Title:
Method for authoring, developing, and posting electronic documents
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method for authoring, developing, and posting an electronic document is performed in a system which includes an author computer (102) operated by an author, and a developer system (110) which includes a developer computer (114) operated by a developer. After a qualification procedure (214-242) which includes sending (233) an auto-response message to an e-mail address indicated by the author, the developer system sends (312) the author a document authoring page (370) over a first network (120). Using the document authoring page, the author enters (316) certain information describing a Web page which the author desires to have created. The author computer sends (322) that information to the developer system, and a developer modifies (330) an HTML document describing the Web page to put it in a form that is ready for posting to a network server (116, 130). After the author approves (344) the final HTML document, the developer system posts (348) the document to the server. The Web page associated with the final HTML document is then accessible for viewing over the second network.



Inventors:
Thomas III, Distefano L. (Boca Raton, FL, US)
Application Number:
10/418470
Publication Date:
10/16/2003
Filing Date:
04/18/2003
Assignee:
DISTEFANO THOMAS L.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
715/221, 715/255, 707/E17.116
International Classes:
G06F15/00; G06F17/30; G06Q40/00; (IPC1-7): G06F15/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
RIES, LAURIE ANNE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Shutts & Bowen LLP (West Palm Beach, FL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A method for developing a network-accessible electronic document comprising the steps of: a) receiving a document authoring page in an electronic format from a developer system; b) creating, by an author computer which is separate from the developer system, a first electronic document which includes author-specified information specified by an author of the first electronic document, wherein the first electronic document is created using the document authoring page; c) sending the first electronic document across a first network to a developer computer which is part of the developer system; d) receiving, over the first network from the developer computer, a modified document, wherein the modified document is based on the first electronic document and includes additional information; and e) displaying, by the author computer, a graphical display defined by the modified electronic document.

2. The method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the step of creating the first electronic document comprises the steps of: b1) creating a hypertext document which describes a Web page which is blank; and b2) modifying the hypertext document to include the author-specified information, wherein the author-specified information relates to content of the Web page.

3. The method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the step of sending the first electronic document comprises the steps of: c1) receiving a request from the author to submit the first electronic document; and c2) as a result of the receiving the request step, sending the first electronic document to the developer computer over an Internet.

4. The method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the step of receiving the modified document comprises the step of receiving a hypertext document.

5. The method as claimed in claim 4, wherein the step of receiving the modified document comprises the step of receiving the hypertext document via e-mail over an Internet.

6. The method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the step of displaying comprises the steps of: e1) invoking a display tool capable of displaying the modified electronic document; and e2) displaying the modified electronic document using the display tool.

7. The method as claimed in claim 6, wherein the step of invoking the display tool comprises the step of invoking a Web browser.

8. The method as claimed in claim 1, further comprising, before the step of sending, the steps of: f) storing the first electronic document in a memory device associated with the author computer; g) retrieving the first electronic document from the memory device; and h) allowing the author to further specify information within the first electronic document.

9. The method as claimed in claim 1, further comprising, before the step of receiving the document authoring page, the steps of: f) determining whether the author is qualified to access the document authoring page; g) if the author is qualified, allowing the author to access the document authoring page; and h) if the author is not qualified, not allowing the author to access the document authoring page.

10. The method as claimed in claim 9, wherein the step of determining comprises the steps of: f1) prompting the author to choose between options of inputting a previously-assigned password and obtaining a new password; f2) if the author selects an option of obtaining a new password, performing the steps of prompting the author for author data and submitting the author data to the developer system, and if the developer system indicates that the author is qualified, receiving a password from the developer system, notifying the author of the password, and allowing the author to access the document authoring page, and if the developer system indicates that the author is not qualified, receiving an indication from the developer system that the author is not qualified, notifying the author of the indication, and not allowing the author to access the document authoring page; and f3) if the author selects an option of inputting a previously-assigned password, performing the steps of sending the previously-assigned password to the developer system, if the developer system indicates that the author is qualified, allowing the author to access the document authoring page, and if the developer system indicates that the author is not qualified, not allowing the author to access the document authoring page.

11. The method as claimed in claim 1, further comprising before the step of receiving the document authoring page, the steps of: f) prompting the author for an author's e-mail address; g) submitting the author's e-mail address to the developer system; and h) if the author's e-mail address is legitimate, receiving an auto-response from the developer system as a result of performing the submitting step.

