This is the first installment in our posts on web design 101 for beginners. This post is dedicated to all those wannabe web designers out there looking to learn the skills necessary to make their own kick butt websites.
I started my career in web design some years ago. One of my family members foolishly volunteered themselves to be the head of the website on their committee. They knew nothing about web design or HTML or anything. That meant that I, who had taken a high school class requiring us to build a simple Frontpage (does anybody remember that program?) website, had just volunteered to manage the website. That’s where it all started. Just one problem. I didn’t actually know anything about web design. I spent the next few years learning slowly and painfully everything you need to know to make your own websites. That’s what I want to help you avoid. Aren’t I a nice guy!
First it’s important to realize that there’s no substitute for education or experience. To truly learn web design my first piece of advice would be to sign up for any classes at your local college or university. Second I would tell you to get right at it and make your first website (easier said than done). Making your first website and then putting it out there on the internet is a landmark event in your pathway to becoming a full fledged web designer. Until you actually put your first site online it’s like having a wall in front of any real progress. Trust me. It took me ages to get my own first site on the web. Now, back to where to start.
So you don’t want to go to college or pay the fees huh? That’s OK, neither did I. But you’re still going to need some formal education to understand web design. There are a couple things you’ll be forced to learn in order to know how to build a website. Most of these are different computer languages used by web browsers to render the look and functions of your website. Usually these include:
Why do I need to learn HTML you ask? HTML is the basic building block of web design. Think of it as the bones to the body of your website. Fortunately HTML is really really easy to learn, and there are awesome tutorials out there on the web. It should really only take you 2-3 hours to become a proficient reader and writer of HTML. All you need to do is follow the link below to W3 Schools and take the free online course for HTML
W3 Schools is a wonderful free online resource and was a huge help to me when I first started web design.
Some advice. Not everything in the HTML Tutorial is absolutely essential. Be sure to read through all the HTML basic and HTML advanced tutorials, but I would suggest not paying too close attention to the HTML tables tutorial. You’ll find out why later when we discuss DIV tags.
Why do I need to learn CSS? Now that you’ve learned about HTML tags, you should have read a little about cascading style sheets or CSS. Using CSS you can decide the look and feel of your entire website by changing one file. Pretty impressive right? Basically CSS allows you to give any HTML tag (hopefully DIV) it’s own identification name. Then in your css file you can edit the styles for that identification and change the look and feel of that tag across your website. Trust me, this is straight up awesome. So now you want to learn it. I’ve got pretty much the same advice as before. W3 Schools is a wonderful resource.
There are also a lot of wonderful tutorial blogs for CSS out there:
Other important resources:
If you’re working on a mac you’re one lucky duck! This is my golden gem of web design. You’ve heard of dreamweaver? I scrapped that for this little beauty. Coda is the only WYSWG CSS editor out there (at least the only one worth looking at). Don’t go shelling out and buying this program just because I suggest it, but if you are serious about web design this is actually the only program I will ever suggest you buy.
There’s a pretty nice free trial version, which I suggest that anyone reading this get since it is free.
Why learn PHP? Well the best way to explain that is to explain what PHP can do for you. PHP is really just a programming language. Usually it is used in unison with MySQL which is a database language. Skipping a lot of probably important explanation. PHP is the thing that will make it possible for you to have websites with forums, polls, user registration, forms, contact forms, e-commerce, and pretty much anything else that is more than a static page. Pretty important stuff huh? The basics of reading and understanding PHP can be learned on W3 Schools, but to learn how to write and run PHP scripts I would suggest either buying a good book or taking a class. However for our purposes being able to read and understand PHP will be enough.
After running through the tutorials to your satisfactions be sure you understand the syntax and what is happening with PHP
That may even be the understatement of the century. Google is going to be your best friend in becoming a proficient web designer. Learning to search the internet efficiently for solutions to your problems or answers to your questions is without a doubt one of the most important skills you can develop. I would even call it a life skill. There is an amazing wealth of knowledge on the internet about web design. Not so odd if you think about it, seeing how web designers build what we know as the internet. More often than not if you have a question about web design, somebody has already asked it on a forum or some blogger has already posted a tutorial how to solve your specific problem. Becoming a proficient google searcher takes time, and it is a skill that comes with time, but here are a few tips and tricks to find what you’re looking for in that big mess we call the internet.
When you’re first starting out there are some basic things you should remember not to do. I will list them here for your convenience.