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DIY Web Development

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 29 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
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Developing an effective, attractive web presence is vitally important for any new business. Until fairly recently, a website was desirable but not essential. Now it is almost inconceivable for a business with any chance of success to lack an online presence. This is particularly true of photography and the other creative industries. Professional web development is still fairly expensive, and the cheaper web design firms tend to produce sub-par results. However, in order to keep costs down there are a number of web development techniques that you might well be able to perfect yourself.

Previous Experience

If you are considering DIY web development, your choice of path will depend on your existing experience. If you have some knowledge of languages such as HTML, CSS and PHP then you have a significant head-start; it is possible to craft a perfectly acceptable website with a smattering of each of these languages although, depending on the breadth of your experience, you may find that you spend some time working on a trial and error basis. The good news, however, is that there are now numerous ways in which individuals with no experience of web development can produce websites without the aid of a professional web development company.

In the first instance, you may wish to investigate some of the so-called WYSIWYG editors. The acronym stands for What You See Is What You Get, and these packages do very much what you would expect; they provide a visual interface for users to design websites in much the same way that they might design a poster in desktop publishing software. Dreamweaver and GoLive are good examples of industry standard WYSIWYG editors, although both come packed with features that may bemuse first-time users.

Blogging and CMS

In the world of Web 2.0, content is the most important element of any web presence. Handily, the fantastic advertising and marketing opportunities that are presented by Web 2.0 can be exploited by users with no previous web development experience. There is a wealth of free, Open Source software available for specifically this purpose. Hosted packages like Wordpress, for example, allow users to build websites in a modular manner; beginning with the shell of the site, which is wrapped in a customised ‘template’, the user can then add a series of plugins and ‘widgets’ to increase functionality. There are a number of Wordpress plugins available that have been specifically designed with photographers in mind; several of these will even compile an animated portfolio with no more than a few mouse clicks.

If you will be updating your web presence frequently, for example with new images from recent shoots, you may consider using a modular Content Management System, or CMS. These are similar to blogging software like Wordpress in that they work on the principle of plugins, but CMS packages tend to have more advanced features that make managing a large amount of content more easy. Furthermore, they can provide plugins allowing for advanced search, image sorting, and any number of other useful applications. While a CMS deployment may require some basic knowledge of web development, this is another DIY solution that many people will be able to pick up rapidly.

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