If your father gave you a Meccano set or Swiss Army knife while growing up, then he probably also told you (possibly over the wash of a golden sunrise on a misty pond at dawn while stringing a worm on his favourite lure?) that a man is only as good as his tools.
And so it is with making Internets, dear son.
So, in the tradition of such timeless wisdom, we proudly present the following primer of Must-Have Web Design Tools to git’ ‘er done.
First things first.
Selecting the right tools means knowing what you need in the first place. If you’ve got a yearnin’ for some learnin’, we can help with that.
Here’s what you’ll need in your website development toolbox:
- An HTML editor.
- An image editor.
- A web host.
- A web browser.
- Support resources.
Here’s the skinny on each:
1. HTML Editors
The Code That Makes the World Go Round
In addition to being a series of tubes, the Internet (or at least, the “websites” part of it) is built on code. This code, not unlike The Matrix, defines everything you see online. To make Internets, you need to write code. And for that, you’ll need a good HTML editor.
Although entire websites can still be developed in a simple plain text editor, in recent years, some editors have become fancy enough to be called WYSIWYG: what-you-see-is-what-you-get. In a WYSIWYG editor, you can just create a website, and the editor will (mostly) write the code for you.
Microsoft Expression Web is a feature-rich WYSIWYG editor that can help you build websites visually on-the-fly, with a handy library of drag-and-drop controls to simplify using complex interactive media like video, Adobe Flash, and Windows Media files. It’s part of Microsoft’s Expression suite, a collection of tools to streamline the whole website development process.
How simple is simple? If you can edit a Word document, you can probably build a website using a WYSIWYG editor like Microsoft Expression Web or Adobe Dreamweaver.
2. Image Editors
Making It Pretty
A website without graphics would be pretty dull.
To make those graphics, you’ll need to delve into the exciting world of graphic design. Fortunately, for the time or talent challenged, there are many ready-to-go template solutions online that can give you the polished look of a slick website design without the inconvenience of having to create it from scratch. Just be wary of looking too “template-y” — that’s the online version of showing up to a party wearing the same shirt as the host. Ouch.
Most templates can very easily be modified to create a totally unique final solution. Crowd sourcing sites like http://www.getafreelancer.com allow you to post your “customization” gigs for very reasonable rates. And why stop there? If you don’t even know what you want your site to look like, you can post a brief describing it on http://www.crowdspring.com and let designers submit spec designs.
3. Web Hosting
Getting It “Out There”
A website’s no good if no one can see it. To be seen, a website requires a computer to host it. You put your files on the host (AKA “server”), and it “serves” your website to the world, like a tireless butler bringing forth your goodness.
Now, you probably don’t want to leave your computer running 24/7 to serve your own website, nor would it be very reliable or quick if you did. Running a server is a serious business best left to dedicated professionals.
Fortunately, at myhosting.com, we offer professional and reliable hosting for all your web needs at very reasonable rates. We offer many features, but in short, they can be summed up as: a whole lot of awesome.
Not All Browsers Are Created Equal
It’s difficult to make Internets if you can’t see them. You need a web browser to load and view your pages. Of course, as a conscientious and studious standards-compliant web developer, your big, beautiful, bold webpages will work in any browser — right?
Sadly, this is often not the case. All browsers are not created equal, and even supposedly standards-compliant sites designed to dot every “i” will often break across cross-browser compatibility tests.
You’ll need to pick one browser to preview your work-in-progress in, so we’re here to remind you that your choice of browser will impact your development strategy.
A list of usage shared among web browsers can help you understand which browser your audience will likely be using.
The only real solution is rigorous and thorough testing across many browsers. Fortunately, handy utilities like BrowserCam can help ease some of the legwork.
Regardless of which browser you use, always preview your site in a real browser. Many WYSIWYG editors offer built-in browser previews, which may appear to work convincingly well, but are notorious for missing critical subtleties that are very annoying to discover later. Save yourself the trouble by previewing in a real browser.
Remember too that Internet Explorer in particular is notorious for poor standards compliance, meaning what works in IE may or may not work outside of it, and vice versa. It’s a good idea to brush up on your known browser bugs to spare yourself falling victim to popular head-scratchers.
5. Support resources.
Google is your friend.
Last but not least, with all your tools in place, you’ll need to know what to do with them.
To help you get started, there are literally a billion tutorials on how to build websites.
Books are also a good start for the basics, if you don’t mind the price-tag and having the information go out of date in three months.
While you develop, just search for whatever you don’t know. Someone, somewhere, will have described how to do it online. Even seasoned developers may be paralyzed if cut off from near-constant access to a good search engine for code references, syntax searches, bug fixes, and forum support.
Consider enrolling in a good (read: paid) support community or forum to get the help when you need it. Or even better, enroll with myhosting.com and enjoy free 27/7 live telephone support with your account.
We can even help you set up your hosting account even if you’ve never built a website before. Give us a call today!