How's it going? First post here so a brief introduction seems appropriate. I'm a 19 year old civil/structural engineering student. My main focus is bridge design, but I am currently studying other related fields. At the current time, I intern at a local engineering firm, attend college, work here and there at the family owned hardware store, and run a custom simulation PC business www.simrigs.com (the site isn't up yet; right now I am working off word of mouth). In my spare time I enjoy drumming (15 years), RC helicopters, and simulation racing.
As of recent, I have had many website ideas, and just a general need to be able to create my own site. My only website experience was a high school course that taught no more than basic HTML (like 5 years ago now...), and slightly modifying WordPress themes. As of the other day, I decided I would use any spare hours I had each day to learn web languages. This is pretty much where I am at now.
I was recommended to the tutorials and book at http://htmldog.com/, in which I went though in about 10 minutes. I have read through a good chunk of the book in the last day, but a lot of it is just regurgitation or a long done out explanation of what the tutorials explained in a much simpler fashion. It covered the basics, but then kind of just stopped and left me hanging.
Here comes barrage of questions # 1. (Direct questions I will BOLD so that they are easy to find and read.)
-2: Should I bother with packages such as http://www.99lime.com that are supposed to streamline site creation? I know there are others out there, I haven't looked into them all that much though.
[B]-3: I read a few articles that suggest leaving Photoshop, or a like piece of software, out of the design process. Is this true? Is it good practice? What these articles recommended was getting the basic HTML content into a page. From there using strictly CSS to style it as far as it can go without Photoshop. From there, if necessary, use Photoshop.
I ask this because I am fairly fluent at Photoshop, and when I have a good idea, I can usually throw a mockup together pretty quickly. [/B]
-4: Right now, I am doing all of my coding/learning with just a text editor. I use Notepad++ on my desktop, and Gedit on my old laptop running a Crunchbox Linux. Should I stick with this style of coding, or are there alternative editors to make my coding more efficient?
Now onto my project that I want to begin on; both for learning purposes, and to become a functional, useful Web site. The site is going to be for league organization for the simulation racing I do. The current options out there are lacking. The few places that are semi organized and up to date charge outrageous amounts per month and provide lackluster service. The sim racing community is a tight community. Because of this, I will be hosting these leagues free of charge to everyone. I have quietly mentioned the general idea here and there and the feedback is great. I have had a couple thousand hits on the domain I put up as a temporary place holder in just a few weeks.
Everything is in place, except for the website. I have sponsors lined up to cover server costs and prizes, servers with all of the content ready to go, and interested community members. Because everything is all ready to go, I want to get to work on this site as quickly as possible, and get it to a usable state as quickly as possible.
User friendliness is my #1 key aspect here. I want all of the necessary information in one easy to find spot. I will try to best describe what I have in mind for the initial page users visit.
When a user goes to the site, they are greeted with a login screen. They will need to fill out:
First & Last Name (Sim racers use real names online)
Address (For prizes and country display. Sim racing is an international recreation)
Where they were referred from.
Any associated forum handles.
For the above, I assume I would need a PHP form and a database setup to store this info?
Once that data is submitted, they are brought to a single page. No scrolling up, down, left, or right. (Unless under a certain resolution I guess) Here will be where all of the active racing series are listed. I am envisioning a sort of grid layout. There are multiple racing sim titles out, so each title would have its own column of series. To keep it contained to a small non-scrolling area, I thought each series could be listed as just the title on a "horizontal" bar. When this "bar" is hovered over or clicked on, it expands down to show a picture of the car/cars that will be used for that series, plus dates and time of the event.
The "horizontal bars" idea is my thought of a way for it to be modular. Hopefully more new racing series will be added on a regular basis. If that were to happen, the bars would need to scale appropriately to fit the amount of series. I have read a little on the "960 grid" format. Not knowing much of anything yet, I feel that system would actually work in this situation. To start off, I will only be using a single racing sim title. This means I can center it. As we expand though, I would need options to have 2,3,4,5 column layout if need be.
This is where the user goes if they click on the image and info that comes down from under the "bar" system above. On this page there will be a lot of info condensed into a small space. I hopefully want to squeeze a signup button and active racer list for the chosen series (small list or table here?), a small series forum for pre-race chatter (I'm smelling Vanilla Forum here...), series results (another table or list with points and such, race results get exported as a spreadsheet), necessary files for the series (just download links), and maybe if there is room to spare some media.
And the last page that may or may not be made is a "user" page for every member. I am not sure on this one as it seems like it will take a lot more work than the rest of the pages. If I were to do this, I would include driver stats, a small PM system, and a system to show the driver their upcoming races.
Another thing that is going to be added is an email alert system. When a member signs up for a series, they will get an email saying that they signed up. This email will include series info with dates and times and links. And then an email will be sent the day of the race as a reminder.
Information overload. Sorry for all of that. I didn't even realize how much I was typing. I wrote a little here and there all morning. Anyway, if anyone could suggest where I go from here. I am ready to start but need to figure out where would be the best. If anyone would like to offer any help, that would be appreciated as well. I don't want it done for me, but I wouldn't mind some well commented out help. =]
Thanks in advance!