Building your home on the World Wide Web, Part 1

Ordinary Tanzanians need to gain a voice in the global conversation that is
the Internet. Amongst other ways of achieving this perhaps the most pleasing is
the web site. A web site is available 24 hours a day, world wide. Besides words
it can contain photographs, drawings, animation and music.

Individuals use web sites to keep their family and friends up to date with
their news, to wax lyrical about their favourite pop star, or share recipes they
have invented with the rest of the world. Pretty much anything goes.

The web is a publishing medium cheap enough for anyone to publish their own
virtual magazine on any subject.

But how do you get in on this?

The barriers to having a web site are surprisingly low. Companies like
GeoCities (geocities.yahoo.com) offer 15 megabytes of free web space. That is
enough to get a lot of pictures and text online. They also provide tools which
make it easy to create a basic page. So, to get a presence online you don’t need
to have much money or an understanding of how it all works.

If you already have a Yahoo! email address, registering with GeoCities is
simple – you use your Yahoo! name to sign up. If you don’t then you will also
get a new email address sign up!

To start with the site will be empty – visitors will see a message telling
them you haven’t started building your site yet. You had better put something
up, just to say I am here! Try out the GeoCities PageWizard. You get to choose
from a few different looks. It then allows you to create a simple page with
information about you and links to other web sites. You can even upload a
picture.

But it is a pretty boring site, no?

Indeed – web sites built on free space often are. With the enthusiasm that
comes from having your first web site, quite often what gets lost is content.
You have a new voice, but you forget to say something interesting with it.

Don’t worry; you will learn how to create something a bit more interesting
next week. For now let’s plan your site.

This is the stage where I find it useful to step away from the computer,
leave the internet café, grab a pen and paper and plan your site. You might
find it nice to sit outside under a shady tree where you can think – What are
you going to talk about? How would you like it to look?

What is it all about?

A good web site knows what it is about – whether it is about you, your school,
church or the pros and cons of mixing kiti moto with Castle Milk Stout. Once
you have decided what your subject is, draw a box in the centre of a piece of
paper. Write the subject of your site in the box. Now around the subject write
all the things you might want to say about it. Here is an example for a site
about nyama choma. Each of the boxes represents a page on the web site. When
you have done this take a piece of paper for each box and expand on what you want
to say on that page. Put all the details you can think of. Note any ideas for
pictures that illustrate what you are saying in the text. You are making your
web site on paper! Now take some paper for the main subject, the box in the
middle of your diagram – this represents your web site’s home page. This is the
front door and hallway to your site – the first thing people see when they visit.
It is how they will find their way to the other pages. On this home page you
must introduce your guests to the subject, before leading them to the finer details.

Where you touch on a subject covered in greater detail on another page,
underline it – online the underlined words will be hyperlinks to the other pages.

Store you ideas for next week when I will help you replace that boring web
page with your individual exciting web site!

While writing this article I have been creating my own web site on GeoCities.
Have a look at www.geocities.com/duncandrury/index.html

For this week’s homework, see if you can figure out how to make changes to
the page you made earlier. Hint – go to the help pages on the GeoCities site if
you get stuck! Or try the members help chat room. You can find both of these on
the GeoCities home page (geocities.yahoo.com) once you are logged in.

Happy writing! Let me know what sites you create – send your web site addresses
to duncandrury@yahoo.com!

Originally published in Arusha Times 285

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