can the hive mind help me build my first website?
October 3, 2010 10:07 PM   Subscribe

[websitebuildingfilter] can the hive mind help me build my first website?

Hello folks,

I've been bullied/bribed/blackmailed by a friend to design a website for his poetry and although I consider myself modestly computer literate, I'm absolute rubbish when it comes to this task.

I've already taken care of the domain name and registration, but I was wondering if anyone could give me some tips on how to proceed from here.

He wants the site to be completely white, with nothing but black text in a single column in the middle. Fairly large print, in black. In a font that looks something like type-writer print (preferably with built in inkblots here and there, but that might be unrealistic)

Essentially he doesn't want anything to catch the eye and distract from the words. He wants the root page to be a single word, in the centre of the page (in the same style as mentioned above) which when clicked brings the viewer into the poetry section, which is the aforementioned single column.

Now, I thought that this all sounded pretty easy when he was describing it to me, but I cant for the life of me figure out how to actually make this happen and look good. I checked for wordpress templates that met his requirements, but to no avail. I've tried to hammer something together with my caveman-esque knowledge of HTML, but it always ends up looking like something a grade 5 student built in his tech class.

(this is appropriate, since the last time I used HTML was my grade 5 tech class)

Anyway. Does anyone have any tips? Are there any free or cheap programs with a user-friendly interface that can make this dream happen? Are there any specific things I need to learn before I can make this work?

Any help is much appreciated!
posted by sarastro to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
OK, this is actually pretty simple. What you do is make a table and center it, and then use the tt tag to make it in the "type-writer print" (fixed-width font). You can set the table attributes to be the correct width. If you have a table INSIDE another table that takes up a hundred percent of the browser window and the inner one is centered, then the content will appear in the exact center of the screen.

It might help to look at w3schools.com, which is a reference guide to all the various HTML tags.

(WARNING: following this advice will make your website look like the 90s, nobody uses tables any more apparently)
posted by Electrius at 10:14 PM on October 3, 2010


You'll want to set the font to Courier, Courier New, Monospace, or the like. Forget about the ink splotches. I mean, you could always put in an ink-splotchy image background, but if you're going for authentic typewriteriness ... typewriters don't use splotchable ink, is all.

There are plenty of "distressed" fonts, but visitors would need them installed on their system for them to be of any use. (There are newfangled ways around this issue, but then visitors need to have something else installed... sigh.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 PM on October 3, 2010


If you have a table INSIDE another table that takes up a hundred percent of the browser window and the inner one is centered, then the content will appear in the exact center of the screen.

Why wouldn't you just put the table inside a pair of CENTER tags?

(That's still a thing, right?)

posted by Sys Rq at 10:26 PM on October 3, 2010


I don't see the problem with using tables if what you're looking for is a simple design. Tables, though scoffed at by much of the web design crowd in favor of flash or more sophisticated code, are great for creating a very simple, minimalistic web design. I use tables for content boxes on my site, coupled with CSS, since I too am a bit bare on the coding/markup knowledge, and in my opinion it's pretty good for that bare-bones look.
posted by runaway ballista at 10:51 PM on October 3, 2010


Get him set up on a blogging platform that allows for point and click customizations. This will cut your work by about 90%, you won't need to worry about any coding at all, and it's something that he can keep going after you're done.

There are free blogging services and cheap blogging services that will do this for you easily, to the tune of clicking on the layout that you want and choosing colors from drop down menus - Blogspot and TypePad both work this way (full disclosure: I work on the TypePad Team, but I am not recommending one over any other, because most blogging services will allow you to do this easily). Adding in the poetry is as easy as making a post.

You can use domain mapping to point the domain name that you purchased at the blog, so that they're using www.myawesomepoetry.com instead of myawesomepoetry.randombloggingservice.com. Any service that you select will come with an FAQ or a Knowledge Base to help you do all of this.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by mewithoutyou at 10:59 PM on October 3, 2010


I checked for wordpress templates that met his requirements, but to no avail.

Really? You might want to check this out.
posted by phaedon at 11:07 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


You may want to look into using Tumblr as well. I'm on my phone, but chances are you can find a template similar to what you want, that only needs a few tweaks.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:21 AM on October 4, 2010


OK, this is actually pretty simple. What you do is make a table and center it, and then use the tt tag to make it in the "type-writer print" (fixed-width font). You can set the table attributes to be the correct width.
This is especially useful if it's 1999.

I don't see the problem with using tables if what you're looking for is a simple design.
Except that it's like 5 lines of CSS: Something like

<html>
<style>
div.poem{
text-align: center;
font-family: monospace;
}

body{margin-top: 150px;}
</style>

<body>
<div class="poem">
poem<br>
poem poem<br>
poem<br>
poem poem poem<br>
poem poem <br>
</body>

</html>


that's basically it. Basic CSS properties are really easy to learn, and using them is easier then using tables for most basic things.
posted by delmoi at 2:33 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Manifest as linked about is a great theme (I use it), but have you checked http://www.plaintxt.org/themes/simplr/simplr_01/ and other themes there? The markup is really well documented and the templates easily modified.

One point about the font - if I do not have that font I will see the base font he/you set.

You can also set the front page to have just that one word.
posted by episodic at 2:41 AM on October 4, 2010


Basic CSS properties are really easy to learn, and using them is easier then using tables for most basic things.

Except that doesn't satisfy this requirement: "wants the root page to be a single word, in the centre of the page". You'll need to either use some other totally contrived CSS horseshit. Or you could Go Evil:
<body>
<table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" border="0" width="100%" height="100%">
  <tr>
    <td width="100%" align="center">center of page</td>
  </tr>
</table>
</body>
… as the user encyclo mentions in the linked thread.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:17 AM on October 4, 2010


I would second getting this up & running on a CMS/blogging platform if at all possible (That 'Manifest' theme looks pretty much spot-on; all you'd need to change is the font.)

The reason for using a CMS not so much the technical aspect of the HTML/CSS, which is not too big of a deal, but maintainability... if your friend is going to keep coming back to you to update the site it's going to get old in a hurry, especially if he asks you to set up an archive section where you have to worry about updating all the menus on the site when you move a poem; with a CMS you can show him how to log in and post his own stuff, and it will take care of shuffling posts around and updating menus automagically.
posted by usonian at 5:23 AM on October 4, 2010


My tip would be to buy him a book like HTML For Dummies or the like. They are good introductory guides to building a basic website and can be found at used book stores for a couple bucks. Books like this are very easy to follow even if you have a basic knowledge of computers.
posted by JJ86 at 7:11 AM on October 4, 2010


Tables are fine for this, but he/you should really be using a blogging platform. You WILL find a free Wordpress template that's close enough to what you want to modify and make it perfect, with no more HTML needed than you already know.

People making websites rarely think about what it's going to be like in 10 years, when they have 200 (or 2000) pages linked together with HTML, and no way of getting all that content out, or organizing it better, or letting users organize it, or making site-wide template modifications without a crapload of Finding+Replacing.

Think about the future; use blogging software or a CMS now.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:05 AM on October 4, 2010


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