So you want to start your own amateur radio related web site...

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by K0BG, Jan 3, 2013.

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  1. K0BG

    K0BG Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    My web site ( has been active since April 27th, 2004. From humble beginnings, the current visitorrate exceeds 1,000 per day, and the hits average about 1.5 million ormore per month. These figures double during the beginning of the vacation season, and wane a bit during the winter months, except forabout 2 weeks just before Christmas. I'd like to think I'm on tosomething.

    Over the years, I've learned a few things which might help others wanting to start their own web sites. They're in no particular order, but the more important ones are close to the top of the list. You're obviously free to comment about them,as we'll all hopefully benefit.

    1.) Decide whether your site will befor personal consumption, or public consumption. If it is for the former, do whatever you want to do, and read no further. If it is for the latter, then pay attention to what's below.

    2.) Bite the bullet! Buy yourself adecent web layout program. I use Adobe's Dreamweaver which retails for about $350. There are others, but you get what you pay for. Whatever application you purchase, make sure it supports HTML5. Whatever you do, don't use a word processing application to do a webpage, especially MicroSoft Word. Ugh!

    From a personal standpoint, I've never liked any of the offerings from MicroSoft, including their new $400+Vision Studio suite. But, if you have Winders 8, a really fast CPU,and tons of RAM and storage space, it does have some fancy layout options. Speaking of which...

    3). The index page—the first thing you see what accessing a web site—is the most important page ofall. It tells visitors what your site is all about. Spend whatever time it takes, to put your best foot forward. Expect to change it several times. However, once it looks good, and tells the rightstory, leave it alone!

    4). Don't get fancy! Busy backgrounds, music overtures, rolling messages, scrolling photo montages, flashing icons, and animated GIFs just aren't conducive to revisits. Pictures of your favorite pet or breed shouldn't be used either unless that is what the site is about.

    5.) If your site will have a lot of photos, then invest in a good gallery program. Most hosting sites have one or more available. It is best to choose one with FTP capabilities.

    6.) Don't use more than two fonts for dissertation pages. If you have to highlight a point, use bold or italics rather than a different font. If the content is mostly verbiage, Times New Roman is the ultimate for easy reading.

    Not everyone has a brand-new, HTML5-capable browser, so use one of the seven universal net fonts.

    The same goes for background colors. Ofthe 255, eight-bit colors, only 240 are universal. Once everyone switches over to HTML5, it won't matter, but it does at the moment.

    7.) Don't put everything on the index page! Instead, do a logical index page with links to the information inside. Keep re-paging to a minimum. That is, don't link to a page containing nothing but more links to yet other pages.

    8.) If at all possible, the subject matter should be unique. That's sort of difficult to do nowadays, asthere are over one billion web sites, and growing every day! One way to accomplish this is to stick to one specific area or facet. For sure, amateur radio is full of them!

    The name (URL actually) should beunique too, and one way to assure that is to use your call sign. Finding a unique one otherwise is getting nearly impossible. In anycase, it should fit the contents if possible. If not, the index page should. And, while you're thinking about what the subject should be, think about the following.

    There isn't much that hasn't been published about antennas, so that's a poor choice as a simple Google search will attest. Contesting is a close second, DX chasing is about third, and not too far behind is operating techniques. I don't want to start a trend here, but there seems to be a dearth of home brew amplifier sites. Same goes for tower installation sites, at least theones that know how to do it correctly!

    Josh Wolfe said ages ago: …it is best not to know very much, than to know a lot things that aren't true! In other words, there are a whole lot of amateur radio related sites full of misinformation. So whatever you choose, know your subject!

    9.) Stay away from all of those free web-site Java scripts. No one but you will care about how many visitors you've had. What's more, most folks don't care what your local weather conditions are like, what their IP address happens to be, or what country they're from?

    10.) Forget about free (and/or cheap) hosting sites like GoDaddy. The problem is, you have no control over the ad content that's presented. Imagine a sanitary napkin ad atop your treatise on safe tower erection! Ugh!

    A decent hosting company like iPower, which I use, will set you back up to $150 per year depending on the other services you opt for. In my personal case, the total is close to $225 per year. That includes 10 TB of storage, one of the best Photo Galleries ever designed, daily stats, a daily backup of the site, and unlimited email accounts (which I don't use).

    If you're marketing a product, most hosting companies have a plethora of applications to help advertise your site. If you're an individual, then think about this.

