New to Web Site Building

Question: I have never made web pages before but now I have something I'd like to write about and share with other people. How do I get started?

Answer: There are a number of different ways to go with this depending on exactly what sort of site you want to build and how big you think your site will get.

A common way people get started these days is with a blog (short for web log). This allows you to post information whenever you like entirely online. The most common software used to create this type of site is called Wordpress and you can sign up for a free hosted WordPress site at or obtain a copy of WirdPress to use on your own hosting from

If WordPress isn't what you are looking for then you might want to consider a content management system (CMS) such as Joomla or Drupal. If you are just starting out you may need to get someone to help you with getting one of these set up but once it is set up you will be able to enter your content online (just like with WordPress only with greater flexibility).

Each of those options will limit what you can do with your site. To gain full flexibility to do anything you want with your site (provided it can be done on a web page) you will need to learn the languages that are used to build web pages. Knowing one or more of the languages the web uses will make it easier for you to do what you want on the web even if you are going to use a pre-written script such as one of those already mentioned.

The first actual language you need to learn relating to web pages is called HTML (HyperText Markup Language). Its purpose is to identify what the various pieces of your web page are. It consists of a collection of different tags that you use to label your web page content. For example you wrap each paragraph of your content in paragraph tags, headings can be any of six different levels and so get wrapped in the appropriate level heading tags, and so on. The important thing to remember when you learn HTML is that its purpose is to identify what the content is, that is all it is for. If you start trying to use HTML to define how your page looks then you are doing it wrong.

To define how your page looks you need the second language that the web uses, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS is where you define how your web page is supposed to look by applying styles to the HTML that define both where in the page it is to go and how it is to look. You can also define separate CSS for different media so that the same content can be arranged differently when printed to the way it looks on the screen (and different again for other media types). It is also possible to define alternate stylesheets so as to give your visitors a choice of more than one way that the web page can be arranged.

The third and final language that actually runs in the web browser itself is JavaScript. This is the first actual programming language that you need to know in order to be able to create web pages (the first two are markup languages and therefore much simpler to work with). JavaScript is what you use to define how your page is to behave. It is what is used to allow the page to interact with the people visiting it. An important thing to note is that not everyone has JavaScript and so it is important that you make sure that your web pages are usable without any features that use javaScript.

These three languages make up the client side part of a web page (the part that is actually processed in the web browser). The other part of creating web pages is what can be done on the web server in generating what gets sent to the browser. There are several benefits to learning all the client side languages first before moving on to server side languages. Firstly since your server side code needs to generate the client side page you need to know how all that client side stuff works before you can generate it. Secondly the client side languages only need web browsers to test in whereas the server side languages need a web server. Thirdly, the three client side languages are specific languages that are the only ones that work for web pages that are to run on the internet and be accessed from any browser while there are hundreds of different alternatives to choose from on the servier. Fourthly, knowing JavaScript will make learning a server side language easier since it is easier learning your second programming language than it is to learn the first since many of the concepts carry across to all programming languages.

Which server side language you decide to learn next depends on what languages your web hosting supports. If you are using the most common type of web hosting that runs on Linux and Apache web server then most likely PHP will be one of the languages available. This is the language that many of the free to use server side scripts such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are written in. It also has many similarities to JavaScript and so should be relatively easy to learn for someone who knows JavaScript.

The final piece you need in order to be able to create fully interactive web pages is a database to store information. Again which you learn will depend on what is available on your hosting but most databases use what is called a relational structure and support a variant of SQL (structured query language) for the accesses to the database to read and write information. One of the most commonly available daabases is mySQL which can be easily accessed from PHP.

If you get to this point in learning the languages of the web (regardless of which server side programming language and database you end up choosing to learn) then you will have the ability to do anything that you want that it is possible to do with your web pages.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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