Russil Wvong /
Design notes for this web page
This web page has two major objectives: First and most importantly,
to provide a way for friends and family in Edmonton, Singapore,
and other parts of the world to find out what I'm up to.
A surprisingly large number of my friends
and family have Internet access.
When I was living in Colorado Springs, for example, I could
take pictures and put them on the web so that people could see
what Colorado Springs looks like.
Now that I'm back in Vancouver, that isn't so important. On
the other hand, Curt and Judy are both in California....
A secondary objective is to provide interesting and useful
information for the Internet at large. I'm thinking
that most people in this category would be casual readers who
find their way here at random, through a search engine.
I'm aiming for three types of content:
- Personal -- what I'm doing, how I'm doing. This is primarily
for family and friends.
- Practical -- advice on setting up web pages, saving and
investing, buying a computer, managing stress.
- Reflective -- my view of how the world works. Discussion
of some political problems like public debt, immigration,
overpopulation, global warming, unemployment, conflicts
between capitalism and democracy.
These pages should be easy to read and to navigate, with a
They should be visually interesting, which means using photos.
They shouldn't be painful to download.
They shouldn't take a long time to set up and maintain. I'll have
a limited amount of time to spend on this, probably a few hours
Pages should not move around. In particular, if someone bookmarks
an HTML page, it should not break.
These pages are hosted by GeoCities, at www.geocities.com. I chose
GeoCities for a number of reasons:
With a free service, reliability is a potential problem. I
had a free web page briefly back in 1995; the company went broke
after a few months and my web page disappeared. It's possible
that this could happen to GeoCities as well, but with their
size, visibility, and customer base, they've got a good shot
at survival. According to their press releases, they were
ranked the third most visited site on the web among home users
as of June 1998, and they received $25 million in venture
capital funding in January 1998.
- It's free, or almost free.
You can set up a web page on GeoCities for free, with up to
11 Mbytes of disk space (enough for the complete text of
11 average-sized novels!). You need to include an ad
banner on each page, or GeoCities will pop up an ad banner
whenever someone looks at one of your pages.
I'm paying US $5/month for GeoPlus service. What I get:
no advertising requirements, more disk space (25 Mbytes),
and a shorter URL (http://www.geocities.com/~rwvong/).
- Lots of other people have web pages on GeoCities: as of July
1998, there were 2.1 million people on GeoCities, which makes
it larger than some real cities. This has a couple of benefits:
one, GeoCities is large enough that they fix problems quickly,
and two, people on the Internet are familiar with GeoCities.
- It's convenient to use, at least from a PC. I can upload
files to the web server directly, instead of having to ftp
them to a directory and wait 24 hours.
- Unlike a local ISP (such as CompuSmart in Edmonton, or the
Edmonton FreeNet), it's not tied to a particular location.
I can move from Colorado Springs back to Edmonton without
moving my web page. GeoCities also provides me with a
location-independent e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Disk space used to be a problem -- you can fill up 2 Mbytes
surprisingly fast if you're putting images on your web pages --
but not any more.
Use a straightforward, easy-to-read style with black text
on a white background, and standard hyperlink colors.
Use pictures on each page for visual interest, either scanned
from 4x6 photos or captured from Video CDs. To keep the
pictures from causing the download to grind to a crawl,
put a small version of each image on the page, and link it
to the full-size version. See Philip Greenspun's web site
Where possible, use 768x512 for scanned photos, 192x128
for the small versions. Use 24-bit color.
Use the HEIGHT and WIDTH tags to allow the web browser
to lay out each page before the images are loaded.
Don't try to compete with professional graphic designers
using Adobe PhotoShop and font designers.
Use a consistent layout for each page, with the following elements:
- link to home page
- horizontal rule
- main body
- link to GeoCities
- dates created and last revised
To make the web pages easy to navigate, use a simple structure:
a top-level index page which points to all other pages.
If the number of pages grows very large, then second-level index
pages may be necessary.
- PC running Microsoft Windows 95
- WordPad to edit HTML files
- HP ScanJet IIp to scan photos
- ImageMagick (freeware) to create thumbnails
- CompCore's SoftPEG to capture Video CD images
- Netscape Navigator to view the pages locally, from
the PC's hard disk, before uploading them to GeoCities, using
the File Manager utility
It took roughly 12 hours (over two days) to set up the first
version of the page, writing some basic material about myself
and importing an article that I'd written earlier (about public
debt), capturing some images from the Video CD of "A Chinese
Ghost Story", and getting the GeoCities account set up.
Scanning in pictures takes a couple hours, plus another couple hours
for editing them and adding text.
For a page which is primarily text, it probably takes two or three
hours to do formatting, editing, and revisions, plus whatever time
it takes to write the text in the first place.
personal web site has an amazing amount of entertaining and informative
content -- writing, humor, travel, photography, state-of-the-art
computer programming, web
design. It's an industrial-strength site.
Frankly, I'm awestruck. It's not enough to keep me from imitating
his layout, though.
For a really basic introduction to creating web pages, see
Eric Meyer's Introduction to HTML.
Update (March 2001)
GeoCities is now owned by Yahoo!, one of the few profitable
For greater readability, I've changed my e-mail address to
email@example.com, and I've also set up an e-mail address
for Abby, firstname.lastname@example.org. The email@example.com
address still works, of course. All three addresses are
forwarded to our local ISP mailbox.
The URL that I give out now is www.geocities.com/rwvong
(with no tilde -- it's easier than explaining what a
tilde is), although www.geocities.com/~rwvong and
www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/2496 will also work.