How to build a website

Different ways to build a website

Websites can be built in many ways, but in the end, they all have to send HTML code to your browser, because that is the language your browser speaks. The real differences are in the “back end,” where the website is constructed.

Basic HTML

When you build a website with HTML, the code that the developer sees is essentially the same code that the browser sees. No fancy  interface, no interpretive layer between the developer and the page. The problem with a basic HTML site is that to build or edit such a site you either need a WYSIWYG authoring tool like Adobe Dreamweaver, or you need to be proficient in writing (and editing) HTML code. But Dreamweaver is expensive (about $800) and not many people are proficient in HTML. So while basic HTML has been the method of choice for some years now, it is falling out of favor.

Content Management Systems (CMSs)

A Content management System, or CMS, allows the site owner to make changes to the content of the site without hiring a web developer for every change. This was recognized early on as a huge advantage, and many types of CMS sprouted up. Systems with names such as Joomla! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the name), Drupal, and WordPress may be familiar to some, but hundreds of CMSs have been built and promoted by various developers.

Generally, a CMS is built using a database. The CMS uses the database to construct pages on the fly and the site owner changes a page by changing the contents of the database. Everything beyond that is simply structure necessary to make this all work or to make it an acceptable experience to the site owner.

WordPress

We have chosen to throw our hat into the WordPress ring. WordPress advantages include:

  1. A very reliable and professional support structure. Like many CMSs, WordPress is open source, which means nobody owns the code and it is available for free. Even though nobody is making money from WordPress, the organization that supports it works hard and professionally to keep WordPress as robust and bug-free as possible.
  2. A huge user base. The advantage of a large user base is that any problem an individual developer like me might encounter has most likely already been seen, solved, and documented on the web. This makes solving the inevitable development problems much easier than it would be with a smaller user base. And for those cases where a solution isn’t easily found, there are a number of excellent technical forums where developers ask questions and other developers answer them.
  3. Many theme and plug-in developers. WordPress itself is mostly the underlying structure that supports the system but is light on design and features. Themes add an assemblage of designs and features, while plug-ins add very specific features. Using both in concert make it possible to build almost any website with WordPress.

If you are interested in seeing more detail on WordPress, please go to my WordPress 101 page.