Creating a website. Help!
July 2, 2008 9:54 AM   Subscribe

A friend recently purchased her own domain. She's a graphic designer, familiar with print design and article layout, who wants to create a website that might be used for self-promotion, learning web design, etc. She needs advice on hosting, and tools, and resources. I know this is a big, wide open subject, but the Hivemind is good at this sort of thing.

Though facile with Indesign and Photoshop, she has no web design expertise. She does have Dreamweaver, but is a little overwhelmed.

She's a Mac user, if that matters.
posted by cameradv to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Host here
Use this Email Service with your own domain.
If she does not know web design I would start with Wordpress.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:01 AM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd disagree slightly over Wordpress. It's perfect if she specifically wants a blog, but to adapt a wordpress template to her own design she'll certainly need to know CSS and possibly even need a rudimentary understanding of PHP, and that may be a case of going in at the deep end.

If she's a graphic designer with good Photoshop skills, then what she's probably looking to learn is some basic HTML and CSS, and the techniques involved in transferring a page design from Photoshop to the web. I'd suggest that she gets a good HTML/CSS book that caters for people from a design background, and just has a go at putting together a simple site of a few pages. Alternatively, a site I've heard a lot of people rave about is Web Design From Scratch.

If she decides she also wants a blog, then maybe she could explore Wordpress once she has some basic HTML/CSS skills; probably the best avenue would be to find a basic template from one of the many online repositories and then tweak the existing HTML/CSS to her own requirements.

As for hosting, you'll get a million different recommendations from a million different people; the web is unfortunately also full of so-called 'hosting review' sites that are little more than link farms. For what she needs she should probably just pick something cheap ($5 or so a month); unfortunately today's hottest web host is often at the bottom of the league in six months - it's a volatile business. But on the plus side, it's relatively simple to switch hosts later on. A reference from a friend (or from yoyo_nyc) is probably as good a way as any to pick something.

I (along with quite a few MeFites, I would guess) do web development for a living; feel free to send a MeFi Mail if you or your friend need further help - it's a slow week.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 10:27 AM on July 2, 2008

Seconding the suggestion for HostGator. Been using them for ages with no problems.

I also agree with le morte de bea arthur in regards to Wordpress - don't jump right into the whole CMS world just yet. It's better to get a footing in basics of HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc, and then she will be much more prepared if/when she goes the Wordpress/Drupal/Joomla, etc route.
posted by thedanimal at 10:32 AM on July 2, 2008

I'll agree that as a designer, that last thing she wants is some generic WP layout or, God forbid, one of those hideous Drupal templates with the little arrows at the top.

If she's not comfortable learning too much code, there are a million developers in the world. I'm sure she could trade design work on another site for someone to code hers.

Also, I am currently using MediaTemple for hosting, and it seems to be a favorite of artsy types. It costs $20 a month but it's worth it to me not to deal with the BS of Dreamhost.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:52 AM on July 2, 2008

Been in the web development world for several years now, here are my suggestions:

Hosting Matters
Insider Hosting

I've used many hosting companies over the years. Many start out well enough, but decline over time to the point where the help desk no longer responds and problems are common. These two hosting companies have been consistently good and reliable for many years. I host my own sites and my freelance clients sites with them. They both have excellent support and very reasonable prices.

Resources & Tools
W3 Schools
Veerle Tutorials

I gather from your question that your friend wants to actually learn how to make websites, not just have one created for her. If that's the case, she's going to have to learn the basics first: HTML and CSS. The W3 Schools website is an excellent reference guide to all the basic web languages, including HTML and CSS, with interactive examples that really help. The Veerle tutorial I linked I think your friend will find helpful because it's a good overview of the process from design to web page. It was written in 2004 so I'm sure some of the details have changed, but the general idea is there.

As for tools, Dreamweaver should be just fine. They have their own help pages and tutorials, including a How To Make Your First Website tutorial.

