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ROGERS - Webmasters build their own sites

May 29, 2016 5:38 A.M.

THE WORD "webmaster" seems hopelessly old-fashioned. It brings back memories of under-construction GIFs, visitor counters and "enter" links you had to click on just to get past the home page.

Plus, the idea of one person being master of an entire website is in some cases just plain impossible. Many sites these days are far too big and complicated to be the responsibility of one person alone.

Still, I can't help but agree with Justin Jackson — it's great to be a webmaster.

You can write whatever you want whenever you want. You don't have to worry about Facebook algorithms deciding who gets to see your post. Anyone who comes to your site will see whatever you want them to see.

You can write things that are politically incorrect. You can use salty language. You can write in-depth think pieces. Facebook frowns on all of these, and you can count on them being demoted into obscurity.

The other great thing about being a webmaster is that you can make your site look however you want it to look. Take a bit of time to learn HTML, and you're no longer dependent on bland WordPress or Tumblr templates. If you want  a corny GIF on your home page, you can go ahead and put it there — front and centre.

Becoming a webmaster is actually quite easy.

Apps

Text editor: You need this to type out your HTML code. Your computer comes with one pre-installed. On a PC, it's called Notepad. On a Mac, it's called TextEdit. 

You can also download free text editors. I currently use Atom, which is designed to be used by the whole family — just watch their video. Back in the 1990s, I started with PageSpinner, which you can use for free if you don't mind the occasional shareware nag. It's great for beginners because it helps generate the code for you.

FTP client: You need this to upload your HTML to a server. There's a free one for Mac and PC called Filezilla. Another one called Cyberduck might be easier for beginners. This was my first. I liked it because of the friendly interface.

HTML

Don't be afraid of HTML. It's not programming — it's just markup you put in your text so that web browsers know what to do with it. Without the markup, you text would display in one giant blob, all the same size. HTML makes sure that it displays with headings and paragraphs.

In fact, you could get away with learning just three HTML tags — the ones for headings, paragraphs and links. Even links are not totally necessary, but links are why the web was invented in the first place.

So how do you learn? Go to Schools, copy and paste their example into one of the afore-mentioned text editors and save it as index.html. Right-click on the resulting file and open it with the web browser of your choice.

What you'll have is a perfectly good web page that looks good to anyone who sees it. Of course, once you get a taste of the power of publishing, you'll want to learn more. Just keep going with the W3 Schools lessons.

Web hosting

Your web pages need to be uploaded to a server so everyone on the Internet can see them. This can get complicated because there hundreds of web hosting companies to choose from, and of course you have to pay.

I got my start on a service that came free with my Shaw Internet account. It's gone through some changes, but apparently still exists. Do a Google search for the name of your Internet service provider plus words like free web space, and you might get lucky.

For me this was the perfect playground in which to hone my web skills. It's one thing to preview your work in the privacy of your home, but quite another to put it out there for all to see.

If you do wind up having to pay for web hosting, resist the temptation to sign up for one of their pre-built websites. True webmasters build their own websites.

Mark Rogers publishes a blog at http://www.newsonaut.com. He can be reached at mark@newsonaut.com.

Grouchy 1 says:
June 5, 2016 09:22am

Great column Mark. Thanks for the links also.

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