Web Basics 101
Everything You Ever Wanted to know about the Web - in Brief

Note: These are points from a lecture I gave on November 16, 2000 to a graduate class developing a Web site.

World Wide Web as a Macroenvironment

Materials placed on the Internet is considered publishing. Therefore, it is vital that you comply to the rules of academic publishing, which are the most stringent in terms of publishing. Proper citation of all resources used is to protect you from committing plagiarism. Failure to give proper attribution is actually stealing, which is wrong.

Materials placed on the Internet is accessible to EVERYONE who has access to the World Wide Web. Therefore, it is vitally important that materials are appropriate for all audiences, and if it bears the name of an institution, that it does not reflect poorly on that institution. This means that materials should be proofread before being placed on the Internet. Poor spelling and poor grammar taints the image of the institution, especially when it is an academic institution.

If a Web site is developed for an academic purpose, then such a Web site, or, Web page should make it very clear that it is a class project or class assignment, or whatever. Visitors should know that such Web sites are always works in progress, and that such Web sites were developed under the direction of school faculty, thus, reflecting the academic nature of the site or page. Visitors should also know who the target audience is and what the Web site is about (i.e., Project Description, Course Assignment, etc.). The Web site reflects its academic affiliation, so it should be free of any potential legal problems associated with copyright infringement, etc.

Presence on the Web

Presence on the Web can last forever, or, as long as there's the Internet. Putting up Web pages is very easy to do these days that now everyone has to deal with "virtual garbage." So, as a responsible Netizen, put up Web pages you and your grandchildren would be proud to be a part of for the life of the Net.

All Web pages eventually gets indexed, either by humans, or, spiders (webbot, bots - short for robots) that crawl all over your pages, picking up the content and then having them added to a database. When they are indexed by humans, directories get developed to organize the pages by topics or categories. Of course, these directories may not have as many pages as those stored on databases developed by spiders, but the pages are probably of better quality because humans are more discriminating about what to include.

When you use a search engine like Metacrawler, what you are doing is sending a command to a software program to search its databases for the information you want. If you type in a keyword, then the search engine will use that keyword to look for all the pages indexed in its database. Some search engines are very precise and some aren't. That's why you can get hundreds of pages most of which may have nothing to do with what you had in mind. Also, when you use the same keyword with different search engines, you can come up with different listings of relevant Web sites or pages. Some engines provide a percentage they use to rank the relevance of a site or page to the search. This can help you determine which results are the most useful to look at.

Domain names

For educational sites (.edu), it is important to use scholarly and non-commercial sites for developing external links. All links should be checked to make sure they work, and should be identified by name, sponsor and short description. A site should be checked for bias, especially commercial bias. And, if they are selling something, they should not be included as links from an educational institution. External links should contribute to the primary nature of a Web site bearing an .edu extension, and that is to serve as an educational resource.

It should be noted that while educational institutions tolerate freedom of speech far more than other types of institutions, it does have its limits. Educational institutions will not take responsibility for everything that goes on within its ivy halls.

For Public Health, links with such as extensions as .edu, .gov, .org are good choices to start with. You should check sites regarding their privacy statements and if you must ask for permission to link to their site. Some sites now are requiring a registration in which you must state your purpose.

Not all .com sites are unsuitable. Many such sites bear this extension because they don't fit under the others. Some sites bear the extension of their Web host, which usually has a .com extension. Such sites can be used if they are not selling any products or services. Then there are sites put up by consultants who provide useful information to showcase their expertise. Some of these sites are very informative and make good resource links. For example, my Web site is hosted by, which provide space on the Internet. This company stipulates that if you want to use their services, you will not use it for pornography and a host of other evils. This is good and helps to control, somewhat, the spread of such evils in cyberspace.

Health Information

The quality of health information on the Web has become a growing concern for the Internet community. While the Internet does provide more accessible health information, not all the information is necessarily good, or, reliable. Those sites that have been reviewed for the quality of their information are reliable sites.

Online reviewers of health information include HONcode, HealthLinks, MedExplorer, to name a few. My Web site has been reviewed by these entities and found to meet their criteria for quality health information. There are links from the Home Page to these entities so you can check out their criteria. There are numerous organizations and workgroups interested in quality health information. For more information, check my Information Quality Page.

