Starting on webdesign

Hi all!
I am completely new to web design, since my professional activity is on a totally different subject (earth sciences and geomatics). But the need to extend my capabilities, especially with WebGIS, has pushed me to start learning the basic tools to build a website.

I begun with the excellent book by Ian Lloyd (Build your own website the right way) which literally opened my mind to HTML and CSS and at present I am practising with some simple static web page.

But my personal project aims at the building of a dynamic website to promote my professional activity, so I will also need knowledge of Javascript, Php and MySQL (or PostgreSQL). So I have just ordered at Amazon “Simply Javascrip” and “Build Your Own Database Driven Web Site Using PHP & MYSQL” by Kevin Yank hoping that they will be enlightening as Lloyd’s book has been.

What I would like to know from some web design expert is: based on your experience, should I start building my web site with HTML and CSS and later (as I get Javascript and Php/MySQL knowledge) add the dynamic content, or is it better to go on learning everything and then start to build the web site?
Thank you

Hi nicdain. Welcome to the forums. :slight_smile:

Actually, I’d say “neither”. :slight_smile: Your strategy of learning HTML/CSS first, and then getting your head around JS and PHP, is excellent. BUT … you don’t need to wait to build a dynamic site. The thing to do now is to learn to use a CMS (content management system) that has all the inbuilt dynamic functionality already built in. That way, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel (to coin a phrase). There are lots of free ones, and also some great commercial ones. Some common free ones are MODx, Drupal, CMSMadeSimple, Joomla and so on. A nice commercial one is ExpressionEngine (my preferred one, as it’s very well suited to someone who just knows CSS/HTML).

These let you build amazing dynamic sites long before you’ve learned to be a programmer. Those programmer skills will come in very handy for extedning your sites in cool ways, but most CMSes come with plugins that do just about everything anyway. Before you learn JS, you can use a library like jQuery, which has a whole bunch of inbuilt functions that make it a lot easier to do fancy JavaScript things. There are many free galleries and all kinds of other functionality already built for you and totally free.

Another option would be to go with wordpress, and just use themes. Then all you would have to do is focus on your page content.

Thank you all for the replies. For what I understand, CMS seems to be the best way to proceed. Do CMS (like Joomla or Wordpress) leave enough freedom of customization of the website or do they stick to certain fixed schemes? And do they allow to build a database driven website? Thank you

Every web hosting service provider will also provide you free or paid site building tool.You can use these tools to build your site keeping in mind SEO techniques.I think it is not necessary to learn html or css to build websites really.You can concentrate on SEO more and it is important also.

I couldn’t disagree with you more. HTML and CSS are the building blocks for all websites. It doesn’t matter if you hand code, use a CMS or use a site builder tool, it is still HTML and CSS behind the site. If you don’t have a good working knowledge of the two, you will have little control over your site. The most important thing to keep in mind when building a site is your visitors - the real human people who are going to use it. Build with them in mind, and the site should also be good for search engine bots. Build with SEO in mind and the site is unlikely to be much good to humans.

Site builder software in general is notorious for churning out poor code and you’re likely to face an uphill struggle in future if you want to make changes to your site. My advice would be to keep well away from it.

Yes, CMSes do allow you to customize the look and feel. Some are easier than others, though. Ones like MODx and ExpressionEngine give you a blank canvas that is just like building a normal page with HTML and CSS, which is nice. You then add hooks in the template where content is to be pulled in from a database. With some CMSes, you have to dig a bit deeper into multiple files to re-work templates.

These are database driven websites anyway, so that’s what you already have. But you are also free to modify and extend them if you have the skills.


My suggestion is your first option, if you don’t know how to program, php and mysql are going to take you longer, php allows you make dynamic pages, but basically oriented to the use of databases with mysql.
Mysql is a database in other words a place where you store your data, for example if you want to save your customer information, it all depends on what is what you want to do, which would be helpful if mention it, so the answers are more specific.
I just want to mention a quote attributed to Gandhi “Live as if today was your last day, and study as if you were going to live forever”

Thank you Jaimegm for your reply and for Gandhi’s quote, which is always good to keep in mind!
At present the ultimate goal of my web project is still a little bit blurred, since I have to understand what the tools I am going to learn (javascript, php+mysql, …) will allow me to do. What I have clear in mind now, is that the first result I’d like to achieve is to build a website to promote my professional activity, so probably what I will put into it is mainly text, images and some video. For what I have understood so far, HTML and CSS should suffice for this task.
What I meant with my original question, which was probably ill-formulated, is: if I build now a complete website with HTML and CSS and then, after some time, I want to add to it javascript and php+mysql capabilities, will I have to re-build everything from scratch, or those new characteristics will be integrated in the original code?
Thank you

Yes indeed.

if I build now a complete website with HTML and CSS and then, after some time, I want to add to it javascript and php+mysql capabilities, will I have to re-build everything from scratch, or those new characteristics will be integrated in the original code?

JavaScript is easy to add in, but the ideal would be to build the PHP/database aspect from the start, as you’d normally build the site rather differently if using those (in anything more than the most basic way).

My answer is: it depends on what you want to do at that moment, it can be any of them, don’t worry about that by now, and I have one suggestion, now that you explained more of what you want to do, let me tell you that the video works best, you can make a power point explaining the kind of product or service you are promoting.
I would put it at the very beginning, Videos are the best to sell, generally speaking people prefer to watch short movies, than reading and you can create one and upload it in youtube and from there paste it to your page, that is an easy task.
After that you can add text and images, with simple HTML and CSS you can accomplish that.

Making a video of this kind is really easy, just let me know if you don’t know how to do it.

Jaimegm, thank you again for the quick reply and the kind suggestion. I think I’ll go for the video! Should I have any doubt or question, I will ask!