To all beginner website owners, welcome! Learning the intricacies of websites can be difficult because there is simply so much information. It’s almost paralyzing! Here are a number of helpful guides and resources to help you when you think to yourself, “I have no idea how to do this.”
“I’m a do it yourself kinda guy.”
If you’re a bit DIY, you probably want to know how to change that headline text in your website, or the banner picture on the homepage, without having to call someone else. Anyone messing around with code needs resources. Here are a few to get you going:
Mozilla’s Introduction to HTML
You’ve never coded before and want to understand what your website is doing. How does it even work?! Start here, with Mozilla’s Introduction to HTML. This short article will walk you through your first HTML tags. It won’t seem like much, but everything you see on the web started on this simple level. If you need to build or edit your content, you will need a basic understanding of HTML.
Getting Started with CSS
Once you have become comfortable with HTML, it’s time to tackle CSS. HTML is like the information skeleton of your website, and CSS is what makes that information visually exciting. CSS controls the layout, fonts, and colors, and understanding how it works will allow you to make design changes to your website.
CodePen, a playground for coders
You change the code, FTP it back up to your server, hit refresh, and… it’s broken. So you change it again, FTP again, refresh again and…. broken still. This is tedious and, frankly, discouraging. CodePen can help. CodePen is an interactive environment where you type code into your web browser, and it automatically updates on its own. No FTP upload, no refreshing, just experimentation. Figure out your snippets in CodePen first, save yourself some frustration, then FTP upload, refresh, and… celebrate.
“Ok, now I want to seriously learn.”
You now understand basic HTML/CSS and you have a playground to play in, but how do you expand on that knowledge and where do you start?
Lynda.com is a great resource for professional, high-quality video instruction on almost anything, including web languages, techniques, and philosophies. Lynda.com is the mentor and personal instruction that can be so hard to find when you’re busy, and part of how I became a web developer.
Bento.io is a collection of free resources and guides to learn almost any programming language required for the web. Bento also has “learning tracks” that guide you through front-end and back-end development, helping you mature from a web-novice to a web-master!
Search Engine Optimization
You have a website, but can anyone find it? When you’re searching for something online, you probably go straight to a search engine like Google to answer your questions. Search engines are like the oracles of the internet, but they don’t function through magic. They are technology and code like anything else on the web, and they work best when they get the data they’re expecting.
Is your site setup to provide the most search engine friendly experience possible? You might not even know what you need to do. Search engine optimization is a huge topic, filled with gurus, scams, best-practices, and “tricks,” but you don’t need to know everything to make your site better.
Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide
Who better to learn from than Google? Google’s free, short (only 32 pages!) and playfully illustrated guide is the best place to start if you are new to SEO. It shows you the 20% you can do to get 80% of the benefit to your site and helps you understand why you’re doing it.
Moz.com Beginner’s Guide to SEO
Once you’ve read through Google’s guide (at least twice!) you’re ready for some more in-depth education. Moz.com is a well-respected SEO consulting company that has grown to build its own products to further help clients and customers optimize their sites. Moz.com put out a 10 chapter Beginner’s Guide to SEO that walks website owners through the details of various SEO topics. If you’re just starting out and you’ve read posts written years ago about SEO, I recommend starting with Chapter 9: Myths and Misconceptions about Search Engines. It will help clear all that up!
“I’ve got it now!”
Welcome to the web! Get comfortable, stay a while, learn as much as you can, and have fun. Whether your website is simple HTML, a WordPress, a portfolio site, or an e-commerce site, everything starts from these basic building blocks. Understanding the languages behind the web and the necessary techniques to be found on the web will boost your effectiveness online. Good luck!