Easy web site design with no experience???

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by mojohanna, Nov 7, 2004.

  1. mojohanna macrumors 6502a


    Jul 7, 2004
    I have been issued a challenge by my father in law. Although I have not accepted yet, I told him I would look into it. He is starting a small consulting business, post retirement from corporate america. He wants to have a web site with the basics. Contact information some text and a few pictures. Is there any inexpensive (sub $100) software, or even freeware/shareware that offers a WYSIWYG type of interface? I have no experience with HTML or XML programming.
    Also we need a good place to host and register the URL. I have been kicking around .Mac for hosting (thinking I can get my FIL to pay the $99 a year and that will be my "fee" ;)). We have also heard things about register.com. However, I tried getting on their site this am and could not get on their site.

    Thanks for the info in advance. I really don't know where to start so I thought I would start here.
  2. Sammie macrumors newbie

    Nov 4, 2004
    Peawanuck, Ontario
    Accept the challenge...

    contrary to popular belief. Reading and writing html is easy. I learned it in one week and so did my friends. There are many tutorials (free) available on the web and one is www.webmonkey.com . The trick is to develop your first page and you "save as" that home page to "products.html" "service.html" etc... Look at the source code on your browser and save it to your computer and change the table information and keep opening the file on your browser and see what changed! Make sure it is saved withthe .html tag after you saved it. Thats the easiest way to learn fast. Each button has a separate page and pictures should be in a separate folder titled "images". Boxes in HTML always go side to side and up and down only. Visualize real boxes and stack them..thats how tables work, they will never overlap.

    Hope I helped you

    Sammie :eek:
  3. neilrobinson macrumors 6502

    Aug 21, 2004
    Perth, WA, Australia
    golive (adobe) is ok, dreamweaver is crap! even on a 2.0 G5 with 2.5gig ram its slow.

    its easy to learn, a good skill and fun :rolleyes: yep, pagetutor.com is also a really good tutorial site.

    i dont know of any free/cheap ones, i would like to know if you find one but.
  4. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus


    Mar 10, 2004
    Bergen, Norway
    Mozilla has Composer, a built-in HTML editing module, which isn't half-bad... As far as WUSIWYG editors it's actually fairly good and doesn't mess up the code as much as some editors do...

    But try using it as a means to learn html while you make the pages, Sammie is quite right, html coding is very easy to learn.

    Good luck!
  5. wordmunger macrumors 603


    Sep 3, 2003
    North Carolina
    Well, if you go the .mac route, it actually includes a WYSIWYG site builder, perfect for novices to generate a very slick looking site (as long as you're happy with one of their templates). You can even register a domain name like "smithconsulting.com" and have it redirected to your .mac site.
  6. mmzplanet macrumors regular


    Nov 4, 2004
    HTML is way to easy to use on its own... you can get proficient at it in less than a day or two. All it take for HTML pages is a text file editor (OSX and WIN both have them included) and an FTP program (such as CuteFTP) to run a site. It really is easy that way. Just remember the two things below.

    Newbie tip #1 - Just remember to Test, Test, and Test before you upload it to the site. Make sure it looks good in Safari AND IE. Sometimes a WYSIWYG program does not always work out that way. Especially when you use a font that is not common to both Windows and Mac. Usually the standard font works on both.

    Tip #2- The only other thing that trips the newbies rather quickly is make sure you know what server your site is on. If it is linux or unix, just remember the filenames are case sensitive. If the image file does not exactly match the code.... It just won't work.

    Run out to a bookstore and get a book. Its easier than an online tutorial that you need to switch back and forth to another window while you are working.
  7. EMKoper macrumors regular


    Dec 18, 2002
    Stafford, VA

    I learned HTML basics online in about 3 days (also referenced above WebMonkey and this HTML Made Easy page).

    Freeware... Taco HTML Editor ... not WYSISYG but has a live preview mode so as you write the code, you can see the result real-time. Very nice for learning and quick modifications to webpages.

    Ask your PC friends... many will have a copy of FrontPage and don't use it and probably don't know what it is even for. Though it is clunky, it seems to work OK for simple pages running on VPC. I used it to construct the basic pages quickly and then I use Taco to maintain the pages.

    Hosting... I tried macosx.com and it has been reliable and the support has been very quick when I needed them. For $10/year, got 100M webspace and an IMAP e-mail account. Their main page says "personal e-mail and webspace"... I don't know if that implies no business related content permitted ... may need to read the fine print.
  8. mojohanna thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jul 7, 2004
    Thanks everyone. This provides a great start. I think I am going to jump in tonight when I get home from work.

    One more question to ask. He is willing to pay me. Based on the fact that at this exact momemt in time, I have no clue what I am doing, what would be a reasonable amout to receive for this work? I think I want to shy away from an hourly thing because of my inefficiencies. My father in law has no idea what is reasonable and fair either.

