How To Get the Knowledge to Begin Building Interactive Websites?

The do-it-yourself way of learning how to build interactive websites.
by Updated August 14, 2010

Learning how to build interactive websites from scratch takes a lot of different skill sets.  There are plenty of colleges that will teach you how to be a computer programmer. However, in my case, I learned practically everything I know about computer programming and building interactive websites on my own. I was able to garner the knowledge to create, deploy and run interactive websites by reading lots of different computer books and related material on the internet.

Be Prepared To Do a Lot of Reading
It takes a real desire and/ or passion to learn how to program interactive websites. Since most computer books are on average about 500 pages long, you really have to be interested in the subject to be able to get through some of these books.  I've probably bought over 40 computer books, and have taken another 30 books out from my local library to read. Now I can’t say that I’ve read through all these books from cover to cover, but I have spent a great deal of time reading a large majority of them. Books are great to use as a handy reference, however if you want to avoid having to buy or take out books from your library you can easily find tons of reading material on the web.
The Basics
Now if you don't know a thing about programming on the web, you will first want to learn HTML.  HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and is the foundation of almost every web page on the internet. So you must have a solid understanding of HTML. Then you will want to learn CSS (acronym for Cascading Style Sheets), which allows you to separate the content of a web page from its design presentation. I would also recommend getting a copy of Adobe Photoshop, so that you can learn how to manipulate and make your own images.

A Tool For Beginners 
As for software, I first started using a program called Microsoft FrontPage 2002 to generate the webpage’s for my first website.  If you're just starting out, you may want to pick up a copy of the latest version of FrontPage (which is currently 2003) along with a book about how to use it. A good book about the software that I can highly recommend is called “Microsoft FrontPage Inside Out” by Jim Buyens. (Note: make sure you match the books edition, with the software version of FrontPage). The 2002 edition of “Microsoft FrontPage Inside Out” was the first computer book I ever bought and I have to say that I learned a tremendous amount about building web pages from just reading this one book.

Start Building Web Pages
After building up a little bit of knowledge on the subject, you can only further your understanding by putting it to use. In other words, you have to start building web pages for your first website.

For beginners just starting out, I would give yourself at least 6 months to get a good understanding of the basics.
Programming Languages and Databases
Once you understand the basics, you will probably want do some actual programming.  There are plenty of different programming languages out there, but in my case I ended up learning and focusing in on using technologies related to Microsoft.  Essentially, I learned and now use ASP.NET, along with the programming language C# (a really great programming language) to create interactive websites.
Lastly, you will want to learn how to get your website to interact with a backend database.  In my case, the first database that I learned how to use was Microsoft Access (I did take a database course in college to learn the basics of Access). After figuring out how to use Access, I then learned Microsoft SQL Server 2000, then MySQL (which is a free open source database) and now SQL Server 2005. In order to control how your database interacts with your website you will need to learn SQL, which is an abbreviation of Structured Query Language.  In essence the three major pieces to the puzzle when I create an interactive/ database driven website are: ASP.NET, C# and SQL. 

A Webmasters Path
So if you were going to follow along the path that I took, you would want to learn the following:
Web: HTML, CSS, Photoshop, ASP.NET 2.0, C# - also Javascript and XML
Databases: Access, Sql Server 2005, MySql
Software: You may want to start with Frontpage 2003 or Dreamweaver, then once you know your serious, Visual Studio.NET 2005

If you’re looking for free software to get started, I would definitely suggest that you take a look at Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition. You can download a free copy of VWD Express at

Like I said there are many different paths you can take, and lots of different programming languages and technologies you can learn.  This just happened to be mine.  Hope this helps.



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