    Most search engine sites (Google for example) have forms you fill out to register your site. You input the important points about your site. This aids them in setting the database search words which drive visitors to your site.

    Learn about meta data! If you want the low down on meta data, then do a Google search for same. The one thing you want to remember about meta data key words is this simple fact: Don't get verbose! Use too many, and traffic will be diverted, rather than be directed. By the way, each page should have the same meta data, so it pays to build a template to be used for new pages.

    11.) The old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is true, but to a point. Any picture file larger than about 150 kilobytes takes too long to load, especially if there are several on one page. If you have to purchase a photo editing application to accomplish this, then just do it!

    Photo file types are important too. Although most browsers support GIF, JPEG, TIFF, and PGN, it is best to stick with JPEGs even though they're slightly larger than other file types. The simple reason is, they scale better. For example, you typically do not want full-sized photos to appear on a page full of verbiage. All decent layout programs allow you to thumbnail almost any sized photo, and JPEGs always look better than other reduced fileformats. All that is necessary is to link the photo to the full-sized image. This may seem like Greek to a neophyte, but if you buy adecent web page layout program it won't be!

    Make sure the photos are tagged with a descriptive name. This helps sight-impaired visitors to grasp the content without actually being able to see the photo.

    12.) I use a lot of links both on-site, and off-site. On-site links should replace the existing page, and off-site links should open a new page. This is easy to do if you bought the software I suggested above. It is also important to enter the complete URL. In other words, include

    All links should be regularly tested, as they change almost on a daily basis. Web layout applications do this for you, but for external links, use Integrity by PeacockMedia. It is free, but they do ask for a donation, or at least a link to their site.

    There are dozens of other things you should avoid, and the following speak for themselves.

    A) Plagiarism! Quoting a specific statement, or even a paragraph, is within the confines of the law, as long as you cite the reference. When you don't, it is plagiarism! In other words, stealing! This is true even when the information presented is generic (well known fact). And make sure you state on the index page that the contents are copyrighted, even if they'renot.

    B) Copyright infringement. Just don'tdo it! If you need the reference (typically photos), ask first. This includes governmental sites like NHTSA, OSHA, FCC, and others. Personally, I've never been turned down! I tell the copyright owner why I want to include the information, and that typically suffices. Just make sure that you cite the reference. However, if your site is a money maker—non-personal—then expect to pay royalties.

    C) Most photo galleries have provisions for visitors to up-load their own photos, or at least comment on whatis already there. Whatever you do, shut those features off! If you don't, you'll soon discover all manner of porn-related postings. This is a particular problem with blogs.

    D) Blogs. Unless you have a whole bunch of friends to watch over what's posted, don't even think about it! QRZ is a blog of sorts, and look at all of the folks they have to watch over erroneous posts! Blogs should always require some sort of logon to post comments. I'm in favor of that. However, personally I'd go a bit further and demand verification of call sign and identification. When you don't, you get a whole lot of miscreants who hide behind an anonymous pseudonym.

    E) Cookies. Cookies are little bits of information downloaded to a browser's data files. They can be useful in many ways. A good example is saving logon information, a form of ID as it were. I don't use them myself, but if you decide to, make sure you bone-up on their use. Again, Google is a good source of information.

    F) I've save the most important issue for last, but in reality it is the first. If you don't have the time to keep your site regularly updated, forget about having one! Nothing is worse than searching for a specific issue, only to find out the data is 5 or more years old!

    Good Luck!
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  2. W7UUU

    W7UUU QRZ Lifetime Member #133 Life Member Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Nice article Alan. And yes, I've referenced your site MANY times in Google searches. Very nice work and TONS of good info there

  3. N0NB

    N0NB Subscriber QRZ Page

    I chose to move away from one of the big hosting companies and over to hosting offered by another radio amateur. Working with Scott, KA9FOX, of is a breeze and the reliability of the hosting and my email has been top notch. Far fewer problems than what I had with the prior company.

    I don't claim to know anything about Web design. My static pages were built up over a period of years from 1997 until about two years ago. All of my new content is being placed in Wordpress now.
  4. W5BIB

    W5BIB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

  5. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    My answer is "no," also.

    I think it's "too late." Everything's already on line. I can look up stuff about myself I didn't even know.

