How to Build a Website: The Home Page - dummies

How to Build a Website: The Home Page

Plan your home page carefully when you build your website. The contents on your home page can determine whether people will dive into your other pages — or whether they stay on your website, at all! But what should you put on your home page?

The “what to say” problem is easier to solve if you think of your web page as a set of blocks of content. Each block covers a specific thing you want to describe on your web page. For instance, a set of links relating to your hobby is one block of content; your résumé can be another block. Using blocks of content also helps you move smoothly from having a single web page to having a multipage web site. Your first web page may be a long page with several blocks of content. When you’re ready to move to a multipage web site, you can take the blocks of content from your single home page and move several of them onto separate web pages.

The great thing about web publishing is that you can always change your web pages later. “Just do it” — get something up that you’re at least sort of proud of — then continually improve your web page as you learn more.

Describing yourself on your home page

The easiest and most fun thing to put on your first web page is a description of yourself and the things you’re interested in. This type of web page is put up for fun, and also works well for certain specific purposes, such as applying for college or online dating.

Here are some of the blocks of content you may want to include in an interests page:

  • A brief description of yourself
    Don’t give too much detail about yourself, or you may become a victim of identity theft!
  • A photo of yourself
  • A description of your interests
  • A description of your work or school
  • Favorite links, by interest (one or more blocks)
  • Detailed link descriptions

You can create this kind of web page as a simple, long, scrolling page with no navigation — just one block of content after another. For this kind of web page, whether the formatting and look of the page are kind of rough around the edges doesn’t matter — interesting content is enough to make the web page stand on its own.

Featuring your family on your home page

A popular use of a web page is to put up photos of yourself, your spouse or significant other, your kids, your friends, and your pets. This kind of web site helps families and friends keep in touch.

Such pages can grow into fairly large web sites as you put up additional pages for each family member and each birthday party or vacation that gets memorialized on the web site. For your initial, simple home page, though, consider the following content:

  • A brief description of yourself and other family members
  • A photo of each person
  • Descriptions of everyone’s interests
  • A description of each person’s work or school
  • Favorite links, by person

Maintaining your identity on your home page

When creating your personal web page, avoid giving out specifics that a thief can use to steal your identity. Another person needs surprisingly little personal information to fill out a credit application in your name and get credit while posing as you. The identity thief can then run up thousands of dollars of charges against your credit in a few days, all without your knowledge. Cleaning up after this kind of attack on your credit can be very difficult, expensive, and time-consuming.

The main thing to avoid is giving specific names and numbers: Your driver’s license number, your Social Security number, and credit card numbers are strictly off limits, which may seem obvious. (One security expert described the Social Security number as the “golden key” to an American’s identity.) But you should also avoid giving other numbers: Your street address and your personal phone number are good things to leave out, as are your exact age and your birth date. You may even want to leave these details off an online résumé; just include your name and e-mail address for people to use in making an initial contact with you.

Don’t give a lot of details about family members, and specifically avoid giving your mother’s maiden name — a bit of information that’s commonly used to verify identity. Staying vague about family members protects them as well as you.

Be careful to avoid giving details about kids, especially information that can allow someone to identify and find a child. For instance, you may decide to go ahead and put your address and phone number on your site — but don’t also include a picture of one of your kids and his or her name, or your kids may get the attention of the wrong kind of people.

Talking about your work on your home page

You can put up a brief web professional page describing your professional background and interests — kind of an illuminated résumé. You can tilt this kind of page toward sharing your professional interests, or more narrowly focused on helping you get a job.

Some blocks of content you may want to include in a work-related page:

  • A brief description of yourself
  • A description of your professional interests
  • Favorite links, by interest
  • A formatted, printable résumé

A work-related site can be a single web page at first, but you’ll probably want to have your résumé as a separate page before too long.