This question might seem silly. You wouldn't have bought this book if you didn't already have some idea of what you want to put online. But maybe you don't really know what you want to put on the Web, or you have a vague idea but nothing concrete. Maybe it has suddenly become your job to put a page for your company on the Web, and someone handed you this book and said, "Here, this will help." Maybe you just want to do something similar to some other web page you've seen and thought was particularly cool.
What you want to put on the Web is what I'll refer to throughout this book as your content. Content is a general term that can refer to text, graphics, media, interactive forms, and so on. If you tell someone what your web pages are about, you're describing your content.
What sort of content can you put on the Web? Just about anything you want to. Here are some of the types of content that are popular on the Web right now:
Stuff for work Perhaps you work in the accounting department and you need to publish the procedure for filing expense reports on your company's intranet. Or you're a software developer and you need to publish the test plan for your company's next software release on an internal web server. Chances are that you can publish some information on a web page at work that will save you from having to type it into an email every time someone asks you about it. Try it!
Personal information You can create pages describing everything anyone could ever want to know about you and how incredibly marvelous you areyour hobbies, your resume, your picture, things you've done.
Weblogs and journals Many people use the Web to publish their journals or their opinions on a weblog. Many people use content management applications to publish their journals or weblogs, but knowing HTML is still helpful for changing the look and feel of your site and sprucing up your individual entries or articles.
Hobbies or special interests A web page can contain information about a particular topic, hobby, or something you're interested in; for example, music, Star Trek, motorcycles, cult movies, hallucinogenic mushrooms, antique ink bottles, or upcoming jazz concerts in your city.
Publications Newspapers, magazines, and other publications lend themselves particularly well to the Web, and websites have the advantage of being more immediate and easier to update than their print counterparts. Delivery is a lot simpler as well.
Company profiles You could offer information about what a company does, where it's located, job openings, data sheets, white papers, marketing collateral, product demonstrations, and whom to contact.
Online documentation The term online documentation can refer to everything from quick-reference cards to full reference documentation to interactive tutorials or training modules. Anything task-oriented (changing the oil in your car, making a soufflé, creating landscape portraits in oil, learning HTML) could be described as online documentation.
Shopping catalogs If your company offers items for sale, making your products available on the Web is a quick and easy way to let your customers know what you have available as well as your prices. If prices change, you can just update your web documents to reflect that new information.
Online stores It's turned out that the Web is a great place to sell things. There are any number of sites that let just about anybody sell their stuff online. You can auction your goods off at eBay or sell them for a fixed price at half.com. Amazon.com lets you do both. You can also create your own online store if you want. There's plenty of software out there these days to make the task of selling things online a lot easier than it used to be.
Polling and opinion gathering Forms on the Web enable you to get feedback from your visitors via opinion polls, suggestion boxes, comments on your web pages or your products, or through interactive discussion groups.
Online education The low cost of information delivery to people anywhere with an Internet connection via the Web makes it an attractive medium for delivery of distance-learning programs. Already, numerous traditional universities, as well as new online schools and universities, have begun offering distance learning on the Web. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is placing teaching materials online for public use at http://ocw.mit.edu/.
Anything else that comes to mind Hypertext fiction, online toys, media archives, collaborative art...anything!
The only thing that limits what you can publish on the Web is your own imagination. In fact, if what you want to do with it isn't in this list or seems especially wild or halfbaked, that's an excellent reason to try it. The most interesting web pages are the ones that stretch the boundaries of what the Web is supposed to be capable of.
You might also find inspiration in looking at other websites similar to the one you have in mind. If you're building a corporate site, look at the sites belonging to your competitors and see what they have to offer. If you're working on a personal site, visit sites that you admire and see if you can find inspiration for building your own site. Decide what you like about those sites and you wish to emulate, and where you can improve upon those sites when you build your own.
If you really have no idea of what to put up on the Web, don't feel that you have to stop here; put this book away, and come up with something before continuing. Maybe by reading through this book, you'll get some ideas (and this book will be useful even if you don't have ideas). I've personally found that the best way to come up with ideas is to spend an afternoon browsing on the Web and exploring what other people have done.