I’ve updated lauramichet.com and this blog, blog.lauramichet.com, to look good instead of bad. In general, it’s good for things to look good and bad for things to look bad, so I’m pleased with what I’ve done.
I have spoken recently to a number of people who are not professional web designers or coders and feel unsure about designing their own webpages/hosting them/etc, so here’s some advice from me: just copy other websites.
Seriously. Don’t copy them exactly– that’s ridiculous and it will make you look like a chump– but if there’s something on another website that you want to have on your website, take a look at its source and just use the same techniques they used.
The stuff you learn doing this will be highly valuable to you. If you are making a very small static webpage for yourself– the kind of thing that just presents links to your projects without any bells or whistles, or just contains a Twine game or a bitsy game with a title, or is just a lot of centered images with titles or whatever, it will honestly teach you 100% more if (instead of using a web design program) you just write the site by hand and blatantly copy other websites to learn how they do the things you want to do.
Learning this basic HTML and CSS is important because many services– like WordPress, for example– require you to have an understanding of CSS in order to make modifications to their product. WordPress’s 6-bucks-a-month premium package gives you access to a lot of templates, but the only way you’re going to make it look “unique” is if you know CSS. You need to have a basic understanding of CSS to make your Twine stories look unique, too.
When it comes to “coding,” these are some of the easiest skillsets to learn, mostly because you never actually have to be good at them. If you’re the kind of person who makes small projects and just needs to find a home for them on the internet, you can get away with shockingly low skill levels in these departments. I do! My websites are actually terrible and very simple and stupid. My bitsy websites are particularly brainless. You can make a website that’s just all embeds of your youtube videos or Bandcamp albums. You can work in Prof. Dr. style. The amount you need to learn in order for these skillsets to be useful to you is shockingly low in part because it’s so easy to copy other websites. I retain barely any working CSS knowledge between projects and I just gather it all back up again by googling a ton whenever I have some CSS-related work to do.
Don’t avoid learning HTML and CSS because it seems intimidating, either: it’s actually not really coding. Writing a web page by hand using CSS is basically like using a really complicated UI for applying paragraph effects in Microsoft Word. You won’t need to write loops or figure out how to do data input/output or understand search theory or anything– you just need to know how to write out the lines that make things bold or right-aligned or left-aligned or centered in a column on a certain part of the page, or whatever, and you need to understand how those effects nest and overlap with one another. The way you think about problems has to change a little bit when you learn about “real” coding, but the problems inherent in the kind of ultra-simple static website design I’m taking about are probably not very different from the problems you experience when you’re trying to format a stupid image-filled word doc. They’re more complicated, sure, but it’s honestly not so bad.
Anyway, good luck with this stuff. Copy shit and take it easy.