Making Websites Should Be Easy

Creating a website can be a daunting task, especially for non-developers. As someone well aware of the struggles with the process, I spoke with Sara on Mastodon about simplifying the process of creating a website for non-developers on the back end of a recent post “An Easy Web”.

We came up with the idea of providing copy-paste boilerplate templates of simple single-page starter sites that are carefully commented, making it easy for budding webmasters to understand where to make changes. Including CSS variables at the top of the styles page, with instructions for changing colours or fonts, will allow changes to be made centrally without searching the rest of the style sheet and potentially breaking things.

Creating a series of similar but different single or multiple-page templates for building personal sites, whether about the webmaster themselves or a fan site, is a great way to get started. I keep talking about fan sites as they’re a great entry point to the world of web development; who didn’t have a fan site or two back in the 90s?

The process needs to be as easy as possible, so the next step could be creating a website that hosts these templates with an automated “copy to clipboard” or “download as file” feature, allowing users to drag and drop the code into a web interface to publish their website.

We acknowledged the importance of beginner tutorials to help first-time webmasters get familiar with the syntax before using the templates. These tutorials need to be simple and straightforward, avoiding things like command line and git. It was surprising how many people suggested tools or services that rely on these advanced concepts; they are definitely not beginner-friendly…

Web hosting options were another important topic. We identified places like Neocities, a free hosting service that provides a drag-and-drop website builder, making it easy for upcoming webmasters to get started. While Neocities is a fantastic platform, I wish there were more similar services; options are great.

As our crew of enthusiastic webmasters become more comfortable with HTML and CSS, they may want to explore something like PHP for its templating and dynamic capabilities. This would also require learning about dynamic hosting and technologies like FTP for transferring files from desktop to server. For those who want to remain static, static site generators like Astro and 11ty become useful as, with a bit of learning, you can cut and paste your existing website into these tools and take advantage of the power provided.

Our vision is to make creating a website easy for beginners who aren’t developers. By providing simple templates, tutorials, and web hosting options, we believe anyone can easily create a beautiful and functional website that anyone could be proud of.

I see lots of discussion about this time to time on Mastodon with lots of ideas, but never any action, so…

Over at the 32-Bit Cafe, we have a beginner’s guide to creating your own website, lovingly created by Xandra. I put together a quick guide to folder structure 101 and a guide with heaps of ideas for creating your own website.

Sara got to work straight away on two templates; check out LinkFae and Website simple templates. And I know Blake has started working on something similar, I can’t wait to see how this space progresses.

I’ll get to work on the fan site templates soon, promise.

View this page on GitHub.