12. A method for developing a network-accessible electronic document, the method performed by a developer system, the method comprising the steps of: a) providing, by the developer system, a document authoring page in an electronic format over a first network to an author computer that is separate from the developer system; b) receiving, by a developer computer within the developer system, a first electronic document from the author computer, wherein the first electronic document includes author-specified information specified by an author of the first electronic document, and the first electronic document was created using the document authoring page; c) displaying, by the developer computer, a graphical display defined by the first electronic document; d) modifying the first electronic document to include additional information, wherein the additional information is specified by a developer of the first electronic document, and the modifying step results in a modified electronic document; and e) sending the modified electronic document across the first network to the author computer.

13. The method as claimed in claim 12, wherein the step of receiving comprises the step of receiving a hypertext document.

14. The method as claimed in claim 13, wherein the step of receiving comprises the step of receiving the hypertext document via e-mail over an Internet.

15. The method as claimed in claim 13, wherein the step of modifying the document includes the steps of: d1) modifying content of the first electronic document in accordance with developer-specified information; and d2) adding markup to the first electronic document in accordance with the developer-specified information.

16. The method as claimed in claim 12, wherein the step of displaying comprises the steps of: c1) invoking a display tool capable of displaying the first electronic document; and c2) displaying the first electronic document using the display tool.

17. The method as claimed in claim 16, wherein the step of invoking the display tool comprises the step of invoking a Web browser.

18. The method as claimed in claim 12, wherein the step of sending the modified electronic document comprises the steps of: e1) receiving a request from the developer to send the modified electronic document; and e2) as a result of the receiving the request step, sending the modified electronic document over an Internet.

19. The method as claimed in claim 12, wherein the modified electronic document is a hypertext document describing a Web page, and the method further comprises the step of posting the modified electronic document to a server computer.

20. The method as claimed in claim 19, wherein the step of posting comprises the step of posting the modified electronic document to a server computer that is part of the developer system.

21. The method as claimed in claim 12, further comprising, before the step of providing, the steps of: f) determining, by the developer system, whether the author is qualified to access the document authoring page; g) if the author is qualified, allowing the author to access the document authoring page; and h) if the author is not qualified, not allowing the author to access the document authoring page.

22. The method as claimed in claim 12, further comprising before the step of providing, the steps of: f) receiving, from the author computer, an author's e-mail address; g) sending an auto-response message to the author's e-mail address; and h) if the developer system receives an indication that the auto-response message is not deliverable to the author's e-mail address, not performing steps a-e.

Description:

[0001] This application is a continuation of presently pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/273,991 entitled METHOD FOR AUTHORING, DEVELOPING, AND POSTING ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTS filed on Mar. 22, 1999, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates generally to creating and posting Web pages to the Internet , and more specifically, to creating Web pages using a tool which facilitates interaction between the page author and a page developer.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] The World Wide Web (Web) has rapidly become an invaluable tool to individuals and businesses. Not only can an individual or business post information on the Web, but it can also use the Web to transact business. Because the public is acutely aware of the Web's business and personal benefits, millions of Web pages are being added to the Web each year.

[0004] Typically, a Web page is defined by a document containing HyperText Markup Language (HTML) code. An HTML document suitable for posting on the Internet includes both “content” and “markup.” The content is information which describes a Web page's text or other information for display or playback on a computer's monitor, speakers, etc. The markup is information which describes the Web page's behavioral characteristics, such as how the content is displayed and how other information can be accessed via the Web page.

[0005] In order to provide Web-based information and services over the Internet, the Web employs “client” computers, “browser” software, and “server” computers. A client computer is a computer used by an individual to connect to the Internet and access Web pages. A browser is a software application, located on a client computer, which requests, via the Internet, a Web page from a server. After receiving the page, the browser displays the page on the client computer's monitor. A server is a computer which stores Web page information, retrieves that information in response to a browser's request, and sends the information, via the Internet, to the client computer. Thus, after a Web page is created, the page must be “posted” to a particular server which “hosts” the page, so that the page can be accessed over the Internet.

[0006] In order to have one's Web page hosted by a server, the individual must contract with an Internet service provider (ISP) associated with the server. This contract specifies, among other things, the duration of the time that the ISP will host the page, and how much the individual will pay for that hosting service.

[0007] Even though the idea of having one's own Web page is appealing, the average individual has little or no knowledge about how to create a Web page. Particularly, the average individual does not know how to create an HTML document or to post that document to a server. Unless that individual is willing to learn how to create and post their own Web page, that individual is faced with few options.

[0008] The most commonly used avenue for an individual to get his Web page on the Internet is to employ one of numerous companies to provide, for a fee, Web page development services. After contacting such a company, the individual would meet with one of the company's Web page designers to explain the individual's concept for his Web page. The designer would then create the associated HTML document. After approval by the individual, the designer may provide the service of posting the Web page to a server. The server typically is not associated with the page development company. Thus, the individual must separately contract with an ISP associated with the server to host the Web page.

