These days, it’s all but impossible to find someone who hasn’t heard of the Internet. Companies create Web sites before they make business plans. Ordinary people build obsessively detailed pages describing their celebrity-themed swizzle-stick collections. And political activists attack their opponents with gossip, pictures, and embarrassing videos. The Internet has even changed our language: google and blog are now verbs, for example, and social networking has nothing to do with face-to-face encounters.

Everyone wants their own piece of Web real estate. Unfortunately, building a Web site isn’t as easy as it should be. Even though people have been building sites for years, Web site development has only become more complicated. That’s because Web programmers have been busy creating new technologies and introducing new standards that add features, solve problems, and iron out earlier quirks. If you want to create a fresh, cutting-edge Web site (instead of one that looks as hokey as a 1960s yearbook portrait), you need to understand these different ingredients and how they fit together.

That’s where this book comes in. Bookstore shelves are full of Web site design books written years ago. They don’t cover the current techniques your site needs to distinguish itself, make money, and show up in search results. This book corrects those mistakes—it includes all the advice and guidance you need to build a modern Web site. With this book by your side, you’ll learn how to:

  • Create Web pages. XHTML (Extensible HyperText Markup Language) is the modern language of the Web, and the latest stage in the evolution of HTML. It’s surprisingly easy to use but maddeningly inflexible—violate its strict syntax rules at your own peril. In this book, you’ll learn how to write first-rate XHTML pages and get the most out of the language.

  • Make pages look beautiful using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS picks up where XHTML leaves off, adding formatting muscle that can transform the drabbest of sites into a family of coordinated pages that look like they were professionally designed. Best of all, once you understand the right way to use CSS, you’ll be able to apply a new look to your entire site by tweaking just a single file.

  • Put your Web site online. The world’s greatest Web site isn’t much good if no one sees it. That’s why you’ll learn how to choose the best Web hosting company, pick a domain name (like, and get your masterpiece online. Don’t panic—there are plenty of cheap Web hosting companies ready to show off your site for pennies a day.

  • Attract visitors. You’ll learn how to make sure people can find your site using popular search engines and how to build an online community that encourages repeat visits with discussion boards.

  • Get rich (or at least earn some spare change). The Web’s a lynchpin of retail commerce, but even ordinary people can make money selling products (using convenient services like PayPal) or displaying ads (with Google). You’ll learn how to get in on the action.

  • Pile on the frills. Every Web site worth its salt boasts a few cool tricks. You’ll learn how to dazzle visitors with cool buttons, slick menus, and other flashy elements, courtesy of JavaScript and Dynamic XHTML. You’ll even learn how to (shudder) serenade visitors with background music.

What You Need to Get Started

This book assumes that you don’t have anything more than a reasonably up-to-date computer and raw ambition. Although there are dozens of high-powered Web editing programs that can help you build a Web site, you don’t need one to use this book. In fact, if you use a Web editor before you understand how Web sites work, you’re liable to create more problems than you solve. That’s because, as helpful as these programs are, they shield you from learning the principles of good site design—principles that can mean the difference between an attractive, easy-to-maintain Web creation and a disorganized design nightmare.

Once you master the basics, you’re welcome to use a fancy Web-page editor like Microsoft Expression Web or Adobe Dreamweaver. You’ll not only learn how these two leading programs work, you’ll discover a few great free alternatives (in Chapter 4).


Under no circumstances do you need to know anything about complex Web programming technologies like Java or ASP.NET. You also don’t need to know anything about databases or XML. These topics are fascinating, but insanely difficult to implement without some solid programming experience. In this book, you’ll learn how to create the best possible Web site without becoming a programmer. (You will, however, learn just enough about JavaScript to use many of the free samples you can find online.)

About This Book

No one owns the Web. As a result, no one is responsible for teaching you how to use it or how to build an online home for yourself. That’s where this book comes in. If the Web did have an instruction manual—one that painstakingly details the basic ingredients, time-saving tricks, and impressive embellishments every site needs—this would be it.


This book periodically recommends other books covering topics that are too specialized or diverse for a manual about creating Web sites. Careful readers may notice that not every one of these titles is published by Missing Manual parent O’Reilly Media. While we’re happy to mention other Missing Manuals and books in the O’Reilly family, if there’s a great book out there that doesn’t happen to be published by O’Reilly, we’ll still let you know about it.

