View Full Version : I need a little help with a Web Development Project

November 6th, 2006, 09:09 PM
Hi, everyone…

I am a law student that wants to get into a web-based business, but I know next to nothing regarding the technical aspects of web development, design and maintenance.

All I have is an idea and some savings to get everything going. The problem is I don’t know where to start! ](*,)

I am thinking of a sort of a simple “Web 2.0” page, driven by advertisements (Google Adsense, perhaps), where people easily and without cost can advertise their goods by entering a short description and perhaps a few photos.

However I have certain questions:

- Should I buy a server? If so, what kind and how much should I spend? I don't want to be dependent on a hosting service.

- What database technology should I use? Which requires less maintenance?

I don’t think I can trust a web design firm to make these decisions for me, but on the other hand, I don’t have the expertise or know someone I can trust in this regard, either.

I don’t want to pay big bucks to the company that makes my website every time I want to make a change or the page requires maintenance.

Ideally I should be able to handle all non-technical aspects and I was thinking of hiring a student (such as myself) that might want to earn a few bucks helping me out ocasionally.

What do you guys think? Has anyone had similar experiences?

November 6th, 2006, 09:14 PM
You really have two options:

1) learn the technical asspects
2) team up with a technical person

Otherwise you will end up with a service that is ineffectual, expensive or more often than not both.

Good luck!

November 6th, 2006, 09:24 PM
Web development is one of my hobbies, and such, hopefully some of the following may be helpful.

I hand code my site (see signature), and thus write all the HTML, PHP, CSS etc myself. If you do not mind spending a couple of hours a day reading through "teach yourself" type books (Sams teach yourself whatever in 24 hours are good), you can quickly gain enough knowledge to make a site. hand coding is not for everyone - utilities such as dreamweaver and FrontPage (evil microsoft evil) will allow you to create a site with little technical knowledge, but the site generated will not be as cleanly coded as one you have coded yourself, and will often not comply to the W3C standards.

It may well be worth "making friends" with a techie - if you know them better, they might not charge you as much.

try to make sure that the site is easy to update - get whoever designed it for you to make template pages with comments and stuff like this, allowing you to upload simple pages yourself.

I unfortuanately do not know much about servers, so I am not much help here, but it would be alot cheaper to get annother company to host it for you while you start up, because it is very cheap alot of the time - servers aren't! My site is hosted by Streamline.net, a company that offer very cheap hosting, although if you're a business, you will probaly want to consider a well known company that does backups and everything.

I'm no good with databases either, but I know PHP and MySQL are meant to work well toggether.

Hope this has been helpful.

November 6th, 2006, 09:29 PM
Thanks for your replies…

I have really been considering the option to partner with someone. The problem is I do not know where or how to find someone trustworthy. And even if I find someone willing to “partner” with me, how can I know they are up to the task?

And besides, if possible, it might be best to try and maintain my independence as much as possible.

I am willing to make an investment with a firm to design the page (I know its not cheap). I am mostly worried of the day-to-day matters. I understand, from what I’ve read, that some technologies are easier to maintain than other. I just don't think whatever company designs the page (and gives me counsel on the other aspects, such as server purchase), will make a good desicion for me.

They might want me to get a top-of-the-line database, for example, that only they are capable to maintain in the long run.

November 6th, 2006, 09:33 PM
I, too, am in the process of accomplishing something similar for friends. A lot of them have websites for their particular businesses. Mostly construction (general contracting), painters, real estate, etc. In order to save them money from paying to the web hosts, they'll pay me. The only thing they'll have to manage/update is their domain names through GoDaddy, 1&1, Register, or whomever. They point their DNS to my server and done.

The server that will be used is an old IBM w/ 2 PIII 1GHz processors and about 512MB Ram. The OS is Ubuntu 6.06.1... I'm too lazy to config non-GUI using the Server Ed. I just install that, then install the remaining LAMP pieces (Apache, MySQL, etc) which are normally installed by default on Server Ed...

The problems: hosting by yourself is difficult. My ISP (still researching) won't unlock any add'l ports and other issues. I can't say anything, the price for my broadband at 7MB d/l speeds is quite reasonable. So, I'm looking into a T1 line which normally run around $250 - $400 US for the possible bandwidth needed. Which is a bummer, you'd have to practice your gazintas* to figure how many clients you'd need to make a T1 line worth it...

The end result was by doing this for friends/family I can end up with an extra $200 - $250 / month kapusta money for just having this thing set-up. Other problems, down-time, power (enough if needed and how much more), data recovery (RAID, b/u, etc), and others.

