Building a Free Website for My Neighbour | Review of Project-Based Learning
Getting a Project
During last year’s lockdown, I decided to pick up a new skill during my free time. This led me to register for Angela Yu’s Udemy Course: The Complete 2020 Web Development Bootcamp as website building seems like a useful skill that can be easily applied.
Perhaps I was too idealistic.
Having attended a couple of hours of lectures, scraping the surface of HTML and CSS, I want to find a project to apply what I learnt. As Scott Young wrote in his Ultralearning book:
“Project-based learning cuts the fat from typical approaches, teaching you only what you need to know.”
He believes that project-based learning is one of the most effective learning methods as you are learning with a clear goal in mind. Thus, you can reduce the time spent on learning skills that are not relevant to your end goal. Furthermore, project-based learning also helps in the long-term retention of content and skills picked up. Hence, I started sourcing the web for any web development projects that are avaliable.
However, I know I was up against skilled web-developers. To attract opportunities, I offered my web development service for free.
A lady called me requesting me to revamp her existing website and we set a date for a face to face discussion.
I was pretty nervous. I had no prior experience handling clients and I only had a couple of hours of lectures from an online course.
I panicked as I realised that I don’t know where to start. Angela’s course only taught me how to get text and pictures into a website but did not mention what needs to be done for a website to be up and running. (maybe she did in the later part of the course though I think it should be taught earlier)
What are the components of a website? Is it free to build a website? Who runs the website? I was suddenly flooded by questions that I did not think of when attending Angela’s course.
The Components of a Website
After collating these questions, I started sourcing the web for answers. I realised that I had a clear objective in terms of what I was looking for and wasn’t just absorbing content from an online course. After some intensive web searches, I learnt that for a website to function, you require 3 essential components.
A domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control within the Internet. Domain names are used in various networking contexts and for application-specific naming and addressing purposes.
Web hosting is a service that allows organizations and individuals to post a website or web page onto the Internet. A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed on the Internet. Websites are hosted or stored, on special computers called servers. When Internet users want to view your website, all they need to do is type your website address or domain into their browser. Their computer will then connect to your server and your webpages will be delivered to them through the browser.
Content Management System (CMS)
A content management system is computer software used to manage the creation and modification of digital content. CMSs are typically used for enterprise content management and web content management.
Simply put, the domain is like your house address, hosting services are like the companies that built your house and CMS are those that design your house.
Some companies integrate these components and make building websites easier. (though you pay more) For example, Shopify does both the hosting service as well as offer a Content Management System.
Making use of Templates
Someone else already did the heavy lifting for you.
I realised that there were many templates and services out there that make front-end web development easy. One can simply use templates from companies like Wix, WordPress, Shopify to build their own websites. These services all have their respective perks and thus: pricing. The important thing is understanding your needs and do not overpay for unnecessary features.
Since my client just wants an informative website with simple functions like creating feedback forms and links to social media accounts, I decided to go with Wordpress.org since it is a free CMS and there is no additional service charge.
While Angela’s course is good in allowing me to understand how web development works by showing how the different programming languages (HTML, CSS, and Java) work together to produce an awesome site, there is actually no need to learn these languages if your goal is to build a simple website. There are many drag and drop templates out on WordPress that deliver results. Furthermore, there are plug-ins available that make things easier for the user.
However, I think Angela’s course will still be useful if you like to do more back-end development. Many eCommerce plug-ins available on WordPress are not very flexible and some back-end programming may be required to tailor the website to your specific needs.
Fortunately, the meeting turned out great. I managed to display my understanding of website development and showcased my abilities to re-design a website for them.
When I started to revamp the website, it wasn’t too difficult. The templates and plug-ins made things easier. Furthermore, there is always Google in the event I am stuck. The harder tasks were the setting up of WordPress and understanding how Search Engine Optimisation works.
After about 3 weeks of development + feedbacks, my clients were finally pleased with the final product. I then took the effort to teach them how to operate it so that they can maintain the webpage on their own.
Ultimately, I realised that front-end website development is not too difficult and I encourage small businesses to do it. A website not only adds credibility but is also a good place to store useful information. For example, restaurants can store their menus while firms can store their consultation pricing.
More importantly, I strongly encourage Project-Based Learning. Having a project gives you the stress to improve and the reason to learn.
Here’s the final product: https://integratedenergy.com.sg
Thank you for reading to the end. I really appreciate it. If you are interested to join me in this self-development journey, consider following me on Medium, Youtube or LinkedIn. Have a great year ahead!