Do it yourself Webdesign1

 

You have decided that you want a website and would like to create it yourself.

Honestly anyone with the patience and desire can easily design a website, so let’s take a look at a few of the basics.

SOFTWARE

What software are you going to use to create your website?  A website can be created simply by using any text editor such as notepad or wordpad.  This method of writing a website has been around since the beginning of the internet and requires knowledge of html structure and syntax.  Your website can be created using readily available software that requires little or no knowledge of html.  This is typically what we see today on the internet so let’s take a look at some of the programs you can use.

Microsoft Word and Microsoft Publisher – Simply create your webpage/s and then publish them to your site.  That is about all there is to it.  Although this method will work there are a few pitfalls.  Microsoft Word and Microsoft Publisher can create very nice and professional documents that look great when you view them locally on your computer.  This is no always the case once the page is published on the web.  There is a strong possibility that your pictures and text might be mis-aligned or not even visible on the webpage. 

Microsoft FrontPage and Microsoft Expression — Utilizing either of these two programs can create very professional looking websites.  Although, not required a basic knowledge of layout is important.  When using these two programs it is important that you decide on your page width and the importance of tables (read more about page layout below). Once you’ve master these you are off to good start.  Do make a note that once you publish your page/s to take a look at them with several web browsers.  What may look great in Internet Explorer may not look so good in Mozilla Firefox and visa versa.

Serif Web Plus  — This by far is has to be one of the easiest pieces of software to master with no knowledge of html.  One of the most important aspects of Web Plus is your page width and how to setup and use the master pages.  Once you have learned how to effectively accomplish these two steps the rest of the website will come together quickly.

CMS — Content Management sites are very nice, interactive and database driven.  There are many commercial and opensource CMS packages available and almost all will run right out of the box.  CMS packages almost always require a database and the setup for the “noobe” can be frustrating.  Site customization (look and feel) can be a bit more difficult for the new user.  CMS packages typically use asp or php which use different coding than html, think of these as html on steroids.  Databases are also pron to hacker attacks and a take over of your website.  A hacker must know your username and password to attack your html site, whereas with a database they can use scripts (sql injection) to re-write or create new content inside of your database.  In the event you use a CMS please make sure you setup security precautions and monitor your site regular ally.

I’ve only touched briefly on a few pieces of software.  There are many programs both commercial and open source that can be used when creating a web site.  Writing web pages and web sites is not technically difficult but one must have the time, patience and desire. 

GETTING STARTED

Your domain name:  The first step is to decide on your domain name and to find out if it is available.  You can use the “Find a Domain Name” tool on this site to see if the name you want is available.  Once you have found an available name you will need to register it.  There are many domain name registers on the internet — my preference is godaddy.com.  Your domain name should cost you less than $15.00 a year,  you can easily find a .com name for under $7.00.  Be aware that there are some registrars that will send emails and snail mails telling you that your name has expired and request over $35.00 a year for you to renew you name.  These companies are nothing more than scammers trying to get you to switch to there registrar at a higher price.

Web Host:  Now that you have registered your domain name you will need a spot to host your website.  A web host is nothing more than a computer connected to the internet where you place your web pages / site so that they are available on the internet.  You can actually set up a web host from your home or office PC but this is not recommended for the individual or small business.  Web Hosting prices vary from company to company and come with a variety of options.  My recommendation is for you to shop around and find one that offers the features you need.  A typically price for basic web hosting can run from $10.00 up.  Your  domain name registrar most likely offers web hosting for as an option for a small fee. (NOTE: Once you have web hosting you will need to make sure that the DNS setting found on your Domain Name Restisars control panel point to your web host)

Layout and Design: I am going to be very brief here and only touch on a few topics. 

Page Width: Your page width must reflect the size of the screen in pixels or percentage of the resolution size of the person viewing your web page.  People set their monitor resolutions at varying sizes.  One may have a resolution of 800 pixels wide by 600 pixels high, others with new flat panel screens may have a resolution of 1280 pixels wide and 1024 pixels high,  while others may have even higher resolutions.  For the sake of discussion let’s say you created you web pages using your monitor as a guide and your screen resolution is 1024 x 768,  this means anyone using a monitor with a resolution of 800 x 600 will have to scroll left and right to see the content of your web pages.

Tables and cells: You can create your web pages without tables and cells.  When you do this then there will be no page width constraints and your pictures and text can appear very “hap hazard”  once published.  My recommendation is to set up one master table with the desired width of your page.  I then add another table inside of the main table and place my content inside of this one.  Remember you can place tables inside of other tables in order to achieve that look that you desire.  Just try and not go wild when nesting your tables,  I try not to nest more than 3 tables inside one another.

Pictures and Photographs: Digital Cameras produce some very high quality photographs.  Remember to resize these when you add them to your website. Let’s say your photograph file size is 3 megabytes, simply resizing this inside your software may change the size of the photograph but it does not change the file size.  This means that you may be presenting a smaller picture to the user but the file size is still 3 megabytes, your page may take a while to appear.  I suggest that you use  software to resize your photograph to the  size you want to present on your website.  This will greatly reduce the file size and increase the time in which your web page will load.

Extras: Some fun extras might include flash or JavaScript content. 

  • Flash require that you either find a free Flash presentation or you create one yourself. Adobe Flash is a very nice program but not for the novice or faint of heart.
  • JavaScript on the other hand is a bit easier to use. There are literally thousands of free JavaScript snippets you can added to your website and you need to know very little of how to write JavaScript. Typically you find the script you would like and copy the code right into your webpage.
  • Animated Graphics are not hard to create and there are both commercial and opensource software available on the internet. My only suggestion is not to go overboard. Animated graphics are nice but can become a distraction.

Getting my pages on my website: Once you’ve designed you site you will need to get onto your web host.  Some programs like Microsoft FrontPage, Microsoft Expression and Serif Web Plus have a built in feature that will assist you in doing this.  The other option is to FTP your web pages to your website.  There are both commercial and opensource FTP programs available on the internet.  FTP (file transfer protocol) can be thought of a drag and drop.  No file formatting is performed and it simply places the file from your PC on to the web server.  In all the cases above you will need to know the web server address (typically your domain), and the user name and password for uploading your files.

I have breifly disscussed the steps to create your own website.  These steps are very basic and barely scratch the surface of web development and design. 

For those you that desire to create a personal website and have the time, patience and desire, I encourage you to explore and enjoy the satisfaction that can come from creating your own site. 

For the small business owner I recommend that you hire  a reputable web designer or company that knows the ins and outs of web design.  You will find that there are many individuals and companies on the internet and your local communtiy that can create a very nice professional site that reflects your business.  Cost for web hosting and design can vary greatly.  Webspacetoday for example caters to the individual and small business.  For the indivdual we offer basic hosting for as little as $10.00 a month.  For the small business owner who needs development and updates we can provide a basic site for as little as $125.00 for hosting and desing and $30.00 a month in updates and maintenance.

(NOTE: When hiring a web design and hosting service, I recommend that you take the same approach as you would with any contractor.  Never give them all the money upfront!  An upfront fee may be required but be wary.  There are some who claim to be able to host and design but are only interested in your dollar.  Ask questions, speak to others who have used their services.)

 

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