How do I avoid common mistakes when creating a site?

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When customers create sites manually (instead of using WordPress), there are a few common mistakes we see. Most of them are easy to avoid, though. Here are the top 5:

  1. Avoid spaces (and other unusual characters) in filenames
  2. Don’t use Microsoft Word / Publisher / FrontPage, or Broderbund Print Shop, to create your files
  3. Don’t publish a folder instead of the folder’s contents
  4. Don’t convert your text to an image
  5. Use the right filename for your home page

Avoiding these mistakes will make sure that building a Web site is fun, not frustrating.

Avoid spaces (and other unusual characters) in filenames

When you upload files on the Web, avoid using spaces (or other unusual characters) in the names. You’re going to create links that point to these files, and links don’t normally contain spaces — or any other characters except letters, numbers, dots, hyphens and underscores, actually.

So when you’re creating files and folders on your computer before you publish them, don’t give them names like this:

My First Page.html
Honeymoon Pictures?
Funny image #1.jpeg

Instead, remove the extra characters:

MyFirstPage.html
HoneymoonPictures
Funnyimage1.jpeg

Or use hyphens or underscores:

My-First-Page.html
My_First_Page.html
Honeymoon-Pictures
Honeymoon_Pictures
Funny-image-1.jpeg
Funny_image_1.jpeg

It’s best to pick a consistent style and stick with it. For our own files, we try to use only lowercase letters, numbers, hyphens and dots, so we’d call those files:

my-first-page.html
honeymoon-pictures
funny-image-1.jpeg

Don’t use Microsoft Word / Publisher / FrontPage, or Broderbund Print Shop, to create your files

If you already own Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, or Broderbund Print Shop, it’s tempting to use them to create Web pages. We don’t recommend it, though. None of these programs were made to create Web pages — in fact, we’ll flat out say that they’re terrible Web design programs, and will cause you all sorts of heartache.

Microsoft FrontPage was a better program, but was discontinued in 2006. Neither we nor Microsoft provide support for it any more, and you won’t be able to get any help for it. You shouldn’t use it to create a new site.

If you’re looking for a free way to create a Web site, you can use the free WordPress software without installing anything on your computer at all.

Don’t publish a folder instead of the folder’s contents

When you create your files on your computer (before you publish them), you’ll probably put them in a folder.

For example, you might create a folder named “MyWebSite” on your computer, then fill it with Web site files named “index.htm”, “contact.htm”, and so on.

When it comes time to publish those files to our servers, you need to make sure you publish just the files — “index.htm”, “contact.htm”, and so on — and not the “MyWebSite” folder.

If you publish the “MyWebSite” folder itself, those files would end up at this location on our servers:

http://www.example.com/MyWebSite/index.htm
http://www.example.com/MyWebSite/contact.htm

... which isn’t what you want at all!

To avoid this problem, make sure that when you publish your files, you first open the folder that contains them, then publish the files it contains.

To put it another way, if your FTP program allows you to drag items, you should be dragging the “index.htm” and “contact.htm” files in this example, not the “MyWebSite” folder. And if you use an integrated design and publishing program like Dreamweaver, you probably shouldn’t use a folder at all, because it will publish the folder automatically — just put the actual files at the top level of the design.

Don’t convert your text to an image

Some people convert their Web page text to a GIF, PNG or JPEG image file, because it gives them more control over how it appears.

If you do that, search engines won’t be able to “read” the text, and your site won’t show up properly in Google and other search engines. It also prevents visitors from translating your pages into their language, because translation software can’t interpret pictures.

Always create your text as real text, not images. Our “Search Engines” page has more details about this and other techniques for improving your ranking.

Use the right filename for your home page

The main page of your site — the one people see when they just go to www.example.com — is called the site’s “home page” or “index page”.

How do our servers know which page is your index page? Easy: they look for a file named “index.html” or “index.htm” and show that.

All you need to do is name that page “index.html” or “index.htm” when you create it on your computer.

If you really need to use a different name, you can do so, but don’t do that — it makes things more complicated. Stick with “index.html” or “index.htm”.