Building your own Website

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Neibelungen
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Building your own Website

Postby Neibelungen » Tue Dec 05, 2006 2:13 am

Hopefully this might be worth making into some sort of sticky if it turns out usefull enough for the traders here who are willing to work through the learning curve of setting up and customizing their own websites.

What I'll try to do is list up a few of the processes I've worked through and learnt from in building my own website. I'll try to list up methods and sites I've found extremely usefull, both for learning and reading up on how to do things, as well as my approach.

There's prpbably a lot of members here with far more experience and skills than me, so please feel free to jump in and help out where there are better ways or sites you've found usefull to learn from.

My general approach has always been that if your going to produce your own website, set up your machine or a spare one if you have to run a webserver so you can begin to understand how the process works and actually see it 'served' up in it's correct environment. This is especially usefull if your working with databases and php scripts were the information is dynamic. It allows you to play around with your website in an almost 'real' webserver environment, without actually altering the one that you've hosted online. That's the 'real'one, this is the 'testing' one you can mess up and break without ruining what you have online as your web presence.

Ther'e plenty of articles online and a quick google will find you dozens of sites showing you how to set up a webserver. It's far too longwinded to try an write it here and involves alot of technical stuff, but it's worth persevereing with. As i get time, I'll try to dig out a few links to usefull sites for this, but there's a few good basic tutorials on the computer magazine sites that will start you off. Tryhttp://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/67503/set-up-your-own-web-server.html?searchString=webserver or http://www.pcplus.co.uk/tutorials/internet/running_web_and_ftp_servers to start with.

If you have a spare machine, even an old 486 is enough to start learning from. There's enough free linux distributions available and lots of tutorials on google to show you how to set one of these up. That old one you were going to throw away, will work. I'd recomend a 500hz processor, 20gb hard drive and 250mb memory as a pretty good basic machine. You could pick these us free or ask friends as even schools won't use something this old. You can even pick up a basic server with much higher specs from Dell brand new for about £150. Ebay should have them going for almost free .

It's not as easy once you have a machine set up, as you have to set up a small home network to get this machine up and running, and available from one computer to the next. A google will find you lots of sites explaining how to set up a home network but http://www.wown.com is a good introduction as well as the previous sites listed. I'd recomend getting a router or switch to run this network from, as it will make life easier in the long run, but this can seem a little daunting at first, These are pretty cheep these days and fairly easy to set up strait out of the box and are easy to find in ebay. If you have computer literate kids it's a pretty good project for them to learn, though if you already have them with their own computers you've probably gone halfway down that route already. If you can, set this network up outside of the the conection used to access the internet. That way your webserver box isn't exposed to the internet and open to being exploited.

If you don't have a spare machine, or a network is just too daunting there are a couple of downloads available to set up a webserver on your own machine. While not as ideal, Windows XP wil run apache, or ISS (the windows version) though the older Windows 98 isn't terribly good for this. A google for WAMP (Windows, Apache, MySql and PHP/Pearl) will find you a complete package to download and install quite easily to get you up an running. It's not as ideal, but is enough to get you started, but isn't quite as customizable as setting up your own server.

Most hosting companies seem to use either Fedora or else the older Redhat 7.3 or 9.0 for there webservers, though it's often worth e-mailing their tech support to find out what they are using on your webserver to match your testing machine to your hosting machine.

Linux works pretty much 'out of the box' these days and is enough to get you started. It's not windows, but these days is getting closer to it in appearance and feel . Ubunto is another popular version which has a closer feel to windows. There's a lot of guides to Linux on the net available and even the '***** For Dummies' books are a easy simple guide to getting started.

For me, though it's a bit of a longer approach, learning how a webserver works and the operating system behind it works in managing websites is rewarding. It will give you the grounding and understanding of how program and webpages interact. It deepens you knowledge of computers and stops it being a scary as it might be and it's a whole new thing to understand. For me, since my hobby became my work, it's become a hobby itself.

One word of advice. You'll come across several sites talking about hosting your own website once you have a server. While this is tempting, and cheap, please don't try to do this yourself. While it's easy, your exposing your computer to the web, and leaving yourself open to ending up as a spam relay or could find yourself hosting a download site for who knows what. The idea is to use this machine to learn and experiment with, without breaking your online website. Hosting companies are cheap and that's what they are there for. Untill you really understand the risks and the tecnical aspects, don't . !!

