Building a Website--Impossible w/out Experience?

I’ve been thinking I would like to incorporate some new ideas into my employers website (not without their permission of course). However, I realize that the company they currently use may not like this, and want to do it themselves, which means charging us an arm and a leg. (We’re a nonprofit, and our budget is rather limited, and doesn’t include dropping the King Ransom on redesigning our website.) I was thinking though that if I had the skills (and my employer may be willing to let me learn at their dollar), I could incorporate some of my own ideas into the website. The problem is though is that I don’t have any–and I mean ANY–experience with designing a website.

How difficult would it be to build a website with little or no experience? Is it something the average person can do, someone who has limited experience working with computer programs? Is there a guide of some sort that can help? If not, just how does one go about becoming qualified to design a website?

I did some reading on HTML and designed this website right out of the box. The only previous experience I had was in posting pictures from a dopefest, and that really didn’t count because it was all just uploading pictures with an interface.

I designed and run this website for my hockey team, and have zero experience in website design. My advice would be to spend a couple of weekends reading everything you can get your hands on about HTML, CSS, and website design - once you get the hang of the basics getting a site together isn’t that hard, really.

Then find a handful of websites that you really like in terms of design and check out the sources (in IE, [View] - [Source]). Plagarism isn’t necessarily that frowned upon, although if you do completely copy an entire site it’s always good form to add a comment line or two in your code to let people know where credit’s due.

I had an old personal website with movies, pictures, yadda yadda, and all I ever did was View Source and figured out what codes did what. Of course, that was back when you could actually find pages without CSS and embeds and all that. But a simple, straightforward informational site can be written with just a little bit of coding.

Actually, most of it it still up at Feel free to poke around and view source.

It really depends on what you expect the site to accomplish. Starting from scratch with no knowledge of HTML or design, I would expect you to be able to easily put together a basic site consisting of a couple of linked pages with text and a few pictures. Basically, a brochure.

There are tons of places online where you can learn the basics, and for nonprofits you could even use a free template. If your employer is willing to put a little money into this you might be able to talk them into getting a basic WYSIWIG editor like Microsoft FrontPage. Although it’s not the best editor, it will do for most basic site design needs.

There’s a SoYouWanna article on basic HTML you might want to check out to start with.

I found a free template off of a website and modified it for mine…still needs some cleaning up especially on other pages than the main one. I have to look up html tags all the time to make sure I am doing things right.

My ten year old grandson set up a web site using not much more than WordPad and some online tutorials he found somewhere or another–he was just informed that his new computer has FrontPage loaded on it and he’s ecstatic…

I don’t code HTML myself much, but it doesn’t seem to tough–of course, I learned assembly language back in the day so most of the new stuff seems self explanatory… nonetheless, the syntax seems pretty simple and there are veritable buttloads of online resources for it…

It really isn’t hard at all, if you have the time to understand how it works. Google is amazing for this - you can figure out almost anything you want to know using Google.

I’d also suggest learning only basic HTML commands, then learn CSS as in depth as you need it. Check out the classic CSS Zen Garden. CSS almost always makes a more professional page.

And in the end, you can post your questions to the Dope. I know I’d be more than willing to answer anything you would need to know. In fact, I probably wouldn’t mind designing the site for you if you have no other options except for spending a lot of dough.

My only credentials is the Myspace I wrote for an event I am organizing, a Zombie Walk. Look here. It’s a little bit off, since Myspace is tedious to work with, but you get the general idea.

It depends on what you want to do (and how complex that is) and what the other company has done (and how much of a mess that is)

You could probably put together a simple, straightforward website from a blank slate in a weekend. However, if the company you currently use has made the decision “if we design this badly enough, they’ll have to hire us again to update it later because no one else will have the time or energy to wade through our crap,” even the simplest modification could take a long time.

Anyone can put together a webpage. A good webpage is another matter. I designed and published my first webpage within a week of getting on the net for the first time. It was a fully functional webpage and it conveyed the information that I wanted it to convey and I was proud of it at the time… but I wouldn’t use it to promote my business and I wouldn’t have trusted my skills for overhauling my company’s website at that point.

With WYSIWYG editing, like Microsoft Frontpage, anyone who has used a Word Processor is familiar with the basics involved and should be able to knock something together. However, I think it takes a bit more effort and experience to design a website that is both functional and professional-looking. Also, having access to some sort of graphic design package is helpful unless you plan to have a website that is nearly entirely text-based.

I’d suggest trying out some of your ideas at home before you take it on at work. You should be able to surf to your employer’s website like normal and open it in the program of your choice for editing - Frontpage, Dreamweaver, CoffeeCup, Notepad. Save it to your own computer and make your changes.

HTML and CSS are the easiest of programming langauges to learn, because they’re not really programming languages in the strictest sense of the term. They’re English-based which means that you can remember what the tags are with a word instead of a string of numbers and half-words.

I learned HTML using Front Page, but I really, really wouldn’t suggest it for any kind of a professional site. Once I learned how to code I stopped using editors of any kind. I run several sites, the main one being here. It’s not the best because I’m too lazy to update it (been working on something else as of late) but it’s not half bad.

The easiest place I know of to learn HTML, and I know, it’s really girly and immature looking but it’s GREAT at hammering in the knowledge, is Lissa Explains It All. I recommend that for all beginning web designers because it goes from “What is a browser/HTML/the Internet” to advanced CGI programming, teaching you all of the terms along the way.


One thing to think about is what the long-term goals of the website are, and to plan ahead accordingly. My original (personal) website was all hand-crafted static HTML, but as I added more and more stuff to it, creating new pages – and updating existing pages to link to them – got to be a colossal pain in the rear. Not to mention adding “fancier” stuff like image galleries, videos, blogs, so on and so forth. I ended up tossing everything and migrating everything over to a CMS, where I can just create new material as I want, and the software automatically does the grunt work with regards to navigation and formatting and theming.

As with anything else in life, a little early planning could save you headaches in the long run.

Most web sites designed by amateurs look exactly like a site designed by an amateur. There is a reason good web designers charge money for their services.

The most frequent mistake, in my opinion, is not paying attention to making sure the site works in a variety of environments. Amateur sites tend to be designed to look good when viewed with the same browser and screen resolution the author uses. When viewed in any other combination, they don’t work as expected, sometimes to an embarrassing degree.

So it really depends on how important the site is. Does it matter if it looks like crap to some of your visitors? If not, then go ahead and let an amateur do it.