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DR. WEBSITE: Basic Questions Are Often Very Interesting--and Important

By David Fiedler and Scott Clark

Dear Dr. Website®: I have my own company, and I'd like to have a Web site for it. I'll be using FrontPage 97 to design the site. My questions:
  1. Is there anybody out there rating hosting services?
  2. Should I use a U.S. site or an offshore one?
  3. How do I get my site listed on browsers?
  4. Is there some sort of header that goes with the Web site that browsers pick up on?
I know these are basic questions, but I can't find anybody out there with these answersÉ it seems most everyone is way beyond the basic stage.

We've covered some of these questions in the past, but things change. In fact, there is now a site called the Ultimate Web Host List that rates hosting services. Although we can't vouch for the accuracy of their ratings, they do seem to be an independent company.

As far as using an offshore site, that's quite an interesting question. If you're planning to operate a gambling or sex-oriented site (and we're not being flip here, both of those categories are big businesses on the Web), you may find that you're better off legally if you do so.

For the average business content site, though, deciding where to physically locate your server has more to do with Internet propagation and where you expect your customers to be located. If you plan to reach a lot of people in Australia and Japan, for instance, having a server or mirror site somewhere in Asia would make a lot of sense.

As far as your last two questions is concerned, it's not the browser that finds the site, but the search engines, which work by searching the text of your pages, plus the <TITLE> and <META> tags. Your prospective customers have to find the search engines, but after that--assuming you're properly listed--all will be well.

For information on getting listed, see "Priming the Engines" at Search WebDeveloper.com, and also visit Mecklermedia's Search Engine Watch page.

Dear Dr. Website®: I have a question for a school report I'm writing about the Internet. Which do you think is more important: good information or good graphics?

This is indeed an important question, so don't all you highly paid Internet executives turn the page just because the question was written by a schoolboy. The answer, as in so many cases, is: It depends.

If your primary audience is the average Web surfer, consumers, and so forth, then compelling, well-designed graphics will certainly be primary in getting their attention-- assuming, of course, that you've followed the advice in previous Dr. Website columns and made sure that your graphics are also small enough so that people will be able to see them without waiting forever for them to download.

However, if the people you're attracting to your site are going there primarily for the information (news, stock quotes, reference material, etc.), then graphics are nice to have and nice to look at, but they're clearly not the most important thing to your target audience.

The main question to ask yourself is simple: If your audience would come to the site without the information, then they're there for the graphics; if they would come without the graphics, they're there for the information. Then spend most of your time giving them the best information or graphics that you can, whichever is more appropriate.

Neither good graphics nor good information should stand in the way of good site design, however.


Keywords: design, search_engines
Date: 19980105

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