Hope that helps!
posted by geeky at 10:59 AM on July 2, 2008

I had a terrible experience with HostGator and even worse time trying to get them to stop billing me after I had closed my account due to frequent downtime. I have, however, had an excellent experience for several years now with Verve Hosting and host four different sites through them. I very, very rarely have downtime, and I can't recall a time when any of my four sites were down for more than a few minutes. I've had to contact customer service maybe five times in four years, and most of those were requests for hosting package customization, and they quickly and cheaply complied with my requests.

I recommend WordPress for a blog, but only if she's able to learn CSS or find someone to help her implement one of her designs. Installation is super easy, and if she has a host that includes Fantastico (Verve does), it's even easier with the click of a button.
posted by katillathehun at 11:05 AM on July 2, 2008

I would personally recommend WebFaction. They are a semi-small host and have great support.

For webhosting reviews THE place to go is

I don't really have any advice on creating the sites because I kinda suck at web design :(

(if you do happen to go to webfaction there is a referrer spot ;)
posted by majikstreet at 11:06 AM on July 2, 2008

For hosting, this is the best I've found (and who I currently use): NearlyFreeSpeech.NET.

What I love about it? It's one of the few excellent pay-as-you-go, no-unnecessary-overhead hosting setups out there, it's completely transparent and it has a wonderful FAQ and responsive staff who "get it" re: the user experience and what Web hosting is supposed to be about.

And their domain registration rates vie with the cheapest of the discount registrars, without the terrible user experience most have come to expect from places like
posted by limeonaire at 11:34 AM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

In terms of layout, obviously it's all about the work, so keep it simple.

I've always enjoyed Daniel Eatock's approach to showing work.

He encourages others to use the code for their own site.
Many Have.
posted by Sreiny at 11:38 AM on July 2, 2008

For hosting, I always suggest ASmallOrange The Tiny plan ($25/yr) is more than adequate for her needs, and it includes email.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:51 AM on July 2, 2008

If this site is going to be self-promotion, I'd say to take the "learning web design" element out of it. The last thing she should be doing with an online portfolio of her work is turning the space into a sandbox for "I'm still learning so this might look like crap."

Since she's a mac user I would say the easiest route for her is likely going to be connecting that domain to a .mac mobileMe account for hosting and use iWeb for the creation and syncing. Several of their templates will make for a nice and professional looking portfolio and platform for self promotion and there's very little in the way of a learning curve to getting the stuff online and looking good. For the "learning web design" route she can use Dreamweaver with any of the above hosted options and start going that route.
posted by genial at 11:54 AM on July 2, 2008

I'm using HostingTrade, Its the cheapest I found except NearlyFreeSpeech and their customer service is good too.
posted by WizKid at 11:55 AM on July 2, 2008

Cornerhost, yo.

I use them for (almost) all the sites I manage & they're great. They are distinctive also for their ability to speak in plain english as opposed to advanced technogeek.
posted by jammy at 12:11 PM on July 2, 2008

For learning web design and development, I cannot recommend enough. I am a print designer, but thought I knew quite a bit about web design until I started going through the video tutorials. After going through the programs, I feel much more confident in my skills. It's amazing how much you can learn on that site in such little time.

I have a friend who is also a print graphic designer. She is going through the web programs on Lynda right now and is doing very well. She has never even seen HTML before but is picking up on it and CSS fairly quickly.

Also, is great for expanding/keeping up on print design skills and new programs.
posted by bristolcat at 12:31 PM on July 2, 2008

I suggest she find a website she likes and then tweak it.
posted by xammerboy at 6:10 PM on July 2, 2008

You might want to look into CSSEdit. It's $30 but it's much more manageable than Dreamweaver. It's a great place to start if you don't know any CSS.
posted by crios at 7:31 AM on July 3, 2008

Seconding asmallorange for hosting.
posted by thinman at 9:15 PM on July 4, 2008

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