Color pencilsThis week I got a phonecall out of the blue from an old friend who wanted me to design a website for him. I used to love all things web and was always playing with web pages. Learning as much as I could about HTML, JavaScript, CSS and PHP.

After a while I noticed that pages were displayed differently by every browser and so things started to become a mess of special cases for each of the browsers. As I got older my priorities changed and so along with all the extra code that was being required my interest waned.

Luckily things are starting to improve. With the improvements in browsers and the languages that describe the web pages, including advances like AJAX, things are starting to become interesting again.

With my goal of improving my web presence he couldn’t have picked a better time as I was keen to dig in and (re)learn all I could about web design anyway.

Temporary Page

So first thing was to whack up a quick “Coming Soon” page. That sounded nice and simple. The last time I did one of these it was a “Site Under Construction” page but that is now frowned upon, supposedly.

I have always used a basic text editor in the past so I opened Notepad++, my text editor of choice at the moment. I didn’t even know where to start and looking at a completely blank page can be quite disconcerting. It wasn’t long though until I was tapping away and feeling comfortable with HTML again.

After my experiences with this blog I did a quick search on Flickr and found a suitable image, putting up a credit linking back to the owner. Then I knocked up a quick logo, some very simple text and a basic layout. Hey Presto! I have just create my first web page, from scratch, for about 10 years…

Research

You can keep the HTML so clean nowadays and put all the formatting in CSS rather than having to fiddle around with tables and such like to get things to appear where you wanted them to. This gives you so much more control over the layout. The only downside of this additional freedom is that  to compete for attention with other sites you need some strong design skills. Previously content was king so all that mattered was what information was available on the site, image was a secondary concern.

While reading up about HTML5, the latest incarnation of the HTML standard, I came across the following link:

Do websites need to look exactly the same in every browser?

The more I read about web design I am beginning to realise that whole point of the web is to display content in a fluid fashion anyway. If you view the same page at different resolutions then it will probably be displayed differently so why not just accept it and allow for the page to be displayed any which way. Think of the browser on the iPhone compared to Mozilla Firefox, fullscreen on a large widescreen monitor as an extreme case. You wouldn’t really want them to be displayed the same.

What with Internet Explorer still refusing to follow standards that is pretty much the only way to go anyway. So my new attitude is, if the latest and greatest doesn’t work with Internet Explorer, or any other browser for that matter, then so be it. As long as the website still functions then all is well. It might even will help pry people away from the de facto standard in the long run. Internet Explorer has had a lot of criticism over its security as well as its compliance with web standards, so if everyone starts saying “to get the latest flashy effects you will need to steer clear of Internet Explorer”.

So I have decided to use HTML5, CSS3 and probably jQuery as it seems to have become the standard javascript library. Here are a few interesting links I have come across:

Design

Right so the next stage is the actual design of the site as a whole. At least I have a bit of time before I have to get my teeth into this.

I am looking forward to it and hopefully once I am warmed up from this project I can get on with updating my website, and a few others that I have been putting off for a while.

I don’t consider myself a graphical designer but I do spend a fair amount of time surfing. This hopefully points me in the right direction of what looks good and what doesn’t. I hope that is enough to come up with some fairly decent designs. Fingers crossed.

If all goes well with these websites then the next plan is to move on to PHP again and design a complete web application rather than just static web sites. I have some simple ideas but I need to get on top of a few things first before I can start spending any serious time focusing on my ideas. Lets just wait and see…

Advertising

Before I even got started on the actual website design I was also roped into designing an advert for the website. And to top it all off it had to be done immediately to reach the deadline.

I love the Gimp for any graphical images. Unfortunately I was a bit rusty as I hadn’t really used it in years. After a quick google I got the basic idea and came up with the following:

I am quite pleased overall. Although I am not much of an artist and my freehand attempt at a horses head has plenty of room for improvement.

Image: Creative Commons License Tambako the Jaguar

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