7 Essential Online Tools for Non-Webmasters
by Jinger Jarrett

I've built and edited all of the web sites I use to run my
business. I wish I could take credit for the look, but I can't.

I purchased a nice business template I liked, to use as the 
basis for all of my sites. You don't have to do that though.

Even though I continue to maintain my sites myself, I couldn't 
do it if I didn't have some great tools that make it easy to do.

There are some really terrific tools you can get, for free, that 
can help you build and maintain an eye catching web site. You 
can even communicate with your customers or create interactive 
sections on your site that will continue to drive traffic to 
your site over and over.

All of the tools offered here are absolutely fr'ee to use.
Bookmark them and save yourself a ton of money and time.

1. Templates

If you're really ambitious, you can design your own web site
from scratch.

Unfortunately, creating and designing a web site from scratch 
can be time consuming and expensive. I have yet to find a free 
graphics editor that will help you create the kind of stunning 
graphics you will often see on the Web.

There are plenty of free web site templates available, even for 
business, and you can often use them by simply leaving a link to 
the site designer at the bottom of the page.

Free Site Templates (http://www.freesitetemplates.com)
This is my favorite. I once used their templates before I bought 
my own. You'll find hundreds of designs here, and no annoying pop 
up windows while you are browsing.

This site has recently undergone a redesign of its own and is 
very easy to navigate.

Free Web Templates (http://www.freewebtemplates.com) 
This site offers hundreds of free designs you can use. There are
also links to other resources, including graphics, newsletters, 
and affiliate programs.

2. Sales Page Template

This nifty little tool is one I stumbled across by accident while 
surfing the Web looking for something else. I haven't seen a 
template like this anywhere else.

It allows you to type in your information for your sales letter. 
You can preview what you've created first.

You definitely want to bookmark this site. The webmaster is
constantly adding new templates like this you can use for your 
business, and they're all free to use. If you have a newsletter, 
don't forget to add it to the directory while you are here.

3. Banner Creators

You'll find plenty of debate on the Web about whether or not you
should use banners on your web site. However, a banner creator
can serve another purpose for you: you can use it to create an
original and unique header for your own web site design.

Free Online Banner Creation
Rather than give you one or two links to some banner creators, 
you can go to this site. It offers several different places 
where you can find banner creation tools. Also includes a 
description of each site.

Cool Text (http://www.cooltext.com) 
If you are looking to create a text banner, this is a great 
place to start. You can also make logos for your business.

4. Graphics Editors

Graphics are definitely not my strong suit. I find graphics
programs to have a steep learning curve, and since I don't use
that many graphics on my web site, I don't have a graphics
program on my computer anymore.

Even if you don't use that many graphics on your web site,
occasionally you may need to change the size, or add text to 
a graphic you are using.

You'll find online graphics editors much easier to use than 
software. You can quickly crop your graphics or add text to them 
and have them done in a few minutes.

Gif World (http://www.gifworks.com/) 
This site has a complete graphics program online you can use to 
edit graphics or add text to them. It's very easy to use. The
only format is gif though.

You'll also see numerous links to graphics sites where you 
can find plenty of well designed, and free, graphics to use.

Image Majik 
You can use this online graphic editor to edit both jpeg and gif 
formats. It's also very easy to use.

JPEG Wizard Online Optimizer! (http://www.jpegwizard.com)
Since some graphics files can be quite large, causing them to 
load slowly, you can use this tool to optimize all of your 
jpeg files so they load quickly.

Spin Wave (http://www.spinwave.com/) 
Offers both jpeg and gif optimization and compression.

There's also another type of graphic editor you can use online 
if you need ebook covers for your web site. Below are two places 
I recommend.

Oritz (http://www.oritsfree.com/Free_Ebook_Covers.html)
Free Ebook Covers (http://freeebookcovers.homestead.com/covers1.html)

5. Interactivity (Javascript and CGI)

Ever wonder how webmasters create those cool special effects
on their web sites, or are able to offer message boards, chat,
classifieds etc.?

They use scripts.

There are two types of scripts I would recommend you become
familiar with: javascript and cgi.

Javascript is very easy because it usually only requires that 
you cut and paste the script into your site. Javascript can be 
used to create mail forms, tickers, popups, etc.

Cgi scripts perform more complex operations. They can be used 
for anything from members areas to classifieds, message boards 
and more advanced chat.

If you can read and follow instructions, you can easily set up 
your own killer applications on your web site.

How do I know this? Because I learned how to use javascript and 
cgi by reading and following the instructions.

Certainly, not all scripts will be that easy. Start with the 
simpler ones and learn how to use them. Once you feel comfortable 
with the easier scripts, try using more complex ones.

The most important thing to remember when using scripts,
particularly cgi, is that, you need to make sure you upload the 
files in ascii mode. Otherwise you can get some really nasty 500 
internal server errors that can be difficult to solve.


Java (http://www.jars.com) 
This site bills itself as the #1 java resource online. You'll 
find plenty of scripts for your site.

Java Boutique (http://javaboutique.internet.com/) 
Offers a number of applets and scripts including games. Very easy 
to use and set up.

CGI CGI Extremes (http://www.cgiextremes.com/) 
Searchable list of hundreds of cgi scripts.

Free Scripts (http://www.free-scripts.net/) 
Hundreds of CGI scripts nicely organized by category.

6. Customer Support

Providing support for your customers and affiliates is one of 
the most important things you can do on your web site.

At one time I used Human Click (http://www.humanclick.com)
on my web site. All of the top marketers recommended it.

Human Click changed to a pay model, and that left Bravenet 
(http://www.bravenet.com) as the only provider of free support.

A few weeks ago, when I was updating the messenger services on 
my computer, I stumbled across ICQ Panels.

ICQ Panels (http://www.icq.com/panels/) 
Allows you to have a complete messaging system on your web site 
for your customers. This includes a place where customers can 
send you email, as well as chat with you in real time over the
ICQ network. Customers can also easily page you, no matter
where you are.

I found it much easier to use, and ICQ has so many features 
that you can have a complete messaging system for your business 
without shelling out any money.

You can see a live example on my site:

7. Web Site Promotion

Sooner or later, once you have your web site set up, you'll want
to attract new visitors. Unlike the baseball field in "Field of 
Dreams", you have to do more than just build it to get customers 
to it.

Once again, I am recommending ICQ. It offers you an opportunity 
to promote yourself in many different ways. Here is a list:

Promote Yourself and Your Homepage on ICQ
Join or Start an ICQ Ring
Join the ICQ Banner Exchange
Post Your Special ICQ Site
Post Yourself on Popular Search Engines

ICQ (http://web.icq.com/webtools/pageme-distribute/)

Building a web site can be a time consuming and expensive 
process. Without the right tools, you can end up with a web
site that looks like a Picasso painting, instead of a
professionally designed virtual business presence.

Use these tools, and you'll have an established web presence 
that will keep your visitors coming back for more.

Jinger Jarrett is a former newspaper reporter and public relations
specialist who now runs her own online businesses. She will show 
you "How to Really Start Your Business in 30 Days". Get her free 
ecourse now. http://www.smallbusinesshowto.com