Technology Illiterate Seeks Simple Website Solution
January 8, 2007 4:33 PM   Subscribe

I don't know the first thing about building my artist's website -- please help me get started!

I already have a domain name, a host and all of the content but have ZERO idea how to put it all together. I don't even know html! Is there a VERY user-friendly template out there on the web, or an Idiot's Guide-type book that I should read to understand the basics? It's an artist's site and I want to keep it very clean and simple -- a portfolio of images, short bio, contact info, and not much more. Can anybody help this tech novice??
posted by wetpaint to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
sorry for the selflink, but here's a quick and dirty portfolio i made using Typepad. a custom template (very easy to use) would make it much more attractive, and the winners of Six Apart's recent template contest should be available this year as well. Typepad is inexpensive and MOSTLY reliable, and their customer service is friendly and helpful if not very quick to answer questions. For the most part I'm very happy with my 2+ years with them.
posted by luriete at 4:37 PM on January 8, 2007

Do you have a Mac?
posted by Mwongozi at 4:37 PM on January 8, 2007

There's programs on the mac such as iweb or Rapidweaver that make the whole process really painless. I'm sure there are similar for Windows also. Something like that would be perfect for you.
posted by twistedonion at 4:42 PM on January 8, 2007

I put mine together with some basic html tables. Its not hard to learn some basic skills. Everything I used for my site could probably be gleaned from online resources.

I think the most important thing is to make the art easy to get to. So, no flash intros and have a link to your gallery right up front.

Many hosts have web based gallery software for photo sharing that can be installed in to the directory of your choosing. using one of these is not fantastic presentation but if you aren't selling web design skills the actual work matters more anyway. This will make updating and maintaining your galleries simple, through a web based interface.
posted by subtle_squid at 4:51 PM on January 8, 2007

Response by poster: (I'm the poster.) I have a PC. I guess I should have said that up top, huh? Thanks to all for the info so far, I'm already looking into all of it.

And if I may add one more "bonus" question: subtle_squid mentioned basic html tables. Can anybody recommend an online source to teach the html basics? And I mean something that starts with a REALLY simple explanation. This stuff really confuses my right-brained way of thinking, and (ashamed to admit this) I don't even really get what html IS.

I'm straight outta the computer dark ages, but eager to catch up with y'all!
posted by wetpaint at 5:08 PM on January 8, 2007

If I was learning (or teaching) HTML today, I'd skip tables and start with CSS positioning. Less to unlearn later.

On my last walk through a bookstore, I saw many very-new beginner HTML books that took this approach. No titles leap to mind, sadly.

But I also endorse the iWeb suggestion. There must be similar things for PCs. Anyone?
posted by rokusan at 5:23 PM on January 8, 2007

I used the w3c schools to learn html back in the day. At a quick glance it doens't look like it's changed any. Go throgh the steps slowly, try out the exercises, see how things work. It should give you at least some idea of what tags are, how it all works and how to make things look the way you want.

I would recommend wordpress as an engine for driving a simple website as you describe, but you may need smoeone to set it up for you. I think you should look at basic things like how to upload files and display images first, get some idea of how the internet works in general. Then any package you use will make a lot more sense to you. Things like wordpress are very easy to set up once you have the basic skills, but if you don't even know how to ftp it can be a big step up.
posted by shelleycat at 5:23 PM on January 8, 2007

I learned basic html from this tutorial. It went step by step and was very easy. Your right brain is going to love this stuff. Good luck!
posted by sleevener at 5:27 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

An extremely simple, and basic, gallery can be created using any one of hundreds of free applications which can be downloaded.

Google's Picasa is one I use to manage my photography collection, and it allows the creation of "Web Albums" which are made up of HTML pages, CSS (style - colors, layout, etc.) and in some cases JavaScript (makes things change/move/dynamic).

Even if you just use it to create a very basic gallery and then start fiddling with the code behind the pages to learn more about what does what, it's a good start.

When you are more confident, a CMS (Content Management System) may prove handy - allowing you to add further content over time.
posted by Lucanos at 5:54 PM on January 8, 2007

I skipped table designs, and I'm using CSS. No regrets. Definitely avoid table designs.

If you choose the Content Management System route, check out OpenSourceCMS, a website that lets you test out a bunch of CMS's from the comfort of your browser without downloading/installing a bunch of crud.

Personally, I like Wordpress. and this tutorial and their legendary support community.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 6:04 PM on January 8, 2007

I second the w3schools recommendation, they're a decent reference and (X)HTML is not difficult to learn at all. Really. You probably want to use XHTML+CSS but it's not strictly necessary. Googling for "XHTML tutorial" will no doubt return a bucketload of other useful things.

I think the quickest and simplest way to put together a portfolio (I'm assuming visual arts) without learning a bunch of web technologies is to use an off-the-shelf gallery program or blogging software. Most web-hosting plans come with decent gallery software that you can activate from your hosting control panel so try using that.
posted by polyglot at 7:24 PM on January 8, 2007

OK, based on what you've posted, here's my suggestion--which is somewhat contrary to my natural inclination (as a longtime programmer) to recommend specific software, HTML/CSS tutorial sites, etc.

You don't need to learn HTML, XHTML, CSS, or any other markup language (let alone a programming language) in order to put together a decent website for yourself.

If you're inclined to learn that stuff, and think it would be enjoyable, then by all means visit some of the tutorial sites mentioned in previous answers.

But if you have no desire to do that kind of thing, and view it as an unpleasant chore, and just want to get your web presence up and running and then carry on with your art--in that case, look at WYSYWIG software such as DreamWeaver, or some of the hosted solutions (TypePad, etc.) that let you create a site without learning a new language.
posted by staggernation at 9:24 PM on January 8, 2007

posted by staggernation at 9:28 PM on January 8, 2007

You must check out NVU. It is FREE, EASY, and functional. You don't need to know any HTML, CSS, XHTML, etc. It's sort of like using Microsoft Word. You just type stuff, change the font size like you would do it in Word, insert pictures, add borders and backgrounds. It is so simple and you will love it. You can definitely learn it in an hour or so. It's very intuitive and did I already mention that it's free? The great thing is that you can click on a tab to see the HTML, so you can edit the HTML yourself if you ever learn how to do it.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:50 PM on January 8, 2007

if you just wanna get some art up on the web asap, go the easy route and make a blogger account. it's very easy to create a blog. you can post small images that expand when clicked, and each image can have a little caption. lots of respectable artists use these to keep themselves motivated in between more time-consuming updates of their "real" websites.

a blogger account can be set up by a total technical neophyte in under 30 minutes, and updated almost exactly like you'd send an email. the site is designed for 14-year-olds to use- so no matter how insecure you are about your web savvy, you can do it. and once you make a blog, you can toodle around with the template and learn a bit about HTML the hands-on way.

the other benefit to a blogger account is that you and your artist friends can link to each other, and it's easy to get other blogging artists to come look at your site by leaving comments on their blogs.

here are some artists' blogs you can look at for inspiration. notice the links to other artists' pages in the sidebar- click around through those too to see even more sites.
john kricfalusi, creator of ren and stimpy
royal academy of illustration and design, a bunch of funny toronto illustrators who do comics and commercial illustration
ramon perez, illustrator/writer.
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:35 PM on January 8, 2007

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