If you want to be visible and viable today in any market, you’ll need to have a web presence or you might get missed. But if you are just starting out, of course, you may want to save some money and begin the web design process yourself. In order to get started, you should follow the basic web design tips list below. So keep it handy as your fingers do the walking across your computer keyboard.
The very first thing that you’ll want to do is find an easy and inexpensive web editor that feels comfortable and gets the job done. There is a pretty vast array of them on the market. If you feel a little more confident than most and have spent some time educating yourself in basic web design, graphic design and some HTML language, you might want to go straight for Adobe’s Dreamweaver. It is kind of like the custom, gold-plated Swiss Army Knife of web editors – it does everything and makes your site look and act amazing. While it does cost almost $500, it is well worth it because not only does it offer virtually every feature possible, it can be used by webmasters of all expertise levels. Dreamweaver not only allows use of simple HTML language but also works with XML and CSS, both common on today’s sites.
On the other hand, applications like NVU are free and are made expressly for those who are new. There is another one called CoffeCup for only about fifty bucks, but it still provides a good number of ready-to-go templates for your site.
Regardless of which web editor you buy or get be certain to read the instructions carefully, either the online tutorial or the printed handbook that comes with it. Of course you do not have to understand every single operation but definitely need to learn link building, how to style text and how to position different components on the page (copy, images, links, media, etc.).
The lowdown on templates
The next thing you should do is get the skinny on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), as mentioned above. It essentially sets up styles and other specific attributes to your website. It is relatively easy to learn and incredibly helpful because it controls how the entire site looks, feels and operates, providing a uniform and “together” appearance. With CSS, you can change both appearance and functions (such as link coloring, font type, backgrounds, etc.) with a few small changes directly in the style sheet without re-tooling all of the HTML throughout the site – and that saves a lot of work! A simple way to begin with CSS is to get a site template with a style sheet already affixed. From there you go in and experiment with it, then customize it to make it your own. You can get CSS templates from sites like Templatemonster.com, Styleshout.com and many others. Many offer free templates, while others are very inexpensive.
After you choose the perfect template that works for your company or personal image, go ahead and open it in an HTML editor, such as Dreamweaver. Be sure to have an extra copy saved elsewhere, just in case you fiddle with it too much. Virtually all templates have a home page to work from, which allows you to make variations for other pages on your site. You can do this by doing a Save As command with a different file name for every variation. But when you make a lot of pages or variations within groups of pages – some pages may be switched out regularly or seasonally – you need to properly organize these individual files.
Being organized is key
Your website is really just a bunch of these pages or files parked on a server. They need to be found, accessed and managed very easily. You should determine headings and sub-folders for all of your files. For example, if your company website is all about auto mechanics, you’ll create a homepage as such, and then create sub-folders about, say, compact cars, trucks, electric cars, etc. and within those, you’ll create more detailed folders. In many cases, sub-folders’ titles will actually be navigation menu items for users to look at and activate.
First, create a folder on your computer’s hard drive. Make a folder named AutoMechanicsSite and save it to a predetermined place. Whether you use a PC, Linux box or a Macintosh, the process is the same-just make sure to create your folder/directory in an appropriate location. Save site templates (and, as you go along, everything else) in this folder. Remember, if the template has an image folder, you will need to move or copy the contents to the “images” folder inside AutoMechanicsSite. Simply continue to place and save things to this folder, as it mirrors the hierarchy of the site on the server. All of this will be infinitely helpful and get your website up and running quickly.
Last but not least
One other thing you’ll need to learn is something called File Transfer Protocol or FTP. It is simply the process of putting your pages up on a web server. It is easy to set up an FTP account with your site host. Once it is set up, a full-featured application like Dreamweaver will enable you to publish your pages directly online, after providing password and username.
Of course, to make it all pretty and shiny, you’ll want to use one of various graphic design applications, such as the infinitely versatile Adobe Photoshop, CorelDraw or others. Once you put the elements together, you will be online and ready to start doing business. Now your challenge is to get people to come!
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