Pop quiz time: What is the "Web"? Is it (a) a household annoyance created by pesky arachnids, or (b) a communications phenomenon that has taken the planet by storm?
If you correctly answered (b), you're among the millions of people who know that the World Wide Web is a global computer network that's causing a revolution that rivals the advent of television and radio.
People everywhere are clamoring for a presence on the Web, and new businesses are sprouting up everywhere to create Web sites for commercial and personal use alike. Such concepts as "home pages," "Web hosting" and "links" are still confusing, however, to the novice user trying to understand the workings of the Web.
A "page" on the World Wide Web is nothing more than a document produced by a text editor, except that codes, or "tags," are inserted throughout the document that convert a simple flier or brochure, for example, into a Web page that can viewed on the Internet. These tags make up a common language called Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML, which enables Web browsers such as Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Explorer to recognize and translate the page into the finished, viewable product.
Pages or documents grouped together comprise the actual Web site. The term "home page" loosely refers to the first page, or title page, of the Web site. Additional pages in this electronic brochure are accessed by clicking the mouse on various buttons or "links," which might reference the current Web site or any other location on the Internet.
There are several programs currently available that not only help demystify the Web-site development process, but make it easy for beginners to create great-looking Web sites. Claris Home Page is the easiest of all the Web-page products that I've sampled thus far. It's small, requiring only 3.2 megabytes of disk space for installation, and the interface is instantly friendly and easy to navigate.
Web-page development applications, such as Home Page, behave very much like word-processing programs except that as you type, format text or insert graphics, the proper HTML codes are automatically and invisibly inserted into the document. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Word or WordPerfect can quickly and easily design World Wide Web pages with Claris Home Page.
Most commands are readily accessible from the tool bar and require only a mouse click to execute, including a browser view to actually preview a page. Home Page comes with more than 500 buttons, images and backgrounds as ready-to-use graphics. Intermediate users will appreciate the ease with which tables, frames and interactive forms can be built in this application.
Once your pages are complete, they must be "published," or uploaded to a Web server so that they officially reside on the Internet. This step is akin to renting a commercial space for doing business. Most Internet service providers and commercial services such as America Online offer limited free space to individuals publishing Web pages, but business and commercial sites are usually hosted for a fee.
Web pages are transferred from your own PC to the Web server by a process called File Transfer Protocol, or FTP. This usually requires that you obtain a separate user name and password for permission or FTP rights to upload and download files from the Web server. Check with your ISP or commercial provider for information regarding publishing of Web documents. America Online users can use the keyword "homepages" to learn about page publishing for members.
Claris Home Page does not have a built-in publishing feature or file-transfer capabilities, but users of this product receive a coupon for six months of free Web hosting through HoloNet. This offer is good through June 1997.
Netscape Navigator Gold is another easy-to-use Web-authoring tool if you already have Internet connectivity. Navigator Gold allows you to download virtually any page already on the Net and edit it for your own use -- if you have permission from the designing author, of course! Navigator also offers templates and a wizard that guides the user through an elementary, step-by-step page-building process.
Certainly, there are more-sophisticated products available for advanced Web publishing, such as Microsoft FrontPage, PageMill and HoTMetaL Pro, but you won't find these products to be as "out-of-the-box easy" as Home Page or Navigator Gold. Stick with either of these two products when weaving your first Web page.
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