    Thanks again everyone, I appreciate the help.
  9. RacerX macrumors 65832

    Aug 2, 2004
    If you don't mind going a little past $100 (around $150), there is Create by Stone Design. It is actually a combination page layout-illustration-web design application.

    You can try it out in Demo mode, it'll let you generate html right off the bat (you just can't save the master document).
  10. Vanilla macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2002
    Atlanta, GA
  11. pixieslayer macrumors newbie

    Nov 8, 2004
    You're not a programmer by any chance? I don't think I've met one who didn't think writing HTML wasn't bog easy. Strangely - in 10 years working as a web developer (including programming and markup) - I've rarely met one who could write remotely decent markup. This is a more prevalent myth than believing it
     is an arcane discipline.
    Fact is, although it may only take a few days to get an understanding of HTML grammar, using it well together with assistive technologies (css, javascript et al) takes a good deal of experience and effort - like anything. It may well be harder, considering the cross-disciplinary nature of web design, and the best designers have a broad range of knowledge and experience which most developers cannot match.
    In terms of WYSIWYG tools, Dreamweaver is still the one to beat, although GoLive is close enough not to make a real difference, especially if you know what you're doing. But the best way to go is a text editor and starting off at the basics. I know that may not be in the remit for this challenge, but don't be fooled into thinking it's so straightforward - as usual, it's a sign of how much someone knows when they realise how much more there is to know - and vice-versa.
    In terms of pricing your work, this is tricky, especially as you may not feel comfortable charging 'market rates' for a first project. But prices generally fall between the $300-$1000 for sites, which may mean anything from 2-3 pages up to 20-30 pages. Bigger sites, especially data-driven or content managed solutions can cost much more, obviously. Professional agencies have templates, which dramatically reduce the costs, both in their time and to their clients - of course they usually don't look that good or work that well, and are off-the-shelf...but you pays your money and takes your choice...
    Now I'll think I'll nip off and write a 'Helloworld' program in some new language confident I've mastered it...
  12. aus_dave macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2004
    It's pretty hard to give you any advice on this. I do this for a living and quoting is still one of the hardest parts of the business ;).

    You could always get some quotes to design the site from professionals and get a feel for what the job is 'worth' that way. I don't want to discourage you from your project but you might find it is more efficient to totally outsource the site design and construction. Be prepared for a lot of research and reading as others have pointed out.

    Sure, HTML is fairly simple. But keeping up with what's current, understanding search engine optimisation, CSS, usability issues and cross-browser compatibility are some of the other areas that are important for a successful site, particularly where increasing business is the primary aim.
  13. pixieslayer macrumors newbie

    Nov 8, 2004
    That's spot on advice (together with the rest of the post) - and it is one of the trickiest parts of the job. Btw - this is the best intro to the current state of web design I have read -
  14. James L macrumors 6502a

    Apr 14, 2004


    First off, if you go WYSIWYG Dreamweaver is the way to go. They have a 30 day trial download you could use to get started.

    Secondly, there is a tremendous difference between properly formatted and coded HTML/XHTML/CSS and amateur stuff. If you ever learn how to do HTML by hand, here are a couple of thoughts:

    1) ALL documents require a DOCTYPE at the beginning of each page. This will differ based on the type of page you are creating.

    2) ALL pages should be validated to ensure there are no coding errors. When I have a client ask me to do an update on their current site, it is not uncommon to find 10-30 errors per page. People should be using the html/xhtml and css validators on the W3 site. Ensuring no errors in your code prevents the browser from going into quirks mode. Basically, when a page is sent to the browser, it checks for valid code. If it finds it then it knows exactly how to render it. If it finds errors, it goes into quirks mode and guesses how to render it, often incorrectly.

    3) CSS CSS CSS! External stylesheets make managing your site and editing it MUCH easier.

    4) NEVER have anything on your site dependent on client sided scripting like Javascript. I have seen sites where the navigation, for example, is completely based on Javascript. Guess what happens when people who disable scripting (still up to 10% of the web browsing audience in some cases) visit that site? NOTHING! Never let a crucial part of your site be controlled by something the end user can turn off in their preferences pane. Javascript and other client side scripting is fine for the non essentials however, such as button rollovers, clocks, etc. For anything dependent on scripting it really should be done server sided such as using PHP.

    5) When desiging a site, you basically have the two options of fixed width, and dynamic layout. An example of fixed width is
    http://www.ryanbrill.com .... the width is set and does not really change. Macrumors, on the other hand, is a dynamic width. Resize the window and see what happens. If you chose to make a fixed width site, just remember that up 35-40% of viewers still see the web in 800x600 resolution, so do not deign a fixed width site that is 1200 pixels wide just because you have a 23" monitor! Usually the best width is abotu 750 pixels for fixed width (currently).

