If it’s about making a website, well that is where – at first sight – it gets dirty. Die opinions and options are diverse. That is why there is really no best answer to the question – only possibilities. In the following, we’d like to make it easier for the interested reader to orient themselves among the numerous optionalities.
Making a website – the basics (HTML, CSS)
The question arises: what is really a website in itself? From a technical point of view, a website is an HTML file, being interpreted and displayed by a browser. To put it differently: a bit of program code. To make this even more evident, let’s just think of old times when we used to start programs by launching ’.exe’ files. Such pieces of code, such files are exactly what HTML files are. They can then be read or edited with the simplest text editors as Wordpad or Notepad, just to name two.
Websites at the beginning of their times
At the beginning of internet times, a website would be made by writing such HTML files in a text editor. The same method applies even today, of course, if one’s up to it. Or, put it dirreferently, it is still the way to do it, even if some frontend tool makes it look fancier. After all, whatever is being written in a website editor software will be written in an HTML file.
CSS: making it look nicer
Pure HTML structures lack any design, and by definition look simple. The way to change this is CSS files. In the same manner as HTML files, these can be made and edited in any basic text editor. The only difference is they change not the structure and content, but the styling (design) of the website. From the most basic elements of a website, they’ll set the looks and styling, font types and as of recently, even animations.
Still today, .css files might be found in a directory on a server. Even if there are tools available to change CSS files, the underlying functioning of websites has not changed a bit.
The rise of content management systems
So far, so good. What happens when there is a new page to insert, or there is some change to be made in an existing text? The answer is quite like described above: make a new HTML file with the new content and add it to the directory that contains all other HTML files too. Needless to say though, this is a rather lengthy procedure for the everyday website owner.
That is why backend software for handling website content was starting to be made. The idea is to standardise the handling of website content with a hidden, for the visitor not visible (backend) system. Such systems can be programmed for every website on a one-by-one basis – or can be standardised as well.
That is how numerous systems came to existence. A number of open source content management systems (CMS) are developed by independent developer groups. Some of these might ring bell already: WordPress, Joomla, Typo3 and Drupal, just to name the most well-known systems.