Ok. that's probably enough for a first thought an learning web-building and scared enough of you from even trying in the first place. Google is one of the best sources for finding info to help you out get started, though your own tech savvy kids are probably even more clued up than you. As I dig out links I'll edit this and put them in, or else others will add suggestions.

If the demand is great enough I'll set up a page on my own website where this can be gone through in greater detail and updated and see how it goes.

Hope it helps people start out.

Andrew



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Kate Tiler
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Postby Kate Tiler » Tue Dec 05, 2006 1:00 pm

Crikey Andrew! Thanks for all that but I didn't cope with most of it...! Even though I used to be a techie of sorts I find I just can't take in info like that anymore, my brain won't absorb it!

I wrote my very basic website which has served me very well for ages, and re-writing it & updating it with little things like my new address & phone number has been on my list of things to do for a while now but will become very urgent when I send out my 'I have moved' cards!

Although I coped with FTPing my site to my hosting company originally, I still can't get my head around how to reload a newer version, especially as I've also just changed machines, operating system etc etc too.

Most of the HTML for dummies or 'build your own website' books I've got just get you as far as loading your first website - no-one seems to tell you how to upload revisions or change it once it is out there - any (very) basic tips? Or am I just being too dense?

& I wasn't being sarcastic at the start - you really are a star for starting this thread!


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"In art as in life everything is possible as long as it is based on love" Marc Chagall

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Postby gregory23b » Tue Dec 05, 2006 1:13 pm

I designed my look and got a web nerd mate to make it work to my spec, I haven't got the time to learn to assemble one, took him a fraction of the time I would need to know what I was doing and therefore cheaper to me.

As much as like empowerment there is a little part of me that is sceptical about a total DIY attitude to things like websites, assembly of parts is not the same as designing one that works, they do not teach readability, ease of use, when to not use features that merely make a site look cheap, they do not consider simple things like typography, ie just because we might like a gothic typeface does not mean we can actually stand to read great tracts in it, or purple text over a black background, a myriad of sins that merely put people off. I allow a few seconds of beign able to read such sites, if my eyes bleed then I move.

People see bells and whistles, or treat them like online books, it is a very different medium.

There are some excellent products being let down by their web sites, I accept my share of that responsibility too btw.

People seeking to design their own site, should also pick up some basic design tips to make their job easier. Granted that is another thing to learn and decided whether it can be done at home or not.


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Isabela on G23b "...somehow more approachable in real life"

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Postby Tuppence » Tue Dec 05, 2006 3:24 pm

People see bells and whistles, or treat them like online books, it is a very different medium.


ain't that the truth - and sometimes it's professional designers who are most responsible for it.

although you do need the basic design skills as g23 says, if you want to buid a decent site with easy software, and are not a techie (and don't want to be), or don't want to do the home network / server thing - try yahoo.

free drag and drop software that works a bit like windows, and hosting that's not expensive.

now then... all I have to do is get on and finsh / update them.....


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Neibelungen
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Website building

Postby Neibelungen » Tue Dec 05, 2006 5:32 pm

Part of the aim of what i was writing was to outline bit by bit how I usually go about working on a website. It's aimed at people who do feel like having a go themselves and learning a new set of skills.

Partly it was designed to serve as a forum topic too, where people could suggest design methods and techniques that work on a web-medium. Simple things like why serif fonts work on paper but not as effectively on a screen. or the avaidance of scrolling too much.

To me, part of the fun of this is learning something completely different and making a whole new skill. It's a bit like anybody can sew, but understanding how and why tailoring is important to make something fit properly.

Mostly though it's a topic to list up a few usefull sites that might help people 'rolling there own' find information to improve or understand why certain things work and certain things don't.



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gregory23b
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Postby gregory23b » Tue Dec 05, 2006 6:39 pm

Fair enough andrew, point taken.

As I am not a techie I would offer to look at the problem from a what is required way, ie what do you need to produce and then how to go about it, whether DIY or with the help of others.

As a user of sites the way they are put together is the most important aspect. So my two pence worth from a visual/user perspective would be:

Type:

    Think about who is reading it, think about minimum type heights and decent line space.

