Why the Internet?
Snappy Page Essence
Communicate to colleagues and win allies all over the globe with the Internet, fast, ceaseless and relatively inexpensive. A number one tool for animal rights activists.
The Internet is a communication tool to exchange ideas, inspiration, information, statistics, pictures and drawings, and to find people and organisations. Using the Internet is quick, convenient and relatively cheap. Use it to communicate with your existing and potential supporters to let them know about you, your group and the issues you raise. The Internet has a number of parts and two of the most important are the Web and email.
The Web is short for World Wide Web (the 'www' that precedes web page addresses), a network of computers around the globe to which anyone can access by connecting to it with a computer. People began using the Web as a popular medium for communication in the mid-1990's. Basically the Web consists of millions of web sites, each of one or more pages where text, graphics and videos are set out for people to view.
Acquiring your own web site may be free, cheap or expensive depending on what you want and how you go about obtaining it. Creating and managing your own web site is not difficult but takes a little time to learn how to handle it. Benefits of your own web site are:
- You can tell your web site viewers what you do and what you think they should do.
- You can send people electronic newsletters in addition to or instead of paper ones sent via the post.
- It is easy to add or delete your web pages and to update, add and delete information to existing pages.
- It will give your group a sense of professionalism and enhance its reputation, especially if your web site is informative and handsome.
Email, short for electronic mail, was invented some years before the Web. You can use email to exchange messages, graphics and video clips within seconds or minutes with any Internet user anywhere in the world who has an email account. Email is so nimble that you will not want to send letters through the post any more and it is often better than using the phone.
When you get a web site you usually also get an email facility that goes with it. You should place your email address on your web site so that people can contact you. However, you do not need a web site to have an email address. To obtain only email you just need to get online using a computer and sign up with a company that provides email, which can be free. You can then send and access email from anywhere on any computer that links you to the Internet.
Create Your Own Web Site / Blog
You will need a computer (whether a laptop or some hand-held digital device) to access the Internet. Best to have your own device because you will be in command of when and how long you stay online. Then you will need two things, first a company that will connect your computer to the Internet, and second a company that will store your web site and send pages to people who what to look at it. Either company might also provide you with email facilities. Both kinds of company can be found online by searching the Web under 'Internet service provider' and 'web site hosting'. However, the simplest thing is to get a blog as your web site because they are free and easy to use; just look them up on the Web.
Designing Your Web Site
Making your own blog is easy (see Blogger, Chapter 4). On the other hand, you might want a full blown regular web site. In this case you can do it yourself with a bit of flair and resolve, get a friend to do it, or pay someone to design and set it up for you. You will have quicker and more control over your web site doing it yourself by cutting out intermediaries. You could use special software to set out web pages but it is not necessary. Instead, you can learn to write HTML (short for hypertext mark-up language), the instructions that professionals type into a computer to lay out Web pages. Special software is only useful if you have hundreds of pages to design. You will still have to lean to use the software, so you may as well learn HTML.
Here are some tips for doing it yourself.
- Look around for an easy to read book or two on basic HTML. Big expensive books are unnecessary. You can even find most if not all of what you need free online.
- Read a book about good, simple web page design, or look online for the information, eg how to break up text, which font to use and the application of colour.
- Examine examples online of simple well designed web sites - and the many web sites with distressingly artless or no design - for inspiration and ideas about what to include and avoid on your web site.
- Keep everything simple and you will make progress quickly and your work can look pleasing and professional.
- Once you have typed in your HTML code and completed your page you may want to 'validate' it, ie check that the coding is correct. Download a free HTML Validator from the Web (eg from CoffeeCup.com).
When your web site is more or less complete you will need to upload it to a 'host' (a company that keeps it online 24h a day to show it to people who want to see it). You can upload your web site to your host via their web site or by using your own FTP program (FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol), which you can get free online (eg from CoffeeCup.com).
Now that your web site (or blog) is online the next step is to get it listed on the Google search engine so that potential Web viewers can discover your site. Google will automatically find your site in due course and list it. You do not have to inform them or any other web search engine. It may take a few days or weeks but they will find you.
Another method of acquiring viewers is to find relevant web sites (eg connected with animals or nature) and exchange reciprocal links with them. Email a relevant web site. All you have to say is, "Can we exchange reciprocal web links, please? The name of my site is *****, its address is www.*****, and it is about animal rights." It might spur them on if you place a web link to them on your web site before emailing them. Let them know which page it is on.
How many viewers see your web site? Which pages get most viewers? Register with a company offering web counters, software that that computes viewer usage of web sites. An example is StatCounter.com, which is free and excellent. You will be doing well if you get a hundred viewers a day. Get only half a dozen a day and you may wish to think about how to make more people see your site. And do not be misled by statistics: about 75 percent of viewers to ordinary web sites (not popular national ones) click off in the first five seconds, having found the site is not what they were looking for. However, a blog / web site is always efficacious for projecting your group and its mission to prospective members, irrespective of how many people land on it.
With your web site (or blog) up and running you could offer viewers a discussion board on it (which are also called forums and newsgroups). A discussion board is a facility for people to hold discussions online by typing in (or 'posting') and reading messages about topics of interest to them. You, your group members and anyone viewing your discussion board can raise questions and answer them. Contributors can be anonymous if they like and can email each other individually for more confidential discussion.
There are said to be over 100,000 discussion boards online. You do not actually have to have a web site to offer people a discussion board. Just go to a specialist discussion board web site and set one up on their site.
Setting up your discussion group can be free and takes just a few minutes to register with a company online. Select a title and description of what your group discusses. Decide whether the discussion group is open only to your group members or is public for anyone to see (you will be able to reach more people if it is public), and whether you want to 'moderate' it (censor messages before you delete or display them online).
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