Internet 101/ Collision Course

September 1998


Internet 101/ Collision Course

Navigating the Web can be confusing; here are a few tips

Unlike most communities, the World Wide Web wasn't built on a grid. It started as a couple of networks and exploded into millions of pages linked to pages. It is perhaps the freest medium in the world, a collage of unregulated ideas and information, a data seeker's utopia – until you actually have to find something, that is.

Sifting through such chaos for the first time can send you running back to the safer library card catalog. Here are tips on navigating the rocky Web roads.

Search Engines
The problem with most search engines is they turn up every page that includes your search word. (A search for "diamond" can produce anything from baseball news to the home page of a proud newlywed.) To hone your searches:

  • Rate your results. Search engines such as Infoseek (www.infoseek .com), Excite ( and Web-crawler ( rate their engines' certainty that the sites they find are related to your keyword. This process isn't flawless: Infoseek was 70% sure the Professional Photographers of Ohio home page would be helpful, but only 66% confident about a profile of De Beers Consolidated Mines.
  • Advanced searches. Many search engines now allow you to get more specific: you can do Boolean searches – a search technique used by libraries and databases that links terms with the words "and," "or" and "not" to combine or limit searches – to include second or third keywords, look for pages updated within a certain time frame, sort your results or search within specific Web sites. Even in standard searches, put quotation marks around a group of words if you want to turn up the entire phrase (e.g., "a diamond is forever").
  • Inter-site searches. If you're looking for information that's stored in large Web sites – such as New York Timesnews articles – they're most likely not going to turn up on the bigger search engines. Visit the site itself and look for the site-specific search engine, or go to the search engine Lycos ( and use the "advanced" search, which digs for keywords at certain URLs. If you're looking for news, the Drudge Report ( also allows you to search the Associated Press and Reuters news wires for keywords.

Deciphering a Web Site
Like in giant shopping malls, people entering a large Web site for the first time can be overwhelmed by the options, especially if they're looking for just one thing. Look for a few things to help you as soon as you hit the home page:

  • Site index. On larger sites, this is often provided on a separate page. It's especially helpful if sections have vague names or if the home page is too sparse or too busy.
  • Search. Sites with many pages often have "Search" buttons on their home pages; click there and enter a keyword.
  • Text-only. If the site is graphic-heavy and you want to find something right away, look for a "text-only" link on the home page. This will cut through the pictures to the information at hand.
  • About us. Most companies neglect to put their "snail mail" addresses or phone numbers on their home pages. Look for the "About us" or "Contact us" buttons on the home page.

Develop the habit of bookmarking pages you like or think you'll revisit. (Choose "Add" under the "Bookmark" menu in Netscape Navigator® or the "Favorites" menu in Microsoft Internet Explorer®.) Clean out and organize your bookmarks every couple of months by choosing "Bookmarks" under the "Windows" menu in Netscape and "Open Favorites" under the "Favorites" menu in Internet Explorer. Delete bookmarks you never use and rename them to make them more memorable.

Designate the page you use the most to load first when you open your browser. To do this in Netscape, choose "General Preferences" under the "Options" menu, and type in the URL beside "Home Page Location." In Internet Explorer, direct your browser to the URL you want to use as your home page, then choose "Options" under the "Edit" menu. Click on "Home/Search Page" and click "Use Current." Many people choose their personal or company home pages or daily news pages as their browser's "Home."

It takes awhile for bookmarking to become second nature; if you can't find a site again, type "about:globalhistory" in the URL location bar at the top of your browser for sites you've visited recently.

 Technical Potholes

Web designers use a little fancy footwork to make Web pages more interesting, but it can surprise beginners. Some things to watch for:

  • Frames. They come in and out of style among designers, but frames are used in many pages to separate navigation bars from content and maintain an identity throughout a site. Normally, you click on a constant side of the page while the other side changes. Be aware: Some browsers (anything below Netscape 2.0 and Internet Explorer 3.0) don't support frames. Web designers usually create non-frame versions of pages, where users are taken automatically if their browsers don't support the technology.
  • Java. This is a type of programming that allows designers more flexibility in designing pages, as well as more interactive capabilities. The problem is that only newer versions of browsers and computers with a lot of memory can handle Java-based pages. You'll receive an alert message if your browser doesn't support Java. Look for a non-Java version of the page or upgrade your browser to a new version (Netscape 3.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0).
  • Helpers. Occasionally you run into a page that requires a "plug-in," or helper application, to view the page because it contains sound, animation or video not supported by the browser itself. Most common are RealAudio files (recordings of songs or speeches), Quicktime movies (short video clips) and Shockwave (high-powered animation). Be aware: to view these files, you often have to download the required software program. There are dozens of them, and many of them cost money. Your browser will direct you to the recommended list of plug-ins, which you then download.

– S.K.

– by Stacey King




Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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