UPDATE – Today (Thursday 13th) at 5.30 you can find out more about Microsoft WebMatrix by tuning into the live streaming of the keynote from the CodeMash event in Sandusky. Streamed via www.ubelly.com/webmatrix.

I'm not sure if it's because of phenomenal success stories like Facebook, but I'm asked nearly every week the same question from either a friend or a family member. I'd like to build websites for a living, how do I get started?

It's not an easy question for me to answer. I'd like to tell them to open up Visual Studio and get started, but I'm well aware that Visual Studio can be a daunting for the uninitiated.

I myself started off over 11 years ago in notepad coding CGI, I then quickly moved to ASP and after a few years working on projects suddenly found myself coding VB.Net and then later C# in Visual Studio.  It's been clear to me for a long time that ASP.NET is superior to ASP in all aspects except one; ASP is easier to learn.

In this day and age it would be silly to suggest that a developer would be better off starting to learn ASP, forums don't talk about it as much anymore, help is hard to find and employers aren't looking for inexperienced ASP developers. This is why I now recommend WebMatrix to new developers.

It seems the clever chaps over in Redmond have recognised that new developers needed a leg up and so have created WebMatrix to do just that. WebMatrix is a product targeted at new web developers which introduces them to .Net but doesn't scare them off with complexity.

WebMatrix is free and allows you to create websites from scratch or you can select an application from the built-in gallery such as DotNetNuke, Umbraco, or WordPress and WebMatrix handles the downloading and installation.

I like WebMatrix because when a user does move over to Visual Studio they will already be familiar with certain aspects. For example they will be able to upgrade their SQL compact database into a full SQL database and the syntax to create webpages is razor the same syntax used by ASP.net MVC in Visual Studio.

To get started using WebMatrix just tell your friends to go to http://www.ubelly.com/webMatrix where we have created a getting started guide and provided some helpful introduction videos.

Best of all you can concentrate on the projects that you want to work on rather than having to hand hold a new developer through the first few months of Visual Studio development.