Instant Web Sites

The Web is a two-way street, but most of us travel in just one direction: We view other people's sites. Though your Internet service provider probably includes Web hosting as part of your package, you may not have gotten around to creating and posting a Web page yourself. That's too bad, because the Web is a great place through which to reach customers and to share files, photos, and information with family, friends, and coworkers.

When it comes to building a superb Web site, there's no substitute for a solid background in hypertext markup language, or HTML. But with the right shortcuts, you can have your starter Web site up and running in minutes. We've designed a series of HTML templates for you to download, personalize using free tools, and then post online in less time than it takes to brew a pot of French roast.

Keep It Simple

Borrowing liberally from existing Web site designs that we liked, we created three templates for specific types of sites. The first is a single-page billboard for your service, business, or activity. The second is a slightly more sophisticated page that accommodates photos, linked files, navigation controls, and links to other Web pages. The last template lets you set up a site that supports an interactive Web log (also known as a blog), with links to shared files and photos.

The tools you need to manipulate these templates are free or inexpensive (see "Web Authoring Toolbox"), and you don't need to know a lick of HTML to customize the templates to your liking. You will, however, need to know the location of your Internet account's Web host, and the user name and password (usually the same as your account log-in), to upload your finished pages (see "How to Post Your Pages").

We provide three variations of each template. On the last page you can see thumbnails of each design and to download the templates themselves. Our template sites are intended to be interesting to look at, without sacrificing legibility and ease of use. Simply replace each template's placeholder text, links, and images with your own to create a site that communicates your message effectively.

These designs won't accommodate tons of text and dozens of images, nor will they fit every need. Consider them a jumping-off point in your Web-design journey. To start taking your design efforts to the next level, read Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen's article "How Users Read on the Web."

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