*gazintas or guzintas = 12 clients 'guzinta' $400US (how many times):-D

November 6th, 2006, 09:37 PM
...oh! Not too mention, how involved are the websites.... Problem again, are they eCommerce style or more for information purposes. Problem w/ eCommerce is signing up w/ someone like PayPal to handle merchant services (credit card transactions) for your business.

Sometimes, it's easier to sign up w/ a webhost that sells bandwidth and diskspace for a low dollar per month amount.

Another thing that makes it easy is d/l and putz around with Free Web Templates. Most of them are HTML-based w/ all the images included in a sub-directory. Just change the parts that say 'Place logo here'...

November 6th, 2006, 09:49 PM
Just last night I found about free web templates... They are an attractive possibility. :p

I have an old AMD Athlon 2700+ w/ 768 RAM, which I was thinking of using as a server anyways (after having it duly set up with RAID, a nice power supply, etc). The only additional cost would be a nice broadband connection (which in the long run might be more cost-effective than paying a host and allows me to maintain my independence).

The idea is to sign up for Google Adsense to handle the eCommerce aspect of the site, with should take care of many headaches and would only make a techie necessary for extraordinary things such as problems with the site itself or adding new features.

November 6th, 2006, 09:59 PM
So would I be right in thinking that all you need is a site that has google adsense ads on, and some membership features that allow people to add a couple of lines of text to a page (or something similar), thus the people who are advertising get free advertising except those who are advertising throughg google adsense?

Could I ask why?

November 6th, 2006, 10:10 PM
While I can understand your desire to run your own host, that really adds a lot of complexity to your project. I host my sites at dreamhost.com, and am very happy overall. Their databases are a bit slow, but that won't affect google's adsense. they have plans starting out at 10USD/month with lots of bandwidth and server space.

If you're really set on self-hosting, you can either buy some rackspace at a datacenter somewhere, or host from home. Rackspace isn't all that cheap, but you'll have a great connection compared to what you can get from your garage/bedroom/attic.

some things to think about:

1. backups. Just like the most amazing part about a ferrari is its brakes, the most amazing part of your server should be the backup and restore system. You will have a catastrophy sometime. be prepared.

2. memory. If you're running a complete LAMP stack on a single server, max out that motherboard with the most memory it can handle. As your site grows, you'll use more and more of it.

3. redundancy. Make sure your discs are mirrored (raid1). One of them will eventually quit on you. Don't let it take your whole site down with it.

As far as software goes, folks have had lots of success with the lamp stack for years: Linux Apache Mysql Perl - that p could be perl, php, python, or ruby, whatever, just a free programming language. some folks will frown on mysql, but its really a matter of preference, and being prepared to deal with the shortcomings of your database. That goes for any database.

If you get a new shiny server, build in as much redundancy as possible - that means power supplies, discs, even cpus on some of the better ones. HP and dell make decent entry-level servers, imho.

Hand-coding an entire site from scratch is very time-consuming and near impossible for a non-techie. I work in the legal field primarily, and don't know of a single lawyer that could do it. No offense to you, being a law student and all, thats just my observation. So, think about taking something that already exists for free and customizing it to fit your needs. Good examples include Drupal and joomla. They are both CMSs, and may not fit perfect, but you should be able to strip them down enough, and save yourself lots of time. Drupal especially.

November 6th, 2006, 10:12 PM
So would I be right in thinking that all you need is a site that has google adsense ads on, and some membership features that allow people to add a couple of lines of text to a page (or something similar), thus the people who are advertising get free advertising except those who are advertising throughg google adsense?

Could I ask why?

You are basically right. I would probably need a database as well, or at least I imagine...

I am thinking of generating revenue with Adsense or whatever other options for targeted advertising are in the market (I think Yahoo! has something similar).

November 6th, 2006, 10:20 PM
Thanks, seuaniu...

That is really helpful overall. I wasn't aware of Drupal, Joomla or of the existence of datacenters. I will definitely look into that.

Hopefully in Costa Rica (my home country) there are these services.

Just a quick question... Would it be wise to host the site outside of Costa Rica. For example, might localized Google results be affected?

November 6th, 2006, 10:36 PM
You are basically right. I would probably need a database as well, or at least I imagine...

I am thinking of generating revenue with Adsense or whatever other options for targeted advertising are in the market (I think Yahoo! has something similar).

If your making a full on website, you probably will need a database, but so far I've got past with text files (but my site has a fanbase of around 7!). But if you'r trying something on a grander scale (which I imagine you would be if your revenue's coming from adsense), you probably will want a database

I see seuaniu (http://ubuntuforums.org/member.php?u=83324)'s point about handcoding, but I'd at least give it a try - you may have some fun!

