My boss recently asked my why I had created a website. I had just shown him what I had put on my own site, and the question was a good one.
My reply was that I found it interesting – because I am a teacher, and because I am required to do it here, at UAEU. However, thinking about his question later in the day, I came up with several reasons.
The Internet is arguably the most remarkable innovation in the field of mass communication since Caxton’s printing press or John Logie Baird’s cathode ray tube. Like the products of those other two marvelous inventions, the Internet is ubiquitous – it’s out there, as they say.
And, like printed material and the television set, it has affected everybody in all sorts of different ways. Asking me why I created my own site now feels like being asked why I climb mountains, read books or go for long walks – I do it because it’s there – because I can and because of who I am.
But there are as many answers to that question as there are websites on the world wide web; Thankfully they can be reduce to a finite number, and can be narrowed down to six.
Because it’s interesting
For the dissemination of ideas and information
To promote some ideal or other
Because that is what I am paid to do.
You may be able to think of other reasons, but that seems to be enough to begin. I fall into all six categories – some more fully than others. I suppose that several are more relevant than others, but I thin k I fit all six.
Taking any one of them as relevant to your desire to create a site will determine how you go about the task, what you will produce and how the site will work.
For example, sites which are designed primarily to make money are those that sell things or provide services, and because of that, they will have some means of allowing visitors to make payments that are secure and trustworthy – they will display whatever is being sold or whichever service is being provided in attractive ways. These are probably the most numerous sites on the web, though I fail to see how you could check this claim.
Those sites created out of interest – this includes my own, do so by being comprehensive and attractive, though this last feature is by no means essential; I get no emolument if someone visits my site, the only indication being the counter at the foot of the homepage. I do receive some limited feedback from those writing in my Guestbook – I have had comments from people as far away as India and Pennsylvania but my main source of feedback is by word of mouth from those people I target – students, and, to a lesser extent, teachers and readers of my writing.
My students visit my site, interact with it and send me their written reaction via a site that I have linked on my homepage. In the classroom, my students ask me if I have read their work, or if I have replied to it, the usual answer to which is, “If I haven’t, I will do!”
My own website consists of a main one with my own domain name (rlfielding.com) and my 7 other sites linked in at various points. I have links to my writing through blogs (web log sites) of which I have 15, five of which are linked on my homepage.
The website I am required to maintain here at the university is the one for which I am paid, and is the Virtual Writing Center, where students can obtain the sort of guidance they normally get from the actual writing center in office hours.
I do recommend both, but the actual one is far superior – students get real people in real time, offering real help, while the website, although attempting to offer real help does so vicariously through the electronic medium.
What I would like to do today, is ‘walk you through’ both as they say, and hopefully to get you to identify those features that look like they might be successful, and those (hopefully few) that do not.
There are some basic things that need to be considered by any would-be creator of a website. And as I take it that I am mainly addressing educators, education will be the main focus. of my attention and hopefully yours too.