Design my own website? In my dreams, maybe

Giorgio De Chirico

What is it about trying to design my own website that invariably triggers acute anxiety attacks? My site’s in need of a radical update, so for the past several days, I’ve been playing around with a program from Go Daddy called “WebSite Tonight.” The implication, clearly, is that one should be able to build it in a single night. So why is it taking me days?

I printed out the 17-page “Getting Started Guide,” and there was a disclaimer of sorts: “Like any new application, there is a learning curve when using WebSite Tonight.” Learning curve, hah – that’s an understatement.

Part of the problem is that my tolerance is limited to two hours max. After that, I can feel my blood pressure climb, and my thoughts drift to the liter of wine chilling in the fridge. That’s a sure sign it’s time to get away from the computer, if not to pour some wine, then to confront some housekeeping or overdue bills, or even watch American Idol – I’ll resort to anything to set my mind on a different trajectory.

Is there an insurmountable generation gap at work here? I wasn’t brought up to think along the lines these programs demand. Supposedly the more user-friendly ones operate along the lines of WYSIWYG – for those not in the know, that stands for “what you see is what you get.” But it ain’t necessarily so – after you follow a slew of inscrutable commands and consult the online help manuals, what you get rarely turns out to be what you wanted to see in the first place. Or sometimes you get lucky and see what you want, only to have it disappear again like the Cheshire cat when you try to save it.

Paul Klee

So why on earth am I doing this anyway? It comes down to pride and economics – I want to sell my books, I’m too cheap to spring for a professional website designer, and WordPress won’t let me run PayPal on my present site. Besides, I’m planning to launch my new blog, Authors Avant Garde, and the least I can do is become more savvy about the technical aspects of my ever-expanding web presence.

As a writer, I taught myself touch typing in high school – I simply learned the correct finger positioning, then typed stream-of-consciousness meanderings with the lights out until I got it right. In later years, I typed my way through endless term papers and menial jobs. I wrote in several genres, completed two novels that may never see the light of day before completing one worthy of publication.

As a visual artist, I spent countless hours in life drawing classes and workshops, countless more learning color and composition through years of trial and error. I’ve probably thrown out as many canvases as I’ve sold or saved. But there’s an immediacy to painting or pastels, the medium I used for my book cover illustrations – in the visual arts, what you see is truly what you get. (There are exceptions, like print-making, but that’s another subject.)

So I paid my dues for decades to develop my skills as an author and artist. I rarely  questioned the endless hours, the expense and aggravation. It occurs to me that web design may not be any different. Who am I to expect instant gratification and overnight success? As the I Ching so frequently says, perseverance furthers. I just need to cultivate an attitude of relaxed mindfulness and patience – and know when it’s time to get up and walk away.

What about you? Do you love computer programming challenges? Have you always loved them, or do you think it’s possible to learn to enjoy this brave new world? Are the challenges age-related? I look forward to reading your thoughts.

And by the way, there’s a Yiddish word that describes the way these computer programs make me feel – something like agina or adjena – but I haven’t been able to find it in a dictionary or glossary of common Yiddish terms. If anyone can come up with the correct word, I’d be most appreciative.

13 thoughts on “Design my own website? In my dreams, maybe

  1. I can sympathize. I also use Website tonight and the learning curve was quite difficult for me as well. Over time I’ve learned to use most of the tools, so there’s hope for you, too.

    Just keep plugging along and best of luck!


    • Diana, thanks for the encouragement. I’m glad someone out there is using this program – I think I’ll hang in there and persevere.

    • Hi Diane,
      I’m aware of the problem at the top of this site – WordPress puts those tabs up there whenever I add a new page, and I don’t believe there’s a way to fix them. That’s the down side of a site that does almost all the work for you. At least it hasn’t covered up the “BUY MY BOOKS” and Review pages.

  2. Like Diane, I’ve designed three websites, but I’m no professional. I use Dreamweaver. It has a WYSIWYG side and a code side, or you can view both at the same time. The program is expensive. I’ve had mine for years, so it’s an older version. I got it with a student discount, so it was affordable then.

    Sorry, but I know nothing about WebsiteTonight.

    Straight From Hel

    • Hi Helen,
      I actually have Dreamweaver 8 installed on my computer. I got it when I took the local community college course I dropped out of in panic three years ago. I’ve been thinking of going back to it, but I’m actually making some progress with WebSite tonight, so I think I’ll stick with that till I get it up, then maybe return to Dreamweaver later.

  3. You can do it, Julie. You have everything it takes. I haven’t used GoDaddy, but I did work with Yahoo! SiteBuilder and thought it was user friendly. I like a challenge and think it’s fun to play around with this stuff on my own. I may not have the most professional site in the world (and goodness knows it hasn’t been updated in forever), but when I do work on it, I have lots of fun trying out new stuff. Go for it. It’s not going to hurt you, and think how good you’ll feel when your have a finished product that you did all by yourself.

    • Your site looks great, Patricia – I’m impressed that you did it yourself. I like the phrase “It’s not going to hurt you” – that’s the key, mastering this irrational fear that something horrible is going to happen if I make the wrong keystroke.

  4. I’ve had the same experience, Julie. I had a go at designing my site using the GoDaddy tools and it turned out looking like what the English call a ‘dog’s breakfast.’ I.e. a godawful mess. I am currently contacting web designers.

    • Welcome to my site, Bruce. Go Daddy has some pros and cons – one thing I like is that you can create content blocks and then drag them around and change their shapes and sizes easily with handles. In this respect it reminds me of my old Publisher program, which I’m relatively comfortable with, but it can also lead to creating a hodgepodge.

  5. I like building web sites, but I only know old HTML, and the new coding language has passed me by. At the very least, I need to get a Dummies book for CSS and the new coding. Meanwhile, I moved all my web site content onto a blog. Why? It seemed like a good idea….

    • Hi Marian,
      With lots of the new programs, you don’t need to use any code. Since I began blogging last May, I’ve concentrated exclusively on this blog and totally ignored my website.

      I agree that these days, having a website in addition to the blog may be of questionable value, but I do have the domain name, so I want to use it. If you go there now, you’ll see an old website my husband put up using Front Page, a cantankerous old program he doesn’t recommend. I need to be able to make updates myself, so I thought I might as well start from scratch.

  6. Heye, I think you should buy a book on HTML-language and learn the whole thing. I did that a couple of years ago,( b.1944 ) and i tis great fun. One can write the entire site oneself. My resullt is in Go buy a book on HTML like “HTML for Dummies” a yellow soft paperback one……

    All the best from Kaj in Sweden.

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