[0009] Typically, this Web page creation and posting process is time consuming and expensive, because it requires the individual and the designer to spend a significant amount of time together working on a particular page design. In addition, the process is inefficient because the individual must work separately with a designer and an ISP.

[0010] What is needed, therefore, is a method for enabling an individual to conveniently design a Web page without requiring that individual to learn HTML or to interact extensively with a Web page designer. What is further needed is a streamlined method for page development and posting.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] The present invention provides a simple method for authoring, developing, and posting electronic documents, including Web pages. In one embodiment of the present invention, the method enables a document author to create, using the author's computer and a document authoring page that is provided by a separate developer system, an electronic document which includes author-specified information. The author causes that electronic document to be sent to a developer associated with that developer system who, in turn, modifies the document and sends it back to the author for display on the author's computer. After approval of the modified document, the developer system can facilitate posting the document to a server.

[0012] A further understanding of the nature and advantages of the invention described and claimed herein may be realized by reference to the remaining portions of the specification and the attached drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

[0013] FIG. 1 illustrates a system in which the method of the present invention can be practiced;

[0014] FIG. 2 illustrates a flowchart of a method for qualifying an author in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0015] FIG. 3 illustrates a flowchart of a method for authoring, developing, and posting a Web page in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 4 illustrates a document authoring page in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention; and

[0017] FIG. 5 illustrates a flowchart of a method for entering Web page information in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0018] FIG. 1 illustrates a system in which the method and apparatus of the present invention can be practiced. System 100 includes author computer 102, developer system 110, first network 120, second network 122, and server computer 130. Author computer 102 and developer system 110 are capable of communicating with each other over first network 120. In a preferred embodiment, first network 120 is the Internet. In alternate embodiments, first network 120 could be a local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), or some other type of network.

[0019] At least one computer of developer system 110 is capable of communicating with server computer 130 over second network 122. In a preferred embodiment, second network 122 also is the Internet and, thus, first network 120 and second network 122 are the same. In alternate embodiments, second network 122 could be a LAN, WAN, or other network which is separate from or the same as first network 120. In a preferred embodiment, developer system 110 is separate from author computer 102, so that the services provided by developer system 110 can be offered to a large quantity of authors who use author computers.

[0020] In a preferred embodiment, developer system 110 includes individual computers 112, 114, 116 and data storage device 118. In a preferred embodiment, computers 112, 114, 116 and data storage device 118 are interconnected through a LAN, although they could also be interconnected through a WAN or other network. In alternate embodiments, one or all of computers 112, 114, 116 could have separate data storage devices, rather than sharing data storage device 118. For ease of description, FIG. 1 illustrates only one author computer 102, marketer computer 112, developer computer 114, and server computers 116, 130. Most likely, system 100 would include potentially millions of author computers, and multiple marketer computers, developer computers, and server computers.

[0021] FIG. 1 shows three computers 112, 114, 116, where one serves as a marketer's computer 112, a second serves as a developer's computer 114, and a third serves as a server 116. In a preferred embodiment, marketer's computer 112 is used by a human “marketer”, who participates in the Web page development process in a marketing and sales capacity. Developer's computer 114 is used by a human Web page “developer”, who participates in the Web page development process by helping to create a viable Web page document. Server computer 116 serves as an ISP which provides network access to Web pages authored and developed in accordance with the method of the present invention. In an alternate embodiment, some or all of the Web pages created in accordance with the present invention could be posted to server 130 which is not part of developer system 110, rather than to server 116. In such embodiment, server computer 116 may not be necessary.

[0022] System 100 facilitates implementation of the method of the present invention. As will be described in more detail below, a human user, referred to as an “author”, uses services provided by developer system 110 to author an electronic document (e.g., a Web page). In a preferred embodiment, before being granted access to those services, the author must be “qualified” and issued a unique password. This qualification process is described in detail in conjunction with FIG. 2.

[0023] After being qualified, the developer system 100 sends the author a “document authoring page” in electronic format. During the authoring process, author computer 102 creates an HTML document using the document authoring page. After document authoring is complete, author computer 102 sends the HTML document over first network 120 to developer computer 114 within developer system 110.

[0024] In a preferred embodiment, the document is an HTML document which defines certain content and markup for a particular Web page. After receiving the document, a developer uses developer computer 114 to display the Web page associated with the HTML document. In a preferred embodiment, developer computer 114 displays the document using a display tool (e.g., a Web browser or e-mail program capable of displaying HTML documents) that is located on developer computer 114. The developer can then modify the document and send the modified document back to author computer 102 over first network 120.

