So Your Kid wants a Website?

Fantastic. Self directed learning at work.

But now it falls to you: how the hell do you help your child create something so mysterious as a website?

There are tools out there to allow complete novices launch their own site, such as WordPress or WIX. While empowering, these services all have one thing in common – they don’t teach you anything about the web. Everything you learn will be about that tool alone. They completely divorce the creative process from the core technology of the web, so anything remotely technical can remain as hidden as possible.

Sure, the experience of launching a website with a novice service will be a creative one, but there is so much more to the web that is simple and brilliant and which should be known to any child wanting to be a part of the web.

HTML for kids?

Watch this space. I’m considering launching a project aimed at helping children with HTML, with an eye towards technically able homeschooling parents.

HTML in its most basic form isn’t difficult to grasp. It’s logical, uncomplicated and less scary than it sounds. That’s even more true in light of how empowering HTML is as a communication and publishing tool.

The good news is that basic HTML is the most durable and means of publishing to the web. It’s not pretty – but it’s universally accessible.

It’s the frilly bits on the web that make it unstable and limited. It all sits on top of HTML and that’s still the bones of what gets served when you access a website (except for flash sites which are on the way out, thankfully).

It’s also the frilly bits that make the web difficult to contribute to. But as for the basics, they’re basic. Anyone could become familiar with it and create a simple but accessible webpage. Anyone including kids down to 6 or so. And they should, because basic HTML is the single most effective tool of communication we have and are likely to have for some time. It is lightweight, can be displayed on any shaped device, read for the blind.

It doesn’t require a fast or powerful computer. You don’t need special software. You can do it with a text editor a FTP upload program.

As said, it underpins the entire web. However it can be done badly, and often is. When you haven’t familiarised yourself with good practice in semantic markup, that is, the logical structure of a document (page), it’s less effective when you take away the frills and exposed a badly organised structure. Many web designers, including myself up until some time ago, are guilty of this. I think spending more time on the underlying web, worrying more about the fundamentals than the frills, will serve kids well and contribute to a better web and humanity for tomorrow.

Beyond that, I’d just like to encourage kids to publish and create. Here are a few projects I can really imagine my child-self getting excited about.

  • local based communication such as a hyperlocal (neighbourhood) blog
  • news for kids
  • journalling of all types, even independent kids journalism
  • promoting events like birthday parties
  • celebrating pets and people

What do you think about the idea? How would you do it? Do you have a kid you think would be interested?

Posted on August 31, 2013 ... Modified October 2, 2015