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Current state of web development - where do I start?

Hey there,

I learnt HTML, CSS and JS a few years ago with the intention of going freelance as a developer, and although I'm not there yet I still try and keep up to date with the industry via newsletters and the like, and the passion is still very much there.

I was recently approached by a local non-profit charity to create a website for them for free. The site needs to be developed before an upcoming event, which is in under a month, which means that learning whole new languages is out. The content will be largely basic - the most complicated it will get is probably hosting some videos and taking payment for donations, but it's highly important that the end product looks beautiful and modern.

I don't feel like I'm technically incapable of the task since I do a lot of both design work and command-line tinkering in my day-to-day - my problem is that with the current state of web dev being as breakneck and fragmented as it is, I'm simply overwhelmed as to where to start.

  1. I know they need a CMS, but I don't know which one would give me the most amount of freedom whilst only requiring HTML, CSS and Javascript - does such a platform exist?

  2. Do I need a front-end framework?

  3. I've never actually taken a website live before, so where do I even start with the back-end?

  4. Are there any other considerations I may need to take into mind?

I'd really appreciate being brought up to speed here and pointed in the right direction. Thank you so much in advance.

Top comments (4)

mandaputtra profile image
Manda Putra

WordPress definitely, yeah it requires PHP knowledge but a little. and there is a lot theming tutorials. Out here. If you're good on CSS, HTML it will be good exercise to make one from starch

kaosindustries profile image

The content needs to be updated by the client, so a CMS is necessary. Does building a site based on Wordpress require knowledge of PHP?

I'm aware of static sites, but from what I remember, it used to be the case that it wasn't possible to create a beautiful website with all the modern bells and whistles without making it dynamic - is that still the case?

vuild profile image

Jorge has good answers. Let's make it easier on you. I have built & maintained charities for free (inc. their web) for years. Wordpress powers about 30% of sites.

Start with

  1. or
    It will handle the WP install for you & basic WP issues.
    Have the charity pay.

  2. Register a domain

  • Have the charity pay & use their details. Avoid the upsells. Go private (if wanted).
  • Point the nameservers (the services above will give you info, you do it where you registered the domain).
  1. Chose a theme.
    (login to your new WP & go to the theme section, click new, loads there already).

  2. Create core pages (about/contact/terms etc).

  3. Start adding content (have the charity write a bunch of text).

  4. Add some pics from (or alternatives).

  5. Look for a good, suitable theme (buy, search) or make one. Add logo/ customizations.

  6. Have the charity learn to publish & take responsibility for the content.

  7. Focus on traffic (content) & outreach (exposure/help), not tech or design or features.
    Use a service like if you need sponsor/donation/income management. It comes with WP integration (most probably do).

Most traffic is mobile, most busy sites are dark text on light background with lots & lots of pages (page count is a good overall signifier of site traffic volume).

Keep it simple. Turn down all their requests for design & non-essential features from them that are attempts to cover up the areas they lack in. Ugly (broken-esque) charity sites work better, it brings a sense of struggle. Focus on content & the core goals (few). Use emotional, not descriptive language. Get links, traffic & exposure to it (as priorities). Iterate.

tttaaannnggg profile image

I don't know so much about CMSes, but if you're looking at doing a backend without learning another language, NodeJS is the way to go. There's probably an open source CMS you could use.

Frontend frameworks are nice to have (I really love working in React), but not necessary, esp if you don't want to worry about picking it up for this project.