[0025] In a preferred embodiment, the modified document also is an HTML document defining the Web page, except that the modified document includes more markup and, possibly, more or different content from the original document. After receiving the modified document, author computer 102 displays the Web page associated with the modified HTML document. In a preferred embodiment, author computer 102 displays the document using a display tool (e.g., a Web browser or e-mail program capable of displaying HTML documents) that is located on author computer 102. If the author indicates to the developer that the Web page is acceptable, then the developer can post the modified document to server computer 116, so that the associated Web page becomes accessible over second network 122. Alternatively, the developer can post the modified document to server computer 130, which is separate from developer system 110. If the author indicates that the Web page is not acceptable, the developer and the author can work together to further modify the document. Authoring, developing, and posting the Web page document is described in detail in conjunction with FIG. 3.

[0026] As described previously, in a preferred embodiment, an author is “qualified” by the development system before the development system grants the author access to its document authoring services. FIG. 2 illustrates a flowchart of a method for qualifying an author in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The method involves the participation of an author, an author computer (e.g., author computer 102, FIG. 1), a developer system (e.g., developer system 110, FIG. 1), and a marketer. For ease of illustration, FIG. 2 separates into columns the tasks which, in a preferred embodiment, are performed by each of these entities.

[0027] The method begins, in step 202, when an author asks its author computer to open a Web browser. In response, the author computer opens the Web browser and makes an initial connection to the Web in step 204.

[0028] In a preferred embodiment, the developer system offers document authoring services to its customers (e.g., the author) via the developer system's Web site. After accessing the developer system's Web site, the author must first perform a qualification procedure. The qualification procedure is performed using a “qualification” page within the Web site. The qualification page prompts a potential author for information which the developer system uses to determine whether that author is “qualified” to use the document authoring page.

[0029] In step 206, the author informs its author computer to request the qualification page associated with the developer system. The author computer sends that request, in step 208, to the developer system. In step 210, the developer system sends the Web site's qualification page to the author computer which, in turn, displays the page in step 212.

[0030] In a preferred embodiment, the author then has three options from which to choose in step 214. The qualification page prompts the author to select between at least the first two of these options. First, the author could enter a password that was previously assigned to the author. Second, the author could request a new password. Third, the author could quit and exit the site. This third option could be done, for example, by the author quitting the browser, or by the author directing her browser to go to a different site. If the author indicates, in step 214, that the author wishes to quit, then the site connection is terminated, in step 216, and the method ends.

[0031] If, in step 214, the author indicates that she wants to enter a previously-assigned password, then, in step 218, the author enters that password into the appropriate component of the displayed qualification page, and submits the password (e.g., by clicking a “submit” button on the qualification page). The author computer sends the password to the developer system in step 220. The developer system then determines, in step 222, whether the password is valid (i.e., whether it corresponds to a previously-qualified author). If not, then the developer system sends an access denied message to the author computer in step 224. The author computer, in turn, displays an access denied message to the author in step 226, and the author may again select one of the three options possible in step 214.

[0032] If, in step 222, the developer system determines that the password is valid, then the method proceeds, as shown at method exit point “A”, to the document authoring phase of page development. The document authoring phase is described in detail in conjunction with FIG. 3, below.

[0033] If, in step 214, the author selects the option of getting a new password, then the author is prompted to enter and submit certain author data in step 230. In a preferred embodiment, author data is entered into data entry components on the qualification page. In an alternate embodiment, the developer system could provide a different page into which the author enters the author data. Author data desirably includes information which: 1) facilitates identification and communication with the author (e.g., name, company information, telephone numbers, physical and e-mail address); and 2) provides useful information for future marketing efforts (e.g., occupation, age, hobbies, and other personal information).

[0034] After the author has entered all required information and indicated that the author would like that information submitted, the author computer, in step 232, sends the author data to the developer system. In a preferred embodiment, in step 233, the author system then sends an auto-response message to the e-mail address which the author included in the submitted author data. The auto-response could, for example, be a message that welcomes the author and indicates that the author data has been received. The auto-response feature provides at least two advantages. First, it provides nearly immediate feedback to the author. Second, it provides the developer system with a mechanism to screen out some illegitimate submissions. If the auto-response comes back as undeliverable, for example, the developer system and its associated marketing and development departments would not have expended valuable resources before discovering that the submitted information was illegitimate.

[0035] If the provided e-mail address was a legitimate address for the author computer, then the author computer receives and displays the auto-response message in step 234. Otherwise, if the developer system receives an indication that the e-mail is undeliverable, then the method would end. In alternate embodiments, the auto-response steps 233 and 234 would not be performed, or would be performed at a later time.

