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Making your first website

I had no experience of building a website until I got involved with Newport Makerspace. My first task was to find out what tools were available to make a website – there are lots. As funds were tight, free options were of course the favourite and even then there are lots to choose from. I played around with several tools, WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace and Editor x – to name a few. All seemed to do a job, with some more flexible than others. Most use “themes” which give a basic website layout that you can try to tailor for your needs. We chose WordPress in the end as it is very widely used and has a great deal of online resource to help when you get stuck.

Next job was to choose a hosting service and domain name. The hosting service runs all the behind the scenes computer servers and databases. The domain name service provider gives you your web address. Many companies do both and most offer similar services. For your average small website it probably just comes down to price. If your intention is a for a website with perceived high demand and features (e.g online shopping and thousand of daily visits) it probably needs a bit more care to make sure you will get the speed and reliability you require.

Now we had all the services sorted, it was time to start building the website. In simple terms a website consists of a set of linked web pages. Each webpage is made up of a number of blocks. Blocks can be any size and can contain many different things (or collection of things). Most pages have at least three different blocks

  • a header block – contains the menu, website logo and any information you want to appear at the top of every page
  • page information – can be made of many blocks, each of which can contain text, images or specially designed items (often called widgets) e.g. picture gallery, buttons and maps. There are so many to choose from you need to play with them all to see what they can do and how you can use them.
  • Footer – by no means essential, but many websites will have some information on the bottom of each page.

Some things you might find useful if you are setting out to build a websites

  • Number One Tip – Plan what you want to do on paper first. Knowing what pages and content you need will help with menu design
  • Experiment with different themes and widgets to understand what tools are available
  • Think carefully about style. You are most likely going to want a similar style on each page, so think about the font(s) you want to use and what sizes of font you want. An early decision to have just couple of fonts and sizes will greatly simplify the build process (because you can set up default which can easily be copied from page to page)
  • Use the internet as a resource if you get stuck, plenty of YouTube videos and other websites with ideas to improve or fix features that may not work quite how you desire
  • If you go down the WordPress route, make use of plugins, especially a “caching plugin” to speed up your pages and Elementor, to improve the flexibility of how you set up pages.
  • Often useful to have two windows open in your browser, one to see what the website looks like for others (open an incognito window) and one for you to edit pages
  • Don’t forget that every webpage will look different on mobile devices. Make use of the options in Elementor to change the layout for different devices

Happy building…