Build your own web site (the right workflow for you)

 

websites
How do I build my own website? What is the best software to use? What is the best workflow?

 

When I started learning about making a web site, I just couldn't get easy answers to these important questions. If I was going to invest time and energy to building a website I wanted to do it the right way.

Now, years later I am in a position to make some recommendations for others. Here is an explanation of what programs to use and how to put together a website (along with some resources).

When deciding on a work flow for web site building you will need to consider what types of sites you will be designing. Will the site require members to be able to log in and get special privileges, will they be big sites with hundreds, perhaps thousands of pages, or just a small company site with information about the product and contact details.

If you are only building one simple site, then I suggest you choose from one of the following:

  1. Pay someone to build it for you (in the case of a commercial site) or

  2. Sign up for a blog site which will allow you to add as much content as you want and even use a nice template (etc at www.blogger.com) here is an example blog)

  3. For a more personal site, look at using a social networking site like myspace or facebook

  4. Consider the free online website creation tools that you get with doteasy's free web hosting service.

For a longer term solution (that will suit people with bigger plans), here are some different possibilities along with who they are likely to suit and why:

Adobe Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Fireworks. These are the three programs that professionals use the most. Basically a professional designer will normally construct how she/he wants a site to look (keeping in mind the parts that a site is made up of) in Photoshop and then use fireworks to slice the image and create the html which puts the slice together. This will then become the template for the who site and content and tweaks will be made using Dreamweaver, often at the code level (html). But I'd like to say that Dreamweaver is a terrible program. If you like doing things the hard way, have a technical mind and are really prepared to learn it, then it is at least, a fully featured program and if you want to work in web design, then you might be 'forced' to use it. The reason I think it's so bad is that it offers very little help to the user. It was clearly written by one of these people who likes writing html by hand using a text editor (and was further developed form there).

 

Dreamweaver Screenshot

Dreamweaver is complicated and counter intuitive (it's not my favorite).

As much as I dislike Dreamweaver for being so counter intuitive, I still wanted to let people know that the Photoshop/Fireworks/Dreamweaver work flow is the industry standard for professional designers. It's also the work flow that is use by template providers and template clubs, so if you buy a template and want to customise it, the source files you will receive will no doubt be in the right format for those programs.

I strongly recommend that unless you must use Dreamweaver then perhaps take a look at the alternatives. Worth mentioning at this point is a FREE Dreamweaver clone called nvu. If you don't mind the complexity of Dreamweaver because you need the features, but are on a limited budget tru nvu (pronounced N-view).

But by alternatives I actually mean web site design software that does it differently (better) than Dreamweaver. Enter iWeb. iWeb is a program which comes with new Apple MAC's and it's absolutely incredible. It may not be a “professional” tool and can sometimes be a bit limiting, but its oooh so easy to use, whats more you can build a web site in minutes, just drag and drop in some photos add a log and text, iWeb takes care of all the html, so you don't ever have to even see it. If you don't have a MAC but want to build web site just as effortlessly as iWeb on the PC, then I'm afraid you out of luck. I've tried several programs which claim to be iWeb for the PC, but they just aren't any where near as good. iWeb is simply unbelievable, if you want to make web sites you may want to consider purchasing an Apple MAC when you next upgrade your computer because in my opinion, iWeb is almost worth the purchase price of the whole computer! Also available for the MAC is a program called rapidweaver which I'm lead to believe has the both professional functionality and MAC ease of use, but I have never used it.

 

iweb great web site design made easy

iWeb , great web site design made super easy

If you must stay with you humble PC then have no fear, there is an option which I am starting to recommend to people as a great way to make good looking sites, free and easily. But first a warning: Whatever you do, steer away from Microsoft products for website development (frontpage, sharepointdesigner, expression web). Microsoft has never managed to produce anything (windows included) that was easy to use, but more importantly than that, somehow Microsoft web products just seam to make ugly and boring websites. If you want to invest a little time into learning something useful take a look instead at Joomla!

 

Quite simply Joomla is a great way to make websites, any kind of websites. What is Joomla? Its not a site building program you install on your computer, Joomla is a content management system that gets installed on your hosting providers server, more on that soon.

The advantages of Joomla are:

  1. Its open source (and therefore, completely FREE)

  2. You can add functionality to your website by installing components and modules

  3. You can move things around on your website with just the click of a mouse

  4. You can alter the look of your entire website by changing the template (an all pages of the site will immediate reflect the changes)

There are a lot of other important reasons to use Joomla, but I don't want to list them all here. I just want to say that using Joomla isn't quite as easy as iWeb, but it doesn't take that long to get up and running with it. Once you have a Joomla site, your web site is future proof because you will have no problems changing things.

Joomla is a content management system. It is designed for sites which have a lot of content. It includes the facility for members to join and add their own content. Many third party addons exist to increase the functionality even further but some people do the opposite and use Joomla for a simple site. The point is, you can use it for whatever. You can check out Joomla here, oh and yes, this is a Joomla based site.

Once you have installed Joomla you may want to take a look at some professionally designed templates. The are great value for money and because you didn't have to pay for Joomla you can have a great site for very little money.

www.templateplazza.com more great Joomla templates

Finally to sumarise:

  • If you only want to create a single site for personal use, take a look at a social networking site (like facebook or myspace)

  • If you just want something free where you can write about something that interests you, then maybe a blog (web log) is what you want.

  • If you want something more advanced and a domain name, try something like doteasy

  • If you are prepared for a long hard learning curve, but absolutely must use the “professional” tools, then most people in the industry use Photoshop/Firweworks/Dreamweaver to create and maintain their sites.

  • If you want to create professional sites in no time at all and really easily then iWeb for the Apple MAC is the most intuitive and user friendly web site building software there is.

  • For an all round excellent free content management site (which can also be used for simpler projects). Taking the time to learn Joomla is time well spent. Joomla is excellent and easy to use.

Posted in You too can (how to articles)