[0036] The developer system then qualifies the author in step 235. In a preferred embodiment, author qualification, at a minimum, involves a determination of whether all required data was entered by the author. Such a process could be done without human interaction. In an alternate embodiment, a human could review the author data to determine whether the author should be qualified based on a set of pre-defined criteria. If the author is not qualified, the developer system could interact with the author (via author computer or otherwise) to attempt to qualify the author or to notify the author that the author is not qualified. If the author is not qualified, the developer system does not allow the author to proceed to the document authoring phase.

[0037] If the author is qualified, the developer system determines a new password for the author. In a preferred embodiment, each author has a unique password which the developer system uses to access author data and other information. In an alternate embodiment, multiple authors could be given the same password, and the developer system could use some other method for accessing data pertaining to a particular author.

[0038] Determination of a new password could be done by various methods. For example, the password could be selected from a list of available passwords. In an alternate embodiment, the password could be generated by a random number generator and cross-checked to make certain that it was not identical to any previously-issued passwords. In another alternate embodiment, the password could be based on some item of author data such as the author's social security number, for example.

[0039] After qualification and selection of a password, the developer system sends, to the author computer in step 236, a message indicating that the author is qualified and including the new password. The author computer then displays the qualification and password message in step 238. In a preferred embodiment, the author may then select the option, in step 214, of entering the password and accessing the document development page or quitting. In an alternate embodiment, the author may automatically be granted access to the document authoring phase, thus proceeding to method exit point “A”.

[0040] After qualification in steps 234 and 236, the developer system also sends a notification to a marketer associated with the developer system in step 240. In a preferred embodiment, the notification message is sent to a marketer's computer which is part of the developer system. The marketer can then perform follow-up in step 242, if necessary. For example, the marketer may then telephone or e-mail the author to send a “welcome” message or to obtain additional information.

[0041] After the author has been qualified, the next phase of Web page development is the actual authoring, development, and posting of a page. FIG. 3 illustrates a flowchart of a method for authoring, developing, and posting a Web page document in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The method involves the participation of an author, an author computer (e.g., author computer 102, FIG. 1), a developer system (e.g., developer system 110, FIG. 1), and a developer. For ease of illustration, FIG. 3 separates into columns the tasks which, in a preferred embodiment, are performed by each of these entities.

[0042] In a preferred embodiment, the method begins after an author has been “qualified” by the developer system in accordance with the method of FIG. 2. This is illustrated by beginning the method of FIG. 3 at method entrance point “A”, which corresponds to method exit point “A” from FIG. 2. In an alternate embodiment, the method could be implemented without qualifying the author, or qualifying the author at a different time.

[0043] The method begins, in step 302, when the developer system sends a design package selection page to the author computer. In a preferred embodiment, the design package selection page includes several design packages from which the author may select. Each package includes different features which the developer system could provide to the author, and each package may be priced differently. In a preferred embodiment, the author would be informed of the price of each package along with the list of features included in the package. For example, a particular package may include a set of the following features, although more, fewer or different features could be offered: 1) obtaining a unique Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for the Web page; 2) including graphics; 3) including hypertext code (e.g., Java applets); 4) including animated GIFs; 5) including a certain number of e-mail accounts; 6) providing a CD ROM with marketing solutions; 7) providing Web page access on the developer system server; 8) providing storage space on the developer system; 9) providing a certain period of hosting by the developer system server; 10) providing message boards; 11) providing data entry capabilities; 12) providing links to other Web sites; and 13) providing chat capabilities.

[0044] In a preferred embodiment, the design package selection page also would include the ability for the author to enter payment information. For example, the author would indicate whether she intended to pay via credit card (along with her credit card information), check or some other payment method.

[0045] In step 304, the author computer displays the design package selection page. The author then selects a particular package and submits her selection in step 306. The author computer sends the selection to the developer system in step 308. In a preferred embodiment, the developer system would then send that information, in step 310, to those destinations and individuals associated with the developer system who have a need to know such information. For example, the information would be sent to the developer system's billing department and to a developer assigned to develop this particular Web page. The billing department would use the information to bill the author for the Web page development services provided by the developer system. The developer would use the information to make certain to include the appropriate set of features in the author's Web page. The information also would be stored in conjunction with the author data for reference when needed.

[0046] In an alternate embodiment, the developer system may provide only a single design package. In still another alternate embodiment, the developer system could wait until the author has entered all Web page information, as described below in step 316, including all features that the author desires, before calculating the price that the author would be charged for the page development services. In such an embodiment, steps 302-310 also would not be necessary. Instead, an additional step (not shown) of calculating the package price would be performed later in the method.