    John Wayne was really only 5'6" tall and Marilyn Monroe was a man. It's so great to be able to find this good information, I can't imagine how our ancestors did without.:eek:
  6. AB3RI

    AB3RI Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm going to have to disagree with this statement. As of January 14, 2011 Godaddy doesn't offer free hosting and they've never placed ads on paid hosting account websites.

    Now, saying that, I can honestly say the following:

    I've developed websites since 1996. Most commercial websites. In the 1990's I've used many hosting companies, usually resulting in much disappointment. It was the weakest link in my web development and hosting of client's websites. In 2002, I purchased my own servers which I hosted in a local NOC. A single webserver ended up with 4 webservers within a couple of years. In 2006, I decided to get out of the web development and hosting business. So, I went out to search for a reliable hosting company that met or exceeded the standards which my customers came to expect. After trying out several public hosting companies, I ended up with a VPS with GoDaddy. I moved my client's over without any issues and hosting with GoDaddy has been relatively issue-free since 2006. On the occasion that I had to contact support, for what ever reason, their support staff was extremely responsive and rapidly resolved my issue/concerns.

    Over the last 7 years, I had one extended outage of approx 5 hours, which GoDaddy credited my account one full month for each account, domain, and email account.

    I still have my own webservers, mostly for development, but bottom line, I highly recommend GoDaddy as a reputable and reliable hosting service.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
  7. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    I don't know about other web hosting sites. However, GoDaddy doesn't put any advertising on my website. They may, or may not, have websites that do have advertising, of that I just don't know. However, what I pay for my website is fairly close to what BG pays. That fact may have something to do with no advertisements.

    Some of the web hosting sites have formats which allow one to get a decent looking and decent performing website without having to know how to use HTML, etc. For those who are not familiar with HTML but do want to have a website, those formats are a "lifesaver".

    There are "work arounds" which allow fairly detailed presentations (including photographs) to be included in a website, again without knowing the "ins and outs" of computer programming. One such device is to present that information in PDF format. There are all sorts of ways to create a PDF including free sites on the Internet and with word processing programs such as Microsoft Word.

    A website can be as "fancy" or as "plain" as one wants it to be. Unfortunately, a "fancy" website can be just too "fancy" and, as such, requires a lot of unnecessary movement within the site, that makes the information difficult to recognize and / or understand, and similar things. A lot of people accessing a website actually prefer simple backgrounds, simple labels for links, and other "not fancy" applications.

    I understand that there are "forms" that can be "filled out" to get search engines like Google, Bing, etc., to recognize the website and include it when inquiries are made. As for me, I have never "filled out" such "forms" yet information on my website does appear quite often when doing a search. I may have been lucky in that regard. Then, it may be because I have had a website for several years and possibly the search engines did a lot more "looking around" in the past.

    I definitely agree that some thought needs be put into the website design from simple "layout" to the actual information presented. Otherwise, the usefulness of the site to others can be compromised.

    Glen, K9STH
  8. KC8YLT

    KC8YLT Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for the info! I like what you posted. Im not the smartest when it comes to computers but this is a help. I would eventually like to start an imformation site for converting cb radios to operate on the lower hf bands, with detailed photos and diagrams. It was something I started on but am yet to finish. Carl
  9. AB3RI

    AB3RI Ham Member QRZ Page

    As of a couple of years ago, GoDaddy used to offer "free hosting" when you've purchased a domain. The hosting features were very limited and GoDaddy did place ads on these "free" sites. However, as I've stated, they've stopped this back in 2011 an no longer offer it.

    All of the paid hosting plans from GoDaddy are very robust, even the entry "Economy" plan which is good for a single site, and it includes all of the big features such as email, perl, php, MySql on the linux hosting platforms.

    I'm in the process of moving some "free" clients over to their own hosting at GoDaddy. Mostly clubs and friends that I've been hosting for free over the years. Over the past 3 weeks, I've moved 8 domains and websites to GoDaddy's Economy hosting plan, which each user is now responsible for. No problems with any of the moves. It was basically seamless.

    Yes, if you search you will find horror stories about GoDaddy. But, it's the internet. You can find anything that you are looking for. But, in my experience, hosting with GoDaddy has been worth every penny.
  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    We use Hostmonster at work, and they've done a good job for us.

    I forgot what the rates are.

    We also use a professional web development team, which happens to be in England, but then it doesn't much matter where they are these days, does it?

    We feed them content, and they format it and do everything necessary for it to look very good. They also do SEO, which means adding keywords to the landing pages for search engines to find them easily. We pay them several thousand dollars a year.
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