A Better Way to Start Building Websites

We need a place to learn and improve  our web skills

Imagine you want to make a website, and you have no idea how, or where to start. It might be for yourself, for a friend or relative, or a business that simply needs some help. You want it to be beautiful and functional, but you need to be able to make it yourself — somehow.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Wix or Weebly — those services that help anyone make a website in a few hours — and thought it would be perfect… until you want an add-on that costs too much. Perhaps someone’s told you to use Wordpress — it’s easy to use, great for blogs, can make powerful websites, and is free — but perhaps you want something simpler, or even something you have more control over. You’ve heard of HTML, but the idea of programming scares you a little. You still feel like there must be other options.

They’re really great if you already know exactly how you want to make your website…

It turns out that there are many ways to make websites — uncountable really; those approaches mentioned above are only a few examples of hundreds or thousands of tools and methods. Naturally, there must be just as many websites that can explain how to do it; let’s consider them.

Firstly, there are online teaching and training websites like Udemy, Coursera, and so on, as well as the sites dedicated to website design and development like Treehouse, Code School, etc. They’re really great if you already know exactly how you want to make your website, but they don’t give any guidance on other approaches you should consider, for which they don’t have courses or lessons.

If you’re in the web design or development industry, you’ll know about websites like Smashing Magazine and Sitepoint, which provide fantastic news and tips on the latest techniques and tools to build websites. Their articles even provide links to their older articles on related topics (backward-looking links), but they don’t edit older articles to include links to the newer articles (forward-looking links). Also, to keep their professional edge, most articles stay away from making recommendations about the best methods and tools to use — not particularly helpful if you’re not a professional.

Wikipedia and websites like it solve the links problem perfectly; every article has stacks of links to other articles on topics they mention, and of course there are articles on every website-building topic imaginable. Although they’re not usually completely accurate, they do provide lots of useful info. Websites such as Wikipedia are, however, information-based rather than instructive, which means that you can’t use them to learn how to make a website, or even improve something you’ve already made.

Despite this, there’s no reason we can’t help everyone make websites in a way that’s right for them.

We need place that combines the best of all those above: it should provide well-researched knowledge that’s kept up-to-date, have many links between its pages — old and new, clearly explain topics in a way that makes learning productive and enjoyable, and provide enough info on the latest tips and tools that can help us to make better websites more easily.

It needs to briefly cover all topics that anyone making a website is likely to encounter, but at the same time not re-write what many professionals have written in the past. Basically, it needs to provide an introduction to everything we’d need to know about, while providing links to other websites and articles that further explain the topics.

Most importantly, it needs to be opinionated, in the sense that it recommends the best approach or technique or tool for the reader’s situation and needs. When it lists software, for example, it mustn’t simply list them or even give some facts about each, like who sells it or how old it is; it needs to explain which ones are the best for any kind of user or situation, and why they’re most suitable. It’s no-longer sufficient to provide us with options without helping us choose the right one for us.

We need place that combines the best of all those

We need to use the best of the web to help each other build the web. Are you in? (if you are, please click Recommend below!)

Postscript: I’m doing my best to build what I’ve described in this article, and I’ve called it Web Builders’ Codex — I welcome all comments and criticism, and your help!