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Writing a Professional Web Page

Just as it is important to know how to write a good vita (1), it is important to know how to write a good professional web page that will showcase who you are, what you have done, and what you can do. It should leave a strong positive impression on the viewer about YOU.
I make the distinction between personal web page and professional web page as many personal web pages are not necessarily something you would want to be evaluated by on a professional basis. Even if you have not sent out your web page address with job applications, an interested party can generally find your site by using a search engine (e.g. search on "otto h. maclin"). Since you will not have control over who views your web page, you may choose to maintain a professional web page. This is not to say that you can't have personal content on your web page, however you may not want to put a picture of your camping trip or of your most recent party on the front page. Remember first impressions count.
What do you want your first impression to be? Organized, professional, competent & The Internet is a multimedia world with an unlimited number of ways to create web pages. Take advantage of this versatility and create a web page that speaks well for you. Take a look at some student web pages and ask yourself what impression they give about the person (2).
There are many different style guides available. Their main thrust is organization, consistency, and ease of use for the viewer (3, 4, 5). Additionally, if you are using a server on your campus for your web page, many campuses have style guides of their own which they will want you to adhere to (6, 7).
Once you have determined how you plan to present yourself to the world, what do you have to say? If you choose to include a picture of yourself, choose a picture that shows you well. Additionally, decide on several categories of information to be offshoots of your main page (8). These can lead to other pages you maintain or to outside web pages. Try not to make your main page too busy or too long.
You will need a place to store your web pages. Some campuses have free web space, some Internet providers will include space with Internet service, and some companies offer free home pages on the Internet(9).
At this point you should have a reasonable idea of how you want to organize your professional page and its content. You should be thinking of types of backgrounds (10, 11), banners, and icons (12) you want to use. Remember to use your Gestalt principles of good form and that neon is out.
A web page is just a document that can be read on many different types of computers. The link, or URL, is just the directory path and file name that tells the user's computer where to find the document. Web pages are written in a simple language called HTML (13) that can be edited as text using a word processor. Some word processors can convert a document into a HTML file, while other programs such as Adobe Pagemill are specialized to design web pages and are very similar to word processors.
If you are going to include pictures you need to have access to a scanner so you can convert a photograph into a digitized image. Digitized images should be kept to a minimum size. The larger the image, the longer it will take to download and the viewer may get disinterested in waiting and move on to another site or section of your web page.
While viewing other people's home pages notice that some have animation, music, fancy graphics, bells and whistles. Remember that you are developing a professional web page. Consider how having the theme song for 'Rocky' playing as the viewer is waiting to down load a full size picture of you on your trip to Yosemite, while all the viewer can see clearly is the web counter that indicates only thirteen people have visited your site since this time last year and an icon that apologizes that the site is still under construction. The best way to impress the viewer is with who you are and what you have done. Keep it simple. Keep it professional. And keep it up to date. Which reminds me, I have some updating of my own to do.

References:
1) http://www.psychologicalscience.org/APSSC/Article-SubReprints.cfm
2) http://equinox.comnet.unr.edu/homepage/
3) http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/
4) http://webdesign.tqn.com/msubstyle.htm
5) http://www.isd.fsu.edu/jclark/design.html
6) http://www.lehigh.edu/~inwww/styleguide/required.html
7) http://www.unr.edu/stylegui.html
8) http://unr.edu/homepage/kimbeal/
9) http://www.netcolony.com/
10) http://www.sfsu.edu/~jtolson/textures/textures.htm
11) http://cpcug.org/user/jlacombe/backgrnds/johnback.html
12) http://www.iconbazaar.com/
13) http://blair.library.rhodes.edu/Default1htmls/web.html


Written By: Otto H. MacLin (APSSC Communications Director, 1998-99) -- otto@scs.unr.edu

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