This website is an initiative of J-Lab

# Build It!

Buying Hardware and Software

  • What You Need in a Computer System (Mac or PC)

    A start-up web publisher faces many computing hardware choices. You could buy a single powerful computer to handle your writing, coding and designing needs, but it probably makes more sense to have several computers. Each can serve different functions as your site grows.

    Can You Upgrade or Do You Need a New Machine?

    For less computer-intensive tasks, consider upgrading an older machine.

    Software Solutions

    A computer without software is like a kitchen without pots and pans. To run a community media site, you'll need several types of software. We’ll suggest some first-class industry standards in each category, then point out more basic alternatives that might also fit your needs.

    Backing Up

    To avoid losing all your hard work in a random hard-drive crash, it's important to make copies of all your important files. In computing, these are generally known as "backups."

    Digital Cameras

    If you’re encouraging readers to submit photos, your community reporters will need a digital camera to snap photos of local stories and events.  We advise against using a film camera. There are many reasons to shoot with film, but the speed and flexibility of digital cameras make them ideal for a fast-paced community news site.

    Audio Recording Equipment

    Just like photography, digital technology has changed forever the practice of audio recording. Options stretch from dirt cheap to very high-end.


  • Basic HTML

    HTML is the language that web browsers and web servers use to display web pages. HTML "tags," when added to a plain text document, instruct web browsers how to display that content on a web page. If a web page is a house, its HTML code is its blueprint.

    Creating Forms

    If you want to give your readers the ability to interact with your site - to send information to it rather than simply receive information from it - you'll need to move beyond basic HTML. Forms are used to gather data from your users. When you use a search engine or enter a login name and password, you've seen a form in action.

    CSS: Cascading Style Sheets

    Cascading Style Sheets — even the name sounds a little intimidating, like perhaps you’re falling down a steep slope.  But the name is just an accurate description of what CSS is — "sheets" (pages or chunks) of code that describe the style of a document in such a way that multiple commands "cascade" — in other words, they’re applied in a certain order that ensures that both the user and the page designer get as close to the same effect as they possibly can.

Page Layout and Design

  • Web Standards for Publishing Ventures

    After more than a decade's experience and several significant studies about how people read web pages, web designers have developed several tips for good site design. Here are some basic elements you should consider when creating a page.

    Choosing Colors

    The roots of a successful Web design come from the color choices you make. Color is crucial in creating an optimal user experience. Proper use of colors can even be required under some accessibility guidelines for the visually impaired.


    Logo design is critical for more than just your website.  It will be used on business cards and promotional material, in presentations, in newspaper articles and videos.  You want something that remains recognizable even at a distance or at a small size.

Web Pages

  • Behaviors

    Many interactive features on web pages are produced by integrating small programming scripts into your HTML code. These are usually created using a programming language called JavaScript. JavaScript is significantly more difficult to learn than HTML, but it's well within the reach of anyone who already has some programming skills. Before you run out to buy a JavaScript book, however, take a look at the JavaScript functions that are integrated into Dreamweaver.

    Advanced Dreamweaver Techniques

    One advantage of using a program like Dreamweaver - as opposed to a simple text editor - is that it has some built-in functions that make complicated web page effects quite simple to implement. In this section you learn about image maps, Library items, and templates.

    Using Adobe Dreamweaver

    Many different programs let you create and edit web pages. They offer some advantages over coding pages in HTML:

    • They let you place photos and text exactly where you want them to go.
    • They let you see what your pages will look like as you edit them.
    • They apply a uniform look to all your site’s pages.

    Creating an HTML page

    Now that you have defined a site, you should create a web page to upload as a test.

File Management

  • Keeping Track of Files

    As your site matures, the amount of content will grow. And grow. And grow even more. You’ll have to consider how you’ll archive your material and how to best organize your long-term production to maximize efficiency. Here are a few tips on how to keep track of this ever-increasing sand pile of material.


    Organized naming structures help you with better search engine rankings. Using incorrect characters can throw your server for a loop.

    Making Backups

    It's easy to overlook the task of regularly backing up your data. But all it takes is one crash of your hard drive, a fire, a flood, a power surge, or the theft of your computer and you can spend a lifetime regretting it.


  • Introducing Databases

    Part of what has unbottled community publishing is the use of databases to store and deliver content. It becomes clear to anyone working for an extended period on a website that there’s a lot of repetitive work. Unless you have some way to manage your content, a large site quickly becomes unmanageable. Databases are key to managing that growth.

    Planning Your Database Tables

    As a news site, you might want to keep a database of past stories for your readers.

    Database Applications

    If your site runs on open-source software, it’s likely to have one of two database applications available: MySQL or PostgreSQL.

    Database Workers

    There are several people involved in getting a database-powered site up and running, especially if you are having one custom-developed for your site.