4 Things You Need to Know Before Making Your First Website
1) You Need To Know That There Is A Lot To Learn
If you are reading this page then you probably do not have a website yet and know little about websites. You have been on websites, but you have never created one of your own.
You are frightened. You have started looking into what it takes to build a website and it scares you. You are good with computers generally. You can use word processors, you can find things on the internet, and you even order books from Amazon. But building your own website is a big step for you.
Building your own website is a big step. There are a lot of new things you will need to learn. And at first glance it is not pretty. So many acronyms, HTML, CSS, HTTP, RSS, SEO - it's a whole new language to learn.
The beginning is scary. You are the new kid in school, it's the first day on the job.
If you are feeling completely lost and do not know where to look next then don’t worry. It is completely normal.
In December 2009 I was exactly like you. I had no idea. I used the computer to write emails and read the news - I had no idea how to create a website. I remember the feeling of information overload. All the new words, all the advice, all the tips, all the software, all the forums, blogs, websites, books. Like sitting down in the cockpit of a 747 jumbo jet and asked to fly.
You have to start somewhere. Yes you will be confused and yes you will make mistakes and yes you will feel like a fool asking silly questions. But so did I, so did everybody else. Everybody had to start exactly like you - knowing nothing about websites and being confused.
But don’t let all the lingo and information scare you away. Start small and take toddler steps. Don’t worry if you can’t grasp every aspect of HTML. Read a little about it, do a tutorial, and then go for a walk in the park. Let it sink in slowly. You will not ‘get it’ in an hour. It takes time and a practice. Get dirty, play around and learn a little at a time. Start with a single web page, add a hyperlink, add an image, and make text bold. Tinker and keep learning.
I did not take a single computer course. Before I created this website I was a website user, not a creator. SEO, RSS, HTML meant nothing to me. But slowly and persistently I kept going and learning. And now I know a lot about websites. It is not an over night thing - it's a process.
Because you are on this website and are reading a page called '4 Things You Need to Know Before Making Your First Website' it is clear that you are on your way. You have started the process of making your own website.
Step one is to want a website. You are now on step two: learning how to make a website.
I envy you. Ahead of you is a whole new world. You are about to start something which can lead anywhere. You are about to enter a new world, learn a new language, meet new people, and best of all you are about to create.
A website is not a chair from IKEA. Websites do not come with four pre-drilled holes and four screws, there is no five step illustrated procedure to follow which ends with a pre-manufactured chair.
Every website is a unique creation. You will dig down into yourself and pull out a bit of your soul. Your website will have your DNA - it will be your baby - it will be your creation. You will think about it all the time, you will want to make it better, you will want it to grow and you will want it to be the best it can be.
What separates mankind from all other beasts is our ability and desire to create new things. We can take bits and pieces of information and reshape it to create something new. Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Mozart and you were all created equal - all born from the same star dust. The greatness comes from taking the information given and rearranging it in a unique way - to create a vision nobody had seen before.
You are going to collect information about HTML, CSS. Then you are going to take a shower, ride a bike, walk the dog, eat dinner, but it will not be the same as before. Now during these daily activities your mind is going to start to create something new - a website never made before. A website you will create from stardust.
Regardless of how much money you make, or how many visitors you have, or how many subscribers you collect, nobody can take away the accomplishment of creating something that nobody else but you could create. You will have a website made by you.
2) You Need To Know HTML
At its core HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is a way to add properties to text. It is a way of telling the browser how text should appear. This is accomplished by adding tags around text. For example, by adding the <strong> tags around text the text becomes bold. Over the years HTML has evolved to include tags for much more then just text. With HTML tags you can create tables, forms, pictures. Everything you see on a webpage is defined by a HTML tag.
It is beyond the scope of this website to go into the details of HTML. Fortunately the internet is full of tutorials, articles and how-to's. The website that helped me the most was W3 Schools because it has good tutorials from beginners to expert levels. Do a few tutorials and in no time you will be writing your own HTML web pages with images, tables and italic emphasis.
