NON-CMS Web Development: How To?

Need some advice…

I have built sites using Joomla or Wordpress for the past 8 years. Far from a beginner and far from an expert. Had a potential client reach out to ask if I programmed in HTML. I said no because I have not learned HTML 5 and I don’t feel comfortable flying by the seat of my pants like some folks do.

This got me to thinking - I have probably only built one or two sites 10 years ago from straight HTML.

I don’t know if I would know how to do it. I know the world does no revolve around CMS site. Funny thing is - I’ve worked so long in them - I don’t know how to do it otherwise.

1 - How are straight html site kept safe? (I am on a VPS and my CMS sites have security plugins over and above how they are written)

2 - I’m not a programmer - how do I extend a straight-html site? Say a client wants a calendar or a gallery?

3 - Aren’t there CSS libraries out there that I can incorporate?

These are good questions for starters - I’d really appreciate any thoughts and advice. I really don’t quite know where to begin.


HTML is not an executable code. There is no way to hack it. If you use a scripting language such as PHP or something else, that could possibly be exploitable.

You can try to find existing code, often in PHP or some other scripting language, and embed it within your HTML. Or you can write the code yourself using a scripting language like PHP or a whole host of other languages.

I think so. But I cannot imagine why anyone would want use them.

You could start by purchasing a book on HTML and CSS. Sitepoint sells books. There plenty of books from a bunch of publishers. For a newbie, I have to recommend a hard copy book. I still have my first HTML and CSS book sitting right here on my desk! I don’t need to refer to it very much any more. But I have had to refer to it many times over the years. It is convenient to have a book on your desk.

There are lots of free HTML and CSS reference and tutorial sites out there. I cannot really say any of them are a substitute for a good book. When I learned PHP, I did not learn by a book. I learned by searching for information as I needed it. What happened is that I ended up having gaps in my knowledge. A good book can prevent that.

HTML & CSS Reference

Picking a scripting language to learn for website programming is something you will have to think about. PHP is a good choice as it is fairly easy to learn and is very popular. There is no shortage of CMSes and blog scripts written in PHP. So learning it will mean you have a wealth of materials and free code to learn from.

Cool - thanks. Now let me ask some questions based on those answers…

I guess I should have elaborated more:

1 - I should not have said “straight html” as I realize it WOULD require more. I guess I meant to say “NON-CMS HTML” sites. Meaning without the use of Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress, or whatever else there is out there.

2 - Also, I can write HTML. I basically just need to brush up on HTML 5.

Maybe broader questions are appropriate.

Question 1: How are most business sites being built today? I do not know. Are sites without elaborate backends even being built?

Question 2: How are sites that use php kept secure? Are there out of the bin solutions? People aren’t expected to write everything from scratch constantly. Are there common safe repositories of code?

Question 3: Why would I not want to use a decent css library to save myself some work?

Thanks for replying!

Question 1: How are most business sites being built today? I do not know. Are sites without elaborate backends even being built?

“Most” are probably built on some sort of content management system nowadays, not only because clients want editing abilities but it also makes updating slightly easier all round. There are still traditional “static” sites being built but these are probably in the minority overall.

Question 2: How are sites that use php kept secure? Are there out of the bin solutions? People aren’t expected to write everything from scratch constantly. Are there common safe repositories of code?

That depends what you’re doing with the PHP! If you’re simply including files (like header/footer HTML) then there aren’t really any security implications. On the other hand if you use PHP to do anything dynamic such as search or form processing then it’s possible to write poor code and expose potential weaknesses that can be exploited. This is a very simplified view :slight_smile:

Question 3: Why would I not want to use a decent css library to save myself some work?

Because CSS libraries are often bloated and just add to page weight. They can be a quick fix, but if you want to have efficient CSS it’s always better to write yourself.

Thanks Blue Dreamer…

I am trying to expand my skillset - but don’t want to go down a non-productive path. I’m almost 50 years old and have had my own business for almost 10 years. Do you have any suggestions? I’m open to anything - but talked to the gent that asked for HTML5 and see people listing it and css 3 on their resumes…

When I do a site - I can manipulate wordpress templates using a child template and firebug - but don’t exactly think “finagling code and fidgeting” exactly qualify as marketable skills.

Any more thoughts are appreciated!

Oh. I don’t know. WordPress is very common and many that use it have no clue how to design it or “finagle” code.

Many make income selling templates if you’re good at Design.
If you prefer code, many plugins are free but it’s possible to make income with a premium version or having it tie into to a contracted service.

Or you could get short-term gigs making the non-savvy happy.

