Web Design: Making your own web site in a day

Concept Stage

Designing your own web site can be a straightforward process if done correctly. With no previous training you can design your first site in a day. It's also possible to spend a week and have nothing but fancy gadgets and nothing of use. The difference lies in doing the right things in the correct order.

The most difficult step in web design, which must be done first, is to have a clear idea of what content you want and how to organize your site. For content you want two things:

When deciding on content for your site there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Using previous marketing materials not only saves effort, but provides consistency.

Choosing the proper layout requires a map of your web site. Many web sites follow a simple, successful formula for organization. While it's possible to organize your site using fancy digital tools, the reality is a piece of paper and pencil are much faster for your first site. Here's what you want to incorporate in our organization plan:

Tools

Once you have your content and layout complete you are ready to begin designing your web site. There are a host of specialty "web page editors" available. Many of these introduce special, mutually incompatible codes into your web site that make it only editable within that program. This includes:

Warning these products are incompatible with any other design product

There are also many editors that do not make special changes to your web site. This is often referred to as raw coding. The simplest way to do this is with a program called notepad. One pitfall to be aware of is that notepad, by default saves files with a .txt extension. You can not fix this without telling your PC to show extensions. Whatever editor you choose, make sure it allows raw coding, otherwise you will be forever locked into using that one program.

How to save web pages in notepad

How to see file extensions for files mis-saved in notepad

Your opening page (index.html)

Your first web page will be called index.html. When you browse to a web site the very first page opened is the index.html file. For visitors to be able to find other pages you'll need to have this as a gateway, your first impression, leading them into the rest of your information.

Length and Scope

Like all marketing material, it's important to focus on key points rather than write a great volume of exhaustive material. While it's possible to have lengthy, detailed information that will be well received and read thoroughly, the place for such information is not on your opening page. Instead use this as a portal to more detailed information.

Your opening page is similar to a highway, it is not a destination unto itself. Use clear labels and avoid too many links on any page. Too many, the point at which people lose interest and start skipping over information, occurs pretty quickly. While the fewer links you have the better, a good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to no more than a dozen links navigating to other pages.

Your First Page

Start by opening your editor. We'll name this first page index.html. What follows is a template for a very simple layout. You'll see comments inside of the web site to help explain to you what each component means. Comments do not appear when viewed through a web browser, but they are present in the web page for both your viewing, and anyone who looks at the actual source of the page. Comments are formatted like this:

<!-- Everything inside here is a comment, and can't be seen when browsing regularly. -->

So, with no further ado, lets delve into your opening web page.

Sample opening page

Hosting

Once you've customized this to your own needs you're ready to find a web site name, referred to as your domain, purchase a hosting service for it and upload your content. Here are a few that you can try:

www.godaddy.com

www.networksolutions.net

Copying your files

Once you've purchased your web hosting, and decided on your domain you will need to setup or will be given information on how to transfer files to your web site. Many still use File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Within windows you can use explorer to transfer files as follows:

If you've organized files or pictures into folders, don't forget to create those on your web site before copying your html or picture files into them, and remember these are usually case sensitive.

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Last updated: 8/10/2013

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