Setting Up a Web Site for a Bar Association
by Jason S. Coomer with editorial assistance from Michele McKeever

I. Introduction

From yelling to sending a message via e-mail, numerous methods have been created for the purpose of allowing people to communicate with each other. With the rapid advancement in telecommunications technology a number of new communication tools have become available to the public including telephones, e-mail, Facsimiles, and web sites. As a result of these advancements an Individual, Business, or Organization now has the ability to communicate with thousands or millions of people around the world at any time.

A. The Internet

At the heart of the communications explosion is the Internet also know as the Information Superhighway. The Internet allows over 100 million people to communicate with each other via computer networks. A network is quite simply "a set of computers connected together" for the purpose of exchanging information. The Internet is "made up of more than 100,000 interconnected networks in over 100 countries, comprised of commercial, academic and government networks."

Officially, the Internet is "a cooperative message-forwarding system linking computer networks all over the world." The system includes electronic mail, electronic discussion forums (newsgroups), files transfer protocal (FTP), Gophers, Telnet, and HTTP [the World Wide Web]" Physically, the Internet is a series of smaller regional networks that are connected into a larger national network which in turn is connected into the World Network.

B. The World Wide Web (HTTP and HTML)

The fastest growing part of the Internet is the World Wide Web (Web). The Web refers to a global set of interconnected hypertext documents and files residing on Web servers. Each document on the Web is called a web page and is written in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).

HTML is a basic programming language that tells a browser (Netscape Communicator, Adobe Mosaic, or MS-Internet Explorer) connected to the Internet how to display Web pages through hidden codes. The language determines lay out (text, images, and other supported media) and interactive capabilities (special hypertext links). Translated into English, HTML is a universal programming language used to create Web sites and when interpreted by browser software allows a Web surfer to view and hear web pages.

TIP: Don't worry you don't have to know HTML to set up a web site, however, a basic understanding of it may be helpful in some aspects of web design.

C. The Webmaster

Broadly, speaking a Webmaster is the person that sets up a web site. Webmaster duties include: 1) providing content; 2) designing images and themes; 3) marketing; 4) writing interactive programs; and 5) running a web server. While some web sites are completely run by one person, the larger web sites are normally the product of a team effort. For bar associations, it is important to determine what resources are available to set up and maintain a web site then divide the duties appropriately between staff, volunteers, and independent contracts.


II. The Basic Steps of Setting up a Web Site

From advanced Web Sites with built in e-mail distribution lists and interactive functions to simple plain vanilla web sites, setting up and maintaining a web site is becoming an essential communication tool for businesses, organizations, and individuals.

A. Start Small

When setting up a web site for a Bar Association, make sure that you start small and expand. The reason for this is that bar associations are normally political creatures that often operate by committee or with a non-tech person at the controls. As such, most staff, officers, and members often agree that setting up a Web Site is a good idea, but the idea gets bogged down in committee. Watch out for content, feature, and security issues! Though these are admirable concerns, these issues often prevent or delay the launch of a web site for months or years. To avoid getting bogged down in these issues keep the content simple, limit your features, and use an Internet Service Provider. Simple content (Mainpage, Members, Applications, Calendar, Staff, Officers, Past Events) will form the shell of your web site on which you can later build (see Titles and File Names). Features can be extremely difficult to set up and operate, as such limiting the features on your web site creates a bitter chance of everything working and allows developers to add more advanced features as users learn about the Web site. Contracting with an Internet Service Provider makes another party responsible for security.

B. Basic Steps

This section reviews the Basic Steps Of Setting Up A Web Site. The Steps are:

1. Chose a Domain Name (Marketing)
2. Select a Web Server (Internet Service Providers)
3. Web Design (Content, Design, and Features)
4. Transfer Pages or Web
5. Market the Web Site (Marketing)


III. Chose a Domain Name (Marketing)

The domain name is the web address (uniform resource locator or URL) where the web site will be placed. This address should be easy to remember and marketable. Additionally, once a web site is in place the homepage URL should be added to all bar association materials (letterhead, coffee mugs, newsletters, journals, etc.).

