Help me build a solid web design/development foundation from scratch
April 22, 2010 3:00 PM   Subscribe

I want to create a simple but dynamic Bible-reading web app from the ground up. I have very little web design and development experience. Where do I begin?

I know that's a very tough question since there are probably dozens of different ways I could go about it. My understanding is that I'll probably need to learn (X)HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP at a minimum. Maybe Ruby and SQL? I don't know, I'm really pretty clueless with anything more than basic HTML.

I've been reading HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions: A Web Standardistas' Approach and I'm really enjoying it. I like that it explains what to do as well as why I'm doing it like no other tech book I've ever read. Any recommendations of books like it would be appreciated. I fortunately have access to pretty much any tech book you can imagine through Safari Bookshelf and university libraries. Visual tutorials of any kind are great also.

At this point it's just a side project and a hobby, so I can pace myself and learn as I need to. I'm really just doing it because I don't like any of the existing online Bible-reading tools and I figure it's as good a way as any to learn some basic web development and design skills so I can eventually move on to more complex projects.

So the question is in three parts:

1) What do I need to learn?

2) How should I start learning it?

3) Where do I go from there?

posted by joshrholloway to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of tech you'll need to use depends a lot on what exactly you want to do.

There's not really any point in learing ruby AND php though, they are "for" approximately the same thing.

Whether you'll want to use SQL depends on exactly what you'll want to do.

There are a lot of solutions for the actual programming part (php,ruby,python,perl,tcl, you name it). You'll definitely need to learn HTML and, imo, CSS, javascript is optional depending on what sort of interface features you want.

The very first thing you'll need is the text of the bible in the form you're interested in (NIV, KJ etc) and the next thing you'll need is to transform that into something that will be indexable and searchable in the ways you find interesting. A SQL database might be one way but is not necessarily the best way. The bible, or any single book, is sort of an interesting unique case because your input is known and unchanging. So you could just do a lot of work up front to index the bible in as many different ways as you need, and go from there. For example you might consider going through every single word and building an index of which verse (or chapter, or "page" or whatever) contain that word.

Anyway, it's pretty hard to tell you what you need without knowing what you want to do. I personally like python, don't really love php, haven't really used ruby, wouldn't touch perl with a long stick.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:20 PM on April 22, 2010

Response by poster: I want users to be able to do a full-text search of the Bible and have navigation in some fashion to each book and chapter. I want users to be able to change their font size and style, as well as colors for the background and the text. I want chapters and verses to be linkable using a custom short URL service, like YouVersion's, if you're familiar with that.

I guess that's a good start explaining some of the details of what I want to create.
posted by joshrholloway at 3:39 PM on April 22, 2010

Sorry if this is a bit off-topic per your original question, but I thought I should point it out: One thing you're going to have start thinking about, if this ever grows into more than a hobby, is licensing different translations. If you want to create the ultimate online Bible tool (which, I agree, has yet to be created), you will need to have lots of versions available, and some of the most popular ones like NIV, NKJV and NASB are copyrighted. That's why you don't see those translations on most of the sites.
posted by relucent at 5:16 PM on April 22, 2010

To address relucent's concern, you might take a look at the Bibles offered by e-Sword (and its modules) and TheWord to see how they are overcoming copyright issues, and the variety they are able to offer.
posted by Houstonian at 5:41 PM on April 22, 2010

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