Quick and Easy Webpage
Creation for Genealogists

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Seminar presentation: 2006 FGS Conference, Boston MA

(c) Linda Haas Davenport

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Establishing Folders:

Probably the biggest mistake made by beginners is putting everything in one folder. Sooner or later, as your website grows, it becomes harder and harder to find things and keep subjects grouped together. Many a web site owner (oh yes, I'm one of those!) has had to go back and rebuild a site from scratch, requiring them to move pages, change multiple hyperlinks inside the site, lots of testing to be sure those changed hyperlinks work and often causing broken links on exterior sites. Save yourself the frustration and work - begin organized and stay that way.

Example of Website Structure

The structure of a website resembles an organization chart of a company.

Example of webpage structure


Webpage Folder: Make a new folder and name it whatever your website name will be. For example my home site's name is haas and it requires a ~ in front of the name so my webpage folder is named: ~haas. There really is method in my madness. Since you have to include the name of your site in multiple hyperlinks it makes it much easier to not have to retype the page name every time you need a hyperlink. (Ah, I see frowns - let me say it this way ... trust me at this point, okay? I promise it will make sense in a bit.)

Inside your main folder you will have one webpage (your index page which is your main page), two image folders and multiple subject folders.

Image Folders: Establish two image folders inside your webpage folder. Name one images and the other extra_images. The images folder will hold only the graphics you actually use on your webpages and the extra_images folder holds all the graphics you find on the web that you think you might use.

Subject Folders: The names of your subject folders will depend on what kind of site you will have. For the rest of this presentation I will use a genealogy site, such as one used for the USGenWeb Project, for my examples. Most genealogy sites have information on cemeteries, photos, county histories, family lines, links to outside sources, resources and transcribed records of one kind or another on the site. As you have information on a subject, and you don't already have a subject folder, establish a new folder. Keep folder names as short as possible while still describing the subject: cemeteries; family; links; history; photo; newspaper; deed; etc.

Inside each subject folder there will be a table of content page and whatever individual webpages go with the subject.

 Collecting Graphics

The old saying of "a picture is worth a thousand words" holds true on a website. The graphics, backgrounds, bordered backgrounds, bars, arrows, welcome banners, etc., should reflect or tie in to the theme of your site. Now, with that said - what your site looks like is what you yourself want it to look like. If you want a border with puppies, flowers, kids or whatever, that is your choice. Having a genealogy site with such borders can be confusing to a visitor but what you choose is up to you. If you visit my home page there is no doubt what my site is all about. The graphic under the welcome banner says it all - in one glance. I love the deep purple/blue color and my bordered background was designed especially for me and includes trees, trees that very similar to the tree in the graphic.

Most people who put up genealogy sites tend to use graphics, backgrounds, etc., that in some way convey the feeling of genealogy, family, olden days, history, etc. For your subject pages it works well to chose graphics and backgrounds that reflect the subject. For example for marriages, a background with an watermark of a bride or wedding cake works well. A small representative graphic conveys an instant impression of what a page is about. For example on an index to marriage records a small graphic of a bride or bridge & groom, or wedding rings lets your visitor know immediately what the page is about.

Surf the web and visit free graphic and clip art sites. Use one of the search engines and type in: clip art graphics genealogy free. (You will also find some links to clip art sites on my home page). As you run across graphics you like save them in your extra_images folder. If you collect ensembles (sets of backgrounds, buttons, bars, welcome banners) you like, be sure to make a note of the artist and the URL of his/her site. Artists who offer free ensembles, as well as many who offer small graphics, ask for a link back to their site. The easiest way to do this is to enter the information in a word document (or note pad) and save it in your extra_images folder along with the graphics. I have one document that I list all my graphics on.

Watch the size of the graphics you collect. Although Word will let you resize a graphic inside the web page you're building, once on-line the graphic will be displayed at its actual size. If you find a graphic you really like that is too large, save and it and then resize it in your photo imaging software.

Several sites offer layered backgrounds. Although these backgrounds are impressive, Word 97 does not handle nested tables (which is what these are). For visitors with older computers or dial-ups the load time can, and often does, lock up their computers. By all means save the ones you like, but leave layered backgrounds until you are much more experienced.

A Word of Caution

Please keep in mind as you gather graphics: Not everyone has new high speed computers or state of the art monitors. On many older monitors text will fade into dark (black, deep purple, etc) backgrounds or heavy textured wallpaper backgrounds. Using white text on a black background or even worse, red text on a black background or brown text on a brown or tan background, means that many people will see nothing but smudges on their screen. Text only browsers will not display white or yellow text. My Tulsa site is guilty of "white text." I put the site up before I found out what a problem this is. I will be changing the site shortly.

While I was N.C. of the USGenWeb Project I received many reports of these types of problems. Most web site managers are willing to change their sites, but I was told by a some that it wasn't their problem if people have older equipment and since the site is theirs they can do with it as they please. This of course is true and you may certainly do the same. But, please keep in mind that using these will turn away a large number of visitors to your site.

Graphic intensive pages take a long time to load. Use graphics effectively and sparingly. Animated graphics are fun but keep their use to a minimum. On my home page I have a graphic of a sheet of paper with a hand holding a pen and as the pen moves across the paper lines appear. This is the hyperlink to my e-mail address and is the only animated graphic on the page. When I put up a holiday page it is very graphic intensive and I use a lot of animated graphics. Since I know the load time is long I offer a holiday page with only a few graphics as an option.

Invisible Spacer

While you are collecting graphics and clip art pick up an invisible spacer. You will find one at: http://www.acm.org/about_acm/toolkit.html (under spacer graphics). You will need an invisible spacer if you use a bordered background and in some tables.

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