Choosing a design theme - HTML

You should base your design theme on the target market analysis you perform at the opening stages of your Web site development. Sometimes your design theme will be easy. If you operate a fish store, your theme is pretty obvious. It may not be as obvious if you run a general interest site. In that case, carefully examine your market analysis and design accordingly.If you’re running a small or personal site, you can also check out predesigned templates at sites.

Constructing the site
The first step in constructing a site is deciding what kind of application server environment you’ll be using. An application server is somewhat like an engine that runs your Web site’s logic. If you’re using simple, static HTML, it doesn’t matter what application server you use or whether you even have one. However, if you’re interacting with a database or producing dynamic content, you’ll need to work with an application server environment. An application server lets you create dynamic content. For example, consider the following code fragment:

<html><head><title>Hello, world</title></head><body><%= myAppServer.Write(“Hello, World!”)%></body></html>

The bolded code represents a fictional application server language called WowServerPages (WSP) that has several thousand prewritten functions (methods) available to it. One of those is the Write() method, which simply writes text to the browser window. When the preceding code is read by the application server, it generates HTML based on the instructions it receives within special markup like that shown in bold. It then passes its results to the Web server, which sends the HTML to a user’s Web browser. The user never sees this instruction and can’t access it by clicking view source from the browser:

<%= myAppServer.Write(“Hello, World!”) %>

Only the Web application server sees it.
Virtually all application servers work this way. For example, here’s the same example in a real application server environment called PHP:

<html><head><title>Hello, world</title></head><body><?php echo “Hello, world”; ?></body></html>

In this case, PHP, which borrows heavily from Perl syntax, uses a method called echo to write text to the browser. The major application server environments available include the following:

  • PHP is primarily a UNIX/Linux application server that requires a PHP parser (CGI or server module) on the machine running your Web server (or linked to a machine running your Web server). If you are running your site through a Web hosting service that is UNIX or Linux-based, ask them if PHP is installed. Most decent Web hosting service plans offer PHP as part of a basic package. You can recognize PHP pages on the Web by looking for Web sites with .php or .php4 extensions at the end of file names.
  • Java Server Pages (JSP) is a Java-based Web application server that requires a J2EE Java environment. You can get a free JSP-based application server called Tomcat through JSP pages use a .jsp file extension.
  • Active Server Pages (ASP) was developed by Microsoft and works especially well with MS SQL Server because its object model used for programming Web sites contains numerous data-binding mechanisms geared specifically to work with SQL Server, although it also works well with MySQL, because many of the data-binding processes work with any database connection. Programming ASP is based on Visual Basic. Pages written in ASP use a .asp file extension.
  • ASP.NET has supplanted ASP and is the next-generation application server in the Microsoft world. ASP.NET allows developers to choose from a number of languages, include the new C#, VisualBasic.NET, and J#. ASP.NET pages use a .aspx file extension.
  • ColdFusion, from Macromedia, is a commercial application server with functionality similar to the others. ColdFusion pages have a .cfm file extension.

Testing and evaluating the site
When your Web site is finished, you want to test it before serving it to the public. How you do that will depend on the resources of your Web development team. If your team has a lot of resources, you can set up your Web site on a testing server. This is a separate machine with Web hosting capabilities that can’t be seen by the general public but provides exactly the same capabilities as your production machine, which is the machine that will actually host your publicly available site.

If your team doesn’t have the kind of resources needed to make that happen, you can set up your site on a sandbox. A sandbox is an area on your production machine that isn’t accessible to the public, which mirrors the directory structure of your Web site. For example, you may have a directory named sandbox, into which you would place your index and/or default html pages. Then, each of the directories in your sandbox would have the same names and files as those on your production Web site.

If your site is new, you can simply deny access to it until you’re ready to go live. To test the site, you compare the site’s behavior to the requirements documents you produced at the early stages of your Web site’s development. Generally, you or someone in your quality assurance (QA) team will create a use case document that is derived from the requirements document. Often, this is simply a spreadsheet with a list of use cases and cells containing expected behavior and empty cells containing actual behavior. When the expected behavior clashes with the actual behavior, a bug is filed. Then the list of bugs is submitted to the Web development team, and the site doesn’t go live until the bugs are fixed.

Marketing the site
Once your site is live, you’ll want to find a way to get it noticed by your target audience. In addition to the marketing tips explored in Chapter , Publicizing Your Site and Building Your Audience, you may want to try the following marketing tactics: Throw a party and get the party publicized: When the dot-com craze was at its peak, new Web sites often threw lavish parties with well-known musicians and other talent. Those days are gone (because the days of wasteful spending have given way to more frugality and, as a result, much stronger Web sites), but you can still hold a small soiree to publicize your site to key players in your industry.

  • Take an ad out in a trade publication geared towards your profession.
  • Issue a press release announcing your site.
  • Participate in e-mail discussion lists in ways that contribute to the knowledge of people on the list, and include a signature in your posts that points to your Web site.
  • Purchase ad banners on other Web sites to announce your site.
  • Run on-site events.
  • Generate an e-newsletter and include a link on your Web site encouraging people to sign up for it (but don’t send out the newsletter unsolicited, because that will actually do more damage than good with your prospects, who will interpret those efforts as spam).
  • Embark on a direct e-marketing campaign.
  • Integrating traditional marketing and sales programs into your overall plan.
    This may include producing brochures and spec sheets with your Web site included as part of the contact information, and will most certainly include your Web site name on business cards.

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