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Creating a personalised website

Over the last few days I’ve had to learn quite a lot about creating your own website. Whenever I’ve designed web pages or full websites in the past I’ve started from scratch, written the CSS code and HTML script myself and come out with a simple, but fully functional, end product. But now there are so many free online tools that allow you to create a far more interactive website without getting to grips with the coding, and more importantly, without spending the hours of time required to code it so it looks just as you thought it would. For those developers who have provided these tools and webapps as OpenSource I am very grateful as this website would never have been as good as it is now without them.

With that said, there’s still a fair amount of learning required if you are to get the most out of these web-design tools. To start your own website, first you need a good domain name, which can be really difficult. But since I was looking to make a website just about me, something along the lines of my name seemed to make the most logical sense. Therefore, www.andyrobertson.net was born (.com was taken)!

Homepage-Look

After paying to register the name, the next step was hosting, an aspect I had totally forgotten about until after I’d bought my domain. But since the site that I registered my domain name at also did hosting I figured I’d keep things simple…and got the cheapest most basic hosting available. So if my site ever goes down or exceeds its bandwidth allowance, you now know why!

Then, it’s time to design your website. Which took me months. Not least because I wanted it to be fairly good but didn’t want to spend any time on it. So, as months rolled on and the money I’d paid to host a non-existent site disappeared from my bank account I realised I really needed to dedicate some time to actually getting a site online. Any site would do for now. But, of course, that’s not how I work and so the last 4 or 5 days I’ve dedicated nearly all my spare time to getting this website online. Now it’s here I’d love to hear what you think of it, but maybe after a few months - I don’t really want to spend any more time on it for now!

Since it took me so many days of learning to understand how to make this website I figured maybe my first post here should outline a few steps which might save someone else some time later. And so, here they are:

1)      Select your domain name - something short and explanatory is ideal.

2)      Choose some web-hosting - this site has some pretty good advice.

3)      Choose how to make your site - This is the bit that stumped me. Unless you know CSS coding and HTML tags very well, don’t bother going down the ‘from scratch’ route. Instead, choose a web-app which most hosting companies provide you as part of the interface when you log in. The two favourites are Joomla and WordPress but I went with Joomla due to more dynamic features using photos. These are applications that run solely through your browser and typically don’t work offline (though you can download things to allow you to). Once you have installed Joomla or WordPress to your site you can access it and start making your site by going to: www.yourdomain.com/administrator/.

4)      Design your site and upload it - If you decide to go ahead and use Joomla (which I recommend) you should definitely watch this video. Yes, all 75 minutes of it!! It explains everything basic. If you have Joomla version 3.0 instead of 2.5 there’s an update on his youtube page. There are thousands of templates available for free online for Joomla and these are basically a way of you making a blank version of your ideal website and then simply filling and changing the layout and content as you want to. The video I linked to up there really does explain it all.

5)      Play around and google problems - Finally it’s simply a case of getting things as you want them. Play around with modules (the components of your website - like menus, slideshows, headers, footers and contact forms) until you're happy with their locations and then start filling in the content of your articles. If you run into any issues, simply google your problem, check the website where you downloaded the template from or go to the joomla.org page and check the forums.

6)      Add some real content - After you’ve got the layout and style of your website as you want it then all that is left is adding the content to the articles. One plugin that I highly recommend is the JCE text editor which is free and a much better WYSIWIG editor than the default TinyMCE. To use it, click the link, select your Joomla version and the most recent ZIP version. Go to extensions manager on your Joomla back end and select to upload and install the ZIP file you downloaded. Finally, go to Global Configuration and on the left hand side change the Default Editor to JCE. Now, when you edit content in articles you’ll see how much better the new editor is!

And that’s basically it. Your website should work just fine. But, if it doesn’t, it might be because of one of these problems:

Problem: Your website doesn’t show when you type just your domain name into a browser.
Possible solution: When you install Joomla to your website, don’t install it in a separate folder.

Problem: The links to each webpage are confusing: “…-heading-6-category-4-item-12”.
Possible solution: Go to general configuration on your Joomla back end and ensure “Search Engine Friendly URLs” is checked as Yes.

Problem: Pictures and text aren’t showing up as you want them to and pictures aren’t resizing properly when you edit them in the article.
Possible solution: Install the JCE text editor and enable it instead the default TinyMCE editor. Now when you insert a picture into an article, use the more user-friendly interface and preview window to ensure you get it as you want it.

Problem: When you embed a video, or google maps (or a lot of other things) into an article, it doesn’t show up at all.
Possible solution: Go to the Plug-In manager on your Joomla back end and select Editor - TinyMCE. On the right hand site under “Prohibited Elements” simply delete “iFrame” and the comma before it. Save and close, paste the embed code into the article again and now it should show up immediately!

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