Jul
1st

How to Send E-mail from a Web Form

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about how to do this.  It makes sense though.  Designers often have small clients that just want a simple web form, but don’t have a database to store the data in.  How do you get information from the website visitors to your client?  The simplest way is probably e-mail.

It’s been said that Dreamweaver has a way to do this, but no one has been able to tell me what that way is.  Frankly, I’m a developer so I don’t really care about what Dreamweaver has or doesn’t have, I just want it to work.  Turns out, there’s a really easy script that you can add to your site (or your client’s) that will allow visitors to fill out a form and then have that data e-mailed to the appropriate recipient.
Continue reading How to Send E-mail from a Web Form »

Jun
26th

Understanding Links – Posting Thumbnails and Text

Using a thumbnail image for attractive links

Use a thumbnail image for attractive links

It’s time for a beginner post. Mostly because my brother has been asking about how to post thumbnails, but also just because it seemed like other people probably had the same questions. There are a lot of things that can be done with links online. In this article, we’re just going to touch on the basics and we can fill in the gaps in a later post.
Links are just a way of referencing material online. In order to do that, you need 2 things: 1) The address of the material you are referencing. 2) The content which will send the user to that material. By content, we refer to either text or a graphic. When you click that text or graphic, you then go to the referring webpage.

So first, let’s look at a simple link:

<a href="http://www.internetstarting.com">Helpful Website</a>

This link starts with a tag, which opens <a.  We must end the tag with a greater than (>), but not until we specify the address to which we link.  That is specified in the href parameter of the a-tag (<a>).  In this case, our address is http://www.internetstarting.com.  Always be sure to enclose the address in quotes.  Then we end the a-tag (which is short for Anchor, BTW).    So far we’ve covered:

<a href="http://www.internetstarting.com">

Next, we have “Helpful Website”.  This is the content of our link, or the anchor text.  In our case it is just text, but we’ll add images later.  This anchor text is what is going to actually be displayed to our user.  Finally, the <a> tag we opened must be closed.  HTML tags are closed with a forward-slash in front of the tag.  Our closing anchor tag would then look like this: </a>.  Now, when shown online, our link will look like the following:
Helpful Website

Now, let’s go about adding an image in there.  To do that, we’ll need to use the image tag, which is simply, <img>.  Similar to the link, we need to supply a parameter to the image tag and that is the location of our image.  This is usually on our site, but it could be anywhere on the web.  In the image tag, that address will be put into the “src” attribute.  So, we’re going to have something that looks like this:

<img src="http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg"

Again, notice that we have to put the parameter to “src” in quotation marks.  Finaly, we’ll close the image tag.  This is a little different than closing the anchor tag because we’re going to use some HTML shorthand.  Because the img doesn’t have any content (only the src attribute here), we can close it immediately.  So, we’re just going to add “/>” instead of our nomal “>” followed by “</img>”.  Our entire image tag now looks like this:

<img src="http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg" />

Now, let’s make that a link.  All we’re going to do, is take our anchor text (which was Helpful Website) and replace it with our image tag.  Now we have:

<a href="http://www.internetstarting.com"> <img src="http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg" /> </a>

or

<a href=”http://www.internetstarting.com”>

<img src=”http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg” />

</a>

Now, we have an image used as the content for our link.  When you click the image, it will still take you to the homepage for InternetStarting.com.  One last thing before we show you the image and link.  It would be a little big to add to this post again, so let’s shrink our image.  We could use photo editing software to shrink the image, or for images that are reasonably small we can just cheat a bit.  We’re going to add two more parameters to the image tag.  They are “height” and “width” and you can probably imagine what they do.  Let’s make our new thumbnail image 80×47 (1/4 the size of the original).  The code would now look like this:

<a href="http://www.internetstarting.com"> <img src="http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg" width="80" height="47" /> </a>

There, now you can see what the thumbnail will look like at 1/4 of its size.  This is not recommended for very large images however as it will slow down your site.  We’re actually using a big image and displaying it as a small image.  For example, if you were to take an image directly from your camera and “cheat” the image tag, it might take 15 or 30 seconds to load this tiny image on your site.  That’s not very efficient and why it would then be better to use some photo editing software to actually save the picture in a smaller format and just use that instead.

One last thing on links for the beginner.  Sometimes you will see a very, very long link.  These especially show up at affiliate sites like Amazon.com.  In fact, you might even see a full web address inside the web address which is in the href.  Don’t let this confuse you!  We’re only concerned with what’s between the quotation marks.  So, <a href=”someReallyReallyLongStringIsOK”> — even if it’s several lines long.  Just look for the closing quotation mark and you will be fine.

For anyone still having trouble with links or who has other questions, use the comment link below.  Let us know what trouble you’re having with links and we’ll see if I, or someone in the community here, can help you out.

Jun
22nd

PageRankSubmit Review – Good for SEO?

Does PageRankReview Measure Up?

Does PageRankSubmit Measure Up?

