I've been playing around with my website, futuremann.com, and have really been having a good time. Granted, I don't really know what I'm doing and everything I know I've learned through experience, but I have found a couple things that simplify the process. Remember, these are just some things I've picked up along the way. For "official" advice from people who are a lot better at this than I am, check out websitetips.com.
- Don't worry about making mistakes. There isn't anything that I've found yet that can't be undone. Just make sure you have a back-up saved of whatever you're changing, try something new, and if it doesn't work you can replace it with your saved version, no harm done. Plus you'll learn one of many ways not to do whatever it is you're trying to do.
- Link a lot. The most exciting websites are the ones that go somewhere. Stay away from dead ends on your site - make sure there's always somewhere for people to go. And if you're don't want to link away from your site because you don't want to lose your viewers so soon, set the link to "_blank" which will open the link in a new window, leaving your site on theri desktop.
- Don't be afraid to ask smarter people for help. People who enjoy what they do enjoy talking about what they do with someone who is genuinely interested, and web designers are no different. Find somebody who knows what they're doing and then spend some time with them asking them how they do what they do. Ask for their preferred method of this or that. Most of us have opinions of the "right" way to do things and enjoy sharing that with others.
- Fantastico is your friend. Check the control panel for your site or ask your webmaster whether Fantastico is available to you. It's a simple tool that allows you to install several popular scripts including blogs, calendars, discussion boards and e-commerce set-ups, without having the knowledge of everything that goes into creating the scripts. There may be other tools like it out there, but it's the only one I have any experience with and so far it's been a blast. I have come upon several questions during the install that I didn't know how to answer, but in the spirit of the first point, I chose an option and went with it. A couple uninstalls later and I had the desired effect.
- Have fun with it. Don't get bogged down on complications. When it stops being fun, it becomes frustrating. If you hit a wall, go onto something else. Struggling for content? Leave it blank. Remember, you're not designing the world's most popular website, yet.