The Nuts and Bolts: Why You Should Understand the Technology Behind Your Website.

The website, over the past several years, has evolved.  The web started out as a way for tech-savvy people and businesses to monotonously display their information.  Now, the web is an expression of the caricatures of the human race.  The moments of greatness – and the occasional moment of darkness – are displayed in full high-resolution for everyone to experience.  Centuries ago, only the rich and powerful could print words.  Now, the power of the press is available to anyone and everyone. A website is a beautiful representation of a person’s soul and passion.  Why, then, would a person not strive to understand the inner workings of their own soul?

Mitch CanterOK, maybe that’s a bit on the melodramatic side, but I do know this: learning the inner workings of a website empowers people.  It’s an amazing feeling to be able to fix a problem on your blog – especially since you don’t have to to call your web developer friend when something looks out of place.  Being able to make (or fix) something with your hands – even if that something is made of bits and bytes – is a great feeling.

The biggest deterrent, I’ve seen, is that people just don’t know what they don’t know.  They’ve stumbled haphazardly onto their WordPress theme editor and panicked at the sight of lines and lines of code.  To best understand what’s going on in our website, we must first know what we need to know.  When people ask me what they should learn, there are three things without fail that I recommend they study.

HTML

HTML tags are the fundamental building blocks of the internet.  No matter what language you write in, the resulting output is usually HTML.  HTML stands for “Hypertext Markup Language”, and serves the purpose of taking raw content and applying basic structure and form.  HTML won’t tell you how wide or what color something is, but it does provide the backbone for being able to set those attributes.  Paragraphs (<p>) are separated from headlines (<h1>) and lists (<ul> or <ol>), and documents go from a mass jumble of words to a neatly formatted set of instructions for the browser to follow.

CSS

HTML tags only display information.  It’s the CSS (Cascading Stylesheets) that takes that information and applies true form and style.  You can make those paragraphs grey, change the headlines’ font, and ensure your lists have a colored background.  You can even take whole sections of content and position them exactly where you want to on a page.  Most browsers already have styles built into them, but we can over-ride those styles by changing their rules in a stylesheet document – a top-down approach that “cascades” the style rules down a specific order of operation.

PHP (WordPress)

Now that we’ve determined the structure and color, we can start talking about the content.  Running a site that’s pure HTML is a daunting task.  Fortunately, content management systems like WordPress have made it easy to “templatize” a site – you supply the style and function rules, and the machine spits out your content depending on where you are.  Going to a single page pulls only that content from a database, and a category only shows posts that are specifically marked to show.

PHP uses defined functions – meaning that you can write rules that can then be called again and again as needed.  A WordPress site, at it’s most basic form, only changes the ID number to figure out which content to grab – everything else is just a template.Yes, this is a gross simplification of a larger process, but once you learn the basics it’s amazing what you realize you can do.  I encourage anyone who owns or operates a website to at least pick up a few of the basics.  Your website is an extension of you – it’s your place on the web to make art, write, and even sell your wares. And I’d dare say that having a website is no longer optional – not even for your regular people.

I do workshops weekly for people to learn the inner-workings of WordPress and other design-related topics (and I’ll be doing a Design & Tech Workshop in TBEX Athens to teach people some of the very things I talked about above).  I’ve seen people’s lives changed because the act of learning, even if it’s just a small fix here or there, has empowered them to make the most out of their website.  Learn the basics, take control of your website, and make the world a better place.  Who could ask for more?

Author Bio:  Mitch Canter is a WordPress Designer / Developer from Nashville, TN.  He strives to make the web a more beautiful place, and to empower his clients better understand WordPress and how to use it.  You can see his work at http://www.studionashvegas.com, and find helpful WordPress resources athttp://www.understandwp.com.

Two More Workshops at TBEX Athens: Photography and Design and Technology

We’ve added on two more small, hands on, in depth, highly focused workshops for TBEX Athens and they are now open for registration.

These workshops provide a chance to work closely with an expert in the field, getting specialized attention, and answers to the challenges YOU face. It’s a chance to get up close and personal, learning from the best, in a way that can’t be done as part of the regular program with a larger audience.

Photography Workshop and Photo Walk

Laurence and DanielLed by Laurence Norah and Daniel Nahabedian, this workshop will help you become intimate with your camera, helping you learn how to get the most out of it.

Day one will review some basic concepts of photography, give you some tips on exposure, lighting, balance, lens types, and composition, and then you’ll get out and about in Athens on a photo walk. Day two will start off with a look at the photos, moving into post processing, then touch on developing a creative eye and breaking all the rules. The session will finish up with some time spent on the business of travel photography, including social media and SEO.

The class is limited to 20 people, keeping a 1:10 instructor to student ratio.

Click here for full details about the workshop and to register.

Website Design and Technology Workshop

headshot2000Led by world renowned web designer, developer, and fellow blogger Mitch Canter, this workshop focus on your site and what you want it to do.

You’ll learn about best practices in design, and how to use the technology that supports that, whether you’re an individual blogger and entrepreneur or a industry attendee representing a destination, hotel, or other travel and tourism brand. And you won’t just talk about it, you’ll be able to dig in and improve your site right there on the spot. Before the workshop, participants will be sent a survey with various questions about their specific wants and needs, allowing Mitch to customize the curriculum to best help YOU.

The class is limited to 10 people.

Click here for full details about the workshop and to register.

Both workshops will be help at the Megaron Conference Centre (the venue for all the TBEX education sessions). There is a $200 fee to register for each workshop, and is an add-on to standard TBEX registration. You  must be registered for TBEX Europe 2014 to register. No refunds; transfers are permitted.

Full details about each workshop, along with our previously announced Writers Workshop, can be found here.

Head on over to sign up before the spots are all gone.