Of course you want to get started! And, while your enthusiasm is running high, I certainly don’t want to disappoint or discourage you. However, one very important objective of this guide is to prevent what I think is one of the most troublesome aspects of the learning process: information overload. Too much too soon, coming at you all at once and from all directions, can be so overwhelming that you are likely to give up, so, from my own experience, I know that you will be more comfortable if you start with learning to use just one or two basic tools.
Get Kompozer (it’s free) and make friends with it. This is the text editor/site builder that you will use.¹ Find it here.
Download the KompoZer manuals at thesitewizard.com here, and the updated Charles Cooke one here. The reason for getting both of them is that the sitewizard one is very, very easy to follow, almost paint by number in its simplicity, and the success you’ll have when using it is a big confidence booster. The Charles Cooke manual is updated for the latest version of KompoZer, the version that you downloaded, and you certainly need to use it, but it’s a bit more technically written and doesn’t lead you by the hand as much. I suggest that you print at least the first two sections of the sitewizard tutorial so that you can follow along as you work. I downloaded and use both (in fact, I had them spiral bound) in their entirety, but if you don’t have a printer or ink and paper costs are a factor, printing certainly isn’t necessary.
Both of these sites have a wealth of information, and you will want to explore them thoroughly, but, as tempting as it might be, I urge you to wait a while. If you do ‘read ahead,’ I can almost guarantee that you will read things that will raise confusing questions or issues, and that is exactly what we are trying to avoid. Of course, if you aren’t an absolute beginner, you can use your own judgment about searching for whatever relevant material you may need.
Join WYSIFA Forum. Do it here. This is the exceptionally good KompoZer forum and will be invaluable to you. You should sign up immediately because it usually takes a day or two for authorization. You can browse as a visitor, and I suggest that you do that, particularly in the Q & A forum for beginners. It’s very reassuring to see how readily you can get help with even the simplest questions.
Finally, this isn’t meant to frighten you or put you off, but you really do need to have at least a nodding acquaintance with HTML, the language of the web. It isn’t difficult and actually is fun; in fact, it’s a kind of magic that you can enjoy learning free at the W3W Schools. Their Try-It-Yourself On-Line feature (you’ll see the link on the home page) will have you ‘speaking’ a little HTML in just a few enjoyable minutes. The point here is not that you seriously need to write HTML code but that you need to be able to read its basics in order to see what is happening, and why, in your code. If something goes wrong, you need to at least be able to find where the trouble is. For example, if you ask for help on the forum, you are likely to be asked to post the bit of code that isn’t working right so they can tell you where you made a mistake. Trust me and my voice of experience; you will be eager to learn enough to enable you to find, and maybe even fix, your mistakes, and it’s easy to learn because, once you get started, it really becomes pretty obvious.
¹You may have noticed that no mention has been made of the (usually free) proprietary site building tools that are often found in association with blog sites, various web sites offering free site building tutorials, etc. That is because I tried many of these without success and eventually learned that that wasn’t the method I wanted to use to build my site, anyway. If you are successful with those and like to use them, you just might not want to continue here, or you might want to come back later when we are getting into preparing content for the site, search engine optimization, and other techniques that would be of interest to you.
And what are the objections to going the DIY route? A major one in my opinion is the loss of flexibility. You must build your site their way, not your own way. Usually you can make modifications by using HTML code if you know how to write it, but I think it’s harder to modify someone else’s work than it is to do my own from scratch–where I don’t have to write any code at all unless I want to. You are usually limited to their styles and headers. Again, you can import things to use instead–if you know HTML–and that would defeat your easy-to-do purpose.
The most important reason, however, is that portability is usually limited. Each of these products will have its own quirks, and if you decide that you want to move to another hosting service, for instance, it will likely be very difficult, if not impossible, because your site’s construction isn’t compatible with any other hosting service. And that is going to mean major revisions or complete re-writing of your site. Not good.