Help me learn to build a web-site.

I would like to build me a web-site. Now, I know you more computer literate people out there may not have time to sit beside me and walk me through it, so I was wondering if anyone had tried a web-site that teaches you how to build a web-site.

I have googled it and there seem to be a lot, any particular advice or recommendations?

I hope it will eventually be work related, so not too many whistles and bells! Probably lots of links though.

Thanks folks!
Wow, my first thread and I got through it without using a smiley

I am not a web site building expert by any means but I did try once - I used Front Page. I do not think it’s the preferred software of professional web site builders but I got some good experience playing around with it.

I started building sites in '96, so I’m old school. Frontpage is garbage… don’t even consider using it.

Are you planning on doing this professionally or just for yourself? What are your ultimate goals with your site?

The first step, no matter what your plan, is learning HTML. Go to the local bookstore and grab “HTML for Dummies” or something similar… preferably something that also emphasizes CSS. CSS and HTML are the building blocks of today’s (and the future) websites.

And finally, a piece of advice that may not make much sense to you until you get more involved in the world of CSS/HTML… as tempting as it is, do not use table-based layouts. You’ll thank yourself in the future for not taking this shortcut. Stick with simple websites and simple CSS until you get the hang of it, slowly adding and rearranging your layout.

If you have any specific questions, there’s a lot of web designers/web developers lurking around these forums glad to answer your questions.

Let’s jump back to the basics. Do you have a domain name yet that you want to build a website on or at least one in mind that is available? If not, that makes things even easier. You need to buy the domain by having it registered and then having the thing hosted on a year to year basis.

This is much easier than you may think. I have heard good things about although my site is elsewhere. Web hosts almost always have on-line web building tools for newbies that make semi-professional websites through click and learn that look decent.

Total cost should be $60 a year or maybe much less depending on what you want. You could take this advice literally and have your own website online in less than 2 hours from now if you have basic computer knowledge and a desire to learn. You also get other things like your own crazy number of personal e-mail addresses plus much more.

If you want an IT professional like me to just tell you what to do, just follow the link, buy a domain name that is available, and start building a site. You need a credit card to pay and that is about it. It is pretty easy which should speak for itself given the number a yahoos that have their own site these days.

How technical do you want to get? It’s just that there will be people (usually professional web designers) who will tell you the only way to build a website is to code the raw HTML/CSS/whatever as text in Notepad, and there are others (myself included) who don’t think a WYSIWYG solution is always a bad idea - as long as it’s good one.

Personally, I think it’s important to know the basics of how HTML works - and if you understand how to hand-code formatting tags in your posts on this board or others, you won’t find this daunting at all, but I don’t think the average amateur creator of websites needs to get too technical or be fearful of using a tool to simplify the job by doing some of the donkey-work.

Not everybody likes it, but I think Namu6 is a great little web editor - for what it does. the functionality is a bit limited - but in many ways, that’s actually a good thing, because it just won’t let you commit some of the gravest of design horrors (like proliferation of styles and fonts).
(The Namu6 site is itself an example of what you can achieve with the program)
Under the bonnet, it produces clean, well-laid-out code.

If you don’t mind, could you expand on this a little? I’ve designed a few personal pages and am quite proficient in HTML (CSS, not so much), but I’m sure I’ve picked up a few bad habits along the way.

I’m sure you didn’t mean to sound ominous, but it’s been my experience that when someone more experienced says “just trust me on this one”, it usually pays to make a note.

So, what evil lurks in the future of my table-addicted web pages? :slight_smile:

IME GoDaddy is fabulous. For a few weeks I practically knew all of their support peoples names by voice. They are inexpensive, patient, nice, and knowledgeable.
Sometimes it seems too good to be true. They have a package called “website tonight” its a small extra charge but I have heard good things about it.

That looks good and the Twain like wisdom, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one,” is well placed.

The [tables vs css] isue is a bit of a religious war.

Css is definitely the newer technology, and has significant advantages for flexibility & maintainability in a large site. Large commercial sites have a need, borrowed from advertising, to revamp their “look & feel” frequently, even though most of the real content doesn’t change drastically, or at all. CSS is perfect for that.

Tables have the advantage of being very cross-browser-compatible. CSS is not (yet?) implemented consistently across all browsers and you sometimes have to go to considerable contortions to create a css layout that works the same in, say, IE& & Firefox. In fact, often the best you can do is get two slightly different looks, but where each is internally consistent. And that’s not so bad unless you or your boss is fired up about pixel-perfect display of your precious advertising.

The BIG advantage I see in tables is that they react nicely to differering window sizes. Waay back in the dark ages, the idea was that the server provided data that was almost pure content and the browser controlled the appearance. IOW, when I as a webmaster in 1995 wanted to make some text emphasized I’d put it in STRONG tags. It was up to the browser to decide if that meant show the text n bold, italic, blinking red, or 1.5x bigger font. Back when some browsers were running under DOS or UNIX & others were under Windows or Mac, the differences in display capability were stark.

