Help writing a website

So I got railroaded into being president of the local rugby club. One of the things I want to improve is our website, but no one in the club has any experience with authoring websites and we can’t afford to hire anyone. So, the only solution is to learn how and to do it myself.

The current site is really ugly and the guy we have who updates it really has no idea what he is doing. So, what is the best way to go about this? Though I have never played with web design before I am aware that the way people use to make sites is to basically copy one you like and modify the code to make it distinct and incorporate ideas you like from other sites. These days, though, there appear to be quite a few payed or free programs to make designing sites easier, like Dreamweaver for example. I don’t know how good they are and how much flexibility they offer though.

I am an engineer and know quite a few programming languages, so I have no fear of learning html, CSS, and javascript, which seems to be what you need to know to do anything on the web these days, but I am not sure it is worth my time. I have gotten through the xhtml portion of a book on the subject and am working through CSS, but learning javascript seems like it would be a much bigger chore.

So, what are your thoughts. Should I learn html, css, and javascript, incorporate code from sites I like, and simply use a debugger like in Seamonkey? If so do you recommend xhtml or transitional? Should I use one of the free web page design programs and if so which one? Is one of the paid programs so much better that it is worth the cost?

Proper real web design people will be along shortly, no doubt, who will give you good advice. I’ve heard good things about WordPress, in terms of ease of use and updating - they certainly have a lot of templates you can use and adapt to suit your needs (particularly if you know CSS), and plug-ins that add all kinds of functionality. Might be worth looking into.

This is the only reply you need to read. And this one, of course.

Isn’t Wordpress for blogs?

Primarily, but you can adapt a blog into anything. A page can be dedicated to a single blog entry, which simulates regular webpage structure.

I’ve played around with Wordpress, and hated it, but I am a website designer, and desire more control than Wordpress provides. There are other similar CMS (Content Management System) apps that range in price, and can be remotely or locally hosted, that I found easier (or sometimes more complex) to work with.

Having said that, you don’t need to learn javascript to have a decent basic site. HTML and CSS is usually enough, and if you ever need anything more dynamic you can install pre-written scripts, available for free or for low prices which you can source from around the Web.

Depending on your needs, a blog may be sufficient. You could post news, announcements, photos, etc. and readers can post comments as well so there could be online discussions. No hosting expenses nor programming hassles. You might give Google Blogspot a look. If you’re interfacing with databases, running a store, etc. then I guess you’d need a true web site.

It really depends what all you need the site to do. You can likely do what you need with Wordpress. You may also want to take for a spin; being a Google product, I’m guessing it can’t be that bad.

I use Textpattern to run my site. It’s a sort of cross between a blog software and a CMS. There are a ton of free templates out there for it, and it’s free and very simple to set up. You can check out my site at if you want to see an example.

Nope. WordPress has moved beyond blogs and is now a full blown Content Management System. Sure, the default settings make for a very bloggy looking website, but it’s not just for blogs.

That said, updates from a Rugby Club would fit well in the blog format.

Use a CMS like Wordpress, as mentioned. Choose a good theme to begin with and modify it as you see fit. It’ll probably look better.

As for labor, see if you can find a college student to do it on the cheap?

You should know HTML and CSS, even when working with Wordpress or another CMS, because that’s how you debug layout and appearance issues. Learning JavaScript in its entirety is probably unnecessary unless you plan to be coding things from scratch. Do you foresee any need for programmatic logic in your club page?

Keep in mind that Wordpress is very, very extendable via plugins, and most things you’d want to program already have been and are usually available for free. Besides, you can most likely debug existing scripts with your other programming experience.

Debugger is unnecessary unless you’re doing JavaScript. If you’re just starting to learn anyway, might as well go with the modern standards… XHTML Strict with CSS.

The free web page design programs (in my experience) are generally buggy, crash-prone and relatively crappy. Dreamweaver and Microsoft Express Web, both paid, are great but not altogether necessary. A good text editor or an IDE with HTML support would get you far. Also consider helpful web developer plugins for Firefox or Chrome (color pickers, element pickers, DOM – document object model – inspectors, etc.).

There are also small-business website services that take care of all the back-end stuff for you, let you pick a pretty theme and just update the content as you see fit. If you’re short on time, that may be the way to go.

Thank you all for the replies and suggestions. There will be some monetary transactions (donations, equipment purchase, dues payment), so that sounds like Wordpress is out. Thanks for the info on not needing to fully learn javascript. I was planning on learning just enough to insert and adapt other people’s code for my uses.

As far as what I am looking for, I was planning on modelling it after these sites:

For what it’s worth, unless you’re dealing with complicated currency issues, the WordPress eCommerce plugin looks pretty good. I’ve been looking at various options for my own site - I need something that handles multiple images, multiple currencies and delivery costs based on country; eCommerce doesn’t work for me. But if that’s no problem for you, and it sounds like it shouldn’t be, then it’s worth a look.

There are occasionally stories about the security of wordpress, so I wouldn’t use it to process credit card payments - but if you’re taking payments (including by card) through PayPal or another card processor, that should be ok.

Anyway, I don’t want to push WordPress unduly - it’s just that having made my site without benefit of a CMS, it’s been a pain in the arse to add pages as I add new products in a way that I suspect something like WordPress would have helped with!

Good luck - and do let us know when you’ve done it, so we can see!

Thanks for the continuing input. One more question: Are there any CMSs that can allow you to easily modify an existing website, or must it be built from scratch using their system?

Nah, you’re talking about two different things there. Sort of like asking if you can move your entire house - walls, roof, floors and all - into a new house with its own walls, roof and floors. Not gonna happen.

You can, however, use your existing site as a reference for color, and use the exact same graphics files on your new site. Just download the graphics from the old site and use them where need on the new site.

Because of the coding involved, that’s more or less impossible.

Thanks, that was what I was afraid of. A thought occurred to me last night, that if I do not use a CMS, then we will never have anyone other than me that will be able to update the page. Not wanting to be stuck doing this forever, I realized I need to use one.

The original (crappy) site was made with Joomla, though the crappyness is apparently more the guys who put it together than the program. The easiest way may be to just try to fix it up in that. My initial exploration showed me that you generally use a template in Joomla, and I am not sure how easy it is to move outside of the template in coding. Does anyone have any experience with this? Is it possible to switch template while retaining content?