    Avoid reversing type on anything more than headers and certainly not in small sizes.

    Avoid text that is not contrasting enough with the background it is on, ie yellow on white, or deep purple on black.

    Reduce the amount of UPPER CASE TEXT as it is not great for long passages.

    Allow text to be readable in bite size chunks, ie not such a long tract that needs scrolling and more jiggling of the eyes.

    Consider limiting the width that your text takes up when the window is widened, I use a 19" screen and a lot of sites have fit to window text which is a real pain.

    Consider a muted background for type, screen glow can be tiresome on the eyes.

    Consider a dark grey instead of black for type, a few percent can take the edge off the on-screen reading.

    Allow an option for text only reading.


Considering who the following web site is for the irony is all too clear

http://www.globalaigs.org/

And for a public body these should know better

http://www.sftc.org/

I know caves are meant to be dark, but seriously folks

http://www.showcaves.co.uk/pages/showcaves.asp



Colours:
    Remember the web is perceived through the monitor which is a light source. Not all colours work across the colour models: Ie what you see in a magazine is not going to have the same optical characteristics on screen.
    So your carefully rendered paper drawing will not always look the same on screen.

    As colours on monitors are often brighter consider knocking them down if possible.

    Look at which colours cause 'wobble' ie green over red or vice versa, this optical effect is made worse on-screen.

Images
    Do they compliment your site, are they necessary? If so consider their size on screen, if you want to show a big picture maybe allow for thumbnails and pop-ups or downloadable one. Many sites with galleries do this rather than have hugeh images laid out.

    Get the screen resolution right, nothing worse than a pixelated low res image on screen, apart from a whacking great file size but small image on screen.



Ease of use
    Consider how the end user will be working with this, step back from the idea and run it past people who are not emotionally invested in it. You can plan the site on paper, you can show hierarchies and structure in principle on good old fashioned paper.

    Do people have to scroll down the whole home page to find something, or is it in a table or multiple columns?

    Do people have to press the browser back button to navigate, or is there a clear navigation system from page to page or section to section?



Bells and whistles

Do you really need the bouncing text, the revolving icon, or does it really need to be on every page? Imagine if your magazine page was bouncing or revolving in front of you.

I know this is a dance school, but even dancers read the same way as everybody else.

http://www.tanzschulebuck.de/


Also

http://youtube.com/watch?v=nv-8yAQGHRo

The site owners had redesigned it.


Before anyone complains about libel etc, these sites are all reviewed and actually responded to by the site owners.

review site is

http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/


middle english dictionary

Isabela on G23b "...somehow more approachable in real life"

http://medievalcolours.blogspot.com

"I know my place." Alice the Huswyf

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Neibelungen
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Well done Gregory

Postby Neibelungen » Tue Dec 05, 2006 8:12 pm

Gregory,

You hit the nail exactly in your last post. You outlined exactly a few of the many design points that are important to try to understand and apreciate in design.

Personally, I am hopeless with design sides of things... that's why I recreate things. If i can see something, thenI can understand exactly how to make it.

Web sites that Suck was fairly illuminating.. except for the fact there's not a solution or an explanation, though why is pretty obvious.

I have to say, a few of them do look like they have been put together with the instant packages you used to get on Yahoo before they improved them somewhat.

Recomended packages for working with web pages.
Top one has to be Dreamweaver.. except for the price... it's too expensive by far. and has it's own quirks for messing up code. However you can at least work with a 30 day trial to understand it.
Next is Net Objects... cheap, very effective if not exactly user friendly entirely, but good enough for most people
Coffe Cup.. hasn't improved much recently, but still affordable and practical
There's also a couple of free open source ones that I can't recall that are pretty good
There's also the Microsoft one, but personally I think it's one of the worst.
Finally Notepad or a good text editor. You can't see what your doing, but you sure learn things the hard way.. one for the real pros or masochists.

Reccomended starter sites and primers

http://www.htmlgoodies.com/
http://www.w3schools.com/
http://www.webstyleguide.com/ A good explanation site about why design and layouts work, but a lot of reading.

