What You Will Need . . .
Before you begin writing web pages, there are a few things you will need. In terms of hardware, you will need a computer of some kind, and access to the Internet. There are a number of software programs and other resources freely available online that you will find invaluable in your endeavours. And at some point, of course, you will probably want to upload your web pages to a live web server.
If you have a computer, you probably already have the software you need to get started, which is a text editor of some kind (e.g. Microsoft's Notepad) and a web browser (for example, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Opera). Needless to say, you also need some basic computing skills, but if you have made it this far it's probably safe to assume that you know your way around a computer!
You may want to look at some of the text-editing software available online. Many of these packages are free to download and use, and quite a few of them are specifically designed to facilitate the creation and editing of HTML documents. The pages that make up the TechnologyUK website are written and maintained using Arachnophilia, an excellent freeware source code editor written in Java by Paul Lutus, which can be found here.
You probably have a favourite web browser. At the time of writing, Google Chrome appears to be the most widely used browser by a very large margin. Nevertheless, it is probably a good idea to download and install a range of web browser software so that you can test your pages with different user agents to ensure that they display correctly for all users (note that we will deal with the subject of making your pages mobile-friendly elsewhere).
Here is a list of popular web browsers, ordered according to current usage statistics:
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
- Microsoft Internet Explorer
- Microsoft Edge
Once you have created your website, you may wish to upload your pages and other web resources to a web server. Unless you are fortunate enough to have your own web server, you will probably need to use a web-hosting service. Your Internet service provider may provide web hosting services as part of your package, or for a small additional monthly fee. If not, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.
Most web hosting services will charge a monthly fee for hosting your website, plus a charge for registering a domain name (there is also a charge for renewing the domain name on an annual basis). The monthly hosting charges are usually modest for a basic hosting service. If you decide that you need additional services (more storage space, database hosting, or a more generous monthly traffic allowance for example) the price will increase accordingly.
In order to get your files from your computer to a remote web server, you will need to use an FTP client program (FTP stands for file transfer protocol). There are a number of FTP client applications to choose from, many of which are free to download and use. The client we use to maintain TechnologyUK is Core FTP LE, a free FTP client program for Microsoft Windows.
You will obviously want to test your pages before uploading them to a live web server to make sure everything is as it should be. For static web pages - and even for pages that contain client-side scripts - you can do this simply by opening a page in a web browser. At some point, however, you may want to add server-side includes or server-side scripts to your pages. These features won't work unless your pages are hosted on a web server. So how do you test them before they go 'live'?
The good news is that you can turn your computer into a fully functional web server. And it won’t cost you anything! XAMPP - Cross-platform (X), Apache (A), MariaDB (M), PHP (P) and Perl (P) - is a completely free Apache web server distribution that includes the MariaDB database server, PHP, and Perl. There are versions available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X here.