[0047] After the author has selected a design package, the method continues, in step 312, when the developer system sends a document authoring page to the author computer. The author computer displays the document authoring page in step 314. In a preferred embodiment, the document authoring page is sent in the form of an HTML document. The Web page corresponding to the HTML document includes various components which enable an author to specify information and parameters pertaining to the electronic document (e.g., the Web page) which the author wishes to create. Specifically, the document authoring page would enable the author to specify various content and markup which the author would like to include in the author's Web page.

[0048] FIG. 4 illustrates a document authoring page 370 in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. In a preferred embodiment, document authoring page 370 has a visual appearance and helpful components which make it easy for the author to specify the content of the author's Web page and how that Web page will look. For example, in the preferred embodiment, the document authoring page includes a first area 372 which emulates the author's Web page, and a second area 374 which indicates various types of components 376 (e.g., text areas, buttons, links, banners, graphics, etc.) which the author could include on her Web page, if desired. In a preferred embodiment, document authoring page 370 also would include a third area 378 which includes instructions and other information provided by the developer system. In addition, document authoring page 370 also could include one or more areas 380 into which the author could enter text or other information which would be incorporated into or included on the author's page. In a preferred embodiment, one or more of areas 372, 374, 378, and 380 could have hidden portions that could be scrolled through, in order to enable the hidden portions of those areas to include more information than is readily displayable on the author computer's screen. In addition, in a preferred embodiment, the emulated page displayed within first area 372 would be scalable, so that the entire emulated page could be displayed within first area 372, or a detail of the page could be “blown up” and displayed within first area 372.

[0049] Initially, the emulated Web page in first area 372 would look like a blank Web page, and the author would be able to “drag and drop” various types of components 376 onto the emulated page. The author would also be able to label those components, if appropriate, and to input and place blocks of text and other information on the emulated page.

[0050] In alternate embodiments, the document authoring page would not include an emulated page area. Instead, the author would be prompted in other ways to specify what components and text would be included on the page, and possibly the author's desired locations for those components and text segments. In these embodiments, the author likely would not be provided the ability to drag and drop components. Numerous different layouts for the document authoring page could be readily contemplated based on the description provided herein.

[0051] Referring back to FIG. 3, in step 316, the author enters page information describing the author's desired Web page into the document authoring page. Entrance of page information is described in more detail in conjunction with FIG. 5.

[0052] In step 318, the author computer creates an HTML document which includes the information specified by the author. The HTML document would include content and, possibly, markup. In a preferred embodiment, the HTML document is created and modified simultaneously with step 316, and, before the author enters any page information, initially describes a Web page that is blank. The HTML document is then modified each time the author enters a new piece of information. In an alternate embodiment, the HTML document is created when the author is finished entering all author-specified information.

[0053] In a preferred embodiment, the author is able to store the HTML document locally on the author computer. For example, the author may not wish to start and finish the editing process in a single Internet session. Thus, the author would be given the option to store the partially-edited document and disconnect from the developer system's Web site. The author would then be able to re-access the document authoring page at a later time, retrieve the stored HTML document from the author computer's local memory, and continue the authoring session. In an alternate embodiment, the HTML document could be stored by the developer system between authoring sessions.

[0054] Once the author is finished specifying information the author would like to include on the author's Web page, the author requests that the HTML document be submitted in step 320. In a preferred embodiment, document submittal is performed when the author clicks a “submit” button on the document authoring page. The author computer then sends the document to the developer system in step 322. In a preferred embodiment, the document is sent via e-mail over the Internet. In alternate embodiments, the document could be sent in some other manner.

[0055] Once the developer system has received the author-specified document, the developer system notifies a developer, in step 324, that such a document has been received. In step 326, the developer then requests that the document be displayed on a developer's computer which is part of the developer system. In a preferred embodiment, the document is displayed when the developer invokes a display tool (e.g., a browser or e-mail program) that is capable of displaying electronic documents, such as Web pages, in the form of graphical displays.

[0056] The document is displayed by the developer computer in step 328. The developer can then, in step 330, enter modifications to the document in the form of additional or different content and/or markup. In a preferred embodiment, modifications are entered by the developer modifying the HTML document associated with the page. In an alternate embodiment, the developer could enter modifications using a document authoring tool similar to the document authoring page initially used by the author to create the HTML document.

[0057] Some modifications could pertain to the page content, and some modifications could pertain to the markup. Desirably, the developer would telephone or e-mail the author (using information entered by the author during the qualification phase, FIG. 2) to discuss the author's proposed Web page and the developer's suggested changes and additions. Alternatively, the developer and author could communicate through some other means (e.g., through online chat or e-mail exchanges).

