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So you want to create your first web site but are feeling more than a little dau nted

by the thought. First step relax. Just about everyone who has ever created a web site has been here before. The feeling is not uncommon. Perhaps one of the scariest things about the whole prospect of creating a web site is the sheer num ber of choices out there. There is a phenomenon that I like to call the paralysis of choice. It goes like this give me a choice between two or three items, no problem. That s easy. But now make it a choice between twenty items and a paralysis starts to set in. There ar e simply too many choices! And with people afraid of making the wrong choice, t hey decide that the safest choice is no choice at all. At least this way, they h aven t made a mistake. So instead of getting wrapped-up in things like HTML, XHTML , CSS, JavaScript, and Php, let s go more basic where there are fewer choices. Do-It-Yourself The first choice is whether to do it yourself or pay for someone else to do it. For many people, this one is decided by budget alone. Web sites built from scrat ch can cost a lot of money. So let s assume that you ve already decided that you wan t or need to do-it-yourself otherwise you probably would have already shelled ou t the money and wouldn t be reading this article. Am I right? Web-Based Services The second choice is whether to use a web-based service or to construct the web site on your own computer. Many hosting services have built-in online web site b uilding tools. While you can certainly construct a web site, the end results are usually pretty rudimentary. This avenue is probably just fine for a little pers onal web site, but most likely not enough to impress more important visitors, li ke clients and customers. A Step Above A step above the online web site building tool is the stand alone program that a llows you to construct a web site without knowing any HTML or other types of cod ing. Among the better ones is Incomedia s Website X5 which comes in two flavors: C ompact and Evolution. Think of these as personal and business. You start from a number of template choices and then color combinations. Between those two elements alone, the chances of your site looking just like someone el se s is pretty slim. The main idea of Website X5 is to divide each page into a gri d. In each square of the grid you decide what s going to go there: text, a picture , a flash movie, or a slideshow, etc. Adding those elements is easy. Not bad. An d it gets you an end product better than those online web site builders. But I m s till a less than wowed. Web Templates OK. As is usually typical I ve saved the best for last! Unlike the canned web site templates that come with software like Microsoft s FrontPage (now dubbed Expressi on Web); professional web site templates are much more sophisticated and give yo u much more control over each design element. Each template typically comes with a list of software you would need to edit the template before you buy it. Highe r level templates may require specialized software like Flash. But for a typical price of between $55 and $75 for most templates, this is short money compared t o paying someone to design a web site from scratch. Most templates also come with Adobe Photoshop (PSD) files. Even the low-cost Pho toshop Elements can fully edit these. The beauty of this is that for the price o f less than $100 you ll have the ability to edit every single little design elemen

t. This makes customizing your template much easier. For most templates, the onl y other software you would need is the design software like: FrontPage, Dreamwea ver, Expression Web, SharePoint Designer, and more. If you d like to add Flash elements to your website, but can t afford Macromedia Fla sh (now Adobe Flash) there are the poor man s alternatives like SWiSHmax. SWiSHmax allows you to create Flash (SWF) files without having Flash and costs only a fr action of the price. Take a look at SWiSHzone on the web for more information. I f you d like to use SWiSH as an alternative, simply look for web templates that li st SWiSH as one of the softwares. Customizing Many people don t realize that most templates can be professionally customized for an individual. Simply look for template customizing services where you buy your template. Since you are beginning with a template that you ve picked out, you hav e a much better idea how it s going to turn out after some custom tweaking and the re are fewer surprises. There s much less risk involved than with a web site desig ned from scratch. You can generally save hundreds of dollars by starting with a template even afte r adding in custom tweaking if you prefer someone else to do it. Remember, you re not starting from scratch. You already have a fully function site, so the costs of editing a template are small compared with the cost of constructing a full we b site. Bottom Line So for a novice like yourself that wants to do-it-yourself, you basically have t hree choices: 1) use a web-based service like the one than probably comes with y our webhosting plan, 2) use standalone software like Incomedia s Website X5, or 3) start with a web site template. The results you can expect will probably incre ase in quality in the same order.