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By Michael Young

The CIoJ build your own website course imageThe arguments for journalists – particularly freelancers – to get “onto the Web”, to create a web presence, a personal brand, are as many as they are familiar. But how to do it? In practical understandable terms?

Entering the phrase “Build Your Own Website” into Google’s search engine produces a formidable total of nearly 950,000 results in 0.22 seconds.

That’s quite a few to wade through.

Having dipped a tentative toe in and out of this particular digital stream since at least 2005 but invariably deterred by the mechanics of the exercise and by the range of software apparently available for the purpose, the prospect of a do-it-in-a-day training course – organised by the Institute’s Freelance Division, to be held at the University for Creative Arts (UCA) campus in Farnham, Surrey on June 26 2012 – appealed to me and I signed up for it.

A dozen or so of us assembled at UCA at 10.00 am on the 26th, to be met by our website trainer, Simon Clarke. He’s an accomplished production journalist of more than 20 years standing, with experience at BBC Magazines and in the business sector. He builds websites for publishing and small business clients, and currently does online production for Euromoney Online. In addition he lectures in Online Journalism to the BA (Hons) Journalism undergraduate course at UCA Farnham, and is a Visiting Lecturer at Bath Spa University.

Simon quickly put us at ease in the light and airy UCA Media Room, fitted-out with Apple iMac computers, and explained that we would be learning how to create a news-based website using the popular, versatile, and free WordPress software. We were quickly online, downloading and installing the software in a web hosting environment.

The CIoJ build your own website imageWe learned about the ‘dashboard’ of WordPress, how the ‘back end’ editing system works, and how to create content, text, images and video. We went on to understand the importance of categorisation and organisation of content, and how to utilise both. We learned how to build simple navigation menus, and how to customise the look and feel of our individual sites.

Simon took questions as we moved through the day and was always on hand to help get over individual stumbling blocks. Coffee, tea and water were available throughout, and a one-hour break was taken at around 1.30 pm for a pleasant light lunch provided as part of the course fee.

By about 5.30 pm we had completed the course, having covered the differences between website posts and pages, the role and employment of widgets, plugins, themes, picked up tips on choosing a web host, registering and protecting a domain name, and we each had created – as forecast – a live personal website. We were ‘on the Web’.

May I offer my personal thanks to all those involved in putting together this course. I certainly learned more about the practical aspects of building a website in this one day than I had in the previous decade.

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