8. Your First Serious Website

December 24, 2018


By now you should be ready to begin development on your first serious looking website! You’re going to make a simple Portfolio website to showcase yourself online, because this is one of the most important works to make, in my opinion, if you’re seriously considering programming as a profession.

You will continuously improve it and this is the correct time to begin understanding a fundamental concept of each and every website:

Work on a website is never “done”. You can always improve, upgrade, optimize and update a website. So even before you have your first webpage online, I want you to start grasping this concept to save yourself a lot of frustration.

Another tip: Perfection is a myth. It doesn’t exist. You will burn yourself out trying to achieve it, when in reality you had a really good project done already some time ago.

How does that relate to websites and programming? Neither you or anyone else will ever have a perfect website, so i’d suggest starting out with a “production” mindset instead of a “perfection” mindset, for the same reason – to save frustration and keep the learning and development experience as pleasant as possible.

Starting Out


As previously, create a new folder somewhere on your computer and name it whatever you want, i’d suggest naming it “Portfolio”, so it’s organized.

Then right click anywhere in the empty folder and choose “Open with Code”.

Then create the “index.html” file.

Then create a new folder called “css”, as the name implies this folder will hold your css files.

Then create a file in the “css” folder called styles.css (short for stylesheet).

Your Visual Studio Code window should look like this:

Now, we’re ready to begin writing the actual code!

Tip: To make starting out any HTML based project easier and faster, Visual Studio Code has a handy snippet: “html:5”. Just write it out like so:

and press “Enter” and you should have a good starting point for an HTML5 file.

Articles about what are “Emmet Abbreviations” and what does the “5” in “HTML5” mean are coming soon, but currently are not that important. Just note that Visual Studio Code has a lot of handy features, to help you develop better and faster. We will also get into the exact features in later posts. For now I wish to keep it simple and digestible, and definitely avoid causing frustration. All in due time.

Let’s quickly look at what this starting point means exactly.

<!DOCTYPE html>

On Line 1, you see a standard definition for the document type. This means that the HTML file is to be treated as an HTML5 file. In short, the newest version of HTML, that has the newest features.

<html lang="en">

On Line 2, you see the language definition for this file, in order to comply to the global standards you must specify this.

<head>

On Line 3, you see the opening tag for the head tag, you’ve seen this before, nothing new.

<meta charset="UTF-8">

Line 4 has a meta tag, that defines the character set for the document. If your content will have special characters such as “ā”, “ü” and the like, you need to have it set as “UTF-8”, it is also the most recommended charset, because there are types that present security flaws, so until someone explicitly tells you to not use it, which i’ve never heard happen, use “UTF-8”.

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">

Line 5 is related to responsive design, it’s when the layout of your website dynamically changes to better represent the content on devices of various screen sizes. Like going to a more vertical layout, when a website is viewed from a phone, since phone screens are generally held vertically and computer screens are usually horizontal. It’s pure magic and it’s epic. It’s also too early for that, so once again, we’re going to implement it later on.

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="ie=edge">

Line 6 let’s older versions of Internet Explorer know that your webpage should be displayed in the highest possible quality, because there are cases where it doesn’t do that.

<title>Document</title>

Line 7 set’s the title that you see on top of the browser window, where you see the tab of your webpage:

Lines 8 – 12 is nothing new to you by now.

Semantic Code


All code you write should be semantic, as Mozilla states:

“In programming, Semantics refers to the meaning of a piece of code — for example “what effect does running that line of JavaScript have?”, or “what purpose or role does that HTML element have” (rather than “what does it look like?”.) “

What does that mean for writing HTML?

In my opinion, Mozilla explains it best:

“HTML should be coded to represent the data that will be populated and not based on its default presentation styling. Presentation (how it should look), is the sole responsibility of CSS.

Some of the benefits from writing semantic markup are as follows:

  • Search engines will consider its contents as important keywords to influence the page’s search rankings (see SEO)
  • Screen readers can use it as a signpost to help visually impaired users navigate a page
  • Finding blocks of meaningful code is significantly easier than searching though endless divs with or without semantic or namespaced classes
  • Suggests to the developer the type of data that will be populated
  • Semantic naming mirrors proper custom element/component naming”

How to Write Semantic Html?


Mainly, we have been splitting our website structure into <div> elements, it states a division, but not the point of the element. Sure it divides the layout atleast into 2 pieces, but why? That’s where the semantic elements come in. The semantic HTML5 elements act just like divs do, they create the structure of the page, but instead of labeling everything a generic division, they provide labels that are more easier to understand and not just for other people but computers aswell. Let’s take a look at the main ones:

  • <header>
  • <footer>
  • <nav>
  • <section>
  • <article>
  • <aside>
  • <main>

Let’s go through all of them.

<header></header>

Not to be confused with <head>. The header element usually contains everything at the top of the webpage. Example by Mozilla.

<footer></footer>

Is usually located at the very bottom of the page. Example by Mozilla.

<nav></nav>

Usually only contains the navigation elements of the page, like links to other internal or external pages. Example by Mozilla.

<section></section>

Defines a section (duh) where everything is related in some way. Like a section in a magazine. Example by Mozilla.

<article></article>

Resembles a collection of information, for example a blog post about how your development journey began. Example by Mozilla.

<aside></aside>

Provides the content that is appropriate to set aside from the main information, for example a list of terms, advertisement or a highlight. Example by Mozilla.

<main></main>

Contains the main collection of content on the page. Example by Mozilla.

That was propably a lot of info to take in, but don’t stress it. You’re well on your way to create something epic even if its just a simple website that will never be public. If you follow along the next posts, it definitely will be something worth showing to the public. It is very important to grasp these basics that might seem very boring right now.

“When do I get to the COOL part?!” was a question I asked constantly when I was starting out. You’re almost there.

The boring basics are super important, because one of the cases where development is super frustrating is when you learn something, then you find out that it is a bad way of doing things, so you have to re-learn how to do it.

In my opinion it is better to spend way more time with the basics, to get coding practices as good as possible from the start to make the long run more enjoyable, than to rush things and burn out.

You will get to the fancy graphics, hover events, color changing, animation, responsive design, slideshows, integrations and everything else you want done in due time. Besides, the basics rarely change and are mostly universal across all of the programming world. The flashy stuff comes and goes, and is easier to implement than you might think. Getting the right mindset and being consistent, and patient is the hardest part of programming, atleast that’s what i’ve come to know thus far.

You patience will pay off, trust me on this one.


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