Macintosh and Windows

One of the best things about the World Wide Web is that it truly is worldwide: Wherever you live, from Aruba to Zambia, the Web eagerly awaits your company. The same goes for whatever kind of computer you’re using to develop your site. From an early-model Windows PC to the latest and greatest Mac, you can implement the tactics, tools, and tricks described in this book with pretty much whatever kind of computer you have. (Of course, a few programs favor one operating system over another, but you’ll hear about these differences whenever they come up.) The good news is that this book is usable and suitable for owners of computers of all stripes.

About the Outline

This book is divided into five parts, each with several chapters:

  • Part One: Welcome to the Web. In this part of the book, you’ll start planning your Web site (Chapter 1). You’ll learn the basics behind XHTML, the language of the Web (Chapter 2); and you’ll put your page online with a reputable hosting company (Chapter 3). Finally, you’ll look at how you can simplify your life by using Web-page editing software (Chapter 4).

  • Part Two: Building Better Web Pages. This section shows you how to add essentials to your pages, like pictures, links, and tables. You’ll learn your way around the CSS standard, which lets you specify fancy colors, fonts, and borders (Chapter 6). You’ll master slick layouts (Chapters Chapter 9 and Chapter 10), and create an entire Web site made of linked pages.

  • Part Three: Connecting With Your Audience. The third part of the book explains how to get your site noticed by search engines like Google (Chapter 11), and how to foster a community by making your site interactive with features like discussion boards (Chapter 12). Finally, you’ll learn how to get on the path to Web riches by displaying ads or selling your own products (Chapter 13).

  • Part Four: Web Site Frills. Now that you can create a professional, working Web site, why not deck it out with fancy features like glowing buttons and pop-out menus? You won’t learn the brain-bending details of how to become a JavaScript programmer, but you’ll learn enough to find great scripts online and to use them in your own creations. You’ll also dabble with homemade movie clips and add an MP3 music player right inside an ordinary Web page.

  • Part Five: Blogs. In this brief section, you’ll take a look at blogs (short for Web logs) and the free software that helps you create them. Blogs are a type of Web page that consists of regular, dated postings—like an online journal. In recent years, blogs have become a self-publishing phenomenon and a great place to rant, rave, and spill company gossip.

At the end of this book, you’ll find two appendixes. The first gives you a quick reference for XHTML. It explains the essential XHTML elements and points you to more detailed discussions in the various chapters of this book. The second appendix lists a pile of useful links culled from the chapters in this book, which can help you learn more, get free stuff (like pictures, Web software, and handy examples), and sign up for services (like Google’s ad program and PayPal’s shopping cart tools). Don’t worry—you don’t need to type these Web links into your browser by hand. It’s all waiting for you on the Missing CD page for this book at

About → These → Arrows

Throughout this book, you’ll find sentences like this one: “To open a new window, choose File → New → Window.” That’s shorthand for a much longer instruction that directs you to open three menus in sequence, like this: “Open the File menu by clicking File in the menu bar. In the File menu, click New to open a second menu. In that menu, click Window to complete the process.” Figure 1 shows a closer look.

Downloadable Examples

This book includes a number of examples of Web page designs. Most of them are available for your downloading pleasure at (click the Missing CD page link, and then the link for this book; the files are organized by chapter). Playing with these files is a great way to learn more.


At, you’ll find articles, tips, and updates to Creating a Web Site: The Missing Manual. In fact, we invite and encourage you to submit such corrections and updates yourself. In an effort to keep the book as up to date and accurate as possible, each time we print more copies of this book, we’ll make any confirmed corrections you’ve suggested. We’ll also note such changes on the Web site, so that you can mark important corrections into your own copy of the book, if you like. (Go to, choose the book’s name from the pop-up menu, and then click Go to see the changes.)

In this book, arrow notations help simplify folder and menu instructions. For example, “Choose File → New → Window” is a more compact way of saying “From the File menu, choose New; from the submenu that appears, choose Window,” as shown here.
Figure 1. In this book, arrow notations help simplify folder and menu instructions. For example, “Choose File → New → Window” is a more compact way of saying “From the File menu, choose New; from the submenu that appears, choose Window,” as shown here.

Also on our Feedback page, you can get expert answers to questions that come to you while reading this book, write a book review, and find groups for folks who share your interest in creating Web sites.

While you’re there, sign up for our free monthly email newsletter. Click the “Sign Up for Our Newsletter” link in the left-hand column. You’ll find out what’s happening in Missing Manual land, meet the authors and editors, see bonus video and book excerpts, and so on.

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