Besides doing tutorials you should also get a book which gives a complete overview of HTML. Why was HTML created? Why is it important? When should it be used? A book will answer these general questions and it will also give a complete overview of what HTML can do. You do not need to understand everything, you just need to be aware of what HTML can do for you. A couple months down the road you will need an ordered list for your website, and although you won’t remember the details, you will remember that you read about it in a book.
So buy a general book about HTML. Quickly read through it so that HTML sinks deep into your brain. There are endless books to choose from, I usually choose the Dummies series of books because they provide a general understanding of a new topic. I never took a HTML class - my HTML knowledge started by reading HTML for Dummies.
Once you understand the basics of HTML, finding out the details is easy. Just do a quick search with Google for any specific questions about HTML. A general understanding of HTML gives you the ability to know what to search for and to realize when you have found it. For example if you need to add a table then do a search for ‘table html’ and you will find countless examples of HTML tables. With basic knowledge of HTML you will be able to quickly scan the examples and take away what you need.
Even after making all the tables on this website, I still do a search on Google for HTML tables every time I need to create a new table. I cut the example, paste it on my new web page and then edit it for my specific needs. You do not need to memorize how to use every single HTML element - you just need to know that you need it and recognize it when you see it.
3) You Need To Know CSS
You can create a website believing that CSS means Christ Super Star. But to do so would be a mistake. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets.
CSS has only one drawback - a steep learning curve. It is not instantly intuitive. You need to study it and understand it and only then it will ‘click’. You cannot get on a bike and ride, you need to learn to ride a bike. You do not just start drinking beer when you turn 21 - you need to learn to appreciate the taste. CSS takes time to learn and appreciate.
But like all things that require a little effort upfront; the time spent getting past the initial difficulties gets returned ten times over. Aren't you glad that you forced down those first couple beers behind the school dumpster? Put in the hours at the beginning to understand CSS and in return you will receive a lifetime of better websites.
The main advantage with CSS is that you can separate the layout and look of the website from the content of the website. This enables you to make changes to the look of the entire website by changing a single value. For example, when you want to change the font size of all the paragraph text on your website from size 10 to 11 all you need to do is change the size value for <p> in the style sheet. Changing this one value will change the font size for all the paragraphs on your website. Obviously this is a lot easier then going to every single web page in the site and changing the font size.
Another advantage of CSS (of separating the content from the layout and look) is that it is easier to make changes in the future. Without CSS, coming back from a 3 month vacation can be a nightmare. Navigating through content mixed together with layout HTML can be more vexing then deciphering hieroglyphics, more tangled then last years Christmas tree lights. But with CSS, content is separated from layout, it is much easier to make changes to your website even if your cruise vacation is unexpectedly extended a couple years due to Somali pirates.
The best way to familiarize yourself with CSS is to do a few tutorials. W3 Schools has great tutorials that enable you to play around with CSS. The tutorials let you make changes in CSS and allow you to instantly see the effects on a web page. By fiddling with the examples you will experience the power of CSS.
Definitely study and understand CSS before making a website. You might be able to ignore it for a little while, but the bigger your website gets the harder it will be to live without it. You need to know CSS and the sooner the better.
4) You Need Know About Website Creation and Management Software
In Theory...All Your Need Is NotePad
It is possible to create your entire website using Microsoft Notepad. It is also possible to recite pi to 10,000 places. But just because it is possible does not mean that it is something you want to do. The best way to create a website is to use website creation and management software.
In Reality...You Need Website Designer Software
Proper software eliminates most of the tediousness of building and managing a website. Although basic HTML and CSS knowledge is recommend, with website creation software it is not required. You can create the website by drag and drop, resizing, and clicking. You can design your website with your forefinger and mouse.
But in practice without a basic understanding of HTML and CSS even a really good website creation software will get you only so far with a website. Changes will need to be done which are easier to do manually by editing the HTML then by using the visual interface. You can spend 20 minutes fiddling with the visual interface or 10 seconds adjusting a HTML value manually.
I have said it many times - you need to know the basics of HTML and CSS if you want to create your own website. Even the best website creation software will not spare you - good software will shield you for at the beginning but at some point you will need to read and understand HTML/CSS.
