|My webmastering approach is
to keep things simple. This is partially aesthetic, but mostly because
I am cheap and lazy: too cheap to buy expensive software and services,
and too lazy to learn how to program.
To compensate for my shortcomings, I have found free resources on the
Internet that make it look like Iíve slaved over a hot keyboard for days
on end. Fooled you! Here are seven of my slick strategies for adding content
and functions to web pages ó at no cost and minimal fuss.
As I was writing this article I was putting a site together for the
San Antonio Million Mom March. I threw in many of these techniques, and
whenever I refer to that site you can view it at www.salsa.net/peace/mmm.
1: Add Java Scripts
There are hundreds of other slick strategies. MapBlast
lets you put up to 25 free maps on your site. The Weather
Underground offers a free fast weather forecast. You might end up with
someone elseís advertising on your site but in exchange you are getting
free content that someone has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to
develop. You have to weigh the trade-off. Keep your eyes peeled for free
content and if it grabs you ó grab it!
Java Script is a programming language, but you donít have to be a programmer
to use it. Thousands of programmers with big hearts and time on their hands
have developed Java scripts and placed them in the public domain for you
to use. Legally! In most cases, all you do is copy their source code and
follow the instructions to cut, paste and edit the script into your HTML
2: Add a counter
A practical script is the countdown timer. I used this last year on
the Alamo PC page to count down to Y2K and am now using it to count down
to the Motherís Day Million Mom March. You can get this script ó and hundreds
A fun script is the trailing hearts cursor. I used this one on the peaceCENTERís
coffeehouse page, <www.salsa.net/peace/alters>,
and got it from <www.webmoments.com>.
The also have starbursts, eyeballs and a few other cursor formats. I tried
to add this to the Million Mom March page, but the Java script interfered
with the frames. It took me two frustrating hours to figure that out.
Java Scripts wonít work on all browsers, but usually a non-Java browser
will degrade gracefully and not show an error. It will just ignore the
script. There are hundreds of sites offering free scripts; search for "java
scripts" at <www.yahoo.com>
and youíll get a huge list of starting places.
Itís helpful to keep tabs on how many people are visiting your web
site. Some ISPs offer free counters that read the server logs. These are
based on CGI scripts, which they install at their end. Iíve used the counter
CGI scripts at Texas Net, STIC.Net, Flash.Net and Netcom, but check with
your web host to see if they provide them. These have the advantage of
being ad-free. If your are using FrontPage as your web page editor, and
your server provides FrontPage Extensions support, you can also create
a counter using that program. Otherwise, consider adding a free third-party
counter. I used the Extreme Tracker on the MMM site; click on the planet
at the bottom of the navigation frame to see it and learn how you can get
one, too, and to view the information it provides. A huge list of free
counters is at <www.counterguide.co>.
3: Add a news ticker
I also added a news ticker to the Million Mom Marchís news page. This
is a free service offered by <www.7am.com>.
All you do is fill out a simple form that selects the type of news you
want to display, and they create an applet that you can cut-and-paste into
your site. I selected world and U.S. news, but you can also opt for ports,
investor, defense or Christian news ó whatever fits your site.
4: Add a survey
I put a live poll on the Million Mom March page. This survey is complements
of Perseus Survey
Solutions. They give you free survey design software that makes it
easy to design a one-question survey. It can use radio buttons (for chose-one
polls); check-boxes (for pick several answers) or drop-down menus. You
can develop as many polls as you want, and even rotate them on a fixed
schedule. They also sell services that allow you to design more complicated
and sophisticated polls.
5: Add a popup window
Some people find pop-up windows irritating, but I sometimes use them
when I want to provide "side-bar" information without having visitors to
the site leave the page they are currently viewing. I use them in several
places on the peaceCENTER site. Check our "Blessed are the Peacemakers,"
an online quiz <www.salsa.net/peace/faces> and click on the link for
the Express-News article on "San
Antonio Cares about Chiapas". The code for a popup window is:
6: Add a discussion board
target="popup">Take Our Handgun Poll</a>
You can, of course, change the height and width to whatever you want,
and dispense with the scrollbars if you donít need them. Some users have
trouble keeping track of multiple open windows and may become confused,
so used this technique sparingly and only when it performs a legitimate
function. I decided that popups would be over the top for the Million Mom
March page since I was already using frames. I was tempted, though.
The Million Mom March page is getting heftier by the minute. I added
a free bulletin board to give people a place to discuss the march. This
one came from <www.beseen.com>.
It allows you to include some customization, and you can remove messages
you donít like. BeSeen also offers a free guest book. Iím not thrilled
with the big ugly icon and the massive number of ads on the page, but free
is free. If you are using FrontPage as your HTML editor, and your server
accepts FrontPage extensions, you can create an ad-free board using that
program. For an example, look at <www.3dsa.org>.
7: Add a response form
Itís easy to add forms in HTML; itís hard to process them. Forms are
handled on the back end by a CGI script, and most ISPs forbid you, or charge
extra, to upload a CGI script to their servers. Some ISPs offer a form
handler - a CGI script that they have installed and give their customers
access to - but most donít. If you add a form with out the handling script,
you will get garbage back in return. I added a form to the Million Mom
March page using a free service, Response-o-Matic.
Itís easy ó you use a wizard to create a template ó and free. The responses
come back to you as neatly formatted e-mails.