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Is it overkill to use JSP, Servlets for small websites?  RSS feed

 
Syed Islam
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Hello,

I was talking to someone at my local mosque. They were saying how they want to make a website for their mosque with:
1) Donations page (probably paypal or justgiving)
2) Prayer timetable
3) Community events
4) Feedback form

I just wondered if JSP, Servlets and JSTL and all that palava would be overkill for this? I do know Javascript as well.
 
Syed Islam
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One area you can learn on your own from books/tutorials to some extent is basic website development e.g. using a mix of PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and one or more of the widely used content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress or Drupal. Don't rush into taking responsibility to build somebody's website on your own just yet, as there is more to a robust and maintainable website than just a few pretty pages, but maybe look for opportunities to work with somebody who knows what they're doing (especially with regard to security). One option might be to focus initially on customising templates for CMS like WordPress, as this is mainly front end work without too much heavy duty programming, but it's the kind of thing the customer really likes to see and might be willing to pay for. Even if this kind of work isn't your long term goal, there's a lot of it around, it can often be fitted around your day job, and it may help you to get some IT experience on your CV.


I copied this from somewhere on the ranch a long time ago but can't remember where. So what I was trying to get at is, charity organizations typically only need front end work. Should I take the php/javascript/html/css route or is it okay to stay with java/javascript/html/css?
 
Jelle Klap
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For an essentially simple website that you descibed I think a php/javascript/html/css approach would be very well suited. I wouldn't say the jsp/servlet approach is overkill, per se. If you're unfamiliar with either Java or PHP, I'd say PHP is easier to get into. It's also easy to find a basic hosting setup that offers everything you need for a site like that, including a popular CMS. Java hosting is a bit harder to come by, and you'll often be looking at a VPS type hosting.
 
Syed Islam
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Thank you. Well I guess that means I have to quickly learn about some PHP.

I was a bit worried about learning too many different things. I've been learning Java the last few months and am worried my brain will get confused.
 
Roger Sterling
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Linode offers LAMP hosting for $20 per month, $25 if you want nightly backups.

Your description is "roll-your-own". Why not use a prepackaged site ? For example, phpBB or similar.

Do you want to spend all your time writing code or creating content? People come to websites to view content, not see how the code works. No website guest cares how a website is programmed, they just want to see the creativity and knowledge contained within the content.
 
Syed Islam
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That's true but I'm also trying to prove to prospective employers that I can code. Because I don't have any commercial programming experience.

This is off topic but I normally use job sites (jobserve, monster) to gauge which skills are most in demand. Is there a better way to see these statistics?
 
chris webster
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Syed Islam wrote:That's true but I'm also trying to prove to prospective employers that I can code. Because I don't have any commercial programming experience.

Well, that quote was from me earlier, so you won't be surprised to hear that I think maybe you should look at a different project to demonstrate your coding skills. Part of being a professional software developer is giving your customer what they need, not what you want. If your local mosque wants a simple website to publish community information and collect donations, then their requirements are likely to include things like:

  • The site should be cheap to set up and run on a hosting service.
  • The site should be easy to maintain e.g. they should be able to add content easily without having to ask you to code anything, and they should still be able to maintain the site even if you are not around.
  • The site should be secure i.e. nobody should be able to hack into it and deface it or use the site resources to host illegal material, spambots etc.
  • The donations component must be secure e.g. a clean and secure interface to an external payment system like PayPal.
  • Any personal information collected by the site e.g. for donations must be managed securely (this is a legal requirement in many countries).

  • That's actually quite a challenge if you don't really have any commercial programming experience. But if you choose a mature and widely used open source content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, Drupal etc, then you should be able to create the site relatively easily and find suitable components (plugins) to meet these requirements, although you'll still need to do your research to make sure you know how to set them up correctly, keep them up to date, fix any problems etc. You can still explore PHP/CSS/HTML etc coding by building a cool template for the site initially.

    The first time I built a website, I did everything by hand with PHP and MySQL etc, building my own very primitive content management system. I learned a lot about the tools, but the site was crap - clunky, poor UI for adding content, lousy design etc. So next time somebody asked me to build a site for them, I did my research and gave them a WordPress site, which gave them what they needed rather than what I wanted to learn. It's mostly configuration rather than coding, but even with a relatively simple CMS like WordPress, there's still plenty of work involved in bolting it together properly, tweaking/creating themes, and just keeping the components up to date and secure. Just setting up your own development machine will teach you plenty about Apache, PHP, MySQL etc. Another advantage of using a common CMS is that other people also use it: you can find help easily, and you can also acquire some skills to help other people with their websites.

    So I'd suggest you take some time to explore a few CMS options for your mosque's website (WordPress is not the only option), then build them a site that will give them everything they need as quickly, securely and maintainably as possible. And because this should be relatively quick, you can take more time to think up a project of your own where you can use all the cool toys you really want to play with instead.

    Finally, if you can give your mosque a smart, secure and maintainable website that they and their community are happy with, then you can ask them to recommend your work, and you can point people to the site as an example of how you've served your customers (just don't try to take credit for inventing Drupal or WordPress ).
     
    chris webster
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    Syed Islam wrote:I normally use job sites (jobserve, monster) to gauge which skills are most in demand. Is there a better way to see these statistics?

    I mostly track JobServe, and Computer Weekly is quite good for UK-based jobs. Of course, lots of jobs are never posted on these sites e.g. graduate recruitment, senior executives etc. But it gives you a rough idea what skills are currently in demand. The trick is to try to spot the ones where demand is likely to grow in the medium term.
     
    Syed Islam
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    Thank you Chris that was very insightful. I'm not sure what else to say here, the rabbit hole gets very deep for web developers.
     
    Bear Bibeault
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    Syed Islam wrote:the rabbit hole gets very deep for web developers.

    Quoted for truth.
     
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