Welcome to the Web Essentials series! Here, you’ll find a great resource filled with helpful concept overviews, tips, and tricks for getting your web project off the ground. In this volume, I’ll talk a little bit about Sites@Duke and run over some helpful tips I find myself handing out frequently to patrons during my shifts. Hopefully these will help you resolve several common issues and help make your site awesome! I’ll also run over the basics of web–the “lingo,” simple website architecture, and everything you need to get a site off the ground–particularly if you’re looking to create a HTML website from scratch or looking to host a website elsewhere (not Sites@Duke). If you have suggestions for topics to cover with this series, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with them.
We’re starting with helpful general web basics, but if you’re interested in more in depth and complex tutorials–stay tuned for future volumes and be sure to check out lynda tutorials!
Sites@Duke is a great way to get a good looking website up and running for yourself or a Duke club/organization without having to learn the nitty gritty of building one from scratch. This is typically a great choice if you’re not looking to have your own domain name (like www.yoursite.com) and just want to start up a site quickly or easily. If not, check out the Web Basics information below or feel free to come in and talk to a MPS consultant if you have more concerns. Head over to Sites@Duke to get started.
Log in with your netid and password by hitting login in the upper left. The folks over at Sites@Duke have actually created a great getting started guide that walks you through creating a Sites@Duke page if you’re looking to start a new site now (check that out if you are). Again, I’m mostly going to talk about some useful tips/tricks that I seem to get many questions about during my shifts. If there’s something that helped you that you’d like to see included here–shoot us an email!
Embedding Code–Unfiltered MU
People often run into issues with adding custom code snippets into posts (iFrame embeds, Qualtrics forms, explicit video embeds) and having them not work. For security purposes, Sites@Duke currently strips all foreign code out of your website unless you enable the Unfiltered MU plugin. To do this, first go to plugins in your dashboard.
Creating Custom Menus and Submenus
To this, first head over to “Appearance” in the WordPress sidebar, and then hit “Menus” on the submenu that appears below Appearance.
Here, you should be able to create a new menu layout. You should be able to add pages to the menu drawing board by selecting them and hitting “add to menu” on the left “Pages” sidebar. To make certain pages sub-pages of others, simply click/drag and pull them to the right under the page they’ll to be subclassed under (see “sub items” in the picture below). Be sure to save the menu. Some themes will require you to select the newly created menu as the primary menu. If this is the case, you should see a box entitled “theme locations.” Here, select your menu in the “Primary Navigation” dropdown.
Creating a Static Homepage
This is one I get often. If you don’t want your front page to keep updating with latest blog posts (useful if you’re trying to create more of a website), you want a static homepage. The easiest way to do this is to create the static homepage the way you want under Pages, and then add it to your static homepage layout.
Head over to Settings and then Reading. Select “A Static Page” and then select the page you created from the “Front Page” dropdown menu.
Let’s start out with the basic notion of a website. What is a website? At their core, the simplest web sites are made up of web pages, which are just files that are downloaded to your computer and displayed by your browser. These files reside on other computers on the internet called web servers. When you type in a website name into your browser address bar (say google.com), your internet service provider looks up the IP address of that web server (essentially the location of that computer–the IP address of a computer tells you how to find it) and tells your browser where to go. Once your browser connects to that web server, it asks for the homepage of the website, and the web server sends the file for the homepage back to your computer where it is displayed.
Don’t worry if you didn’t get all that–if you’re trying to start a website you need two essential things to get off the ground–a domain and web hosting.
A domain is your website address name–like www.suyashkumar.com . If you want a custom domain name, you’ll have to buy one through a website like godaddy.com (or one like it–there are several). Once you have a domain, you also need web hosting–which is essentially where your website resides. This is where all your web files and content will go. When someone visits www.yourwebsite.com, it’ll point to your website files stored on your web hosting server. Usually you can upload your website files directly to your hosting provider.
WordPress, Drupal, CMS
CMS stands for content management systems. Good examples of these are website creation and maintenance packages like WordPress (that runs behind Sites@Duke) or Drupal. Content Management Systems help make creating and maintaining websites easier–they’re essentially software packages you can install on your web server that set up a dynamically editable website for you. You can log-in to a backend, where a visual interface allows you to set themes, write/style posts and pages, and maintain a website. These can be very useful!
FTP stands for “File Transfer Protocol.” This is a standard way to get website files to and from your web server. Cyberduck is a FTP client, and is a great way to move files to and from your webserver (all MPS computers are also equipped with this). To get started, simply open up Cyberduck, hit open connection in the top left and type in your server address (typically something like ftp.yoursite.com) and your FTP username and password (usually this can be different from other logins you might have for your site–it’s best to check in your site’s hosting control panel to set this or check what it is if you’re having issues. Check this out for cpanel users, a common management tool).
Once you connect to your server, you can drag and drop your website files into it just as you would any other file/folder. Be wary of overwriting files on the server that you do not have backed up elsewhere–it’s difficult or impossible to recover those files once you do.
Thanks for stopping by, and stay tuned for more web information in future updates!