What is a Website?
Technically speaking, a website is a series of web pages, connected together and collectively called a site. Web pages are written in, or dynamically converted to, HTML. To post a website on the Internet usually requires the purchase of a registered domain name (although there are sites that allow you to use their domain for free, and this service is also included with some Internet service provider packages). Once a site has a domain name, it can be uploaded onto a web server and can be accessed through a web browser, like Firefox or Internet Explorer. There are two different kinds of websites:
A static website is a collection of web pages on a server that may or may not be regularly updated. To some extent, they are like online books, created for a purpose and/or a context, and to be viewed or read by people interested in the particular content. Static websites are simple to create and are therefore better suited to beginners. They can be designed and edited using:
- Text editors, where the HTML is manipulated directly within the editor program (e.g., Notepad or TextEdit).
- WYSIWYG editors, where the site is edited using a GUI interface and the underlying HTML is generated automatically by the editor software (e.g., Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
- Template-based editors, which allow users to create and upload websites to a web server without knowing HTML. The user picks a suitable template and adds pictures and text to it in the regular desktop publishing fashion (e.g., Rapidweaver and iWeb).
A dynamic website is one that has frequently changing information or collates information each time a page is requested. It interacts with users in a variety of ways, for example by reading cookies or recognizing users' previous history. This might result in certain content being featured more prominently or dropping from view. A dynamic site can also display the current state of a dialogue between users, monitor a changing situation, or provide personalized information as specified by the individual user.
Software Systems that can be used to program and edit dynamic websites include:
- ColdFusion (CFM)
- Active Server Pages (ASP)
- Java Server Pages (JSP)
- PHP programming language
Why Use a Website for HIV/AIDS Education?
The World Wide Web is an exceptionally powerful tool that can be used to bring people from all over the world together to share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences on important issues such as HIV/AIDS.
✓ Reaches a large group
✓ Good for providing others with important information and facts
✓ Keeps the public up to date on what a group, organization, or project is all about
✓ Advertises events
✓ Helps people connect with other people
x Not everyone has Internet access
x Requires technical expertise to create
How to Use a Website in HIV/AIDS Education
Before Getting Started
In order to create an effective, clear, and attractive site (and to avoid being overwhelmed with the hundreds of sites and books dedicated to the intricacies of web design) it is important to determine the guidelines around which you are working.
Here are a few questions you should ask before getting started:
- What is the site going to be used for? (e.g., advertising an event or a homepage for an organization)
- What is the content of the site? (i.e., graphics, texts, videos, audio, etc.)
- How long will the site be needed for?
- What is the timeline for building the site? (e.g., when must it be ready by)
- What is the budget for building the site?
- What is the existing level of web expertise in the group?
- Who is the website targeting? (e.g., what is the audience)
Having the purpose of the website clearly defined will help determine what kind of site you want to build and how you want to build it; this will help narrow the search for information about building your specific kind of site.
Building the Site
There are a variety of web creation methods ranging in difficulty and price. The following are some of the different methods and some advice on determining which method is right for you and how to go about it:
Building a Site with a Web Designer
If you have the budget and lack expertise in Web design, an experienced designer can help you get a website up on the World Wide Web. A good web designer will take the information you provide, and develop a workable site made to your specifications. Web designers are usually up to date on rules and regulations related to getting a site up on the web and can advise you on the easiest way to organize your information.
Finding a web designer is usually pretty easy; there are lots of companies and private contractors to choose from that can be found online and/or in the phone book.
*TIP* Ask the prospective designer for a portfolio of websites that he or she has already created. It will give you a good idea of what kind/quality of work they have done in the past.
Most web designers will expect that you have defined the goals of your site before coming to them. Making sure that your timeline is reasonable and that you know exactly what kind of site you want will help make the process run smoothly and avoid some of the common pitfalls of working with a designer. The cost of hiring a web designers can range anywhere from $1000 - $10 000+ (USD) depending on the size and type of the project.
Once you have found a designer, you will need to write up a contract detailing the specifics of your working arrangement, such as:
- A list of the services the contractor provides
- Who supplies text, graphics, video, site map, etc
- A list of the graphics enhancements they supply, such as a masthead with your organization's logo, navigation buttons, etc.
- Whether they install your website with your web hosting service, or whether they will serve as your web host
- The list of browsers with which your site will be compatible
- Whether they submit the pages to search engines, optimize your content and provide marketing assistance
- The technical features you need such as video streaming, online forums, etc.
- The dates of delivery of any files that you agree to supply
- A completion date, based on the deadlines for content delivery being met on schedule
- A fee schedule
- Standard legalities (copyrights and disclaimers)
- Refund policies, if you abort the project prior to completion
A good contract protects both you and the designer.
*TIP* Look up example contracts on the Internet so you have an idea of what the standard looks like or so that you can provide your own to the designer if possible.
Building a Site Using an Online Wizard
Building a site using an online wizard is an intermediate step between having a site designed for you and designing a site yourself. Usually online aids will help you to build a static website but not a dynamic one, so whether you select this option or not will once again depend on your specific guidelines. Online wizards typically allow you to choose from a variety of webpage templates specifying what type of buttons, graphics etc. you want to add on and will also allow you to design the other content (such as text) of the site.
After using a wizard to build the website, you will need to buy a registered domain name to upload your site to the Web. Often the same sites that offer online help will also allow you to register with them for a fee (usually $6.00-10.00 USD/month); sometimes these sites also will even have a 3 month free trial, so, if you don't need a site for an extended period of time, this can be a cheap way to get your information out there.
Finding sites that provide online wizards is easy (googling "building a website" is a good place to begin). Here are a few good links to get started with:
Building a Site from Scratch
Building a site from scratch is by far the most technically difficult method of creating a website; however, it is also a method that allows for the most control over the final product. If you know something about web design software or HTML, building a site from scratch might be the most practical method to choose. Keep in mind your parameters when you decide to build your own site: a static site requires much less skill than a dynamic site. Also keep in mind that building your own site will require more time and planning than either of the other two methods.
This guide will not include a detailed explanation of the complexities of web design in full. However, if you are interested in creating a successful site from scratch here is a list of helpful resources:
The computer section of a local bookstore will also have a wealth of more detailed information on how to build a website from scratch and a search for "how to build a website" on any Internet browser will also link to a huge body of information on the subject.
Examples of Other Groups who have used Websites for HIV/AIDS Education
An online resource that provides reviews of the best websites for HIV/AIDS related information.
For more information see: http://www.aidshotline.org/crm/asp/refer/links/default.asp
A website for UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, which brings together the efforts and resources of ten UN system organizations to the global AIDS response.
For more information see: http://www.unaids.org/en/AboutUNAIDS/default.asp
A comprehensive online resource that provides information about HIV/AIDS.
For more information see: http://www.thebody.com/