MAKING OUR WEBSITE

Way back, when my grandson Brendan was 8 years old, he had an idea. He wanted a website. Using a company to help create a website was not easily available back in 2007, so I decided to learn how to make one. I had used many websites in the past but I really had no idea about how a website worked.

I started with a beginner book called "Learning Web Design" by Jennifer Robbins. Slowly but surely I began to see how it all fitted together. After working through the book for many, many hours, I began to think that I knew Jennifer personally. Thank you Jennifer for making this possible. Apart from Jennifer, three other people helped get this website started.

  • The first was one of my grandsons who gave a reason for starting this website.
  • The second was my son, who has worked on websites as part of his career. He helped me figure out the very basic process of how to switch from txt view of a webpage to the html view. Writing html markup in txt view and then being able to switch between viewing it as txt and viewing it as html (the way it would look on the web) was my first thrilling moment. Later, when he saw I was making some progress, he helped me get a url.
  • The third person was Mike, my partner in this website. He left me playing on the computer for hours every evening - even when we were on trips - while I learned how to create webpages. He also offered suggestions on the audience, organization, and technical issues.

    XHTML

    Rather than using a software program to create the website, I followed Jennifer's suggestions and learned how to write html. I actually tried to write xhtml, which has more rules and is "cleaner" than html. The result was that creating the website was a slow trial and error process. However, once I had a plan and a few templates, it got easier.

    When I had almost finished the basic structure, we purchased CoffeeCup HTML Editor and other software online. I used it to finish the design, upload the site to the web, organize passwords, make picture galleries and so on. Coffee Cup has turned out to be very helpful in keeping our website up to date. We recommend it to anyone wanting to have their own website. However, we recommend also learning the basics of HTML coding. That way you can always check to see what is going when you let your software write the code from wysiwyg (what you say is what you get) and keep the coding from become a complete mess.

    ORGANIZATION

    My second thrilling moment was when I learned how to make links. Not only links to other websites, such as the VIRL website, but also links to other pages I had created. This is the fundamental way of structuring a website and understanding this was a huge breakthrough. Once I had figured out how to link pages, I had to figure out an overall organization for the website that would be logical for viewers and relatively easy for me and Mike to modify and add to.

    PHOTOGRAPHS

    My third thrilling moment was when I figured out how to insert photographs into the webpages I was making. I have a digital camera and know how to download pictures. I discovered that it was just a matter of making the images the size to fit the screen and linking. I now use PhtoPlusx4 and Windows Photo Gallery. All the images are either digital photographs Mike and I have taken or free images from the web.

    STYLE SHEETS

    My fourth thrill was getting external cascading stylesheet (CSS) to work. I followed Jennifer's directions. On page 187/8, Jennifer says: "You can change the appearance of an entire site by editing one style sheet. Making small tweaks and even entire site redesigns with style sheets is much easier than when presentation instructions are mixed in with the markup.... When used to its full potential, CSS is a robust and powerful design tool." I mucked about with colours and fonts and finally came up with a style that seems suitable.

    Eventually, with help from Jennifer, I figured out how to make the banner and put the links to my other website pages into the top of every page in the Chuckling Chimes Website. I also put in all the correct information so that people would be able to find it on the web.

    My biggest disappointment was that I could not make the floats or absolute positioning work. I tried , night after night, using Jennifer's exact examples but they never looked the way they should. In the end, I decided to use tables for layout. I know there is a better way. I haven't even used tables in this page - which is the only one without more than one column. Maybe one day I'll take a course or figure it out myself.

    MENU BUTTONS

    My fifth thrill was making buttons. They really improved the look of pages. At first I obtained them free from the Button Generator. However, I found I was always needing new buttons, so I eventually joined. However, the website closed down so I purchased button making software called "Selteco Web Button Maker" which I think works well. I know many contemporary websites don't use actual buttons anymore - but I still like the look.

    OUR SERVER

    My fifth biggest thrill in this lifelong learning process of building and maintaining a website was when we actually got a domain name through CoolCom and began to use the server space provided by our local internet provider. When we outgrew it, we moved to Coolcom for a much larger space.

    ATTACHMENTS

    There came a point when I decided that I wanted to have attachments. This turned out to be quite easy. I simply saved them into the website on my computer. I created a link. Then I uploaded them to chucklingchimes.ca using Coffee Cups's FTP program.

    UPDATING

    The Chuckling Chimes Website is a work in progress (as all websites are). I try to make it user friendly and contemporary looking by changing the look of various parts while maintaining the original classic look. When I surf around in contemporary websites, I see a lot of changes - particularly in how people are expected to find their way around. People know about websites now - and there aren't as many hints as there used to be.

    I didn't do much on this website in 2013 or 2014 - mainly because I was making a new website about the Clan Grant in Canada. Making Clan Grant Canada was fun. It honed my communication skills and helped me find easier methods for doing some things. But I know I am still out of date as far as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) goes for both websites

    In early 2015, I decided it was time to make some major changes to Chuckling Chimes content and organization. Although we were both still interested in our academic work in education and libraries (which were featured in early versions), we weren't writing or teaching online anymore. Those sections had to go. Moreover, we had both learned an astonishing amount of incredible information and fascinating ideas from sources such as the Teaching Company's Great Courses. We had also learned a lot from dealing with my severe asthma (SA) which really flared up in 2013. So - I cut out some sections, expanded others and wrote some new stuff. I also stopped writing in "we" (the shared voice of Penny and Mike) and started writing in my own voice.

    BLOGS

    One way to keep a website up to date without constantly tinkering with it is by including blogs. Of course blogs can stand on their own - but they work better if they are attached to a website. Over the years I have tried to write a number of different blogs using Blogger . I have narrowed them down to:

  • Our Chuckling Chimes Travel Blog has been active since 2007.
  • I started my Chuckling Chimes Art Blog when I started painting again in 2010.
  • In January 2015, I started our Chuckling Chimes Learning Blog. It will give me an easy opportunity to share new ideas and new things I am learning. If I get a really great idea I will turn it into a webpage.

    As you can probably see, I still don't have the hang of making bulleted lists show up properly.

    GOOGLE GROUP

    I have also created a Google Group which could be a discussion forum and hopefully will make my website more interactive.

    PRIVACY

    I think the process of learning and reflecting on learning through a website is a worthwhile endeavour. Sometimes I wonder if I am protecting my privacy sufficiently. What if I become the subject of social networking harrassment? Other times I think that I would gladly share these ideas on a TED Talk or a Huffington Post - so why not here?

    Socrates is purported to have said: "An unexamined life is not worth living." I recommend examining your life and making it into a story you are not afraid to share.

    Back to Learning.