Why Everybody Should Learn to Build a Web Site

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Given the role that the internet plays in our lives, the ability to build a web site seems like it should be as important as learning to read or write. Whether you’re aspiring to become a published author, record a CD, or build a business, the ability to build a web site is going to be an essential asset. There’s no way to really be relevant without it. But it’s not something that’s taught in school.

I went to Berkeley during the first dot com bubble. Most of my friends who were graduates of the computer science department got their degrees without ever learning how to build a web site. Of course the tools weren’t nearly as sophisticated as they are today. But it’s amusing that people who graduated from one of the best computer science departments in the world couldn’t build a basic web site.

During my MBA program at Pepperdine, there wasn’t a single class that taught people how to build a web site. This was in 2009. I’m quite sure that they still haven’t updated their curriculum. And I’m sure that many of my classmates probably still can’t build a web site.

In his post about the keys to getting hired in the 21st century, Joe Laresca mentioned that nearly every job you apply for will ask for a URL. Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit said this about how he hires people

I’m an employer and I don’t really care where you went to school or what your GPA was — I want to know what you’ve done. Paid off student loan debt bytutoring computer science in New York? Rock on. Raised $20,000 on kickstarter for a Daft Punk tribute album? Awesome! Started the ‘dear photograph’ meme? Splendid! Blogged years worth of eating across the world and now creating food-tour-guides? Now we’re cooking with bacon.

Everybody should learn to build a web site. If you’re an instructor at a school you should really consider teaching your students how to do it. So let’s talk about how.

Tools Galore

In the late 1990’s building a web site was a pain in the ass. You had to upload things to servers, learn html, and if you wanted to do something complex like build an e-commerce site, you’d need a small fortune. Fortunately we’ve come a long way since then.

If you don’t want to get too technical, there are an endless amount of drag and drop tools, with pre designed templates.

  • Tools like Pagecloud make it as easy as creating a Powerpoint presentation
  • Squarespace has beautifully predesigned templates for whatever you’re trying to build.
  • Hostgator offers as an easy to use web site builder as part of their hosting offer.
  • About.me makes it about as simple as you can possibly get.

And if you happened to be a bit more advanced, and really want to get your hands dirty, there’s Wordpress.

The Cost

The cost of starting a web site today is practically free. In most cases what you’re paying for is hosting and registering your domain. At most it will run you between $15–20 a month. Consider it an investment in your career.

What Goes on The Web Site?

This is one of those things that seems to really trip a lot of people up. The answer is whatever you want

  • A resume (although that’s probably the least interesting thing you could do with it)
  • A portfolio of creative work (Photos, drawings, videos)
  • A blog: Write about the things you care about, the things you notice, and the things that matter to you.
Think of it this way. If you wanted to leave behind something for people to remember you by, what would you do with the internet. As the author Neil Gaiman once wrote “leave the world more interesting for your having been here.”

These days no matter what business you’re in, you’re in the media and publishing business. For knowledge workers, learning to build a basic web site should be mandatory. And it probably won’t be long before it is. So you might as well get a head start.

Before You Go…

If doing the best work of your life is important to you, you’ll love my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.

The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.


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