A bit of diligence in our on-line habits could help us avoid hassles later.
Good Internet Practices
» Protect your email address. Joining newsletters and forums -- even entering contests -- can give spammers an easy way to find you. Consider setting up a separate/free account to share publicly.
» Back up anything you'd like to keep. (This is important to do with your personal files as well.) Knowing how quickly websites can disappear, if there's anything you want to keep, save a copy of it to your computer. This includes email, blog entries, etc.
» Do not hotlink to files on other sites. Hotlinking, or direct-linking, steals a webmaster's bandwidth. Plus, a hotlinked file is subject to be moved, leaving a broken link.
» When sending an email, include a relevant subject line to let the recipient know what the email is about. If you're sending something to a friend with whom you correspond frequently, you can be more creative. However, if you don't write to someone regularly, a clear subject line could keep your email from being deleted unopened as spam.
» Don't put anything on-line -- including in an email -- that you wouldn't want someone (your family, friends, boss, etc.) to read. You may not be as anonymous as you think.
» Stay abreast of new technological threats through Internet searches, following technical news feeds, etc.
The ABC's of Website Design
Maintaining a collection of websites has certainly been a technical exercise in using HTML, CSS, PHP, etc. But I (eventually!) discovered that both the outcome and the enjoyment of the process are enhanced by the addition of forethought and common sense.
» Always back up your files. This is one that I learned the hard way.
» Be aware that from time to time, small-minded people will say bad things about your site. You really can't please all of the people all of the time, so try not to let that get you down.
» Choose your site's name carefully. (For example, if there's already a site named "Alias Lover," do not name your site that.)
» Keep browser differences in mind. Your site may look the way you want on your computer, but a user with a different browser -- or a different size screen -- might see it differently.
» It's often convenient to have your email listed only on a Contact page; if you ever change your email address, you only have to change it one time -- on the contact page.
» Think twice before using a forwarding URL. If the forwarding company shuts down, people won't be able to find your site.
» It's sometimes helpful to name your graphics to match the page they're used on, such as "index1.jpg", "index2.jpg" to go with your "index.html" page. Then they'll appear together in your file list and you'll know what goes where. (Another option is to name all of your graphics with a common prefix. For example pic1, pic2, picmain, etc.)
» Select your host carefully: if they suddenly shut down, your site will disappear.
» Place a link to your main index -- or home page -- on each page of your site. Then if people find a non-main page from a search engine (which will happen more often the longer your site remains open) they can still find your main page.
» In my experience, little traffic is gained by joining cliques, fanlistings, etc. To attract visitors to your site, submit it -- using the no charge option -- for listing in the appropriate categories in directories such as Yahoo and dmoz.
» To keep from being rude, before you ask another site to add your link, link to their site from yours.
» Give your pages and links clear names, such as "Contact Me" instead of "Show Me Love." Creativity is good, but if it's too hard to navigate, most people won't linger.
» If you move your site, leave the new URL on every page of your old site. (Granted, that won't be possible if the previous site is no longer available.)
» Make the site easy to navigate. I've visited sites with so many counters, affiliates, and "vote for this site" buttons that I literally couldn't find the rest of their site. (I didn't try too hard either, because I lost interest fairly quickly.)
» Have a good selection of original content. Write some articles/stories about your experiences; if you have a fan website, write your own episode or movie summaries, or review the show/movie/CD/whatever. Yes, it takes some effort, but it gives people a reason to pick your site over the gazillion others that are available.
» If you want to use something from another site, get permission first.
» Choose quality over quantity. Sure, a long list of features looks impressive, but visitors will be put off if they find that the pages are largely empty. Start small and build from there.
» Respect your visitors' time: don't have an excess of extremely short or "coming soon" pages.
» This one's a no-brainer: don't steal from other sites. Don't direct-link to their images, and do not steal their content and pass it off as your own work.
» Most visitors won't click more than once or twice to find something, so put some thought into how your pages connect, especially from the main page.
» If you don't feel like updating your website, don't update. Websites are supposed to be fun; they shouldn't stress you out.
» A visitor's first view of your site is important, so put some thought into what people see. They shouldn't have to scroll much to get to the information or to links to other pages.
» The Web is full of information, so don't be afraid to look -- i.e. search -- for assistance. There are hundreds of sites that offer HTML help, free graphics and layouts, etc.
» Xpand, um, that is, expand your site's content by linking to other sites. Some people are afraid that this will encourage people to leave their sites, but eventually, visitors will leave anyway. Having links to other relevant sites makes yours a good resource.
» Consider the features that you look for in a site, and design your own site accordingly.
» You can read a zillion articles about website work, but the best way to develop your technique is to practice.
» I wrote the above ABC's a long time ago, and so yes, some are quite dated. But since some still have useful applications, I continue to share the list here.
» The directory offers additional topics and features.