How I Build My Website

In my opinion there are three ways to build a website.

The easiest (and most expensive) is to pay someone to do it for you. This will cost more than you think, because not only will the website need to be created, it will need to be maintained as well. I am constantly (almost every month) making changes and additions to my website. I think it is fun, so there is no way I would pay someone to do what I actually enjoy doing myself.

The next easiest way is to use an authoring program. You will still need to worry about hosting your website someplace and obtaining your URL (web address), but you will only need to learn to use an application program as opposed to programming your website in HTML, XHTML and javascript. I started my career as a programmer, wanted to continue as a programmer, but was talked into becoming a manager. Each year of being a manager led to less and less opportunity to write code, so I ended my career still wanting to be a programmer. As a consequence, there was no way I would take this second approach to creating my website, and I know just about nothing with respect to website authoring programs.

Which leads me to my personal choice of coding my own website in HTML, XHTML, and javascript. I do not teach programming skills here, but I can certainly give you some tips and pointers if you wish to create your own website by what I consider the fun way. I will touch upon the following points:

What are HTML, XHTML and javascript?

HTML stands for Hyper-Text Markup Language, and the X in XHTML stands for Extended. HTML and XHTML are not really programming languages, but they do have a lot in common with programming languages, such as the fact that the commands are rather esoteric, and if you make a mistake things do not work right. javascript is a scripting language built upon (or at least with some of) the java programming language. My entire website is mostly in HTML with a bit of javascript.

Want to see what HTML looks like? Just right click on this page (not the frame to the left), and then select "view source." A window will pop open with the source code for this page of my website, includung the text and all the HTML code. There is no javascript on this page, but there is on the frame to the left (near the bottom). Try right clicking on the left side and selecting "view source."

A Good Book on HTML and XHTML

There are many books available on HTML, XHTML and javascript. I have tried a few, and found there are some I simply cannot work with. The following is the one I used to learn and occasionally return to as a reference. It can be ordered through Amazon.com or bought at Borders Books, etc. These days I mostly just type in the code and/or cut and paste from elsewhere on my own website.

You can also pick up some neat HTML tips at html.tucows.com. Tucows is where I obtained the javascripts I use for concealing my email address from robots, and for automatically updating the date at the bottom of some of my web pages.

How to obtain your own URL

I believe there are multiple answers to this step. My first was to go to Network Solutions and sign up for www.rshirley.com. It cost me $140 for (I believe) five years. If you follow my suggestions below (using 1and1.com or iPage.com) you can get your URL for free.

Hosting your website

Some of my friends from work host their websites on their own home computers (connected to the internet via a high speed link such as DSL or cable modem). I did not want to do that (even with firewall and anti-virus programs I do not want my computer tied to the web 24 hours per day), so I used a hosting service. There are lots of companies out there. My son has told me that 1and1.com is the best deal going. 1and1.com allows lots of webspace (250 GB, they provide free URLs, and the monthly fee is about $7 payable semi-annually. They are easy to use as well. An excellent alternate (that I now use) is iPage.com.

Two Essential Tools

I consider two tools essential to working on my website: an editor that is HTML-aware, and a program to help upload my files to the server that hosts my website.

The editor I use is UltraEdit. I am using it as I write this page, and I like the program very much. It is available from IDM Computer Solutions for about $80.

The ftp (file transfer protocol) program I use is called CuteFTP. It is available from GlobalScape for $60 (download version). Once set up, this program is also very easy to use.

Starting with Something

It is much easier to start your own website if you start with some sample code. There are two very easy ways to obtain starter code. First is to ask a friend (with a website) for code; you will likely receive some code on a USB Key or (old-fashioned) CD. Second is to search the web for a page you like. By right-clicking on the page and then selecting "view source," you can view the code. The source can even be saved as a file or cut and pasted into another document. Don't use code generated by an authoring tool(it will be obvious)!

When I first started my website, I started with some code my brother Fred gave to me. If you check out his website, you can see the similarities between our websites. But if you poke around a bit you will see that each site has grown on its own as it's author wished. But the start I got with Fred's code - that was great!

Website "business" cards

Fred had cards he printed with his website address (URL) on them. Joan (my wife) really liked them. It finally dawned on me that having such cards, with my email address and website on them, would be very handy. I find I give out a few every week.

To make the cards I start with one of my favorite photographs. In Adobe PhotoShop I size the photo to 300 dpi and 3-1/4" wide by 2" high. I then add text to show my website URL and email address, placing them in a location where the photo still looks good, and selecting a text color which can easily be read. Finally, I create a new document and copy the card over 10 times (two wide by five high) for printing on 8-1/2" by 11" paper. A brief time with a cutting board, and I have ten cards that look like this:

I do tend to vary the photos every once in a while, and the email address above is out of date. Just click on the link to the "webmaster" on the left to send me an email.