encrypt the file using the recipient's public
key ensuring that only the recipient can ever access that message with their
private key. (Editor's note: Don't lose your private key!).
Small businesses and organizations that wish to offer
transactions over the Internet or
can take their chances and set up an unsecured system, set up their own
server or purchase a service from a third party. There are various
types including service that take a percentage of the transaction and/or charge
a service fee and/or charge for each transaction. Some organizations are more
reliable and you should always shop around before committing to a service.
Because this type of service is so new the length of time a company has been
operating is not always a way to decide. Things to watch for is down-time. If
your companies website is operating properly yet the customer or user can't
access the transaction server because it is down, too busy or misconfigured they
will easily be put off perhaps entirely. Watch for contracts that lock you in,
as the market is still developing and prices tend to fluctuate. It is easy to
switch services by simply changing the address on your website's order forms.
Intranets are powerful tools for a business!
Your website itself is protected by your Internet Service
Provider's software. When you attempt to access your web space to change
or modify a file using a shell or
you are challenged to send your username and password. This is the first line of
protection and adequate for many website administrators.
The server that your website is installed on is the
second line of protection. Most servers have security features built in to them
allowing users to password protect folders or build scripts to send a
username/password challenge to a user trying to access a file or folder. This
allows website administrators the ability to create discussion groups within
their site or to place confidential documents or information that is made
available only to registered users on their own website. Unfortunately many ISP
either don't make this option available, charge a premium to use them or only
allow their own employees to set them up.
Third Party Security
Another option includes
contracting the protection of
private files to a separate service, pay a third party to hosting a private
discussion group or obtain web space on another server that allows access to
security options. The entire Internet is as close as your computer connection
and whether the file the user is viewing is stored in your own current web space
or on another server is usually immaterial. When your customer or member moves
from one page to another the consistency of the website is the maintained by the
design, not the address of the separate pages. It is also possible to control
the address that is displayed if required.
Another option is to use
control how customers or members access secure features. This option is only
available to users who are using modern Java enabled browsers. Scripts and
applets can control access to documents and databases, create content on the fly
based on user input, detect the browser the visitor is using and direct them to
the proper page, retrieve cookies and use that information to determine whether
a user has access to a certain area or not, as well as many other uses.
Another reason you may need is that many organizations need
to discuss draft articles, changes to bylaws and other documents that could
cause problems if they were made public before they supposed to. A secure
directory within your website is an ideal spot to store sensitive material
making it available for members and people who have the password.
I would be remiss to not point out and as all articles on the
subject also point out mining the Internet with malicious intent is also
possible. One of the latest malicious acts is to search websites for email
addresses and then add them to spam distribution lists. Unfortunately there is
very little that can be done to counter this.
Whether you decide to add a security component to your
website project it is a good idea to have a discussion about the topic when
planning the site and review your security systems periodically.
To Contact us by E-Mail: JOANS followed by @ joansvoboda.com (formatted to foil Spam Bots!)