Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Digging into HTML

Click on image for Rocky Hall FanSiteI've written before about Noah's interest in Lugaru and his ability to get himself taken seriously by fellow geeks on game development message boards. Earlier this week someone he knows on the Lugaru message board suggested he create a FanSite for the game. He took the suggestion to heart -- his wheels began turning.

Noah is no stranger to websites. For a couple of years he's been doing rudimentary website work using PostNuke's content management system that I set up for him and his siblings for their Euwy World website. He also started a blog a couple of months ago. But that type of web publishing relies on a user interface which makes the process awfully user-friendly. There are ready-made templates and you just insert your content and click a few things. When it came to actually understanding the code that was behind the formatting and templates, Noah was as much in the dark as most of the rest of internet users.

So two days ago he told me that he thought he would like to run with his buddy's suggestion and create a Lugaru FanSite from scratch, "not like a blog -- building it the way I want, from nothing." And I was suddenly really grateful for all the HTML-based web-publishing I've done over the past decade and a bit. I knew that working with the HTML code would come easily to Noah, and I knew I'd be able to help him over most stumbling blocks.

We looked for a simple HTML editor with a built-in browser preview and downloaded EasyHMTL, a piece of bare-bones freeware. I took about 5 minutes to explain to him basic coding of tables and to type in a generic image tag and parameters. I showed him a couple of tricks (eg. temporarily setting a table border of 1, so you can see your cells outlined) and headed off to make supper.

He set to work, capturing and editing screen shots, using PaintShopPro to create menu buttons and title graphics. About an hour later he called me back to ask how to create a "mouseover" effect on menu buttons. I confess I don't know javascript, but I do know how to copy, paste and modify other people's scripts from their pages, so I quickly copied in a script and showed him which parts he had to modify and replace. He merrily carried on working away. (Little did I know exactly what mouseover effect he was working on -- you'll have to check it out for yourself!)

By this morning he had a functional website called Rocky Hall ("Rocky Hall is sort of the White House of Lugaru" he tells me). He's cribbed some of the text content from elsewhere, but still... I'm amazed. He had absolutely no help on the graphics, or on the menu organization, and only 15 or 20 minutes of help, total, with the HTML and file management. If he could only have seen my first attempts at HTML-based website publishing!


  1. I'm having a bit of trouble getting the Rocky Hall link to work... could be me.. but all I am getting is a picture...I can't wait to see Noah's finished product. My Jeremy ( now 24) used to be the same way( still is). I clearly remember waking up one morning and finding holes in the walls before the days of wireless so he could network all of their computers Fortunately it has paid off and he is now a soft ware developer ... he loves it! I'm lucky to find the on button most days to my computer!

  2. Oops, my faulty copy&paste, sorry Lea. It's fixed now.

  3. I"M IMPRESSED!! Great job Noah!! I forwarded it to my son and he said he'll hold a spot in Websphere designs for you!!


  4. Erin J5:00 pm

    I don't know if you'll see this or not since it's on a post from clear back in October, but since the comments are moderated, you likely will see it. I wanted to say good job on your page, Noah! From one web designer to another, that is a very nice first page!

    My hubby, who was homeschooled in high school taught himself to program just as you're doing. Today he makes his living programming for the University of Idaho and is doing extremely well at it. So keep up the good work!

    You asked in a previous post if there is anything to teach a youngster how to write C++. Here is Hubby's response:

    Programming is of course, very interesting, but C++ is one of the more confusing languages to learn. Something like Ruby or PHP is much more intuitive. There is a cool (but kind of wierd) program out there to teach kids programming (in Ruby, dynamic web pages) it's at: Probably the best place would be to get a web-server-in-a-box program like XXAMP and start using PHP.
    that's only one step away from the HTML he is doing.
    that's what I would recommend.

  5. Erin, thanks for the comment (and the other comment too). You've done a nice job on the Palouse Suzuki site. I last looked at it about three years ago and it's beautiful now by comparison! Yes, we were at the SIP in its last year (2004, I guess) and that institute provided the inspiration for ours here (for which I do the the webwork, coincidentally enough).

    Your hubby's comments about C++ and php are food for thought. Noah has become enamoured of the idea of game programming and is drawn to C++ for that reason. He recently bought a book / CD called "Beginning C++ Through Game Programming" which looks promising, but he hasn't really delved in yet. If this doesn't suit him, or if he also wants to do something more accessible, XXAMP and PHP sounds like a great suggestion. Thanks!


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