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  1. #1
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    Website Beginner

    Hi guys,

    I want to undertake the designing and maintaining of a new company website for my small family business. We had previously out sourced the design & hosting of the web site but we haven't been getting what we want and the content mangement system doesn't really work. I don't really understand code, altho i have struggled through when our designer (using the term loosely) has not provided the right pages (by cut and paste).

    I'm willing to commit time to it but i'm a bit confused as where to start. Do I start with something like Dream Weaver or an online web designer?? I had hoped to find a program that i could design a site using drag and drop style (sorry don't exactly know the lingo). Is there any online step by step guide or easy to use books?? Any program/ starting tips would be much appreciated.

    Basically at the end of the day the website needs to be loaded onto the host (??) and have a modern fresh look (not over complicated) with various text/gallery/product pages. I've read a bit of the 'important' threads but there's a lot there and not much made sense.

    JRose

  2. #2
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    Dreamweaver is pretty easy to start using, and has pretty decent capabilities. It has its drawbacks for more complex things, but it should work just fine for what you are doing. You can start learning HTML, so that you can edit the code in dreamweaver when necessary.

    Do a search for "learn html". The w3schools.com has a pretty good tutorial.

    I would also suggest learning the basics of CSS -- you can learn the basics in a couple minutes.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrose View Post
    I want to undertake the designing and maintaining of a new company website for my small family business. We had previously out sourced the design & hosting of the web site but we haven't been getting what we want and the content mangement system doesn't really work.
    Why would you want to do it yourself?

    The problem you have is twofold; firstly, the current web designer isn't delivering, and secondly, you don't know where to start to fix it.

    You should look at it from a business viewpoint. Why retrain yourself as a website designer just to knock out one website? Why not pay a developer to give you exactly what you need, whilst you continue to work on building the family business. If a plumber can't fix your toilet, you don't sack him and give it a go yourself - you sack him and find another plumber. So go out, talk to your business colleagues, and get references on a reliable web designer. Then use them. Learn from them, so that in future you can work on the site yourself.

    Alternatively, buy Dreamweaver. But you'll have to learn html, css, graphic design, back-end scripting, hosting... it's a large learning curve, it will take months, and your first site will still look just like everyone else's first site - rubbish. Which is probably not the impression that your family business wants to give to the world.

    HTH,

    Pete.

  4. #4
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    cheers guys,

    I think a combination sounds good. Get a new website from a developer and learn from them. Although I'm sure a website can be designed compiled via e-mails I would still like a local business which we can meet face to face. Any recommendations for developers in East Anglia (Suffolk in particular).

    JRose

  5. #5
    SitePoint Zealot c.t.c.'s Avatar
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    I agree with KPDirection that you may just want to hire a better professional. Unfortunately, there are so many people posing as web professionals willing to take your money and not give you much in return. If you find a passionate professional, he or she will work with you to define the purpose of your web and internet projects. Coming up with a good online strategy for your business is much more difficult than the technical build--that's the easy part.

    However, there are certainly organizations that cannot afford to hire a professional for their strategy or development work. In these instances, I recommend a free online site builder. Google Sites seems like a decent choice. You can also use Google Apps to create custom email addresses and calendars branded with your domain name.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard Blake Tallos's Avatar
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    I would also suggest learning the basics of CSS -- you can learn the basics in a couple minutes.
    ??? Coding Templates By hand Learning Html & Css is a "Live and Breathe" Kinda Deal.
    It takes Year's and Year's of Learning how CSS & HTML work's to Create accessibility, information architecture, clean minimal semantic and valid (X)HTML/CSS hand coded markup. Not everyone uses Clean semantic Html. I mean Yes you can learn the basic's of CSS in a couple Hour's if you are a fast learner but to Fully Understand how to use it for you're User's Usuablity good take a Long Time. I suggest you use http://www.easysiteedit.com/ for a starter's If you are going to be Creating website's. Or Just Learning how to create them. Another good way to learn Web development and Web Designing is simply using some of the Forum's. They do help you out alot. There is ton's of tutorial's online where you can start learning from.
    for Web Design i like to use http://www.good-tutorials.com

    Dreamweaver - I have Dreamweaver CS3 and (Jrose) it's a very good tool For a Web Developerbut there are lot's of Issues it has and lacks. It is a Very Big Learning Curve.
    So right at this time i do not suggest you Go off and Spending all you're Money before you Learn HTML & Css
    Blake Tallos - Software Engineer for Sanctuary
    Software Studio, Inc. C# - Fanatic!
    http://www.sancsoft.com/


  7. #7
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    Since you're new, you're going to want to read Build Your Own Web Site The Right Way Using HTML & CSS by Ian Lloyd. You might also want to consider getting the Photoshop Anthology as well, which is currently being GIVEN AWAY as a FREE download right here on SitePoint. Not a sample chapter, but the ENTIRE BOOK - FOR FREE.

    Oh, and while we're at it, welcome to SitePoint! Don't forget to read the Web Design Guru article list either. They were hand-picked for the main site by none other than yours truly.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Tailslide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrose View Post
    cheers guys,
    ia e-mails I would still like a local business which we can meet face to face. Any recommendations for developers in East Anglia (Suffolk in particular).

