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How do I make a website?

I have heard that question twice in as many days. It's not an uncommon question anyway from teachers, clubs, and students, but there seems to be even more interest than usual from folks who don't have the first idea about web design or hosting.

I have heard that question twice in as many days. It's not an uncommon question anyway from teachers, clubs, and students, but there seems to be even more interest than usual from folks who don't have the first idea about web design or hosting. Most of us either host a site or have one associated with our domain. Obviously, university sites tend to be fairly extensive; sites for primary and secondary schools can vary from the incredibly professional to a quick page of contact information. However, whatever the situation, there are several options for helping your users get up and running, none of which involve you teaching your users HTML.

For well-established sites, there are going to be templates, designers, and even tools for creating pages within site guidelines. Where things become more challenging, though, is the random high school club that needs a web page or the parent group that wants to hang a few pages off your site. There are a lot of us who could very quickly put together a slick mini-site for these folks and send them on their way, but who has time?

Your best bet is to turf these people off onto your students. Students in web design/HTML/computing/programming classes need practical experience gathering and implementing user requirements. If such classes don't exist, then I guarantee that there are kids in your school (or in your district if you are at the primary level) who should be getting some experience beyond pimping their MySpace pages. If the requesters can be patient, then a really valuable partnership can ensue.

If the users are really set on making their own site, then there are many tools that allow them to do so. NVU is incredibly easy, if a bit limited. This WYSIWYG editor hands users simple web pages and makes it easy to learn the HTML behind them. Similarly, Google Docs outputs HTML nicely, acting as a solidy WYSIWYG editor. Google Page Creator is another intuitive way to crank out web pages easily.

Just say no when you're asked to make a website...Let your students and staff get the experience themselves instead. There are too many easy ways for novices to do it themselves and too many students lurking about who need to move beyond novice status.