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Web Design Fundamentals is a survey of Web design and development techniques and technologies, fundamental concepts, terms, and best practices involved in professional web design. Instructor James Williamson examines popular web development tools, server-side software solutions, content management solutions, and cloud-based software, providing a high-level overview of the world of Web publishing.
In the mid 1990s when I first started designing websites, I lamented the fact that I had to learn HTML. I was a graphic designer and learning a markup language was not at the top of my list of things I wanted to do. I still hear the same type of apprehension in a lot of my students today. For many new web designers, the technical requirements seem daunting and many don't see the need to learn so many different technical skills. So for those of you that find yourself in that mindset, I wanted to give you both the good and the bad news as you start your journey into web design.
So, what's the good news? Well, the good news is it isn't that hard, especially if you take what I call the multidiscipline approach to learning web design. This approach recommends that you start with your core skill set. If you're a graphic designer, start by being responsible for the visual design of the page. If your background is in project management or organization, oversee the information design of the site. If you're a programmer, learn the web development platform of your choice and build the back-end of your site. Have friends, contractors, freelancers or even hire an agency to assist you with the rest of the site's functionality.
Just don't stop there. With every new project, challenge yourself to take over one more aspect of your site's functionality or create personal projects that allow you to tinker and experiment with new areas of web design. The end result of this approach is that you'll find yourself handling more tasks quicker than you thought possible. You'll have a broader skill set and you'll have a better idea of which area of web design interests you the most. There is, however, a more important reason to take this approach, and that would be the current direction that building websites is taking.
Let me illustrate that by breaking down a sample webpage and the various elements that make up its content. Web pages are now truly compound documents, with content, structure, presentation, functionality, and media often coming from totally different sources. As I mentioned earlier, when I first started designing websites, everything that the browser needed to render the page was found directly in the HTML itself. Image tags pointed to external image files, but that was about the extent of any compound documents.
Compare that to the mockup that I'm displaying here. Like most documents, this webpage starts off simply as raw text. The HTML document provides structure and tags the basic document markup. External CSS files give the page its presentation and control typography and layout. The video is an external FLV file that's played through an embedded Flash player.
This creates a modular approach to web design that makes it easy to update, maintain, swap out or even eliminate one area of your site without needing to edit other areas. It also makes it easier to degrade content for user agents that lack the full capabilities that the page has to offer. The user might not see or experience the page as you designed it, but they will still be able to access your content, and that is the most important part. By taking a multidiscipline approach to web design, you'll be able to handle such complex structures and still have your design aesthetic and sight focus be clearly represented.
You'll also understand when you need to bring in outside help for site functionality and be able to work closely with those team members to ensure the proper result. Almost all web designers focus on one discipline or another. It's just human nature. However, by dedicating yourself to learning as much of the wide spectrum of web design as possible, you will ensure that you retain control over the entire creative process and stay current with the ever changing nature of web design.
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