WEBBING YOUR WORLD
By Steven Savage
Archives available at The Way With Worlds Home Page
(thanks to Delphine and Netraptor for your help!)
You've been reading about worldbuilding in this column for three months now, and I'm sure lots of you out there have your own continuities (original or metaconcepted). You've submitted fiction to sites. Maybe you have a web page or maybe you're thinking of building one now, and that's where this column comes in.
I've talked concepts and ideas about world-building and settings, from hard thought to fuzzy feelings. Well, the next three weeks will be about how to get your work on the web. We'll explore issues and take a lot of look at on-line resources (many free) to help you may your work more accessible. After all, part of building a world is sharing it.
So, lets take a break from how to build worlds and continuities, and take a look at display them and their stories. Of course, this is my opinion and my experiences, so actual results may vary.
I'm going to assume some knowledge on your part about the web. If you are reading this with near-total ignorance of the web and how it works, I recommend the following before you start seriously webbing.
When you start webbing your world, you'll doubtlessly have technical questions. In fact, you'll probably have them after you start and on unrelated occasions. To help out I strongly recommend:
These sites and services are also useful for general writing references too!
STARTING OUT: WHERE
All websites needs hosts - places your site (pages, graphics, and so on) exists, and where servers (computers that allow web access) send them to browsers. Sometimes the servers store programs that interact with web pages, databases, and other elements to produce such things as dynamically generated pages and search engines.
For your web space you have these following general options:
1) Any web space provided
by your ISP.
Usually this will give you a web page URL of http://www.myprovider.com/~myhandle or something similar. This is usually your easiest option to start out, as you usually don't pay any extra and your ISP probably has helpful tech support. Just look out for limits on space and material, and if you want people to be able to find you, make sure you're committed to that ISP.
2) Free web hosts.
Many of these will run banners or ads on your site, many have limited storage space, there are funky limits, and sometimes the URLs provided are nightmares like http://www.freestuff.com/dipplewad/hepperdink/frotozz/mysite/, but free is free.
3) Hosting sites that
give a name thats part of their site.
This gives you an URL like http://www.mysite.siteprovider.com/. It's an identifiable name, even if its got someone elses in it. These services are usually reasonably priced, and offer technical support and extras.
The classic example of this is Simplenet.
4) Having your own domain
This is the near-ultimate experience in having a website - your own domain, like http://www.mystories.com/. The ultimate experience is havign your own server too, but I'm not even touching that in these columns.
I recommend this option if you have long-term plans and the money. It gives you an internet identity all your own, and once you own a domain name, you can change your host service without having to change the domain name. Many of them will "re-map" (take care of settings so your old address goes to your new host) for free.
If you have your own domain and a small site you can get free hosting (for a setup fee) at http://www.nomonthly.com/.
For further information on hosting, check out:
NOTE: Read the Terms of Service (TOS) for any provider you are thinking to join. There may be legal and technical limits, extra charges, and other unexpected things. Free services are notorious for having unusual limits and policies.
WEB PAGE BASICS:
OK, now you need to learn HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language. Its what web pages are made of - a text document that tells the browser how to display its contents, and information on where to get graphics and other elements to add to the page. If you're not familiar with HTML, you can actually do it in Notepad or any document that saves raw text - its that simple.
Fortunately, there's plenty of websites to help out. Here are just a few:
A few general sites that contain more than just HTML:
Well, you're ready to start work on a web page - but do you really want to do it in Notepad? Well, OK, I used to, but I like having tools to make repetitious tasks easy. You can always purchase something at a store (I recommend checking out reviews at places like ZDNet to find an editor that's right for you).
However, if you don't want to spend money, here's some free web editors you can check out:
If you want to look for other editors, software products to help you with web pages, etc., check out these sites for free and not-so-free products.
OK, you're designing your page, you got enough HTML under your belt to be dangerous. Now of course unless its all text (and you'd be amazed what you can do with text, colors, and tables) you'll need graphics.
First of all, you can design your own - and that's pretty much beyond the scope of this column. I recommend Paint Shop Pro from Jasc for affordable graphic design and editing. If you're going all out, do some original graphics - especially if you're designing a logo, etc. Its worth it to have a good identity and a unique look.
Online, there are a huge amount of free, pay, and otherwise useful graphic sites. Read their terms of service carefully, but in general you can easily find no-strings attached graphics with a few good searches.
A few of the outstanding resources I've found:
If you don't know what these are, you need to learn. Don't worry until your site is mainly built, but learn about them and use them before you make it available.
Meta tags are, essentially, information hidden in the document that gives information about the document to the browser, search engines, and other programs that analyze the web page. These are very important if you want search engines to be able to find your site. They're essentially special information not seen on the page that gives information about the page.
When learning about Meta tags, pay close attention to the DESCRIPTION and KEYWORD Meta tags - search engines use these to classify your system.
To get moving on your Meta tags, try:
In closing, here are a few sites with tons of useful resources for the aspiring webmaster. I recommend investigating them thoroughly.
Its not done yet - we're going to take a look at going beyond the basics! Webbing your world has a lot more options than just posting stories.