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Monday, September 21, 2009

Hello World :: welcome to my brand new web design blog!

First of all, the good news – as of last Monday, I am officially running my new web design business! My Enterprise Allowance Grant has been approved, I’ve been given a little stack of money to buy things for my business, and all systems are go.

As a thoroughly productive start to my new business, the same day my latest website went live: is a personal portfolio site for my former fellow musician, and good friend, Julie Comparini, a singer based in Germany and specializing in the performance of medieval, renaissance and baroque music, as well as contemporary interdisciplinary theater projects.

The site is what we call a “static website”, using straightforward HTML and CSS. HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language - this is the code that determines the structure and content of a web page – headlines, paragraphs, lists, block quotes and such – which will be displayed in a standardized format by your web browser.

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets – this is where all the fancy formatting goes. CSS offer the ability to determine the looks of a site in great variety and detail: font styles, sizes and colours, background colours and images, rollover effects, positioning of the individual elements of the site, and a number of other parameters.

The elegance of the system is that the same style sheet can be attached to a whole series of HTML pages, making sure that the styling for all pages is consistent. It also enables the designer to change the entire look of the site – say, the overall background colour, or the font style - by only changing one bit of code in one file. You can even write a whole new style sheet and attach it to the same old HTML page! So one day, your website could have sober businesslike look, and the next day, a crazy jungle theme, all by changing one line of code.

As someone who has done the hard yards of hand-coding my own html pages back in the days before CSS became widely supported, I can tell you, this technology cuts down on a lot of really tedious repetitive tasks! Of course, you have to know what you are doing – starting to work with style sheets was where I realized the limits of my self-taught html skills a few years ago, which is one of the many reasons I ended up getting myself a proper Diploma in Multimedia Design.

If you’d like to get some first hand experience of what a HTML page without its attached style sheet looks, you do the following little experiment (this works best with the Firefox browser – you can download it for free if you haven’t got it installed: ):

Load a web page – you’re welcome to use Julie’s as an example – then go to “View – Page Style” and choose “No Style”. Tadaaa! Not pretty, huh? The page content will still display properly (at least if the HTML page is set up the right way) and headlines, paragraphs and lists will still be recognizable, but all the fancyness is gone. (Make sure to switch your Style Sheets back on by selecting “Basic Page Style” after you’re done.)

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into the mysteries of the art of building good websites. But I know, most of you just want to know: “And what is a websites going to cost me?” – Well, how long is a piece of string? It is really hard to quote people a price without knowing their ideas and requirements. But I will tell you how much I charge for a site like Julie’s, if you send me an email mentioning this blog.

Asni: Multimedia Art & Design:: ::