A long time ago the software of choice for creating a website for beginners was Microsoft FrontPage. Those days are gone. FrontPage does not have the flexibility required to make a good website and websites created with FrontPage all look the same.
Dreamweaver - The Best (and most expensive) Website Designer
Currently the Rolls Royce of website design software is Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 . It has everything you could ever want and need in website creation software. Of course, the convenience and ease has a cost - a cost of around $400.
This website was created with Dreamweaver. It was the largest cost for starting this website. But I had read good things about, and I knew I was in this for the long run, it so I decided to buy it. I downloaded the 30 day free trail and started to build the website. True to the reviews it works great and is easy to learn and use.
To learn how to use Dreamweaver I used the same learning strategy as for HTML. I bought the Dreamweaver CS5 For Dummies to get a general overview of its features and then looked up the details on the internet. Within hours I was comfortable with Dreamweaver’s intuitive layout and tools.
CoffeeCup - A Good Website Designer For A Good Price
For those of you who are not certain you want to spend $400 dollars there are less expensive options. For example, CoffeeCup Website Designer is a complete website creation and management software that costs only $50. For most beginners this is probably the best option. CoffeeCup does most of the things Dreamsweaver does at a fraction of the cost. And if in the future you outgrow CoffeeCup you can upgrade to Dreamweaver.
If even $50 is above your budget then you still have options. You can download the free HTML editor CoffeeCup HTML Editor to create your website. Just like with Dreamweaver this editor color codes your HTML and CSS and has a visual editor allowing you to click and drag and drop many aspect of the web page. But it is just an editor, you will still need another piece of software to upload (publish) your website to the server.
Website Builder - No HTML and CSS Required
Above I say that you need to know HTML and CSS. But maybe you are the type that just do not want to know it. There is an option for you too.
If you really do not want to get involved with HTML, CSS, FTP and all the technical aspects of having a website, then you need a drag and drop, point and click, website builder.
A website builder allows you to make a website mostly with your mouse. With this tool all you need to worry about is creating the content for the website. All the technical aspects are handled by the building tool. No need to fiddle around with HTML, CSS or figure out how to upload your website to the host - everything is done for you.
WorldForWebsite provides a great website builder that will enable you to have your website live in a matter of hours - without having to know anything about the technical aspects of making websites.
|Adobe Dreamweaver CS5||It is a combination of website creation and website management software.
With this you can create your website and upload it to your host server.
It is the best website software available so regardless of what you need to do now or in the future, it will be able to do it.
|It costs $400.|
|CoffeeCup Website Designer||It is a combination of website creation and website management software.
Although it does not have all the advanced features of Dreamweaver, for beginners it is everything you need.
It only costs $50.
|It is not Dreamweaver.|
|CoffeeCup HTML Editor||It is free.||The Free HTML Editor is a trimmed-down version of the CoffeeCup HTML Editor, and does not contain the Visual Editor, CSS Menu Designer, Image Mapper, and Website Color Schemer.|
|Website Builder||Includes everything you need to have your website up and running.
No HTML and CSS knowledge required. Create your website by drag and drop, point and click.
No additional hosting required.
Your website can be up and running in a matter of hours.
|Although you have 1000's of variation available, you do not have the full control as you would with the other options. You use prebuilt code and templates so you are limited by the options offered.|
My recommendation is that if you are not sure, take the middle road - download the 30 day free trial of CoffeeCup. If it has everything you need then pay the $50. In the future if you find that you need more power and features then you can always upgrade to Dreamweaver.
On the other hand, if you are very confident that you are in this for the long run then download the 30-day free trial of Dreamweaver. But let me warn you, if you start making your website with Dreamweaver then at the end of the 30 day trail you will be pretty much forced to buy the software if you want to avoid starting again with another website creation software.
And if you really are not sure if having a website is for you (and you do not want to mess around with HTML and CSS), try the Website Builder. In a matter of hours you can have your website up and running. Then you can start the process of writing content and promoting it and see whether it is something you enjoy. If after sometime you feel the need to upgrade to something better you always can.
Ready to make your own website? Have a look at Make Your Own Website in 8 Steps.
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