Started My Own Blog: Need Advice on CSS, Non-FTP Updating & Automated Archiving
December 8, 2003 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the process of starting my own weblog (it launched on Thursday). I can write pretty decent basic HTML by hand (in notepad), but CSS wrestled me to the ground and stepped on my head and a lot of tech jargon passes me right by (I'm a designer and a writer, not a programer, I guess). What advice does Metafilter have for me?

I should also mention, I guess, that I've looked at Blogger, but (I know this sounds stupid) I can't quite figure out how to make it work in any way that doesn't look like I'm using Blogger. My big problem at the moment is that I need a way to update from work without using an FTP client, and I know I'm going to need an automated way to archive things eventually.
posted by anastasiav to Computers & Internet (34 answers total)
mine's very simple, but i use blogger (i just experimented and took away a lot of the blogger template things)...what do you want it to look like?
posted by amberglow at 2:30 PM on December 8, 2003

I would start with a nice bottle of scotch.... and go from there.
posted by Witty at 2:34 PM on December 8, 2003

Response by poster: amberglow, its linked to my user page, but it seemed, er -- self-promoting to actually link to it here.
posted by anastasiav at 2:35 PM on December 8, 2003 it is
do you want those rules and the color bar on the links? and I would fix the margins : >
posted by amberglow at 2:42 PM on December 8, 2003

Response by poster: What's wrong with the margins?
posted by anastasiav at 2:45 PM on December 8, 2003

well, if you don't want to do the design yourself, there is always open source web design for some easy templates.
posted by Hackworth at 2:46 PM on December 8, 2003 [1 favorite]

W3Schools is fairly beginner friendly, and it also has all the attributes listed, so you can keep referring to it all in one handy place.

If you need more hands on help, I'll be glad to help you out when you drop by #mefi later.
posted by riffola at 2:48 PM on December 8, 2003

Did I miss something? Is "pretty decent basic HTML" dead or something?
posted by scarabic at 2:52 PM on December 8, 2003

Hey, someone e-mailed me awhile ago and asked if I wanted to start a blog because I'm so interesting or because I'm a trainwreck, but I'm a glass-half full guy--actually, I'm a glass-has-water-in-it guy, but I digress--so does anyone want to design some graphics for me--since I have no artistic ability to speak of--and then maybe design the site for little or no reward?

I'm anxiously awaiting your response.


Edward Nipntuck.

Seriously, though, I gots things to says and nowheres to says them.


Did I miss something? Is "pretty decent basic HTML" dead or something?

I don't know. I learned basic html when I was in grade 11 (five years ago) and then I taught myself stylesheets by stealing them off people's sites and altering them. Then everything passed me by and now I feel like an old man. If I actually ever started a site though, I think I'd probably be forced to go the simple route, but I'd probably market it as some gimmicky return to minimalism in an effort to get Nike sponsorship.
posted by The God Complex at 3:04 PM on December 8, 2003

See on the front page for MeTa how there's a little air between the edge of the browser window and the text, and between the main text and the blogroots box and even inside the blogroots box itself (altho I would add a little more space there)? that's what I mean, margin-wise...It's a table thing. : >
posted by amberglow at 3:17 PM on December 8, 2003

A List Apart is a great resource. Beyond that, I've always found it best to 'steal' stylesheets, break them down to their most simplistic parts and try to learn from that.
posted by poopy at 3:40 PM on December 8, 2003

Sheesh, just do what I did and persuade a sucker friend to jimmy one up for you.
posted by Skot at 3:57 PM on December 8, 2003

The w3schools css tutorial is really very good. Use the "Try-It-Yourself!" link under css examples.

Other than that, looking at other's stylesheets is a good idea. Theory is one thing, but it's good to look at what people are really using.

I've found that I carry around a fairly static core style sheet the I use on all my sites.

And unless I'm missing something about the Blogger configuration, you don't *need* css. Tables and font tags will get you 90% of what you'll use css for. So one way to get started with css is to code the whole page without it and then introduce one block at a time.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:42 PM on December 8, 2003

Can you post a screenshot of what you want it to look like?
posted by holloway at 4:50 PM on December 8, 2003

if he could post a screenshot of what he wanted it to look like, he would've been able to make what he wants.
posted by the aloha at 4:55 PM on December 8, 2003

you could mock it up in photoshop or something--even quark.
posted by amberglow at 4:57 PM on December 8, 2003

actually anastasiav, if your site is new and you're serious about jumping into css, i would recommend scratching your current tabled layout and go with css instead. it really isn't that difficult, especially for a structure like yours, and it will be so much easier for you to make changes in the future. just my 2.
posted by poopy at 5:05 PM on December 8, 2003

