Crash Course: Web Development (Part 1)

under-construction.jpgThere hasn’t been one month that has gone by without one of my friends or relatives asking me about how a website is built. Most want to learn how they can build a “simple” website.  The response expected would be, “Sure! It’s easy! I’ll show you.” For the most part, this is true as long as you’re willing to put a little time to learn some things.

Recently a friend of mine asked me this precise question: “How do I make just a website? You know… just a basic website.” Truth be told, there is no basic way to explain how to make a basic website. Anyone can Google for sites that can make cookie-cutter web pages based on some pre-made template. This article isn’t about providing that venue though… The purpose of this article and the succession of articles to come is to educate you, the reader, on what is involved in building a website.

My goal is to clarify what is involved in making a website, because a basic understanding of web development is crucial to learning how to build a website—even a simple one. By the end of these articles, we will have a good grasp of the technology used, why one is created in the first place, and finally how to get started in building your very own website.

We often take surfing the web for granted. Sometimes we pass from site to site without a second thought about the graphic design, styling, or page flow of any of site we come across. Besides the HTML and CSS we see when visiting a site, there may be some dynamic code that drives the site on the server it’s hosted on.—Hold on a second, what the heck is all this crazy jargon? HTML, CSS, dynamic code, server, host??? I’ll clarify with some definitions.

Basic Terminology to know:

  • Server – A computer accessible through the internet that holds the files of one or more websites.
  • Hosting – Service provided by an entity or third party that owns a server. The purpose of hosting is to have somebody else responsible for maintaining the technical aspect of keeping the resources on the server available to the world.
  • HTML – Stands for, “Hyper Text Markup Language.” It is programming code that is contained within a web page.  HTML controls some (not all) of what you see in your web browser when you visit any page on the internet. For example, the text you are reading now is part of the HTML code within this website.
  • CSS – Stands for, “Cascading Style Sheet.” It is a programming language that is contained within HTML to control the style of most pages on the internet.
    • Why is CSS on “most” pages and not all? HTML has some basic capability of styling a website, but when a more elaborate or complex design is wanted, CSS has the flexibility that HTML does not.
  • Dynamic Code – Programming languages that are usually used when databases and/or cookies are required for a website to function. Dynamically coded websites display content that changes due to information that you give it. Note: In order for this kind of code to display something in your web browser for you to see, it will at some point output in HTML.

    • Why do websites use databases? If you login to a website to access your personal information, order products, or write on your blog, the website is using dynamic code to connect to a database. The “dynamics” in dynamic coding come into play when the website has to make decisions like, “Are you allowed to access this private page?” For example, you provide a website a user name and password in a login box. The website then compares that information you gave it with a list of user names and passwords in a database. If it finds a match with the information you provided, it will allow you to proceed into a member-only part of the website.
    • Yes, I said languages. Dynamic code can be written in more than one language. For example, ASP, PHP, PERL, Cold Fusion, and Ruby are fine examples of dynamic coding languages for the web.
  • Cookies – Small files that a website saves onto your computer that contain information the website requires for your next visit.

    • What kind of information can a website possibly require to save onto your computer? Commonly, many sites choose to save your user name on your computer to keep you from having to retype it every time you visit the site. For example, when you make your next visit to a site that previously saved a cookie onto your computer, it will access it and display its’ information onto a part of the page you’re on (likely the text box where you would usually type in your user name.)

Here’s a diagram that illustrates how HTML files, a server, a host, and you are involved with a website:

website_diagram.gif

For now, the preceding diagram and terminology should get you started on understanding some rudimentary techy concepts of website development. In Part 2 of this article we’ll learn about the reasons why a website is created and how one can benefit from one.

Visit www.duckypc.com for the future Part 2 of this article and more!

Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin is the co-founder & CEO of Atilus. He is a Certified Google Professional, author, and lover of technology. He helps Atilus stay out ahead of online marketing trends and loves driving results for Atilus' clients.

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Recent Comments | 7 Comments
  • robert
    Reply

    Thanks for your information.Its useful info me…
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  • Rion
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    I’ve read Nancy Miller’s freshest clause and it’s terrible! I’m trying to understand all these articles afterward. Gives Thanks for the terrible overeat!
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  • Public Relations
    Reply

    when you make your next visit to a site that previously saved a cookie onto your computer, it will access it and display its’ information onto a part of the page you’re on..!!Public Relations

  • Ken Fisher
    Reply

    No expert here for sure, but I have done quite a bit of reading at…

    http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/

    and learned a great deal. In fact I submitted one of my sites into their “website hospital” A few tips worked wonders for increased sales.

  • Zach K.
    Reply

    Hi Ken, We were just having a conversation about that Friday. Although usability experts and studies seem to say that white text on black backgrounds is just as legible I agree that the black does make things a bit hard to read. What are your thoughts on a redesign?

  • Ken Fisher
    Reply

    I never understood you designers. Black back grounds are very hard to read. Best of luck in your adventures

  • Zach K.
    Reply

    Great article, really simple and well explained. I’m curious to hear the rest of the comments.
    ——-

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