My Web Development Tools
I don’t write the HRM Handbook for money, and therefore I don’t want to invest any big money. It’s kind of a personal challenge for me to see if I am still able to bring a project to a successful conclusion. That’s why I’ve embarked on a website about modern human resource management. I understand the topic well and I need to learn the technology. In the end, it’s more complicated than I first thought.
The HRM Handbook is not a project that I do for profit. I’m too old to be able to fundamentally change the direction of my career, so I will continue to focus on HRM after my career break. But I did give myself one challenge, I’d like to do the whole site for free if possible.
I didn’t quite make it for free unfortunately, but that’s the price of convenience, I’m an older gentleman now and it’s hard to learn something completely new. If I wasn’t lazy, I could have it for free. Every time I try to describe an alternative that is completely free.
Some computer and the operating system doesn’t matter
A computer is needed. I historically have an Apple iMac, and that’s why I’m doing this on an Apple. But frankly, I could do it just as well on Linux or classic Windows. The computer really doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t even have to be new, just one that just works. Decent at least.
If someone tells you that you have to buy a new laptop from Apple, then it’s not true. Any website can run on an old computer. And the site has to earn the investment first. Only then can one think of a little convenience.
How to structure a website?
The first and crucial step in web development is to think well about the content and structure of the site. It really doesn’t make sense to start writing before you have a clear idea of what the site should look like in terms of structure. Going into writing without a clear strategy and goals is just a big waste of time. Simply, one needs to be absolutely clear on how it will be interconnected and what the various themes are.
It takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it. It’s the same as with projects at work. You can tell good planning at the end of a project because it gets completed. I have tried a lot of tools and can recommend the following:
- A blank sheet of paper,
- Microsoft Excel,
- Google Sheets,
- LibreOffice Calc,
- anything else that serves its purpose.
I’ve tried various programs for drawing mind maps, but in the end, a sheet of paper at the beginning and writing down ideas in Excel in the second step worked best for me. With the switch to Linux, I’ve been using LibreOffice Calc. It works pretty much the same, only it’s free and works everywhere. (Side note, LibreOffice works great on Windows and macOS too. No need to pay or steal, just find a free alternative.)
Working with a spreadsheet is getting to the stage where one is also doing market research. He writes down links to interesting pages, key topics and subtopics, citations and keywords that must appear on the page. Of course, even with a sheet of paper and a simple pencil, one can do wonders, especially in the beginning.
By the way, designing a good site structure and maintaining it, I consider it a real art. And that big spreadsheet in Excel or LibreOffice is worth keeping up to date, because it will eventually tell you which page should link to some other. It’s worth it, really. When I’m completely done, I’ll be sure to write up how to work with the spreadsheet to make the site turn out the way it was supposed to.
How to keep it all together and not get lost in it?
I’ll make one small detour. It pays to set up a good structure for the design of the entire site. Where the broken down text will be stored, where the images will be stored, where the final results will be stored. Not only the structure of the site is important, you also need to set up a good directory structure.
I like simple solutions that I can access from anywhere. I have a small old server at home, and I’m running NextCloud on it. So I have everything there and I can look from work or from the tram on the way to work. And it’s completely free.
As a bonus, Nextcloud also offers a great option for writing quick notes. It has a module for that right there and you just write down the note or take a picture and save it. And come back to it anytime later.
Texting? But in what and how?
Another important tool is a good word processor. By the way, it’s definitely not Microsoft Word, but rather an editor that can handle plain text and some basic Markdown. I’ve tried a lot of them, starting with Sublime Text, which is excellent but has its own specifics.
I moved on to Atom and Microsoft Visual Code. These are both free, but I haven’t gotten used to them. I ended up with a completely simple program and that was Ghostwriter. It just goes for exactly what it’s designed to do. To write texts without distractions.
By the way, if I can recommend an investment that is worthwhile, it’s a quality mechanical keyboard and a good ergonomic mouse. Hands and fingers will thank you for an honest mechanical keyboard where design is not the main criterion for development. Mechanical keyboards are expensive, but they last practically forever.
And adjustable backlighting should be mandatory. Classic white is best. No need to spend money on all the RGB options, you’ll end up with white because it’s the best. Anyone who can stand typing on a keyboard that resembles a fairground carousel should get a medal for endurance.
A program that I should be ashamed of has proven useful for drawing pictures. I draw them in LibreOffice Impress, but I confess that I keep coming back to Microsoft PowerPoint. Both work well enough, though. And if you’re catching yourself thinking that I use PowerPoint for drawing, it’s because I like the templates and the simple approach. I could try something else, but why change something that works for me?
Nothing beats LibreOffice and PowerPoint for their great work with templates. It keeps the same style for all my pages and is reliable.
I run the finished images through xnConvert, which again is available on Mac, Windows, and Linux. I shrink the images in it and change the format to WebP so they take up as little space as possible. It’s free and works very reliably.
Finally, there’s Hugo CMS. It’s an application that can take written text, a prepared template, and put it all together into a site that works. It’s pretty simple to learn, there’s excellent documentation for it, and it’s all very fast.