At least that was the theory, and some folks still today cling to the letter of the faith, like Orthodox who refuse to eat shellfish.

As a practical matter, almost from the git-go web designers tried to control both the content and the appearance. And one of the first innovations was using table tags to make content sections align neatly, borrowing the look of magazine pages.

But unlike a magazine, where every page is known in advance to be exactly 8.5 x 11", one thing you cannot control is how big the user’s browser window is. So your content has to adapt somehow to being shown on a different sized surface.

Some folks now have 640x480 screens; others have 2048x1920 (ie 12x as much screen space). Some folks’ windows are maximized; others aren’t. Some have a browser with 17 add-in toolbars visible, where even when maximized, the window space available to you is only 75% of the brwoser’s window size; others run in full screen-mode where yuor window is 98% of the browser’s window vertically & 100% horizontally.

Against that patchwork & chaotic background , you, or you boss, wants to control EXACLTY how your precious content looks. & ensure it always looks marketing-dept perfect.

As a simple matter of physics, that’s not possible.

One more point: Many users (>80% in some studies) are not able to comprehend horizontal scrolling. If you have content off the right side of the visible browser window, they will never know it’s missing, much less be able to recover it. If you have a paragraph that extends partly off the side of the screen, they’ll assume your site is “broken” or “incompatible with my PC” & just leave.

Most folks can understand and use vertical scrolling, but don’t use it during the discovery phase of browsing. IOW, while they’re skipping around your site trying to find whatever they’re looking for, they’re only going to read & heed what’s on the screen with no scrolling. Once they find what they think is the page they’re looking for, THEN they will probably think to scroll all the way through it as they read, rather than skim, the contents.
So how do we (ie you) square that circle between your need to control, the user’s uncontrollable viewing environment, and their general cluelessness?
A table-based design degrades more or less gracefully as users shrink their usable window size below what you expected.

A simple css-based design is broken at any size other than the design size; too small & they need to scroll to see it, too large & strange stuff happens.

A more complex css-based design can gracefully handle small changes (+/-10% say) in windows size, but tends to fail catastrophically (ie make a jumbled mess) under greater size-strain. The marginal effort to build size-flex into css can be huge. It’s just about free in tables.

In essence, the css model says: “Hey user, our content must be viewed at 1024x768; adjust your window size accordingly or suffer the consequences. WE control how you must view our content.” The table model says “We adapt to any practical browser sizes with ease. What matters to us is that you see our content. YOU control how you see it.”

Which of these two attitudes towards the user is better is a religious issue. There is no meaningful debate that css makes for better stylistic consistency across pages & vastly simplifies maintainability / changability. When a commerical site gets into the hundreds of pages, changability looms VERY large.

One last gotcha: CSS scores very poorly in “accessiblity”, the compatiblity of your site with the visually impaired. If you have any governmental connection you may be required by law to produce a site that works for the blind using voice-browsers. That can be a cast-iron bitch with css.

Nevertheless, industrywide the tide is driving away from tables & towards css.

Here is a previous thread on the issue, and here is my post from that thread:

When I was learning html i just googled ‘html tutorial’ and flicked through the links til I found one which suited me. They are all pretty much the same, free to use and start from the ground up. The only differences are in they way they present the information.

If you want to start learning html then try HTML Tutorial They are pretty good and really, it’s not that tricky to learn.

If you are going down the html route then you need to decide where to host it. Most ISPs will provide some free webspace which is probably sufficient for your needs at first. Later on you can purchase a domain and learn how to ftp your stuff.

Feel free to PM me if you need any further information or assistance. :slight_smile:

Thanks everyone for your replies, sorry I haven’t been back, but we had internet problems over the weekend.

So, there’s me thinking I’ll find some web-site and it will be a piece of cake. A bit of cut and pasting here, a couple of links there…
It already sounds more difficult than I thought! Anything so complicated that it needs to be written in intials (HTML CSS etc.) gives me the heebie-jeebies, so this is going to be a very interesting process!

I don’t have any specific questions at the moment, I am mulling things over, trying to figure out where to start.

In answer to some of your questions: I am the librarian at an elementary school. I have looked online and some schools have beautiful web-sites for their libraries. So I thought I would have a play around buillding one for us, then show the powers-that-be and if they like it, we could put it on the school web-site. That would, I assume, take care of the server/domain issues.

Building the site will be for me, because I would like to learn how! However, it will also be for use by teachers, students and parents, so there is the professional aspect. My ultimate goal would be to have a user friendly site.
Thing is, I can’t really publish it without the school’s permission, so I need a way to build on without putting it on-line until the admin give me the ok.

