"Here's what you'll learn about websites. Click on a topic, or scroll down to see it all."
A website is a collection of one or more related web pages, linked together through hyperlinks so you can click from one page to the next. A web page is an electronic document written in HTML, which your browser translates as a screen of text and images, some of them clickable links. Each website has a home page, usually named "index.html," which is the main page of the site, and the one browsers go to first (unless a different filename is specified in the link). It contains a list of the pages in the website, so users can navigate easily using the home page as a starting point. Good sites have navigation on every page, so users won't get stuck or lost while they surf through the site.
Each web page has a unique address called an URL (Uniform Resource Locator) that reflects its name and its location on the network. Typing an URL into your browser or clicking on a hypertext link actually sends a request to download a file stored on a remote computer. Let's look at the URL for this page - its at the "Location" or "Address" window in your browser:
URLs for websites begin with
either "http://" or "https://" (for secure sites).
What if the URL doesn't stop there? A forward slash might come next, indicating that the file is in a folder, then the name of the folder, then another forward slash. For example, the image of the DDA at the top of this page is located at:
This means the file is in a folder called "images," and the file itself is called "ddalogo.jpg." The URL ends with either a file name, or a forward slash to indicate a default "index.html" page is to be used. HTML files have an extension of ".html" or ".htm." Images are usually ".gif" or ".jpg," but there are others as well. You will find additional extensions as you surf, for files that are written in other computer languages, such as ".asp" ".cgi" ".cfm" and others.
You already have an idea what goes on a web page just from looking at this site. Like a print document, you'll usually find a header with a title to let you know where you are. You should also see some form of navigation, across the top or along the side. Then comes the body, containing the content of the page - text, images, and other objects such as video. Sometimes a footer is included too, with information about whoever created the site, their contact information, and perhaps a repetition of the navigation links, if the document is a long one.
Any part of the document that is active or "hot" will perform some action when you click on it. Links are the best example of these "hotspots," but images can be clickable as well. Hotspots can take you to another part of the document, to a new document in the site, or to a new website. Images can be hot too, for example a map that takes you somewhere different depending on where you click on it. You'll know an area is hot if your cursor turns into a hand symbol when its on that area. The location the hotspot will take you appears in the gray window at the bottom of your browser. The exception to this rule is buttons, which perform an action when clicked, but do not turn your cursor into a hand if pointed to.
This button doesn't do anything, but you will find buttons that submit forms and allow you to shop online, among other things.
Not everything in a web page is visible to a browser. For example, hidden "META tags" in the HTML tell the browser the title of the page, which is displayed at the top of the window. META tags also tell search engines what keywords to use when indexing the site, and what description to write next to the site when it appears in the index. These tags are very important in search engine ranking. Hidden tags can do other behind-the-scenes work as well, for example setting cookies (information remembered by your browser from page to page) or enabling e-commerce. You can view these hidden tags, and the rest of the HTML code for that page, by clicking "View," and scrolling down to "source" if you're using Internet Explorer or "page source" if you're using Netscape.
Having script in your page means the page can be "dynamic" - it changes according to what information its given. For example, you can enter your name at one page, and the next page can read "Welcome, whatever-your-name-is!" Using the browser-detection example above, once a script reads what browser you have, it can serve you a page customized to that browser.
Some pages are generated entirely by programs, instead of having the programming mixed in with the HTML. Files with an extension of ".cgi" ".pl" or ".dll" generate pages this way. This is useful when you want to generate pages based on a database, so you only have to change the database, and the entire set of pages generated from it are automatically changed. Many e-commerce sites work this way.
Frames are a design feature where the web page is divided into separate areas which act independently of each other. Sometimes the border is visible, sometimes not. A frame can be stationary, or scrollable. Stationary frames require no scrolling - all the information is visible. Scrolling frames are used to hold pages that are larger than one screen, so the user can click on the scroll bar to move the page. Frames can aid navigation by allowing the links to always be visible in a stationary frame along one side of the site. However, only the main page of a frames website can be bookmarked, or indexed by search engines. Also, the apperance of frames sites varies on different sized screens. This doesn't mean frames should never be used, but one should be aware of their drawbacks as well as their advantages. Click here for a demo frames site.
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