    JRose
    Don't know of any off-hand in Suffolk but there's a fair few in Cambridgeshire.

    I'd definitely recommend getting a designer in - you have to put a price on your own time and, frankly, sanity! It's one thing to build a site from scratch without any prior knowledge - quite another thing to have a professional looking site that's also accessible (which is a requirement in UK law) and works cross-browser. Quite often DIY sites can end up being detrimental to a business' image - that's not to say it can't be done, it's just... hard and time-consuming. Plus Dreamweaver by itself costs nearly £500!!

    As I tend to stress accessibility a lot I'd recommend looking for a designer that specialises in this area as, apart from building a site that will work for more people - they're likely to be the type that puts a lot of effort into the quality of the markup instead of just the look of the site (obviously both are important).

    So maybe start looking on GAWDS (guild of accessible web designers). Here's one I found earlier from there: http://www.blend.uk.com/
    Little Blue Plane Web Design
    Blood, Sweat & Rust - A Land Rover restoration project

  9. #9
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    Guys, what a response! I think this will be a forum I use a lot. Thanks for a rapid and clear response. The only thing I have to offer in return is my thanks and Steel buildings (one is free the other is not). JRose

  10. #10
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    There is no need to bother with purchasing software. You can simply register for an account with freewebs where you are able to be taken step by step to build your own website. I am aware that hosting a domain for business with freewebs is not a good idea so you simply register your domain with dynadot.com and redirect your web traffic to the domain you register with at dynadot.! ! easy no need for html coding etc etc .

  11. #11
    SitePoint Enthusiast trishacupra's Avatar
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    Pete/KPDirection had it exactly right. Stick to what you know, and give all the stress of creating a proper website to a web designer/developer. And trust me, it would be easier to learn how to fix a broken toilet (no offense plumbers - I really respect your trade, too) than to fix a broken website. And it's probably easier to build a new toilet from scratch than to build a new website from scratch - one that works and looks professional, that is.
    Trisha Cupra, Web Design Watchdog
    Protecting website owners from the most painful online mistakes

  12. #12
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Black Max's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesc06 View Post
    I would also suggest learning the basics of CSS -- you can learn the basics in a couple minutes.
    CSS is like Go--a minute to learn, a lifetime to master Seriously, it takes longer than a few minutes to figure it out. And while Dreamweaver is a great tool, I'm of the opinion that to learn HTML/XHTML and basic design properly, you need nothing more but Notepad (or whatever text tool you like) and good study resources.

    Quote Originally Posted by KPDirection View Post
    You should look at it from a business viewpoint. Why retrain yourself as a website designer just to knock out one website? Why not pay a developer to give you exactly what you need, whilst you continue to work on building the family business.
    Usually I'm all for the DIY solution, but in this case, KP is correct. This one probably would benefit from being outsourced. It's your family business, not a vanity site.

  13. #13
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    Right - I think i'm going to go with out sourcing on this one. There seem to be quite a lot of places to find web designers and quite alot of designers out there. How can i tell a good one from an average one and what should i look out for? What questions should i ask? I can usually tell a bad designer from looking at their home page or portfoilo - I just don't like the pages and they are out dated or badly designed. But the difference between average and good is harder to spot as i expect the difference will be 'behind the scenes' i.e. CM system etc. What are peoples thoughts (hopefully I haven't opened a can of worms)??

    JRose

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Black Max's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrose View Post
    There seem to be quite a lot of places to find web designers and quite alot of designers out there. How can i tell a good one from an average one and what should i look out for? What questions should i ask?
    Trish and Dan are two good ones to ask of those who have already posted in here (no disrespect to the others). You might ask them for some insight.

  15. #15
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Tailslide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrose View Post
    How can i tell a good one from an average one and what should i look out for?
    JRose
    It's not totally straightforward because they may well make the right noises and have the right stuff on their sites but not deliver this in practise.

    I'd have a list of criteria for the prospective designer. The site must, apart from obviously looking great:

    1. Be accessible (there's a wide spectrum of opinion but maybe meeting at least checkpoint 2 of WCAG 1.0)
    2. Use valid, semantic markup
    3. No tables for layout

    If they don't blink when you ask for this then they're likely to be the type to put a lot of effort into building a quality site. If they start looking nervous or saying that these items are irrelevant then they may be on the lower scale of modern coding knowledge.

    Also might be worth downloading the Firefox browser. Then download the validation plugin that goes with it from the firefox site. This will give you a little cross or tick in the bottom right hand corner of a site to tell you if the code is valid or not. Whilst using valid markup is not the be-all and end-all of web design (by any means) it does, in my view, indicate a level of careful authorship on behalf of the designer.

    Also, look at several of the sites in their portfolio. Are they valid? Also, importantly, check where they list in the Google results pages for their key phrases (which you'll usually find in the blue bar at the top of the page).

    No point in having a beautiful, accessible website if no-body sees it!!
    Little Blue Plane Web Design
    Blood, Sweat & Rust - A Land Rover restoration project


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