Your current options in selecting a domain include about seven extensions of which .com and .org are the most recognizable and appropriate for most bar associations. As a rule of thumb, I'd recommend registering both .com and .org to protect your Cyber territory. You can check for name availability at several web sites including the address listed below:

Network Solutions - http://www.networksolutions.com/

The current cost of registering a domain is $70.00 for the first two years from Internic (the agency responsible for domain registration) plus an administrative charge of from $10.00-$50.00 from the Internet Service Provider you choose.


IV. Web Servers (Internet Service Providers)

Every web site has to be placed onto a web server. A web server is a computer connected to the World Wide Web with the ability to receive requests from browsers via Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Setting up such a web server is a full time job, can be extremely expensive, and lowers your network security. As such, unless your bar association has a tech person who has maintained a web server in the past, I would recommend outsourcing this duty to an Internet Service Provider.

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that provides Internet access and Web space to the public for a price. Rates vary quite a bit between ISPs. Ball park you should be able to get Internet access, e-mail, domain registration, and Web Space for less than $500.00 a year. A Internet Service Provider in Texas that I am familiar with is Worldnet. Their web site is located at the following location and contains information on current prices:

Worldnet Homepage: http://www.world-net.net/index.html

Some bar associations are fortunate enough to have enough resources to have their own computer network, information technology staff, and web server. This set up will allow advanced database collection features to be added to your web site and can avoid the need for an Internet Service Provider. However, remember, networks connected constantly to the Web are more vulnerable to security breaches and should be accompanied by sound firewalls.

Tip: Unless you have a full time web server technician and an extra computer, it is probably best to use an Internet Service Provider for your web site. This allows you to avoid the headaches of server maintenance, administrative programming, spam, and firewalls as well as makes someone else contractually liable for server snafus.

A. Access and Location

A server's physical location is irrelevant for web site purposes. As long as the server has a good link to the World Wide Web, the web site should download quickly into browsers at remote locations and be easy for the Webmaster to edit.

Tip: Bar Associations are political in nature and it is often best to use a ISP in your association's area to promote local business. Also make sure you read the contract with the ISP so you know disputes will be settled in your jurisdiction.

B. Web Servers

Unless you are setting up you own web server or planning to, it is not essential to know much about the server your ISP uses. Instead just make sure that web sites on your the ISP download quickly into browsers and the ISP supports the interactive features you want to use CGI scripts and PERL Programming, JAVA programming, or MS-Frontpage Extensions.


V. Designing a Web Site (Craig)

The level and complexity of Web Design varies greatly from simple word processor like programs to complicated design codes. The companion presentation will illustrate some simple design techniques with selected Web Design software.

A. Choice of Software

A wide variety of software can be used to design and edit web pages. This section will discuss three types of software: word processing (MS-Word and Wordperfect), web design (MS-Frontpage, Fusion, etc.) and page editors (HTMLed and Hot Dog).

1. Word Processing Software

The most common types of word processing software are Word Perfect and Microsoft Word. Current versions of both programs have web design features and can be used to create web pages. Unfortunately, the design features are somewhat limited and conversion between word processing formats and HTML can some times be difficult.

It is important to consider what format (Word Perfect or MS-Word) and version (WP 6.0, WP 7.0, MS-Word for Office 1997 or 2000) your organization uses. This will allow you to select compatible design and conversion software. Remember: Having a standard convertible format will allow numerous users to easily contribute content to the Web Site.

TIP: Microsoft formats tend to work best with other Microsoft products including MS-Frontpage, MS-Word, and MS-Internet Explorer. Be cautioned, however, no conversion process is 100% perfect and editing is often needed to convert different types of documents into actual (HTML) web pages.

