OK, so maybe you wanna be a webmaster, or maybe you just wanna make your site look identical to mine. (you laugh, but I've seen sites that cut and pasted entire pages of mine, right down to the purple rain background and beating hearts - and then just stuck in their own text!) Well, I'll take it as a compliment, but the truth is, it's really not that hard to do your own page! There isn't a thing on this site that I didn't do by hand myself, and although it can get time-consuming, HTML looks more intimidating than it is.

Unfortunately for those of you looking for a big shortcut, I do all my HTML in notepad. I find the HTML website-making programs to be a waste of time and money. I swear, HTML is so simple and easy to learn, that by the time you struggle through working the website-making program, you could have just typed it out in notepad yourself. (I found that out the hard way!) But whether you do your pages by hand or with a program, you gotta get the book "Creating Cool Web Pages with HTML"...

"CREATING COOL WEB PAGES WITH HTML" by Dave Taylor - This book was my bible for many months, and I still consult it whenever I have a question. Website-helper programs come with either no instructions, or they're written by people who program security for the Pentagon for fun. So if you are a real beginner, you gotta have this book, 'cause Dave will explain all the gobbledygook to you in plain english. Without his book, I would have given up on the whole webmaster thing in frustration, and my site wouldn't be here! Even more advanced site-makers can pick up neat tips and tricks here, since it covers everything from defining the basic HTML words, to beginning cgi-scripting, from teaching you what a .gif is, to making your own image-maps.

Most people do use some sort of software to help them in their early site-making endeavors, and I tried that route as well. As a complete newbie, I went to the store and bought random stuff that looked like it might help:

MICROSOFT FRONTPAGE - great for beginners! You don't need to know any HTML at all, and you can still make a decent site with this. It's a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) program, which means you place everything where you want it on the screen, and the program writes up the HTML for you. You can view the HTML anytime, which helps you learn as you go. It's also supposed to send and retrieve your pages from your site, but I was never able to figure that part out. When you get more advanced, Frontpage still has two very handy uses. It's a great time-saver for making big annoying tables (or tables within tables), and it makes transparent gifs instantly, which means no more cheesy square pictures!

SOFTQUAD's HOTMETAL PRO - assumes you're already familiar with the HTML language. This program is a little more versatile than Microsoft FrontPage, because you manipulate the actual HTML, but you better know how to get what you want, since you're working with little HTML tags instead of a WYSIWYG screen. HotMetalPro also points out errors it finds in your HTML coding, but as new HTML words and phrases evolve, the program quickly becomes obsolete, restricting your ability to use the latest cool stuff on your page. I found that once I was familiar enough with HTML to use HotMetal Pro, I could program more quickly and with less hassle on a blank notepad page.

NETSCAPE 3.0 GOLD - another WYSIWYG program created for beginners. What I liked about Netscape is that you work on your page online, so your page looks just like it will to everyone else with Netscape (this eliminates the occasional ugly surprise when you see your page live online for the first time). But Netscape is missing something that beginners really like - a good instruction manual. I floundered around in a giant guessing game for hours, until the final straw, when I realised that Netscape was making assumptions and changing some of my HTML behind my back - making me waste more time fixing everything. I dashed back to the simplicity of Microsoft FrontPage.

There aren't too many things to learn with HTML, so one of the big differences between a boring site and an attention-getting site is what you can do with Photoshop.

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP - this program is heralded by pros as the best (and it is), but not necessarily for beginners, because (a)it's very, very expensive, and (b)it's like buying a nuclear power plant for a kid who wanted a test tube kit. I had Adobe for a year before I was able to make any good use of this giant, confusing collection of bells and whistles, and only after I had mastered other, easier photoshop programs first. Shelling out the bucks for this is not a shortcut to cool graphics; you have to acquire the skills, patience, and know-how first.

Just as I got comfortable with Adobe 3.0, they released 4.0 (of course). I rushed to get my paws on it, but don't waste your dough. There's nothing awesome on it; they just moved everything around to annoy me, and make it seem new.

"PHOTOSHOP FOR DUMMIES" by Deke McClelland - if you haven't checked out the "Dummies" series yet, you're missing out! I have a bookshelf lined with various dummies books, because they really kick butt. They talk to you like I do, in plain English, with a sense of humor, so you don't get bored. Photoshop for Dummies is a comprehensive guide that explains what all those little icons and thingys in Photoshop are for, and how to use them. I had Photoshop for two years and never figured out what half the stupid buttons were supposed to do, so reading this book was like solving the mysteries of Stonehenge !

"DESIGNING WEB GRAPHICS" by Lynda Weinman - This book is great for tips and tricks on making all sorts of cool graphics for your site. It's got all the basics, like the difference between 'gifs' and 'jpgs', and more advanced stuffs, like working with hexadecimal colors. It also teaches different ways to compress your graphics, working with tables, and making icons, logos, and buttons, and more. This book is very, very helpful!

And to make those neat little moving things I have all over my site, I use:

GIF ANIMATOR! (also called 'Gif Construction Set for Windows '95') - One of the handiest, awesomest free programs around, this is what I used to make the little beating hearts, and the electric dividers on my pages! You can download Gif Animator for free from their site! You can also make neat little banners that scroll across the page with this!

If you haven't given up hope on the whole idea of ever being a webmaster yet, why not check out my buddy's site The HTML Temple! His site delves more deeply into the actual HTML programming language, with tips and tricks for both newbies and more advanced webworkers!

Wow - Lots of info for an adult site, huh! So now you can pretend you were just doing legitimate research for work, right? LOL!

Good luck on your site! - hugs, Asia

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