Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Tips on Creating and Maintaining an Educational Web Site

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Tip 3: Plan Ahead

In most cases, the web pages you create will be separate HTML files with names that end in .htm or .html (just as text documents are often given names that end in .doc or .wpd). For example, if you create a web page with autobiographical information, you might name it something like bio.htm, autobio.htm, or vita.htm. When naming files for your own personal use, you can easily change their names in the future if the need arises. Once a file is uploaded to the web for others to see, however, any change in its name will alter the web page address (technically, the web address is known as a URL, or "Uniform Resource Locator"). What this alteration means is that someone who has bookmarked your page with the old URL will now get an error message upon visiting that location (e.g., a message such as "File Not Found"). For example, if you were to change a web file name from bio.htm to vita.htm, then visitors who go to:

would receive an error message, because the correct URL would actually be:

The key is to remember that file names on the web are for others as well as oneself, so you should try whenever possible to avoid changing the names and locations of web files.

In practical terms, the best way to minimize these changes is by carefully planning your web site so that you can grow into it gradually without having to rename files or restructure the site. For instance, avoid general file names (e.g., "psych.htm" or "course.htm") or names that might have to be changed if a course gets renumbered or repeated in a later year (e.g., "psyc260.htm" or "course99.htm"). If you intend to create no morethan a handful of pages, then planning is relatively easy. All you need to do is choose clear file names and locate them in a single directory (this kind of directory structure is known as a "flat directory," because it has only one level). In contrast, if you are planning to publish several dozen pages with lecture notes, a set of weekly class assignments, and a lengthy series of online tests or experiments, then you may want to create subdirectories for each set of pages. Many ftp programs have an option to create new directories or subdirectories (for help, see a technical support professional at your institution). If you create subdirectories, however, bear in mind that each additional directory lengthens the URL of a web page. For example, by locating an autobiographical page in a subdirectory called "personal," the URL would change from:


The tradeoff, then, is that a hierarchical organization with subdirectories may be easier to maintain and may help visitors find information, but URLs with subdirectories will be lengthier to type and more prone to keyboard errors.

If, despite your best efforts, it becomes necessary to rename pages or relocate a web site, there are two things you can do to avoid losing potential visitors. First, you can notify as many people as possible of the changes (especially the webmasters of sites that maintain links to yours). And second, you can leave forwarding pages at the old URLs. In the case of Social Psychology Network, I created forwarding pages when I moved the site from its previous location to its current location. Once the move was made, visitors who used the old URL for Social Psychology Network were greeted with a web page that said:

In an effort to provide better service and an easier address to remember, the location of Social Psychology Network has been changed to:

You will be automatically forwarded to this location in 10 seconds. After you arrive, please make a note of the address and update your bookmarks.

The way to automatically forward visitors to a new location is by inserting the following line of HTML code between the "head" and "body" sections of the web page file:

<meta http-equiv="Refresh" CONTENT="X; URL=newlocation">

In this statement, X would be replaced with the desired size of the forwarding delay (in seconds), and newlocation would be replaced with the new URL (in the case of Social Psychology Network,

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