What Is A Website?

What is a website?

Good question. A website is made up of a bunch of files on a web server. A server is a computer which isn’t used by one person like your desktop PC but does things for lots of people, hence a web server dishes out web pages and images.

When someone’s browser (be it Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari or some other browser) goes to the site, it downloads the files from the server and works out how to display the information on their screen. Those files include:

  • HTML files which contain the text, links and some layout for the site
  • Image files used in the pages – commonly .jpg (good for photos), .gif (old and outdated) and .png (a newcomer and the best of the lot).
  • CSS files which contain information about the appearance of the pages and can add layout information

You’ll have to pay for a domain name (such as “mydomain.com”) and server hosting. I use 123-reg for registering domains and EZPZ for hosting. You will probably need an FTP client (I use Filezilla) to copy the files to your server.

I create and edit images using the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program). It’s free and excellent.

I edit the pages by hand using a text editor. Why? Good question.

Why edit webpages by hand?

I edit static webpages, PHP files (which are used for dynamic pages and WordPress template files) and CSS stylesheets by hand using the Wordpad editor that comes free with windows. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors such as the awful FrontPage produce bloated and inefficient code (see example below) which often doesn’t display very well in different browsers (more like what you see is not what anyone using a Mac, Opera, Firefox or an older version of IE sees). It is almost impossible to describe a flexible layout which can deal with resizes with the browser in such a program.

An example of FrontPage gibberish:

<p style=’text-align:center;text-align:center’><span   lang=en-GB style=’font-family:Arial;language:en-GB’>&nbsp;</span></p>

That gives a single space. I’ll translate the code: A single space. In a paragraph. Centered. Twice. In English, in the font ‘Arial’ (which is bad practice specifying one font anyway, this assumes it’s viewed on a Windows machine), er, and in English again. Specifying the font of a space isn’t too daft if you want it to line up with something else (which it wasn’t in this case) but I’ve even seen WYSIWYG editors specify the colour of a single space.

This would do exactly the same (and in the page these spaces were being used for layout, there were a lot of them, and they were unnecessary):

<p style=’font-family:Arial;’> </p>

I optimised this client’s webpages and they were about 1/10 of their original size, load faster and work beautifully cross browser, are now valid standards-compliant HTML (so should work perfectly with all future web browsers – don’t forget new web versions of web browsers – and even completely new web browsers such as Chrome – are coming out all the time).

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