Web site development basics
In case you run into problems while surfing on this site, feel free to contact me. Despite all the care I took while developping it, it is my first experience in this area, and hence, it is very likely that I have made some mistakes. However, if you wonder why this site is not exactly the same in all browsers, I recommend you to read the following lines—it is not a faulty design.
Languages I used
I used four different languages to develop this site, the two most important being HTML and CSS: the former aims at defining the structure of a web page via its basic elements (titles, paragraphs, tables, etc.), the latter is in charge of arranging them in a browser: assigning colors, position, font size, etc. to each of the page elements.
These two languages are standardized by an independent body, W3C, whose mission is to define standards to be used on the web by anybody. All modern browsers are able to understand these languages, but some can understand them better than others… hence the small rendering differences from one browser to another.
All pages of this site have been validated by W3C’s validator, as well as style sheets:
The third language I used is PHP that allows to dynamically build pages, i.e. when a visitor asks for a PHP page, the server (the machine that processes the request) executes the PHP program that usually yields an HTML page and returns the result. This is the mechanism I use to build and validate the contact forms on this site. PHP is an open source project too, even if it is not yet strictly standardized.
The tools I used
Despite what you might have been told, it is plain useless to spend a dime for expensive software if you want to start creating a web site. As we have seen above, all needed languages simply require a text editor. Of course, some are better than others, but they are usually free. As far as I am concerned, I went for an all-free solution since I did all the work under Gentoo, a free Linux distribution. Web pages have been written in my favorite editor, XEmacs, and pictures created with Gimp. All this is free.
Documentation about web design
If you are interested in web site design, you can contact me, or if you would rather give it try by yourself, you will probably have to read some good documentation first. Luckily, it is all available within arm’reach (so to speak) on the internet: I strongly encourage you to start with W3C’s specifications that are the reference, first HTML, then CSS. it is sometimes a bit difficult, but definitely irreplaceable.
Then there are a huge amount of sites that illustrate these specifications, for example A List Apart, Design meme, Listamatic that all explain in detail how to master CSS; for enlightened advice about more general aspects of web design, I trusted experts like Alan J. Flavell, Jukka Korpela, Dan Tobias, Eric A. Meyer and lot of others! You will find there solid thoughts about character encodings, the best way to write mulit-lingual sites, strict usage of HTML, etc.