Look for a statement of purpose, quality, and/or disclaimer statement dealing with the quality of information. My Web site has two such statements: Quality of Health Information, and Healthy People 2010 11.4 Objective Page. In fact, I had the organization that developed the criteria I used for the Quality Health Information page to review what I wrote up. The only thing they recommended I do is change the texture of the background (which I did).

These statements are my attempts to describe what my Web site is about so visitors can make an informed decision about what's included on the Web site. For example, my Web site, as a personal Web site, does not necessarily "have to" have such statements. But, because I am interested in providing good quality information on the Internet, I make the effort to inform visitors of my intentions so they can judge for themselves. Such practices have become standard for entities that are interested in a presence on the World Wide Web.

If a Web site includes any information dealing with health, health issues, etc., it should have a disclaimer regarding whether such information can replace medical advice. In almost all cases, information on the Internet cannot be used in place of medical advice. Thus, there should be a statement to that effect so people seeking medical advice would know to go and see a physician, or healthcare professional. Something like "Note: The health information provided on this Web page (site) is intended to be general in nature and should not be relied upon for specific treatment or be considered medical advice. If you need personal medical attention, please contact a physician or healthcare provider."

This is especially true for public health information, which in most instances is consumer-oriented and meant to educate the public on current health issues. I have such a statement on my Quality of Health Information Page that serves as a disclaimer. I have found that visitors looking for consumer health information on my Web site check this statement more frequently than those visiting other types of pages.


Everything on the Internet should be considered copyrighted. Therefore, if you use materials from print, or anything appearing on another Web site, you should always make sure you have permission to do this, or, you can be sued for copyright infringement. If you put anything on the Internet taken from print, the source should be appropriately cited so visitors will be able to find where the material came from, and you won't get sued for copyright infringement. Similar to proper written referencing, direct quotes should be duly noted as such.

If you are using extensive portions of copyrighted works, you should get written permission from the publisher that you would like to use the material, and for what purpose the material will be used for. There is no guarantee the publisher will grant you permission if they feel it may be put the work in the wrong light. This is the power of copyright - those who hold it have a say as to how their work is used. Such lawsuits are becoming more and more common as Web pages are proliferating at an astounding rate.

Use of Graphics

The use of graphics can add to a site. However, graphics should be only used with permission if you did not create the graphic. Many graphic packages provide permission to use their graphics on your Web page. Some would only allow the use of their graphics on personal Web sites, and some set a limit to how many you can use. At one time, not too long ago, there was a practice of some Web sites developing links to graphics on other sites. This was done to save space on one's own site. THIS IS A MAJOR NO-NO, and you can get sued by that site's owner for using up his/her bandwidth (which they have to pay for). Graphics can be fun, but, be very careful about using graphics. Always know the source.

Internet and Intranets/Networks

Not everything is suitable for the Internet. Some materials are better suited for an internal network commonly known as an intranet. The concept of an intranet is similar to the Internet. Browser technology is used to access materials kept on a server in which all computers hooked up to that server can access it with the use of a browser. Intranets are ideal for sharing a wide variety of document types. If the material is meant for a specific target audience, then an intranet or internal network is probably the best way to share the information.

What makes for a quality Web site

A quality Web site reflects well on the site developer(s). What makes for quality print can be applied to Web publishing. This includes proper spelling and grammar.

Basic elements of a quality Web site include:

  • Page Headers on every page
  • Reference Page, if it is an academic exercise
  • Site Map
  • Site Search Engine

Essentially, these elements help visitors to get around a Web site without getting too lost. It also encourages visitors to come back if they feel they can find their way around. If you are really interested in what makes for a quality Web site, use the Web site Evaluation Template I have developed to evaluate any Web site you visit. Sources for this template include:

Unified Web Site Assessibility Guidelines - The official document for evaluating the quality of Web sites.

References used for developing these templates came from the following sources:

Template A:

Template B:

  • Oakton University (The link no longer functions)

3/5/2003 - There were 5 additional resources originally, but Xenu has identified them as "not found" so I have eliminated them from the page.

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PUBLISHED ON THE WEB: November 17, 2000; February 23, 2001
Updated: 12/27/2022 R179
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