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Options for making websites

Websites are everywhere! In fact, you're on a website right now. The world wide web opened up the internet and for a long time it has been a space where people can create their own content. But how do you go about making a website?

There are many ways in which you can create a website, from learning how to code it from scratch and then getting a domain and hosting, to using a service that allows you to create a website using a simple editor and customisable sections.

If you want to learn how to code websites, then starting with HTML and CSS to understand the structure and style of the web is very useful. If you're looking for other options where you don't need to write any code, then Google Sites is good, and there are many other website services like Wordpress and Squarespace.

If you're creating webpages at the University of York for work purposes, you may need to use the Content Management System so your webpage(s) are on the University website and match the right styles and layouts.

Designing for users

When planning your website, you need to think carefully about what the purpose of your site is, who it is aimed at, and how they will be using it. You want it to fulfil your aims and be usable by as many people as possible.

Universal design principles can help with this. A good starting point is the Designing for Users section of our Practical Guide to Coding. Whether or not you're creating a website in a way that requires coding, it covers the design principles you need to consider to enable users to fully engage with your work. Some particular points to consider are the contrast of text against any backgrounds (especially in the header) and the nesting of your pages, as this determines how easy it will be to navigate your site content.

Remember to use the alt text function to add in descriptions for any images you use, to improve the accessibility of your site. If you want more information about image description, see the guide on our Accessibility Skills Guide

Websites without coding

These days it's possible to create really effective websites without needing to know anything about coding. In the slides below we cover how to design and create web pages using tools such as Google Sites, Blogger, and more.

Google Sites is a great tool for creating a website to display information in a way which is easy to access, navigate and looks good. The tool is designed to help build attractive websites as simply and easily as possible. 

When to use Google Sites

Collaborate with anyone

Google Sites is ideal for projects where you will be working cooperatively with others; you can add collaborators from any organisation, so long as they have a Google account. Just make sure you are following GDPR guidelines.

Easy to share

Sites is one of the easiet tools to use to promote the information you are wanting to share. Add to your social media profiles, business cards, or presentation for immediate impact.

Ever looked into SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) before? Sites is great for getting people to stumble upon your website through search engines. Simply use commonly searched words and phrases; you might be surprised at who visits you!

No need to regularly update

Once you've put time into building your website, you won't need to update it very much. Sites is by far one of the easiest and quickesy ways to build an attractive website; if you spend time building it just how you want, you won't need to alter much as you go along.

If you're wanting to regularly update people with news that goes directly to them, perhaps a blog or Google Group is better suited for your needs.

Publish when you want

If you want to build up to a release/publish date, Sites is ideal. With or without collaborators, you can build it in its entirety before anyone else will see it.

This also counts for any changes you make after you first published it. Want to add an extra page, but don't want anyone to see it until it's complete? Build it before you press 'Publish'. Need to publish a different change? No problem: just hide it from navigation until you're ready.

Web code

HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is the coding language by which the web is structured. These days it is used alongside CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which controls the appearance of the page content.

You will often find guides and tutorials to HTML and CSS together as they work together to display web pages in your web browser.

There's a third part of a web coding trinity in the form of JavaScript, which is a scripting language that makes the web interactive. JavaScript interacts with the HTML and CSS on the pages to make websites do things. It is best to know some HTML and CSS before starting with JavaScript.

w3schools is a good place for learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, along with other tools for further web development.

University web space

If you're a member of the University and you want to create a webpage from scratch, your personal web space is yours to create and edit as you choose.

Your personal webspace is part of your personal filestore ("M drive").

Learning from others

You can learn a lot about web development just by looking at what other people have done.

For instance, to access the underlying code of a webpage, in most browsers you can just right-click and select "View page source" or similar.

And pressing F12 in most browsers will bring up the DOM (Document Object Model) inspector which will let you explore the page code within a tree structure or even by clicking on bits of the page itself. Why not try it on this page right now?

This page is quite complicated. It has the weight of over 30 years of web design behind it. So you might find it more revealing to look at some earlier pages. Here's the University of York homepage as it appeared in the 1990s:

Some bits of the University website are still knocking around from the 1990s and provide an interesting history lesson:

As well as learning from history, and from other people's design efforts, there's a whole online community of help. The following sites might be particularly useful:

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