So you have got your web hosting and want to pursue a career in web design or maybe you want to design your own website for your own personal project. Unfortunately a web designer’s job isn’t finished once the site goes live there are other steps that need to be taken too, unless you have a massive budget and you pay for these services. Here is a guide of the steps to consider before becoming a web designer.

Security

Security

htaccess

The htaccess (.htaccess) file generally resides in your root folder of your server. The htaccess file can do a variety of different things like override certain server configurations like compression settings, turn on hotlinking, protect directories and files and much much more.

File and Folder Permissions

Every file and folder on a server has permissions. Permissions are used to protect your files and folders from other people and prevent direct access. If you use the incorrect permissions you may find that someone has added some unwanted code to your lovely new website which obviously doesn’t look good when Google’s robot comes for a visit. Generally recommended file permissions are 644 and folder permissions are 755 and you can set them using your web based hosting software, like Cpanel or by using a FTP client.

Security Overview

Security plays a vital part in web design. You don’t want to get your website to the top of the search engines then have it damaged by a fly by night hacker or have someone come by and add links to dodgy viagra website! Treat it like a car after all you wouldn’t leave the keys in the ignition whilst in the middle of a busy car park! We will delve into this more when we start our first project but for now having some knowledge is better than nothing.

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO

Webmaster Tools

Some search engines provide tools which enable you to view reports on your site. These reports may be boring to some of you but they play a key role in monitoring the health and well-being of your site. Google and Bing are popular tools that enable you to view errors, see your internal, external links, add a robots.txt file to exclude certain or all robots from accessing certain pages or folders, view keywords and where they appear in search engine results and more importantly contact you if your website has been exposed to malware.

Sitemap

Having a sitemap helps the search engines to index your pages and is vital part of SEO. You can create your own with a little knowledge of XML or you can use a free tool such as http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/. The sitemap resides in your root folder and can be a variety of different formats to suit different search engines. You can also submit a sitemap using Google Webmaster Tools above.

Using Analytics

If you have built your site then you maybe want to check how many visits you have received or to find out which page is the most popular or even which keywords are popular. One of the most popular free analytic tools is Google Analytics. By simply signing up and adding some code to every visible page will enable it then view all the data at your leisure.

SEO Overview

There is more to SEO than just Webmaster Tools and viewing how many people have visited your site with Analytics. Having good titles, well formed URLs and meta descriptions along with the correct use of header tags and back-links pointing to your website will help improve your PageRank and positioning in the search engine.

Becoming a Web Designer

HTML

Sourcing Graphics

If you have the skills to do your own graphics then do so. For some users this can be a weakness so this leaves you either hiring a illustrator or purchasing graphics from reputable sites, which can get expensive if you are working on a personal website. There are however a good supply of free graphics if you are able to find them. Just remember some graphics may need scaling using an image editor or your website may take forever to load, which will put people off. Check out my previous post Hot Stock, Icons and Graphics 4 free to find a list of websites.

Content Delivery Networks

If you want to add some jQuery magic to your site then instead of hosting the jQuery on your own server you can retrieve it from the Google CDN. This will help speed up the page load. Google CDN hosts a variety of frameworks so you are not limited to jQuery.

Validating

Validating comes into play whilst building your websites. Why use it? Well some browsers may interpret your invalidated code and display it differently to how you want it to be. Validating HTML, CSS and Javascript throughout the coding process could save you a lot of time and will help and guide your development, you should therefore not make the same mistake again!

Test, Test, Test

Testing is a very important way of understanding how the browser reacts to your web design. My top tip would be to make small changes at a time then do a full browser refresh (Ctrl + F5 in Firefox). Why do you do a full browser refresh? Every browser caches web pages so it loads up quicker next time you visit. A normal refresh may load up a previous version of your CSS and Javascripts which may not display the changes you have just made. You could of course just turn off caching altogether in the browser or use plugins etc. Another great tip is not to limit yourself to a single browser as each browser can produce different results.

Conclusion

Don’t worry too much if you don’t fully understand any of the above. These will be tackled more in depth over the next few articles. In the next article we will focus on setting up a development environment for you to start your creating your first HTML project.