in Design / Development

From Noob To A Good Web Designer – A Step By Step Guide

So you want to become a web developer, right? After seeing all those cool web sites, you’re thinking that you want to do that too. Maybe you’re also thinking on quitting your day job, buying a macbook and a pair of glasses and going to the nearest Starbucks and start creating awesome stuff. Well, first of all don’t do that. At least not right now if you are a noob. Creating a web site requires hard work and a lot o skills so don’t try to think that after reading some design blogs and a ” html for dummy” book you can jump right in. You, my young student, need time and discipline. First of all you need to think it very serious: is this what you really want to do? If so, you need to know that there’s a long road from a “hello world” page to a complex website.

If you don’t have an idea on what you need to learn and when you need to learn, this article is a good start.

Becoming a web designer requires a lot of learning. Unlike other domains, in web design  you need to develop more than one skill and you can’t do that without hard work.

Step 1. Graphic design

Because the Web is a visual medium, web pages require attention to presentation and design. The graphic designer makes decisions regarding everything you see on a web page: graphic, type, colors, layout, etc. Graphic design is a big part of web design so that’s why you will need to know how to use some image aditiing software, at least at minimum. In addition, you may also want to do some personal research on the fundamentals of good design.

1. Look for reputable articles and book on design fundamentals, study them as you were taking a course in a good web design program. Follow websites like smashingmagazine.com.

2. Join discussion groups and courses in graphic designing  to learn software like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, etc. Learn software after you have gained some skills.

3. Keep observing the designs being featured in magazines or in websites. Follow websites like designshack.co.uk or thecssawards.com.

4. Research popular fonts and design styles.

Step 2. Learn HTML

HTML is the most important thing a Web designer or Web developer can learn. Even if you plan on using WYSIWYG editors for most of your career, knowing HTML will give you an understanding of how the Web works so that your designs will be more effective. HTML is imperative to both Web designers and Web developers. Even Web designers who don’t plan to do much work outside of a WYSIWYG editor should learn HTML so that they know the basis of their Web pages.

1. For a fast intro, check out w3schools.com.

2. Look for books on HTML, likeIntroducing HTML5 or HTML5: Up and Running.

3. Study the HTML Tags, XHTML Tags and XHTML Attributes Library.

4. Read FAQs on HTML. Chances are, if you have a question about HTML, someone else has already asked it.

5. Sign up for an HTML newsletter.

Step 3. Learn CSS

After HTML, CSS is the most important language Web designers can learn. It is what powers the designs and determines how a page will look. CSS is imperative to Web designers. If you don’t know CSS you won’t be able to design cutting edge websites. CSS is useful to Web developers, but not as important. Web developers who know CSS will be able to make their applications interact more effectively with the design.

1. Read online tutorials. An online tutorial can teach you enough CSS to get started so that you can quickly move on to more challenging tasks, like actually styling your Web pages. Check out csstutorial.net.

2. Follow css websites like thecssblog.com.

3. Look for books like CSS3: Visual QuickStart Guide.

Step 4. Learn JavaScript

JavaScript is the first interactive element of a website and Web developers should be comfortable in JavaScript before they learn any other languages. Once you understand how JavaScript connects with your website, then you can use it to extend applications and create Ajax websites.

1. Check out JavaScript: The Definitive Guide.

2. Follow javascript websites like thejavascriptblog.com or dzone.com,

3. Join discussion groups like Google Javascript Group.

Step 5. Learn PHP and MySQL

Web designers don’t need to learn a programming language but I think this is a plus. PHP is a powerful back end content management tool for pre-processing your HTML to create dynamic, database driven Web pages. Learning how to build and maintain a database is essential to most Web applications. MySQL is the most popular database on the Web, but learning Access or SQL or another database will be helpful.

1. Read books like PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy or MySQL Cookbook

2. Follow php.net, planet.mysql.com and other sites like procata.com.

3. Find some good cheatsheets and put them in sight because you will use them a lot.

Web Designers may or may not have advanced degrees. A degree in Computer Science or a marketing related degree (Business Administration or E-Commerce) is most common. Many website designers are self-taught, starting on their own and learning design skills and design languages as they develop pages but there are also formal trainings like internships or small consulting projects were you can complete to get practical experience will help enormously when it comes time to land your first full time job.

Most companies will hire a Web Designer based on their portfolio, so it is important to get some real world experience to showcase. These can be small, personal projects, volunteer projects for a school or community group, or projects someone paid you to complete.

Bogdan

Bogdan is the founder of Top Design Magazine. You can find him in Bucharest-Romania so next time you want to drink a beer there and talk about web and stuff, give him a message.

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