1. How to store data and users
Parse and Firebase also provide ways to easily create and manage users for your application, both through traditional email and password log-ins as well as third party social networks such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Github. The websites also have dashboards that give a visual representation of your app’s data and users and provide tools to perform simple administrative tasks.
2. How to make your website look presentable
The difference between Bootstrap and Foundation is reflected in their names: Bootstrap aims to provide all the things needed to “bootstrap” your project while Foundation simply gives you a “foundation” of elements to build upon. There are several core differences between the two, including rems vs. pixels and mobile first vs. media queries.
Bootstrap thus provides more extensive UI elements than Foundation, making it better for rapid prototyping. Foundation is suited for a design-it-yourself approach where more visual customization is needed. There’s also a larger community around Bootstrap, so you’re more likely to find more help and support if you run into issues.
3. How to deploy a site
Once you’re ready to make your site live and test it in the wild, you need to deploy it. There are a few ways of doing this:
Github Pages serve static HTML from a Github repository. If you’re not using your user page (the URL is username.github.io), you can host one project repository and then create multiple project pages from there. In addition to Github documentation, there are some great tutorials that guide you through how to set up and use Github Pages.
If you’re already using Meteor for your backend, you can deploy it with one command (sites are at yourappname.meteor.com where you can supply the application name). What’s handy about Meteor is that you can deploy one project multiple times, so if you’re testing with different groups at once on a shared interface, you can instead create two live links of the same site (i.e. “usergroupone.meteor.com” and “usergrouptwo.meteor.com”).
From my summer at Vox Media, I’ve found Middleman and Heroku to be helpful in building and deploying websites. Middleman is a command-line tool that creates static websites (based on Ruby and the Sinatra web framework) and Heroku is a cloud application platform for deploying web apps. Although it requires some initial Ruby wrangling and gem installs, once you have it set up it integrates seamlessly with your Github workflow, as you can use git to deploy Middleman apps to Heroku. Heroku then builds and runs the source application, and even provides an initial weird URL like “barren-wasteland-4848.” Don’t worry; you can change the name easily to yourappname.herokuapp.com.
Whether you’re looking to build and test a website as soon as possible, or are looking to flesh out or host web applications without digging into too much technical detail, there are numerous platforms and resources to help you. More often than not, these are great introductions and motivators to dive deeper into the technologies so you can really take advantage of their full potential.