    6) Certain browsers have certain rendering errors that you will learn to work around over time. Sometimes it is only a version of a browser that has a certain error. I won't get into them as there are too many right now, but again a true professional knows exactly what they are and how to compensate for them.

    ...and my rant is over! Web design is like anything else. It can be learned, it is not extremely difficult, but there is a definite difference between a site learned by somebody who has coded for a week and someone who is a true professional. I could add another 20 points on that list above, but you get the idea.Even if you work only in WYSIWYG, it really helps to understand how the code works so you can edit it later down the road.

    Jump in with both feet, it is a lot of fun! If you hit a roadblock, post it here and we will be more than happy too help!


  15. winwintoo macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2003
    I second that.

    I've been a programmer in real life and trying to learn web development in retirement. HTML is easy to learn, but as James and pixieslayer have said putting it together into anything but a pure text layout takes some skill and while I haven't given up, I readily admit that after quite some time, none of my efforts are ready for prime time :p :p

    I've been looking for a content management system for a group I'm working with and came across EasySite2 It only takes a couple of minutes to set up - and if you talk nice to Darren, he'll set it up for you - and it has all the stuff you need for a first business content management site. While you're mucking about with it, you can learn a lot about how a site is built.

    Now I'll hand it back to the professionals who know what they're talking about.


    edit: I almost forgot. someone mentioned this site is "dynamic" - I can read the posts on my PalmOS Zire72! Try to do that with lots of other sites :eek:
  16. pixieslayer macrumors newbie

    Nov 8, 2004
    Clearly we're getting into the realms of a mutual admiration society... :D . I can't disagree with any of this. I don't want to add much more (collective sighs of relief?) - as James rightly points out there are many other things - but do want to say -

    In many ways web design is entering a golden age, as it starts to mature - increasing support of standards, clearly defined technologies and much research (often drawn from other disciplines) means that it has never been easier to create good web sites (but it still ain't easy enough)

    And what it is a good site? That's the key question. In addition to the good points made by everyone, a good site starts of with a good idea of why it's there, why it's needed, its goals and requirements. Ask yourself and your client questions like "Who will be looking at this website and why?" "How is it going to benefit the company?" "How will we know if it is a good site?" (ah web metrics, don't get me started). Don't start off thinking, "let's do something cool for the sake of it"

    So in fact one of the first things - before worrying about editors, css, HTML even - is to find out what your father-in-law wants to say. And get him to say it. Content is (often nearly) everything. Work out what are the most important things you want to say, make these obvious and easy to see/reach. This is one of the hardest things

    Organise your information into logical categories, work out a structure, use a pencil and paper to sketch out ideas, write notes, before going to the keyboard. When you do get to mark up, use semantic tags (eg structure the documents as headings with the header tags, paragraphs with the p tags, lists as list tags etc) and let css make it look the way you want. Be structured and logical as well as creative.

    I think these are the best principles I've learnt (but only a few)

    • Content dictates form (form follows function)
    • keep it simple (as it can be, but no less)
    • God is in the details

    they are the key...to life itself :rolleyes:
    Oh and remember once the website is there, that's only the start of the work, they are like a difficult child (maintainance & growth)

    Sorry didn't mean to rant either. Have I put you off yet? I hope not. It is a great thing to do, please don't get put off - just don't get the impression you'll know it in a week...

    I think I should shut up now :) This is was happens when you are bored and ill on a wet monday in london, forgive me
  17. winwintoo macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2003
    Ah!! How I argued with my "superiors" on just this point - and I always lost.

    They would spent months designing the database, researching tools, buying servers, setting up networks, endless meetings, and nary a pencil ever touched paper to find out how the end user might want to actually use the screens that were presented to them.

    My approach of going to the user and standing in front of a blank white board and drawing little squares and labels while the lowest of the low in the end user community shouted out their needs and wishes met with derision. The fact that my projects were accepted by the users went over the heads of management while they continued to advocate bringing all the suits together for weekend planning sessions and then months later dumping some useless and unusable system on their unsuspecting clerical staff. Ah, but they had mountains of "documentation" to *prove* that they had followed all the *best practices* HAH!

    But I'm not bitter, they gave me a nice severance package anyway.:D :D :D

  18. pixieslayer macrumors newbie

    Nov 8, 2004
    Jeez, sorry mojohanna...I sorta realise I've lost a bit of perspective here. You just want to whip out a quick website, like using MS Word, couple of pages, address, bit of blurb etc...here I am waxing lyrical about the art & sicence of web development and design.... :eek:

    If you're even reading this, and have the website there already :p

    On the other hand, depends how serious your father-in-law is. This is an age where you can be taken to court for having a badly written website. If he wants to be professional about it...I mean does he want to get a designer for his business cards or a kid off the street?

