Getting back to Webmastering

The last time I made a living at webmastering was about ten years ago. It was for a catalog electonics retailer who had heard about the interwebs and decided that they needed to be there. So they got me some books and I started in. I designed and wrote the code for an online catalog of somewhere north of 400 pages and it worked fine. Today it’s

When I started I had been writing HTML code entirely by hand in addition to my previous job using Photoshop on the pictures for the catalog. Authoring software came along later and I used it a bit.

Now I’m thinking about making some websites for some non-profit institutions for friends and I wanted to know what I need to re-learn. So that’s the basis for my questions. Here they are:

In addition to HTML I used Perl. Do I still need to know Perl? ‘Cause I never knew more than what it took to make other peoples’ scripts do what I wanted for forms and stuff.

I expect I’d have to learn Flash. Which version? Can you recommend good books or online resources?

I also expect I’d have to learn Java too. Same questions as above.

I can’t remember the name of the FTP tool that I used for uploading. It might have been Cool FTP or HotDog, so what would you suggest?

What have I missed? In addition to the above, what will I need to make fairly good, but not-necessarily stellar, websites for small museums and stuff?


CSS has got to be the first thing you add to your repertoire at this juncture, I think. No more tables for layout.

Filezilla for the FTP.

Ditto what tumbleddown said.


Not sure if flash is essential. I am prioritising CSS and PHP myself. Not even Java (yet)

ETA: In fact, IMO, more often than not, the worst websites are the ones that use too much flash. And more often than not the best websites happen to use no flash at all (and will only use java to achieve some subtle effect in part of the site)

The doper named ZipperJJ is, in my experience, the most knowledgeable when it comes to all things web design. It would be worth getting her input.

You want to learn Javascript, not Java. And CSS, as they said.

If you’re working for non-profits you want to learn a free dynamic scripting platform, which would be PHP with a backend of MySQL.

IMHO you should consider learning the ins and outs of an app like Wordpress, or a content management system like Drupal. Using those apps gets most of the work out of the way and you just concentrate on tweaking the existing code to suit your clients’ needs. You will need to know PHP and a little bit about MySQL to tweak those.

You should also read up on SEO - search engine optimization. Getting your clients ranked in the top spot on Google searches is hard and takes a lot of skill (and money). But there are a LOT of free things you can do to get them promoted, and a lot of things to do in your code to make sites more search engine friendly. Wordpress and Drupal will take care of a lot of that for you but you still will need to do a little legwork.

PHP is a great development environment if you want to learn to be a terrible programmer.


The OP wants to be a webmaster not a programmer. What else do you suggest? ASP.NET?

Aaaaaahhhhhhh!! Anything but ASP please. :slight_smile: I just like to insult PHP because its design is so utterly incompetent and it encourages terrible habits regarding software design. If you’re interested in doing backend web development, there are far better choices, like Python, Perl, or Ruby. Or even Java, which I despise with all my being.

But if you’re interested in doing front-end development, then semantic markup, CSS, and JavaScript is what you need to know. JavaScript is a wonderful language, especially if you use one of the modern frameworks that abstracts the utter shit that is the DOM API.

Fortunately I have no reason to do the work to remain on the bleeding edge. The most complicated thing I have in mind so far might be an interactive map or a Flash-driven slideshow or something. There’s a lot of good suggestions here, is this the consensus or have we missed something?

And thanks again!

Don’t bother trying to learn Flash if you’re just going to do very simple stuff. Instead, look in to code-based options.

If you end up using Drupal, there are Slideshow Plugins for it. Same with Wordpress.

If you just make your own sites, you can find PHP slideshows and Javascript slideshows for free.

If you insist on using Flash, there are a lot of pre-made SWFs for that too.

I agree. Flash is being used way too much lately. The new web standards are trying to fix that, and I’m hoping they will succeed.

I’ll throw in a link to a Javascript interactive map, even.

Ahahahaha. Unless Silverlight makes it into the official spec, I doubt HTML5 can make it.

Does that mean that they don’t want you to use them for paying work? Because eventually I would like to return to getting paid for my web work, after and along with doing the volunteer work for the nonprofits.

And everyone - you folks are the coolest! I really, really appreciate all the help and suggestions!

Underfunded nonprofit cultural organizations thank you, my wife thanks you, my cats thank you… and I thank you.

Nah. Since Javascript is client-side code, it’s all “out there.” It’s a free-for-all when it comes to JS. Sometimes people/sites ask that you put a little nod to the creator in the source, which is only fair. Plus, no one’s script is going to work just like you want it so you’ll have to hack it up and expound on it anyway.

The Web is awash with free code. Even server-side code. It’s quite altruistic that way. I haven’t found a coding answer in a book since 1999.