Here are some great css resources that are really more like templates or generators - you can download them and play around with them and hone them and learn a lot while you do: Glish, Little Boxes, The Layout Reservoir, ListOMatic.
posted by iconomy at 5:25 PM on December 8, 2003

Everything I know about CSS I learned from the source @ (1 | 2) .
posted by eyeballkid at 6:16 PM on December 8, 2003

*off-topic* since anastasiav brought up the programming issue, is this the right place to post Perl questions? i've just recently acquired my own domain and am completely bewildered by perl/cgi.
posted by poopy at 6:21 PM on December 8, 2003

You can post any q you like, poopy. Matt said he'll fine-tune the categories (for lack of a better word) later.
posted by iconomy at 6:23 PM on December 8, 2003

thanks iconomy. oh, and anastasiav, iconomy has provided you with all the nice lil goodies you'll need, wrapped up in succinct sound package. merry xmas!
posted by poopy at 6:33 PM on December 8, 2003

What you want is to make your webpages look like they're being displayed in lynx. Here, I've done some of the work for you, see for yourself.
posted by wobh at 6:35 PM on December 8, 2003

iconomy's recommendations are very good for templates - I use blue robot all the time as a starting point when I do layouts for people.

I know this sounds stupid to style-o-riffic types out there, but I've only just discovered how useful ALA is for finding out how to do cool stuff/do things right.

I'm considering yet another redesign of my site at the moment, or at least finishing the damn thing so it looks like I intended...

With regards to learning, I just fiddled around with the making-things-pretty css (fontography, colors, borders, etc) for a while before I started trying to mess with full layouts. They can be a little tricky, still (though not as bad as in years past) using css-only...

If you see something you like, hoick the css and fiddle with it, as with HTML. Best thing for learning.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:37 PM on December 8, 2003

By the way, Topstyle is an excellent tool for doing the fiddling, I've found.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:11 PM on December 8, 2003

CSS for Dummies

No, really.
posted by mischief at 8:05 PM on December 8, 2003

I learned basic html when I was in grade 11 (five years ago) and then I taught myself stylesheets by stealing them off people's sites and altering them. Then everything passed me by and now I feel like an old man

Lengthen that up a bit and you've got the bildungsroman novel for our generation.
posted by scarabic at 8:19 PM on December 8, 2003

CSS Zen Garden is a great place to get fired up about what you can do with CSS.

It's founder, Dave Shea has some nice stuff in his blog, mezzoblue, including a really nice CSS Crib Sheet.

Iconomy's most excellent set of links didn't include the very easy to use Layout-o-Matic to go with her posted very easy to use listamatic from Accessify.
posted by bragadocchio at 9:51 PM on December 8, 2003

I also like the W3Schools mentioned above.

In addition, I think pMachine kicks Movable Type and every other blogging software's ass. The support (for paid users) is phenomenal. I've put requests on their support board and the staff has written me custom php code within hours.
posted by dobbs at 10:03 PM on December 8, 2003

I'd also recommend CSS Edge for some more advanced examples (warning, though, some of that stuff doesn't work in IE, so it'll look like ass for 90% of your viewers), Quirksmode for browser compatibility info, and for some simple, beginner-friendly layouts to modify, BlueRobot's Layout Reservoir. Mostly, though, just experiment a lot.
posted by arto at 10:59 PM on December 8, 2003

Another vote for w3schools. That's how I learned how to get by with css. I'm not very tech-savvy either, but I think css is considerably easier than using tables and suchlike, for most things. Does requires an adjustment in how you look at designing the page, though, I suppose.

I like css, Anastasiav, and you will too.
posted by Hildago at 10:59 PM on December 8, 2003

I'm pretty sure that the technique of hiding foreground in a box and then showing a background image (so you can have an H1 in a cwazy font) has all kinds of accessibility problems, which much of the designs on zen garden do, so don't do that.
posted by holloway at 11:27 PM on December 8, 2003

I bought a CSS book. It promptly made my head hurt. So I went with TypePad, which I love. Before I started, I had a rough idea of how I wanted my site to look and behave, and I could do that in TypePad with a minimum of hassle. (And I didn't have to know any HTML beyond the very basic tags.) I love TypePad and it suits my purposes very well...clean interface, no need for an FTP client, etc. (I say all this as a onetime beta tester and satisfied customer -- I don't have any other kind of business relationship with 'em, other than deep fuzzy adoration.)

If you're thinking of going with TP, e-mail me. I have some discount codes which may still work.
posted by Vidiot at 11:45 PM on December 8, 2003

I'd second holloway's caution about the image replacement technique practiced at zen gardens. You might want to mess with other aspects of CSS before you turn to that.
posted by bragadocchio at 3:59 AM on December 9, 2003

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