VAV 2018 - How to do your web site


General info

Course/workshop by Harold Schellinx & Peter Mertens.


1. First things first

The very first thing all of you need to do is select and reserve your own domain name. The most obvious choice will be: yourname.com or yourname.nl, like, for example, the domain name that the Dutch artist Peter Bogers uses for his web site: peterbogers.com. But there many other options. There are many places where you can go online to choose and register your domain name. This is always done for a limited period of time, one or two years, sometimes more. At the end of this period, if you wish to continue the use of the domain name that you selected, you will have to renew the registration. Some examples of places where you can register a domain name are gandi.net, Antagonist and Exsilia.net. Most of you will also need a hosting service, that is, a 'home' for your web site. The easiest will be to 'rent' the hosting (server space) together with your domain name. This is possible with the three previously mentioned companies, though easiest with Antagonist or Exsilia. Which, by the way, are far from being the only ones. There are many, many more. Unless you are looking for some very specific options (like hosting your own streaming video and/or audio, start up a web shop, et cetera), differences usually are marginal, both technical and price-wise.

2. Next choice

The second important choice you have to make is whether to create and design the site yourself, or to make use of one of the many tools and content management systems (CMS) that are available (online, or as software that needs to be installed together with your site), either free or at a price.

If you decide to create and design the site yourself, you will need to know or learn - at least the basics of - web languages, like HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP. The great advantage is that in doing so, in the end, of course you will have total control.

In our first session we learn(ed) how to make (very) basic web pages in HTML. An example can be found here here. To see what the HTML looks like, use your browser's option to view the source code of a web page. A good place to start learning more about the basics of HTML/CSS web design are the online W3 Schools.


Exercise:

If you want to learn more about HTML and the CSS style sheets, try to make some more elaborate web pages, for example try to image what the homepage of your website should look like. If you have any specific questions about this, feel free to contact us by email. We can of also course look further into this together next time we meet.


When you design a site yourself, you will want to use software that allows you to create and preview web pages. One of the most popular and powerful ones is called Dreamweaver, which is part of Adobe's CS package.

If you want to make use of one of the many 'content management systems' that are available, you will in most cases need to choose one among a certain number of templates that fix the form and looks of your site. From there one - and this can be a big advantage - you just need to 'fill' the templates with your content.

Some of these 'content management systems' are also available as online services. If you choose one of those, you will need to register for the service, and then can create your site online. In that case you will not need a web hosting service along with your domain name. You may just redirect visitors looking for your domain name to your online website. Some examples are Wordpress, Tumblr, Berta (has been quite popular with VAV graduates in the past couple of years) and Squarespace.


Exercise:

In order to be able to decide whether or not to use one of these 'online make your own web site' services, the best thing to do is to try them! Just register online and take a little time to find out how it works, what you can do, and make some sample pages... You can of course always remove such pages later and/or end the account if you do not wish to use it. If you have any specific questions about your use of any of these services, we can look at these together the next time we meet.


3. Embedding video and/or audio

* Video: easiest is to embed a YouTube or Vimeo clip in a webpage (copy/paste the necessary code). Similar for audio: embed a SoundCloud audio file in a webpage. YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud take care of the necessary conversion into different formats. You do not need to host the files yourself.

* Embedding video and/or audio that you host yourself is becoming a lot easier with HTML5, the new and very powerful (but not yet standard) version of HTML.

5. Transferring your web site via ftp to your hosting server

Even though many web hosts will provide a browser interface permitting you to transfer files, the best option is to use special ftp software (like Transmit), or use Dreamweaver's ftp function if you design your site in that program. As soon as you have registered your domain and found a suitable web hosting service, I will be able to help you with this in case you have questions about it, or run into problems using the ftp service of your host.