2. Web Site Design Software (MS-Frontpage, Fusion, and Adobe Mosiac)

Several types of web management and page editor software have been created. This software allows the designer to view and edit the entire web as well as individual pages. Use of selected Web Design Software will be presented at the workshop. Remember: when multiple individuals use the same design software they are able to work on several different parts of a web site at the same time. The use of multiple Web Designers can be extremely effective but it is essential that these web designers coordinate their efforts.

3. Page Editors (Looking at HTML)

A page editor is a software program used to view and edit one page at a time. This software is useful when fine tuning and cleaning up the HTML programming in a page. After a format change this can be a necessary step to avoid attribute and alignment quirks. HTMLed is the software I use, but several other products can be used as effectively to view and edit HTML programming (Hot Dog, Adobe Mosaic, and word processing software for the hard core programmer).

Tip: You don't need to know HTML to build a web site, but you may find it useful or interesting to know what the code looks like.

B. Templates (Don't Reinvent the Wheel)

Designers usually set up a template that will be used as a form page to create numerous pages in the web site. This template allows a standardization of attributes, features, and content that can be tailored to develop a variety of pages with an overall theme.

C. The Seven Deadly Sins of Information Design

When designing a web site make sure you keep in mind and avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of Information Design.

Sin 1: Forgetting who your users are Sin 2: Not creating a flowchart Sin 3: Not organizing your content Sin 4: Not using consistent navigation Sin 5: Using unclear link colors Sin 6: Using the TITLE tag incorrectly. Sin 7: Not looking ahead.

D. Elements of a Web Page

Every web page has a head and a body. The body contains information that tell a browser how to display a web page including the text to be displayed and document control markers that control text attributes, background information, justification of text and graphic images, graphic images, and sound. The head contains metatag information which is typically not displayed in a users browser, but can be seen reviewing the source HTML code. The information in the head of a page is used to store document information on the title, author, description of the page, and search terms. This information can be read by search engines and used to locate a web site.

1. Backgrounds

The Background is the wallpaper or canvas of the Web Site. It can be a solid color or a repeating image. When choosing the background, most web design programs allow you to select a theme that coordinates with text and graphics. Backgrounds are numerous and can be found many places on the World Wide Web including:

Background & Clipart:. http://wwwmc.nhmccd.cc.tx.us/other/net_services/clipart.html

2. Text

Text that is going to be displayed on a web page is simply written out in the body of the web page. Its attributes can be changed by adding tags or control markers on both sides of the Text you want to change.

Text Size - Text Size Increases Text Color - Text Changed to Another Color Text Justification -

Text Centered

3. Justification, Indents, and Spaces

Justification features are very similar to those of word processors, however, indenting and spacing can be difficult. Spaces and tabs unlike in word processor software, are not recognized after the first one in HTML. As such it does no good to keep hitting the space bar or tab key to move text to the right. As such, you will have to play with your web design software to make the spaces and indent you want.

4. Titles and Filenames

The title of each web page is stored in the head of the page and is displayed on top of browser frame when the page is downloaded. Proper labeling of your pages is important because the title can be used as a navigational cue. For proof, look at your bookmarks. Can you identify all those pages? If not, somebody didn't create their titles properly." Filenames are also an important consideration as each web page in a directory will require its own filename. The filename should describe the page and designate the format the page is. With the more advanced web design programs, filenames and page titles act to create a shell of what the web site will look like.

E. Basic Features

The more advanced features available for web sites will be reviewed in the Craig Becker's portion of the presentation while some basic features are briefly discussed below.

1. Tables and Frames

Tables and Frames are often confused because both divide portions of a users/viewers' screen. The difference in the two is that a table is part of one page while a frame is more than one page. As such, a table is usually used to organize and keep elements together similar to how tables are used in word processing and spreadsheet programs.

Framing is a design technique that loads multiple pages into a browser at one time, each page into a different frame or part of the screen. Frames allow the interaction of several pages including sponsors' banners, but take time to download. It is often best to keep a non-frames section available for surfers with slower modems.