I will get a copy of html for dummies, or at least spend a happy hour on amazon searching for similar books.

I will also have a look at the links you have all suggested.

Thanks so much for your time folks! I may be back…

The argument goes that tables were never designed for formatting an entire page, they were designed for “tabular data”, that is a grid like a spreadsheet. So if you were making a calendar, or a table of contents in clear columns and rows, that is what you should use a table for, and not for keeping your menu to the left and your header at the top.

The way to format a page should be using CSS, via DIVs and other block level elements.

The benefits of this more correct way include:
[li]Able to rearrange the design of the page across the entire site just by altering the CSS values, and not needing to touch the HTML at all[/li][li]Tables load in a very awkward way, with information inside ‘nested’ tables appearing last, instead of being drawn as they appear in HTML order[/li][li]Nested tables also are a problem for Search Engines to determine which text is significant[/li][li]A lot of other nerdy reasons that are somewhat anal retentive, but are probably worth paying attention to[/li][/ul]

The benefits of using tables for page formatting include:
[li]They work, and make sense[/li][li]You can affect vertical height a lot more reliably[/li][li]Column height is consistent across a row, so each cell shares a bottom or a top or a side if you need them to[/li][li]They’re fast to create, and are easy to follow in the code[/li][li]The size of DIV tags is not consistent across browsers. See the IE Box Model problem[/li][/ul]

Learning to format a page without using tables is a good idea, but it can be frustrating when that’s what you’re used to, and the reasons to do it can seem frivolous. But once you’ve figured it out, it’s worth the effort, as it does make certain other CSS features work better, and one day in the not too distant future it will be the default way to design anyway.

Up until these few paragraphs, we were on the same page. But these paragraphs contain nothing but inaccuracies.

CSS and table-based layouts can both be “liquid”, expanding to fill however large your browser is open to without breaking. CSS, just like tables, can be defined in percentages, so this is not a problem at all. However, most sites are moving into “fixed width”, mostly because as people’s browsers get larger and larger, expanding the site to fill it makes little sense. Try reading a line of text 2,000 pixels wide… it gets hard to read. So people make their sites 1000 pixels wide. It’s a solution that makes a lot of sense and can be done equally easily in CSS or tables. If you believe CSS based layouts fail when you resize a browser window… well, that’s a belief you’re going to have to correct. If a CSS layout breaks when you resize the window, that’s because the author did something wrong… not because CSS failed.

Tables also say the opposite of “YOU decide how you see it”. With tables, you put the menu on the left, header at top, content in middle. It’ll stay that way, no matter what. CSS, that’s not true. Look here:, then click on the “high contrast” link. Menus are rearranged, font sizes larger, contrast contrastier. Nothing changed except the style sheet. With CSS, nothing is “locked in” like it is with tables.

And your last “gotcha”… I can only hope you’re kidding or whooshing me there. CSS is ALL ABOUT accessibility, making it easier for screen readers to read your content without wading through nested tables and hundreds of tr and td tags. CSS encourages you to use very accessible-rich tags, like the forgotten h1 - h6 tags, strong instead of b, menus as ul and li, etc. There is no competition between accessiblity with CSS vs. Tables. CSS wins every single time. Even very poor CSS.

Very timely thread, as I have a situation somewhat similar to the OP. The one difference, though, is a friend has asked me to help clean up an existing web site for his small business. The guy who originally did the coding isn’t around, and I don’t know how to get in touch with him. Do I need to use the same software he did, or can I just use what I find works best for me? If I have to use the same software, is their a way of finding out from the code itself? If I can use different software, I’ll probably pick something recommended in this thread.

I’m pretty computer-savvy, but I have never done a web site before. It’s something I’ve been wanting to learn, though, and I agreed to do this for my friend as a way of getting myself motivated.

For the most part, you can use whatever editor you want to tweak the old code. Some editors, like FrontPage, throw in a bunch of garbage that increases load times and decreases cross-browser compatibility. You can sometimes see what editor they used by opening the page in Notepad (or going to View>Source while looking at the site) and checking the Meta data and see if it’s there.

For an editor, I recommend Dreamweaver. It’s expensive, but that’s because it’s the best. It’ll do CSS based layouts in WYSIWYG format, let you edit code by hand or in the WYSIWYG window, upload to remote servers on save, etc.

The program is not important. I teach my students their first sites in NotePad.

ETA: Assuming there’s no custom server-side scripting on the site. then you might need a specific program.

If you’re on a Mac, there’s a new program for OS X called Coda that has some pretty nice features and has gotten good reviews.

You could also use a Content Management System. Check out Joomla

GuanoLad, LSLGuy, wasson – Thanks for your input concering CSS vs Tables. A lot of it dosen’t directly affect me, but very enlightening nonetheless.

Butterscotch – Sorry if I derailed your thread.