    So the answer is no, I'm afraid.

    But sorry if it's all a bit too deep (or it could be drivel also :confused: ).

    If you want to talk about any of this, or why higher management is an utter and complete contradiction in terms in development, or life the universe and everything webby, perhaps we should start a new thread....

    Or we could stay here and enlighten the world, :D
  19. winwintoo macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2003
    Don't get me started!! You're ill and I'm sure you feel bad enough already and I have work to do :D :D :D

    Getting back to the original posting: I think it's registergo.com that you're looking for. And seriously, give Easysite a try. For $5 and Darren's help how could you go wrong.

    Take care, Margaret
  20. munkle macrumors 68030


    Aug 7, 2004
    On a jet plane
    I'd recommend Dreamweaver and it runs fine on my humble 12" Powerbook. Make sure you have the latest the latest update (7.0.1), which supposedly makes it run 70% quicker.

    Apart from the sites already mentioned, Lynda.com do excellent video based tutorials.

    As for fees, it's your first site, it's family - just count it as good practice and charge him for the apps you need, maybe a couple of books, a few beers and maybe an iPod ;)

    Good luck with it and give us a link when you're done.
  21. neut macrumors 68000


    Nov 27, 2001
    here (for now)
    sounds like you answered your own question. .mac: hosting, back-up, software, and more for $99 + google for information and you have everything you need. time to start learning. :)

    good luck man.


    *you'll want to register a domain name and look into other hosting as the site design continues. you can redirect to the .mac address for now, but a business should be at a .com (that will be a business expense; not part of the design work... you can transfer the site to a permanent location once you have everything figured out and working).
  22. pixieslayer macrumors newbie

    Nov 8, 2004
    Urgh, yep good advice. Mojohanna - all good stuff here. Best bet is dreamweaver trial for the software (but actually, see below) - it's free and has the best WYSIWYG which will help you get the most professional results by far with the least experience. Getting your site hosted is pretty easy these days - there are loads of companies offering packages for sites such as you want - plenty of info around, on and off the web. It is
    www.register.com - praps their site was down, but I use them. They are good, but comparatively expensive. There are plenty of competors and all can help you, register and administer domain names, upload and download documents and host your site (some provide all the tools you need and business ready templates in extended packages - hey presto :D ) and plenty of help generally.

    Go for it

    But you may find yourself becoming a professional in spite of yourself, be warned :p :D
  23. pixieslayer macrumors newbie

    Nov 8, 2004
    Oh and...

    Don't forget, to give Easysite a try - sounds good, ...sorry Margaret :eek:

    I'm off folks...
  24. mojohanna thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jul 7, 2004
    WOW!! Ask and you shall receive!! I really appreicate all of the suggestions and thoughts. I consider myself somewhat of a tech junkie, so I tend to be a sucker for the cool factor.
    My FIL just wants something that clients and potential clients can come to to get basic info so I need to supress my bleeding edge tendencies. My goal here is to get something basic and functional set up for him now, and most importantly pick up a new skill in the process. Probably only a few pages. There will always be time to muck it up later.....

    In all seriousness, thanks again for the help. Time to go start studying!!!

    UGH, downloaded dreamweaver demo. Much more complex than I thought. I have decided to get my FIL over to sit down and map this out pen and paper style. I can see that I would be tooling and retooling infinitely if I don't. Thanks winwintoo. Invaluable advice.
    Time to go to bed. My head is swimming right now :p
  25. James L macrumors 6502a

    Apr 14, 2004

    When I first meet a client, I sit down and go over what they want. It is always something like "just do whatever... it'll be great!".


    So, what I do is to focus first on information architecture, and nothing on design. A site first and foremost is about getting information, pretty comes later.

    Once we have it all laid out on a site map (number of pages, names of pages, link strucutres, etc I then can start talking to the client about design. I will mock up a few different concepts in photoshop, make some changes based on what they say, then finalize the design.

    Now, I have a site map, and a basic design. I have not coded a thing yet. At this point I require my clients to sign off on this, and to pay half the site fee up front. This ensures that I don't work my ass off, only to have them say "well... that isn't what I wanted."

    Once they have signed off I collect resources (logos, data, pictures, etc) and create the pages. When they are done they go live onto a private server for the client to see.

    When the whole thing is done, and tested, it goes live. At this point the client is required to pay the other half of their bill. Finally, once the site is live the client has a 30 day period to request minor changes (rewording text, a photo swap, etc).

    If they client ever changes their mind, wants a page added, etc after they have signed off on the design then it is always extra.



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