I have several essays from my college years sitting around gathering dust. Instead of trashing them, I am editing them and putting them online. The following is one such essay. I wrote this one for my personal homepage around 1997 (updated version shown here).
Let’s start with the basics. This short tutorial on web development basics teaches you how to put web pages on the Internet.
Your Web Browser
First of all, you need to understand a little about how the Web works. The Web is a collection of web pages. It is part of the Internet. Right now you are looking at this page using a program called the web browser. Everyone needs to use a web browser to view the Web. Examples of web browsers include Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
The Web consists of thousands of interconnected computers around the world. Getting on one computer connected to the Web allows you to access any of these computers. When you go to a website, you are connecting to another computer located somewhere else in the world.
Web pages and anything else you see on the Web are files stored on some other computer. A web server is a computer storing web pages for people to view on the Web.
You can request a file from a web server by typing the address of the file in your web browser. The file’s address is a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). A URL looks like this:
The http:// part of the URL tells the web browser how to get the file from the server. HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is the most popular way to get files on the Web. It means “get the file and try to display it in the web browser.”
After the http:// is a domain name. A domain name is an address to a specific computer, like
www.google.com. If all you type is the domain name, the web browser assumes you want it transferred by HTTP.
You may want to see a specific file in a specific folder in the domain. To go to a folder, you use forward slashes. For example, you can go to the
webstore folder inside the chrome folder at
www.google.com by typing the address
www.google.com/chrome/webstore. You can also type a specific file after everything. For example,
www.google.com/chrome/webstore/features.html loads the file called
http://www.google.com/chrome/webstore/features.html means “look for the computer named
www.google.com. Then if you find it, look in the
/chrome/webstore/ folder for a file named
You do not have to ask for a particular file in the address. The web browser assumes you want to see a file called
index.php, or the like.
Making a Simple Web Page
Now I show you how to make a simple web page from scratch. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the code used to make most web pages. So now we are going to create a simple HTML file.
First, open a text editor like Notepad. If you are running Windows, you can open Notepad by clicking the Start button and looking for Programs->Accessories->Notepad. Once you have a text editor open, copy the following text into the editor:
<h1>Welcome to my homepage!</h1>
Now make a folder somewhere on your computer where you store your web pages. I save my web pages in a folder on my Desktop called
www, but you can call it anything you want. After you create the folder, save your HTML document to that folder and name the file
index.html. Now if you open that index.html file in your web browser, it should open up a simple web page.
index.html file is not a proper HTML file, but it gives you a taste of how it works. You can learn to code HTML from scratch, but these days it is not necessary. Many web hosts have built-in editors that let you make web pages without knowing HTML. There are also web page editors you can download like KompoZer or one of these.
Publishing Your Web Pages
Now that you have created a simple web page file, you need to send it to the Web. You need two things – a web server that hosts your web page, and a file transfer program to send it to the server.
Serious web developers spend money to rent space on a server. For now, you should just sign up for a free hosting service. The free servers usually put advertisements on your web pages. You can find a listing of some popular free web hosts at Wikipedia’s Comparison of Free Web Hosting Services.
The second thing you need is a way to upload files to your web server or host. In the past, you needed a file transfer program using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). One such program is FileZilla. These days, many web hosts offer web-based uploading. That means you log into your web host from your web browser and upload files from there.
Where to Go From Here
These are the foundations for developing on the Web. To learn more, I suggest visiting a web development tutorial website like W3Schools.