[0058] The developer desirably is an expert in the field of Web page authoring and design, and could suggest to the author various modifications which may make the Web page more visually effective. In addition, the developer could suggest modifications which may make the Web page better suited for its intended purpose. For example, if the author's Web page is primarily for the purpose of conducting e-commerce, then the developer could suggest various components which facilitate e-commerce transactions. The developer also could discuss, with the author, the author's intended audience, so that the developer could add markup and other features to the author's page which would make the page more likely to be accessed by the intended audience. The developer also may make modifications (e.g., by adding additional markup) to the document which the developer does not need to discuss with the author.

[0059] While the developer is modifying the HTML document, or when the developer indicates that he is done modifying the document, the developer computer displays the Web page associated with the modified HTML document in step 332. Once the developer has completed the initial round of modifications, the developer requests that the modified HTML document be sent to the author in step 334. The developer computer then sends the modified HTML document to the author computer in step 336. In a preferred embodiment, the document is sent via e-mail over the Internet. In alternate embodiments, the document could be sent in some other manner.

[0060] Once the author computer has received the modified document, the author computer notifies the author, in step 338, that such a document has been received. In step 340, the author then requests that the document be displayed on the author computer. In a preferred embodiment, the document is displayed when the author invokes a display tool (e.g., a browser or e-mail program) that is capable of displaying electronic documents, such as Web pages, in the form of graphical displays.

[0061] The document is displayed by the author computer in step 342. The author then has the opportunity to review and approve the proposed Web page in step 344. If the Web page is in a format that is not acceptable to the author, then the author can modify the HTML document herself or request that the developer make further modifications. If the author does not desire (or is not able) to modify the HTML document herself, then she can contact the developer, via telephone, e-mail or otherwise, and request additional modifications. The process would then re-enter step 326, as indicated by method exit and entry points “B”. Otherwise, the author may modify the HTML document herself.

[0062] After the author approves the proposed Web page in step 344, the author notifies the developer that the Web page is ready for posting. The author could notify the developer via telephone, e-mail, or other means.

[0063] In step 346, the developer would then perform the actions necessary to post the modified HTML document to an appropriate server. As part of this process, the developer computer would send the HTML document to the appropriate server in step 348. The server could be a server which enables access to the page via the Internet, or the server could be part of a LAN or WAN that is not accessible to the public at large. Regardless, the server would post the document, in step 350, making the document available for viewing by others. As described previously, in a preferred embodiment, the server is a server associated with the developer system. The method then ends.

[0064] One additional service that the developer could provide is to help the author obtain and register a domain name. During steps 346 and 348, the developer would then make certain that the posted page is accessible by entering the URL corresponding to that domain name. Obtaining and registering a domain name could be performed by the author, the developer, or someone else.

[0065] FIG. 5 illustrates a flowchart of a method for entering page information in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. In a preferred embodiment, this method would be carried out by an author, using an author computer, in conjunction with step 316 of FIG. 3.

[0066] The method begins, in step 402, when the author selects a background color and pattern which the author prefers for the Web page being created. In a preferred embodiment, the document authoring page would show a first array of small buttons, each of which shows a color option, and a second array of small buttons, each of which shows a pattern option. The author would click on the button indicating which color she wants, and would click on the button indicating which pattern she wants. The emulated page portion of the document authoring page would be updated to show the selected background and background color.

[0067] Next, the author would select, in step 404, electronic music and/or graphics which the author would like her page to execute or display upon page download. In a preferred embodiment, a set of music and graphics would be available for the author to choose from. In an alternate embodiment, the author could input information enabling the page developer to obtain selected music and graphics. For example, the author could input information pointing to a particular Java applet available elsewhere on the Web.

[0068] In step 406, the author would then provide a list of all e-mail accounts which the author would like the developer system to establish. In a preferred embodiment, each e-mail account could include, as the domain name, the URL of the developer system server, some other server, or the author's page name.

[0069] Next, in step 408, the author would select the particular type of Web page that the author wishes to create, and a style for that Web page. The page type selection could be made from a list of page types. These page types could include the following, although more, fewer, or different types also could be included: 1) company profile; 2) history; 3) calendar; 4) related links; 5) services; 6) products; 7) news letter; 8) contact information; or 9) other (where the author would enter a description of the page type).

