Web Design Badge

Step One: You’re getting emails from people who’ve seen your website and want to know more.  They like your ideas, your thoughts, and they want to know you better.  They have helpful suggestions, and some become friends over time.  When you click on the link to your web page, what you see fills you with quiet pride.  It is nicely done: the colors suit the subject, the graphics carry your intent forward, the content is useful, entertaining, and widely read.  Your site meter has a gratifyingly high visit count.  People who know you ask for your help in designing their websites.

Step Two: You have vital information you want to share and a website is a convenient way to reach the maximum number of people.  You love all things to do with one topic, and you have a comprehensive amount of information.  No sense in keeping all that goodness to yourself, so you put it out on the web for others to learn.  You have things to sell, and a web page is a great way to do this without he overhead expenses of having a store – say you wrote a book and want to publicize it, or you do custom knitting, or you’re a handyman who wants to get new business.  Or maybe, you have farflung family members and you want a place to showcase your family and keep in touch.  You teach classes, and a website lets you enhance what you teach in class.   There are many reasons to create a website, and you have a great one.

Step Three: Building a website can be a paralyzing event, there are so many decisions!  Even worse, other people will see it and judge you by it.  It’s like being in your Go-To-Court-Clothes all day every day – and all night, too.  People never stop looking and judging, oh my!  On the other hand, building a website is a very easy thing to do.  The simplest sites are often the best, and you don’t need to impress everyone, just yourself.

So find yourself a mentor, someone who has built websites you like, and ask them questions.  Ask them what they did, and why.  Ask what their challenges were and what they wish they’d known when they started.  Ask what their biggest triumphs were.  Ask what websites and books and tutorials they recommend.

One useful site is:  http://www.thesitewizard.com/

Step Four: Taking the information your mentor gave you, do some basic research.  Do you want a simple WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web building program that’s available for free?  Are you comfortable with CSS and HTML and want something which gives you greater control?  Read the websites, read the books.  Look at websites and mark what makes you take notice, what you hate, what you love.  Make a list of the things you want your website to have – and a list of the things you absolutely don’t want.  Pick the web tool you will use.  These are popular ones:  Microsoft Frontpage, Adobe GoLive, Macromedia Dreamweaver, and Allaire Homesite.

Step Five: Get a domain – if you intend to keep this website a long time, your next step is to pick a domain name and buy it.  If you’re not planning on keeping the website, you can skip this step.  There are domain registry sites that will let you know if your choice is already taken or if it’s still available.  The reason for getting a domain name is that you may change webhosting services several times, and each time you change, without a domain name, your website’s address will change.  That means each time you change webhosts, you will have to restart all your web searches, change any addresses that point to your website, and ask people to update their bookmarks to find you again.  You’ll lose rank in search engines, and you’ll probably lose visitors who can’t find you again.  With a domain name, you can change webhosts without losing your regular visitors, your search engine rankings, and bookmarks pointing to your website will stay working.

A domain name gives your website credibility. There are affiliate programs that require you to have your own domain name in order to use them, other people may be more willing to link to you and support you if you have invested in a domain name, and search engines rate sites with their own domain higher than sites without.  If these things appeal to you, then register a domain name.  What you put under it can change if you don’t like it.  And if you truly decide you dislike the domain name, you can abandon it and buy another one.

If you don’t want to buy a domain name because you think you also have to pay for webhosting, that’s not true.  Even the most expensive registration for a domain name is $35 a year – about $3 a month – and that’s pretty affordable for most people with a computer.  You don’t have to host your website at the site where you buy your domain name, a lot of free webhosting sites will let you direct to your domain name. You aren’t committed to a specific webhost if you don’t like them, and if you change webhosts, you keep your domain name and your visitors and search rank.

Many professional website owners say this is a step that should be taken before you even start to design your website because it helps you focus and shape what you want on the site.  It gives you a stable point to refer to when you get confused by all the decisions you will be making as you create your website.

Step Six: Pick colors.  Once you have an idea of what you want a website for, and you have chosen a domain name, the next step is to choose colors you want on your website.  These colors can tie the website together, each page may be different, but the color scheme ensures that your visitors know they’re still on your site.  Pick 2 or 3 complementary colors, and you can change up the pages within your site by placing one contrasting color to make the page different and memorable.  More than four colors makes the page too busy.  View the colors you choose in a lower resolution to make sure people with older computers can see what you offer and aren’t getting funky, unreadable color combinations.

Step Seven: Design an easy to use navigation system.  Most people are used to a navigation bar being place on the left or across the top so consider staying with that when you first create your website.  If your pages are long, put a simplified navigation bar at the bottom of the page – your site visitors will appreciate it.  If your website is more than 15 pages, it’s useful to offer a “Search” feature or a site map.

Step Eight: Make sure your visitors can read your website by choosing text colors that contrast with the background (no yellow on white or navy on black), and make sure the “before visit” link and “after visit” link colors are visible.  Leave plenty of white space and don’t have long blocks of dense text.  Break it up into smaller blocks with divider bars, white space, and the occasional appropriate graphic.

Step Nine: Content is King.  Spend some time developing the content you want on your site.  Content is what brings in visitors.  All the pretty flashing graphics and pop-ups and pop-unders, and autoplay music, spinning graphics and logos, flashing and pulsing banners, fancy hit counters, and mouse chasers may bring people once, but once they’ve seen it, there’s no reason to come back.  Work on what you want your website to say, and say it.

Step Ten: Graphics.  Even though content is King, an appealing website has interesting graphics to ease and delight the eye.  Adobe’s PhotoShop is by far the best graphic program, but it’s not easy to learn and it’s very expensive.  Microsoft’s Photodraw and Macromedia’s Fireworks are both easy to use.  There are other programs available, too.  Digital cameras and video cameras often come with decent programs.

Step Eleven:      Design each page one at a time.  Have a single focus for each page.  Make the graphics, colors, background, borders, and blocks of text balance.  Be sure you have your navigation bars on each page and that any links you put on it work.

Step Twelve: Now that you’ve designed your pages and everything looks good, it’s time to find a webhost.  Your domain name is like your on line name, a business name, or a nickname – it’s the name people know you by.  Your webhost is like your neighborhood or office building, where you live.  You can select a free webhost (most of them have limits and almost all of them will put advertising on your website – they have to pay for the power and computers that are hosting your information somehow), or you can pay for webhosting (usually only the advertising affiliates you choose and the revenue from those go to you, not the webhost).   Whichever webhost you choose will give you the information you need to upload your website to them.

Step Thirteen: Publish your website.  Up to this point, your website has resided on your computer.  You’ve been able to edit and tweak it any way you wanted.  But no one else could see it but you.  To present it to the internet, you need to put it where it can be seen.  Follow the directions your webhost has given you to upload your website to their servers, and voila!  You have a website!

Step Fourteen: Claim your badge!