Thoughts on a business site. American, but has a lot of interesting articles
http://www.wilsonweb.com/articles/12design.htm

Seems like a lot of the old sites I bookmarked when I was learning have dissapeared, so I'll add a few more as i come across them



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gregory23b
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Postby gregory23b » Tue Dec 05, 2006 9:01 pm

Yes I thought I would redeem myself by putting something constructive in rather than a moan as before.

:D


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Isabela on G23b "...somehow more approachable in real life"

http://medievalcolours.blogspot.com

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Neibelungen
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OsCommerce

Postby Neibelungen » Sun Dec 17, 2006 7:41 pm

Thought I'd add a bit to this for those of you starting out with getting a shopping cart up and running.

Sally has listed a couple of good hosts on another thread who do a cheap hosting package for these.

Here's a fairly good review and comparison
http://www.ecommerce-guide.com/resources/product_reviews/article.php/3463941

That's also a good site for getting a good idea of whar ecommerce is about. Lots of good reading and reference material there.

For those of you trying out OsCommerce, there's not much in the way of tutorials published online to help you out, but these are a few sites I've used for info.

http://watch.oscommerce.co.nz/buzz.php?cat_id=15
http://www.webportalcentral.com/blog/categories/2-osCommerce/P4.html
http://forums.oscommerce.com/index.php?showtopic=139426&st=0
This last one is their forum, and a long thread about basic design and customizing it. It's worth reading right through it once you've got familiar with the way the layour works.
Otherwise you have to plough through the online docs, which aren't always the clearest.
http://www.oscdox.com/index.html

Finally, there's not much in the way of books, but one that's reasonable
http://www.packtpub.com/inside-oscommerce/book

Hope they are of some help

Andrew



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Postby david smith » Sun Dec 24, 2006 6:28 pm

I would love to have the time and the "spare energy" to learn how to use the copy of "*********" which someone was kind enough to bestow on me, as I gatherit is, as mentioned above, the leading website designing package.

However, in common with many small businesses (me and two cats), it is always going to be a compromise between what I'd like to do and what I have time and resources to do (and then to try and keep up to speed with, another consideration!)

So when it came to setting up my first website, I took the quick and dirty route of Microsoft Publisher - and I use Microsoft Frontpage to re-load when I make any changes. I have not got a clue how it all works, it enough for me that it does. In the main!! Yes there are the occasional glitches, and despite many helpful bits of advice I still can't get the "feedback" quotes on the NLHF site to appear on the website as they do in the Publisher version - something to do with the different fonts used I suspect, but life is too short to spend anymore time on it.

Of course, I'm not currently geared up for any thing such as Paypal or Shopping Baskets or online ordering - but I don't really need to be, so that's a whole raft of difficulties (or opportunities!) that I don't have to worry about.

I'm also sure that there are bells and whistles available in those packages that I have yet to find or to use, it's the same story with Excel and Word and Photoshop etc. In fact, I've made a dleiberate decision over past few years to try and simplify my use of Excel, in particular - nasty experience finding that a speadsheet ( in use at some company I was trying to help ) which was used to calculate Salesmen's Commission was based on a Macro 5 pages long when printed out which no-one left at the company could follow. Sometimes simple and easy to understand is better :lol:

Mind you, I stand in awe at much of Andrew's postings - I don't think "erudite" gets close, and on a considerable variety of subjects.

I suppose it's "horses for courses"

Best wishes
David


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Neibelungen
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Postby Neibelungen » Sun Dec 24, 2006 6:47 pm

It's what comes from taking up what used to be a hobby as a means of living.. suddenly your left without a hobby to fill in the spare time (what little there is of it) so you have to find something new to fill it in.

Only trouble is, most of what is a hobby would simply be adding to what I do a for a living, so wouldn't be a hobby either. :shock:

So I end up playing around with everything else I can't do, that doesn't really feel like work to fill up the time. Ok, I have a advantage over most that I don't have a family to take up all of that. And being a unremmitted batchelor, I don't have to care about hoesekeeping or washing up (or the washing) for more than once a week !!

Perseverence and an insatiable quest for something new to learn is my only excuse, that and probably booring people to death . So I write up a few bits of what I've learnt in case theres a few others like me who enjoy doing something that they can't do for the challenge.

Andre




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Postby agesofelegance » Fri Dec 29, 2006 1:05 pm



sorry that was me without logging in I hadn't realised
Dawn


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