[0070] Similarly, the page style could be made from a list of page styles. These page styles could include the following, although more, fewer, or different styles also could be included: 1) professional; 2) comic; 3) art deco; 4) children's; 5) southwest; 6) loud; or 7) other (where the author would enter a description of the page style). Potentially hundreds of different page styles could be offered, and the styles could be categorized for ease of selection. In a preferred embodiment, the author would be able to select multiple styles (e.g., “comic” and “loud”).

[0071] In step 410, the author would drag and drop page components onto the emulated page. As described previously, various page components could include the following, although more, fewer, or different types could be provided: text areas, buttons, links, and banners. For certain types of components, the author would be prompted to input additional information. For example, if the author added a text area or a banner, the author would be prompted to input the associated text. If the author added a link, the author would be prompted to enter the URL corresponding to the link destination. If the author added a button, the author would be prompted to enter information (e.g., a URL of a particular Java applet) corresponding to the code to be executed when a user clicks that button.

[0072] In an alternate embodiment, information corresponding to components added to the page could be input at a later time. In still another alternate embodiment, the author may be provided some other way to include components on the page being authored. For example, in an embodiment where no emulated page is provided, the author could be prompted to input a list of desired components and their locations on the page, rather than dragging and dropping desired components onto an emulated page.

[0073] In step 412, the author would then select one or more fonts for the page's various text fields. For example, the author would be able to specify that a particular banner be displayed in Arial font at 18 points, while another text field would be displayed in Times font at 12 points. In a preferred embodiment, the document authoring page would list all page components for which a font selection is possible. The author would then specify, next to each component, the desired font. The fonts and font sizes could be selected from a list provided by the authoring page, or could be entered by the author in a text component. In an alternate embodiment, the author may be provided the option of selecting a single font and font size for all text and banner components which the author included on the page.

[0074] The method for entering page information then ends. Numerous alternate embodiments exist for the method described in conjunction with FIG. 3, as would be obvious to one of skill in the art. For example, the steps described could be performed in different orders, or particular steps could be combined. In addition, more, fewer or different page attributes could be available for an author to select and specify. The process by which the author specifies information also could be different. For example, instead of having the author click on one of a list of possible choices, the author may have to type in a description of a desired choice.

[0075] In a preferred embodiment, the page authoring options described in conjunction with steps 402-412 are provided on a single document authoring page, which the author scrolls down and uses to make selections. The authoring options provided would correspond to the features included in the design package selected by the author in step 306 (FIG. 3). In alternate embodiments, one or more of the authoring options could be provided on separate pages sent by the developer system.

[0076] Although the description of the method of the present invention specifies how a single Web page would be authored, developed, and posted, the method of the present invention also could be used to create an entire Web site comprised of multiple pages. In such an application, the author would create multiple pages, and would specify the appropriate linking between the pages using the method of the present invention.

[0077] Although the method described herein specifically describes the creation of a Web page defined by an HTML document, the method could be used to create many different types of electronic documents which may or may not eventually take the form of a Web page. In addition, the method discusses the exchange of HTML documents between the developer system and the author computer. In alternate embodiments, files in different formats could be exchanged.

[0078] Thus, a method and apparatus for authoring, developing, and posting an electronic document has been described which overcomes specific problems and accomplishes certain advantages relative to prior art methods and mechanisms. One advantage to the method and apparatus of the present invention is that it enables individuals who have little or no expertise related to creating or posting Web pages to specify parameters of a Web page that this individual would like to create and post. Another advantage of the present invention is that the individual can specify her Web page parameters using her own computer. Another advantage is that Web page development and hosting is done within a single Web page developer system, thus simplifying and streamlining the page development process.

[0079] The foregoing descriptions of the specific embodiments will so fully reveal the general nature of the invention that others can, by applying current knowledge, readily modify and/or adapt the embodiments for various applications without departing from the generic concept. Therefore, such adaptations and modifications should and are intended to be comprehended within the meaning and range of equivalents of the disclosed embodiments. In particular, while a preferred embodiment has been described in terms of authoring, developing, and posting an HTML document on the Internet, those of skill in the art will understand, based on the description herein, that the method and apparatus of the present invention also could be applied to authoring almost any type of electronic document, and posting that document on various other types of networks, including LANs and WANs.

[0080] Moreover, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the flowcharts presented herein are intended to teach the present invention and that different techniques for implementing program flow that do not necessarily lend themselves to flowcharting may be devised. For example, each task discussed herein may be interrupted to permit program flow to perform background or other tasks. In addition, the specific order of tasks may be changed, and the specific techniques used to implement the tasks may differ from system to system.

[0081] It is to be understood that the phraseology or terminology employed herein is for the purpose of description, and not of limitation. Accordingly, the invention is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications, equivalents, and variations as fall within the spirit and broad scope of the appended claims.