Outdated web design
February 10, 2013 3:53 PM   Subscribe

I used to have a lot of fun doing some web design a few years back, and wanted to have some fun with it again.

I took an html class in school but found the work a bit tedious, so I was happy when I discovered Dreamweaver ultra developer (5?). Obviously that's a pretty dated way of making web pages now. I'm just wondering what people use now to make websites, ones that have all the great flash features, embedded music that plays when you visit a website (that you can turn off as well), and everything else that makes a page come to life. Again, I really liked Dreamweaver because it would do all the work for you, just click on what you want and insert (although it also had html view so you can edit whatever you want if you have the skills, which I don't, really).

I'm wondering what the standard is now that people use (not really in a skilled commercial sense, I don't really know or understand all the developer jargon). Is there a product out there like Dreamweaver that's updated so you can insert all the flash stuff you want (I've tinkered around with a version of flash I had a while back but don't have much experience with it). I would assume that most of the stuff you see on websites now is made through some sort of flash program, or some other program perhaps?

Just want to pop back into it as a hobby and my own enjoyment. I feel clueless as to what products are out there, and what the go-to products/websites/possible tutorials are. I also was wondering how social media sites make communicating/posting so easy, where users can search the website for people using key terms like their names, interests, etc. Also how they set it up so users can join, create their own page with all their information, link to their interests and other people profiles. There must be some sort of template for that to happen I would guess. I have no idea on that subject either.

posted by readygo to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Most of what you think is Flash is probably Javascript. There have been huge advances in Javascript. It can manipulate the page structure and do all kinds of graphics. There are some technical reasons why it's preferred over Flash, but suffice it to say that Flash is pretty much dead and Javascript is where the action's at.

Web developers have put a huge amount of effort into frameworks and toolkits. Many typical websites such as blogs, photo galleries, or simple storefronts no longer require any html. Instead you interact with a web-based administrator interface where you can do high-level tasks like create posts or upload images from your computer. The framework takes care of busywork like maintaining an index page or sorting posts by category.

Wordpress started out as a blog platform but can now make just about any type of site. It has a plug-in system that makes embedded music, slideshows, and the like very simple. Squarespace is another one that I've never used, but appears to shield you from technical details a bit more than Wordpress. Both allow you to add your own Javascript to the site, so you can experiment with spiffy effects.
posted by scose at 4:15 PM on February 10, 2013

Best answer: Some options:
- Check out the newest version of Dreamweaver; it's still a popular tool. Looks like Adobe offers a free trial if you want to see what's new in v. 6: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/tdrc/index.cfm?product=dreamweaver

- Search for "WYSIWYG" (What You See Is What You Get) website tools (the code-light, design/drag-and-drop-and-configure approach you're looking for)

- If you're interested in social media/community sites, looks into Wordpress or Buddypress (an extension of Wordpress that comes packaged with/ready for community features). What you're looking for is a "content management system" (CMS), a set of code that includes everything to get a basic website framework going (one that comes complete with stuff like letting members join, blog posting, uploading images, etc.--great stuff), and is supercustomizable. There are many of these (e.g. Drupal is another, but far more difficult), but Wordpress is one of the most powerful, easiest to begin learning, is great at the social stuff that interests you, and has a huge community of people contributing plugins and themes for you to use free (Wordpress is free, by the way!). You can try Wordpress.com to get a sense of how it functions, then graduate to hosting your own copy of Wordpress via Wordpress.org's download of the files (Wordpress.com is pretty limited in what it lets you tweak and do, but will teach you the basics of using that CMS).

- There are a lot of Wordpress (WP) resources out there. I especially like Smashing Magazine's Wordpress stuff.

Have fun!
posted by pavane at 4:16 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thirding Wordpress. You can get a free site to mess with at Wordpress.com. Or most web hosts have installers available for your own domain. You can do a lot without messing with any code, but also muck with the CSS as much as you want.

You probably read many sites that are on the Wordpress platform and you would never know it.
posted by The Deej at 4:23 PM on February 10, 2013

Yeah, Dreamweaver is more or less dead, and using Flash for most elements is also on its way out. Javascript is everything right now. You probably want to look into learning jQuery, as it's pretty much the standard.

