Five Things Everyone Needs to Know about a Website
Guest Blogger: Nate Cooper - a tech guru (Pedestrian Conuslting), organizer of Reboot Workshop and Skillshare Master Teacher. His writing has appeared in Mashable. He is currently promoting a Kickstarter comic-adaptation of his Skillshare classes.
I spend a healthy amount of my day interfacing between tech people and business-types. It confounds me to no end that in 2012 there’s still some prevailing wisdom around the idea that you can hire out all of your tech needs. You can’t. Get over it. Here’s a short list of things everyone should know about building a website.
1. There’s a server somewhere in there
In my classes I usually call this section “The boring stuff.” That is is fairly highly technical and hard to make exciting. Functionally the way most of us deal with a server is by setting up a hosting plan. You might host through a website builder site like Squarespace, Wix or WordPress. Instead you may have a c-panel like hosting plan through Host Gator or Bluehost. Either way someone is keeping your stuff stored on a server. Usually that server is a Linux computer running Apache. At bare minimum knowing these words will help you not look so lost when talking to a web developer. It also means that by learning a little bit about Apache or Linux permissions you can get a lot done and understand some concepts that will get your website built.
2. There is no should you learn HTML/CSS
A question that will often come up conversationally when discussing building a website is do you need to learn HTML or can you jump right into Rails or j.node. There is never a case when knowing some basic HTML or CSS could hurt. We’re at the point now where we were in the mid-90s with Microsoft Office. Should you know how to use Word or Excel? Of course. Why not? It can only help you. The same is true now of being able to format paragraphs using HTML or changing the default font using CSS. There’s never a reason why knowing these things are going to hurt you. You’ll absolutely need to know them if you are learning a server-side language like Ruby on Rails.
3. Learn any language you’d like
More important than the platform are the concepts that learning a programming language will teach you. More often than not I’ve seen people get discouraged more by uncompleted projects. Pick a language that will build you what you want more quickly. The more goals you achieve the better you’ll feel about your ability and the more likely you’ll keep up the skills. It doesn’t mean that you’ll churn your finished app on your first go but it does increase your likelihood that you won’t get discouraged and give up. Understanding how a programming language works will help you communicate with other programmers. You’ll be part of the club. Even though they may still make fun of you for learning PHP.
4. Understand how a file system works
The number one mistake I see people make when first building a website, is organization. People don’t seem to know how FTP works and how to ensure that the files they upload will translate into a finished website. Most of this has to do with simple file management and paths. If you haven’t done so before try navigating your hard-drive using the terminal (if you have a mac). There’s just a few simple commands to learn “ls” “cd” etc. Not only will you learn a little bit of Unix, it’ll help you to understand how files are stored in relation to one another. The Unix filing system — which is the basis for all Macs and Linux machines is the convention for file management on the web. Learn this well.
5. Just ask
There are tons of free resources available on the Internet for those looking to build a Website. Google around. If you’re in a major city there’s resources at coworking spaces, trade schools, groups like Girl DevelopIt. Where I am in New York City, it’s hard not to throw a rock and hit someone who knows how to build a basic Website. Skillshare is a tremendous resource to find people who teach on a number of skills — web being a major component of that. I’m putting together a Kickstarter to build my web classes into a comic book. The possibilities are endless. The important thing is to go out and do it. Whether that means reading a book, taking a class or watching online videos, you’ll be progressing in the right direction.Tweet
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