There are so many sites out there advertising how they will provide you with great SEO, it’s hard to wade through the muck.  Every site has big promises, and more often than not they end up disappointing on those promises.  For better or for worse, I’ll do my best to keep you updated on my experiences so you can avoid the disasters and flock to the successes.  It’s nice to sit in my blogging lair today and bang out an article on the latter, a website that successfully delivered on (at least some of) the hype.

You probably found this site in a search for a review of PageRankReview.com, so I’ll do my best to cut to the chase.  If my reviews are honest and thorough, you’ll hopefully come back to check out my other reviews.  I was happy with PageRankReview and I’m in the process of using them for all of the sites I manage (see the Blogroll on right).  In my opinion I got $100 to $200 of SEO for $29.  It didn’t save the world, but it did get my site to show up in the first few pages of Google.

The claim from PageRankSubmit.com is that they will submit you to 100 Internet directory sites for $29 (price as of this post).  They say the sites all have a PageRank of PR4 or higher.  When you are finished, they will send you an Excel spreadsheet containing a list of the sites to which you were submitted and their PageRank.  All entries are manually submitted by their team, so you don’t have to worry about CAPTCHA issues blocking non-human entries.

In reality, I found they were pretty close to their promise.  They actually submitted my site to 101 directory sites.  I did a PageRank lookup and not all of the sites were still at their advertised PageRank, but remarkably most of them were.  My biggest concern was that some of the directories would be in Google so-called “bad neighborhoods” and that I would be penalized for it.  As far as I can tell, none of the directories had bad reputations with Google.
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Jun
13th

Starting a Blog – A Quick Guide to Blogging

Start your own Blog

Start your own Blog

Thanks to hardworking people at several major internet sites, it’s now easier than ever to start your own blog.  In a recent article in Inc. Magazine, Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress) said, “My mom started a blog a couple of weeks ago.  Six years into this, and we finally made it easy enough for my mom to use.”  He’s absolutely right.

Blogging has finally come to a point where it depends more on your ability as a writer than it does your technical skills.  Between sites that will allow you to freely host your blog and software to run the blog, you’re pretty much left with the writing — Oh, and the setup, but we can help you with that.

First, let’s briefly understand what a blog is and is not.  The term comes from the initial use of the term Web-log.  A lot of internet users (especially students) were starting to keep journals online, and now we’ve got tools that allow for much more.  Now blogs are often used as a primary source of news on the internet, but they can just as easily be used for posting information online.  Blogs should not be confused with forums where many users participate in a conversation.  If it’s a topic you’re interested in and ready to talk about, blogs are a great way to get your information out.

The blog will need to be hosted somewhere (see Starting a Website for more information) and there are several sites online that will host your blog for free.  The two easiest are probably WordPress.org and Blogger.com and both are free.  I do have a small blog that I setup on blogger.com and it only took a few minutes to do so.  I haven’t set one up with WordPress.org, but given how well-written their software is, I can’t image their hosting is any different.

For basic blogs, you should just be able to setup an account with one of those sites and get started.  However, if you’re planning on doing some serious blogging (i.e. considering part or full-time work) you may want to have it hosted somewhere you have more control.  When you host a site with a webhosting company, you have more control about the speed of your blog and where you store images.  For anyone just starting, the free-hosted solution is probably just fine and you can always transfer your blog later.  It’s always good to have a solution you can revise later.
Continue reading Starting a Blog – A Quick Guide to Blogging »

May
7th

Starting Google Analytics

Setup Google Analytics

Setup Google Analytics

Besides being such a great search engine, Google has some phenomenal tools.  Before you do anything else, it’s important to be able to track what’s happening on your website.  You can’t grow your website without knowing where it is right now.  To understand where your website is, who is coming to it and other useful marketing information, we’re going to use Google Analytics.

Analytics is not only completely free, it probaby is the best tracking tool on the internet for your site.  With Google Analytics, we’ll be able to understand who is coming to our website, where they are coming from and what they do when they are there.  You will be absolutely amazed at the amount of data you can gather about your visitors and how we can use that information to make our website better.  Without further adieu, let’s get started and you’ll pick up more features along the way.
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Apr
27th

Starting a Website, Choosing a Webhost

Any web-based business is obviously going to need a website.  There are a lot of choices out there, and it’s easy to get lost in the details.  The good news is, you can start small without losing the ability to grow quickly in the future.  Some of the questions you may find yourself asking are:

  • How much webspace do I need?
  • Can I just choose based on price, or is there a significant difference between internet providers?
  • My friend said I should go with XYZ internet provider, which package do I need?
  • If I make the wrong choice now, how long do I get stuck with it?

Alright, so there are probably a hundred other questions I can think of, but let’s just start with these.  Below, we’ll link to additional posts that describe more details like how do process credit cards, getting your site marketed, and more advanced questions.  For now, let’s get you a website!

Everyone wants to know

First, let’s answer the questions that are going to be the same for everyone.  Then, we’ll move on to answers that will vary depending on the type of site your planning to setup.
Continue reading Starting a Website, Choosing a Webhost »