November 6th, 2006, 10:40 PM
Just a quick question... Would it be wise to host the site outside of Costa Rica. For example, might localized Google results be affected?

I think you can set your location, or not use locational advertising at all - I'm sure google have thought about that. I'd shop around though - see where you can get cheap rackspace - by the sound of things, it's quite expensive - you could have trouble making a decent profit.

my site operates at a loss currently, but I'm not a business, so it's not a problem! I was considering putting adsense ads on the site, but you have to be over 18, and it's too much hastle to get it paid to my Mum!

November 6th, 2006, 11:11 PM
Google does have locational advertising. I use it. How effective it is depends on your location, however. Google won't determine its localisation from where your server is, but where your business address is. Or you can set it to wherever you want. I don't have any idea how well it will work in Costa Rica, but Google should be able to give you an idea. adsense.google.com

as far as finding rackspace in Costa Rica, there should be some available in the bigger cities.

November 6th, 2006, 11:25 PM
You could use some CMS (content management system) like PHP-Fusion.
Its good for people who dont have experience with coding(like me 2 years ago :) ). It just requires MySQL database and PHP but there are a lot of hosting companies which offer that ... just do a little research :)

GL ;]

Kerry Lange
November 6th, 2006, 11:34 PM
Hi there:

I'm an Ubuntu newbie but I've been developing websites for about 10 years, though I'm not a *coder.* Here are my thoughts:

Before you do anything else, write down what you want your website to do and what it's purpose is. You've mentioned running Google ads on the site. Is that the only source of revenue you intend to have or are there others? Be as thorough as you can. You'd be surprised how helpful that can be.

Also, write down who the site is for: Business people, technical people, everybody, friends, family, et cetera. Who the site targets will lead you to choices about content: colour, fonts, graphics, how the site is written, and so on. The site has to be for *them* not you. If your audience is people like yourself, then great.

Almost everybody skips those first two steps but they're important and you'll have a better website in the end if you do it.

Regarding hosting, I agree with the person who said hosting the site yourself will add lots of complexity to the site. Find a good third-party host and go with them. I know lots of people who use Dreamhost and they're pretty happy with them. Certainly, their prices are unbeatable but if you need any support at all, they may not be the ones to go with. It's sometimes worth paying a little extra for a provider that can solve problems for you.

I work for an ISP and can say that we maintain our servers very well. I know we do a good job. I mean no disrespect but I know we're doing a better job than you could do starting from scratch. We've got people on staff who've been running servers for a couple of decades.

The only circumstances where I think you'd need to consider running your own server or co-locating with a provider is if you're using huge amounts of resources: terabytes of bandwidth & disk space and hundreds or thousands of domains OR if you've got some very special requirements regarding the scripting language you want to run (or other software) and the server configuration to run your software.

Regarding how to build the site, if you've not done it before, try a WYSIWYG editor. Dreamweaver, Frontpage (no longer published by Microsoft), & Adobe GoLive (also defunct now that they've bought Macromedia & Dreamweaver) are the popular ones on Windows but you can try Quanta Plus for Linux. I don't have any experience with Quanta but from what I've seen it appears to be a capable program. I agree with the person who's said hand-coding will be difficult for someone who's not done something like that before.

November 7th, 2006, 09:06 PM
Frontpage (no longer published by Microsoft)

It isn't? Wikipedia says it is, and it was in the beta of office 2007 (I think)

Kerry Lange
November 7th, 2006, 09:24 PM
I've got Office 2007 beta installed and here's the list of apps:

Infopath (XML document editor)

That's it.

With that said, I may be wrong though I've heard / read (a while ago) about the FP demise from a couple of sources.

Actually, I just had a look and found the following article from the MS site:

Click here (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2006/feb06/02-15Designer.mspx)

It seems Frontpage is being replaced.

November 7th, 2006, 09:44 PM
I think I misunderstood you - i thought you meant it was now being published by someone else! Good riddance anyhow - I've never been a fan of WYSIWYG editors, especially those that don't even seem to acknowledge standards, let alone follow them!

I know many people like WYSIWYG editors, because their easy to use - I have had many discussions on the issue. But I've always been a fan of hand coding, as it shows though and effort, and helps people realise what the intenet is actually made up of.

I know someone who uses fireworks for various websites, and to be honest, the pages it produces are pieces of crap. One site I looked at, and saw it has a menu bar using rollover images. I looked at the source code and was horrified. I manuged to get this page down from 14kb to 2kb (neither included the images). I know there is more to sites than filespace, but 1:7 is a fairly big ratio.

However, especially for the guy who started this post, I can definately see how a WYSIWYG editor might suit him - so go ahead, enjoy, but do consider handcoding - you might have some fun!