I’ve been on the planet for nearly as long as you then! As for expanding skillsets, well it does get harder to absorb stuff the older you are but that shouldn’t stop you - I’m still learning as well and have been building sites for 14+ years.

Well if you’re confident with manipulating the likes of Joomla and Wordpress then stick with those, if you can bend them to do stuff then that is a marketable skill. It’s also worth remembering that no-one is really a true “expert”, though some folks have learned to do more things than others, even self proclaimed “experts” won’t be able to do it all (at least not without playing and testing), after all it’s all about finding solutions to problems.

You could look into the new generation of CMS’s such as Craft and Statamic, they are probably a lot easier to learn than WP/Joomla. If you can get to grips with one of these you may find plenty of work around, ok they aren’t well known right now but demand for sites using them is growing.

HTML5 is really just the latest version of HTML, albeit with a few new structural tags such as HEADER, ARTICLE, SECTION etc. Worth reading up on their use.

It’s well worth starting to write your own HTML+CSS, as you’ve been working with WP/Joomla you shouldn’t have that much of a problem picking it up. Create a test site for yourself and play - makes mistakes and learn how to fix them, that’s the way to learn!

– BlueDreamer…

I have never heard of Craft or Statamatic… I did look them up.

Question: Where do you find people that are looking for these types of skills?

I can definitely write HTML and CSS - but I get frustrated - so many people ALSO want javascript or jquery or the like.

I think freelancing is morphing into design/program/develop.

Generally, you don’t. You really need to be able to do some programming to get a job these days, even if just a bit of JavaScript. The alternative is to do freelance work, offering to do small business websites and the like. The other thing to do is to team up with some graphic designers who may need help putting sites together.

Yes, the days of a “webmaster” doing everything - Design, server-side, database, server management, email, marketing, etc. etc. seems to be as thing of the past.
And understandable considering how complexity has grown and technology changes so fast.

Of course this doesn’t mean an employer won’t want someone young with a college degree that knows everything has years of experience and will work for free :wink:

IMHO best to focus on your strong area and keep up with the rest as best you can, and as said, be willing to learn.

It’s funny both of you replied this way.

I’ve hosted sites for 7 years also (and essentially freelanced for 10 come this August). I host with reputable companies and have had some success. And surprisingly - am a graphic designer by trade.

So I can design/develop/host your website.

The problem is that I have gotten over stretched with the hosting support. I’m a one man shop - and recently - an email issue took me two days of back and forth between the client and my hosting company to figure out the problem was with my clients -> CLIENTS 3rd party email server.

It’s silly stuff like that - that has taken time away from me actually selling or improving my product.

So I have sort of streamlined what I do design-wise. I build sites by manipulating existing wordpress templates. And I don’t mean changing the color. I mean altering the CSS and adding some php elements even though I don’t have comprehensive knowledge of how they work. I’m not haphazard about it - I’m careful about everything I do.

So I’m stuck sort of going - “How do I improve my skill set while keeping the hosting intact because that is okay monthly income.” I can go out and try to find a job or I can retrench and try to get decent business again. Heck - I’d love to dive into Blender with some 3D - there is just no time. Before that I really need to get proficient at SEO. But there are only SO MANY hours in the day. I am trying to do too much - but my competitors are all doing more - like SEO. I can;t guarantee clients a certain placement - nobody can. So I don’t charge for the advice I give them.

I feel like I’ve turned a simple set of questions into into “As the World Turns” - which I didn’t really mean it too. I don’t mean to take up your time. I do appreciate everyone’s thoughts though.

Would Javascript be more important to learn than say PHP? Or should I learn a little of both?


^ yes hosting can take up a lot of time, especially when you get one of those niggly problems. It’s part and parcel of offering hosting, you could offload it so clients buy their own, that relives you of the support burden, but you obviously lose the regular income - which is the lesser evil?

Keeping up with development trends and enhancing your skills does take time, and often there’s little time in your working day to do anything else. I’ve always done this sort of stuff out of hours, in the evenings, or at weekends. I think you need to make a list of what you want to learn and set aside a few hours each week to play and test with things. A web dev friend doesn’t work Fridays (unless there’s anything urgent) and he spends that time catching up with dev news, and learning new stuff, he calls it his “workers playtime” :slight_smile:

Javascript or PHP? I’d say Javascript - Jquery and JquieryUI in particular. With Jquery + plugins you can achieve most things clients want such as lightboxes, carousels, form validation and a whole bunch of fancy stuff. Most of the code is copy/paste/tweak so it’s not that hard to pick up, and once you get the logic you’ll be up and away. Sure you won’t be able to write custom Javascript right away but Jquery is a good start and better than nothing.

Thanks Blue! I really appreciate it.