If you want to do animation, Adobe Edge is a good tool for exporting animations to Javascript. It actually acts quite a bit like Flash.

I'm not really sure what you're asking about with regards to the social stuff, but most of the major players offer Javascript dropins for common functionality. For example, Facebook has the like/share buttons. Disqus (and Facebook too) offer super simple solutions for commenting on posts.

Also +1 for learning Wordpress. It's gotten to the point where all you have to learn is how to create a template and add a few lines.
posted by gchucky at 4:24 PM on February 10, 2013

If you're really interested in getting back into web design, even as a hobbyist, you should really bite the bullet and just dedicate yourself to learning HTML. You didn't say how long ago it was that you took the class, but if you were using Dreamweaver UltraDev I'm guessing it was at least a decade ago.

Over that time, the HTML standards have changed pretty drastically. HTML standards dictate that it is used to markup the structure of the site only, and CSS handles the layout and style. Of the two, HTML is the far simpler one to learn.

As for resources, try HTML Dog to learn the basics and the web magazine A List Apart to learn some of the cooler html/css tricks. Once you get the hang of html/css, look into JavaScript and the jQuery library to do some of the more dynamic functionality.

I also was wondering how social media sites make communicating/posting so easy, where users can search the website for people using key terms like their names, interests, etc. Also how they set it up so users can join, create their own page with all their information, link to their interests and other people profiles. There must be some sort of template for that to happen I would guess. I have no idea on that subject either.

This is done by back-end applications that use databases. There are many web Content Management Systems (such as, but not only limited to Wordpress) that you can use so that you don't have to learn a programming language and MySQL. (Though most commonly you'll find these are done in the programming languages PHP, Java or Ruby on Rails as well as a number of others.) Sites like Facebook and Twitter don't use a template, per se, but they employ talented web developers to code for them.
posted by girih knot at 6:50 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to get into the coding side of things a bit more (which quite frankly is necessary for the more advanced stuff) have a look at Codeacademy for some really good interactive tutorials.
posted by Magnakai at 12:56 AM on February 11, 2013

Response by poster: Awesome! Thanks so much everyone for the answers! I checked out WordPress and Squarespace and that's exactly what I was looking for (especially Squarespace, that website is great). Also thanks for Buddypress, that was right on the money for what I was interested in. I'm not familiar with JavaScript, is that where websites get animated enter pages made, and other similar multimedia?

The Dreamweaver stuff I did was maybe 6 or 7 years ago, I might end up doing some web stuff for some friends so I'm sure something like Wordpress would work. If I end up building up to someone who has a medium sized business and needs a site built, would using the above mentioned sites be considered acceptable for that?

Again thanks for all the answers, I appreciate it.
posted by readygo at 3:26 AM on February 11, 2013

JavaScript is generally responsible for anything on the page you see moving, or that changes things when you interact with the page. For example, the Live Preview on this site uses JavaScript to display what you type, and the "B I link" buttons use JavaScript to add things to what you've typed.

It's perfectly acceptable to use something like WordPress as a basis to make sites for businesses - it can handle a load of the complicated stuff that's the same for every site, and leave you to concentrate on the design and behaviour of the front end of the site. There are loads of plugins for WordPress to add many of the features you're like to need.

At the risk of dampening your enthusiasm a little though... as well as learning some of the more technical things, like HTML, JavaScript etc, it would be worth reading about what counts as good practice in web design and interaction these days. It sounds like some of the things you're most excited about ("animated enter pages", "music that plays when you visit a website", etc) are the kind of whizzy things that look eye-catching in a portfolio, or when presented to a board, but which annoy users and get in the way of whatever it is they came to the website to do (eg, find information, buy products, etc).

There are lots of stunning examples of what can be done with JavaScript etc these days, but they should be used with care, and very rarely have a place on a website that would be better of being more functional (but still great looking!).

Having said that, things like this, or this, or this (scroll down on all of them...) could be varyingly argued to use whizzy techniques to great, and attention-grabbing effect. Good luck!
posted by fabius at 7:24 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Great Javascript info, that helps, thanks! In general I mostly want to play around with a free site that I don't have to publish for now. Thanks for everyone's information, I appreciate all the answers.

Thanks again!
posted by readygo at 12:23 PM on February 11, 2013

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