2. Interactive Links

Hyperlinks allow users to navigate the World Wide Web. This links include text that when clicked on takes the user to other pages within a web site, to pages on other web sites, to different places on a long web page (anchors, footnotes), and to e-mail addresses. A link is quite easy to embed into a web site and looks like the following in HTML format:

Title of Hyperlink

For clarity it is recommended that you do not overload a main web page (homepage) with too many links. As a general rule between 5 to 11 hyperlinks on a homepage is about right. The web designer wants to give the user options but do not overwhelm a user.

3. Graphics and Multimedia

One of the many advantages of web sites is the ability to embed images, video, and sound into some pages. These multimedia effects are impressive, but often slow the download time of a web page. To prevent user download problems keep file sizes as small as possible and label large files that take time to download including sound and video files. Images and other media are easy to insert into a web page. Simply use the following command:

F. Determining Content

Content is a crucial issue when setting up a new web site. When determining content, it is important to keep in mind the overall communication goals of your bar association.

1. Technical Communication

"Technical Communication is a broad field that touches nearly every subject and profession through a vast array of documents; it defines, describes, and directs activities in business and industry, government and research institutions,...". Technical communication is extremely important skill in dealing with attorneys. Whether you are communicating through telephone, Facsimile, or the Internet it is important to review the following factors:

1. Purpose 2. Subject Matter 3. Approach Audience 4. Organization 5. Design

2. Practical and Political Considerations

Most bar associations are a hybrid between a governmental entity, non-profit entity, and a commercial enterprise. Understanding your bar association including its members, leadership, and needs is important in deciding what content and features to have on your web site.

G. Transferring your Pages onto the Web

File Transfer Protocol is the communication language that allows a network of computers transfer files between computers. This is used to transfer web pages that are designed on one computer to a web server. While some web design programs have built in FTP programs others do not. My favorite FTP program is WS-FTP because it is simple and allows you to view an interface that shows what files are in each designing computer's directory and in each web server's directory.


VI. Advanced Features

Craig Becker's portion of the workshop presentation will review some advanced features that you may want to install on your web site including:

1. List Servers 2. Password Protected Areas 3. Bulletin Boards 4. Guest Books and Feed Back Forms.


VII. Marketing

"Build it and they will come." Not necessarily! A web site must be marketed to create traffic and be successful. Methods used to increase traffic to a Web Site include registering with search engines, agreeing to install reciprocal links with other web sites, joining a web ring of other bar associations' web sites, as well as using other publications to market a web site.

A. Search Engines and Metatags

Metatags are designations in the head of a web page that include descriptive words (search terms), a description of a page, and the title of the page. This information is used by search engines to index and reference web sites for the public.

B. Multimedia Support (Multi Channel Communications)

After setting up a web site an association should coordinate its communications efforts with the web site by placing web site information in all channels of communication. From newsletters and journals to television and radio advertisements, a web address that is properly promoted and contain interest content will build constant traffic and become a very effective and efficient communication tool.


VIII. Conclusion

A revolution in telecommunications technology has ushered in the Age of Electronic Publishing. Through the Internet (e-mail or the World Wide Web) an individual or organization has the ability to send a message to thousands of others with the click of a button and at very little cost (no postage or long distance charges). By setting up a web site, a Bar Association is able to notify members of upcoming events, provide electronic newsletters, and market itself for new members. This is an effective and efficient method of communicating with a large number of people in a large geographic region.

The basic steps of setting up a web site for a bar association are: 1) chose a domain (web address), 2) find some web space on a web server (ISP), 3) start designing (get web design software program), 4) transfer your pages to a server (learn to FTP), then 5) communicate your web site's presence (market).

"Man's mind once stretched by a new idea, never regains it original dimension"

If you have any comments for me concerning this paper, please feel free to contact me by e-mail (jason@texaslawyers.com).


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