Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video What to learn first, part of Introduction to Web Design and Development.
- To be a successful web designer you need to master a multitude of skills. Doing that, of course, requires you to put time and effort into not only studying the technology, but in learning the theories behind modern web development as well. Don't forget that at some point you'll need to get experience by building things, experimenting, and failing. Honestly, that's how most people learn. I'm sorry to say that there is no make web site button, regardless of which tool you use. The obvious question becomes where do I start? Well, more than anything else that's going to be driven by two things, which area of web design you plan to specialize in, and what your current strengths are.
Which interests you more visual design, user experience, interactive design or mobile development? Are you currently a graphic designer, technical writer, instructional designer or educator? Take some time to think through those choices, and be honest about your current strengths. That more than anything else will give you a roadmap of what you need to focus on first and then where you should go from there. I know you've heard me say this before, but regardless of which area you decide to focus on make sure that one of your first tasks will be to learn HTML and CSS.
These two technologies form the backbone of all websites, and are required skills for any level of web design. Yes, there are tools out there that can generate much of the code for you, but a lot of it is of dubious quality. Besides you might find, just like I did, that hand coding your sites is actually faster once you get comfortable with the languages. As you begin to learn those languages you need to focus on usability, accessibility, and user experience as a way of guiding your design strategies.
All they care about is if it works for them. Place yourself in your user's shoes. Now, all of them not just your typical user, as you learn new techniques think about how you can make their experience better with what you're learning. If it can't, you need to ask yourself if it's a valuable use of your time. Finally, I have some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news is, regardless of how hard you try and how much you learn you will never really learn everything that you think you need to know.
That's actually also the good news. You see, the web is a moving target. I used to be really really good at laying webpages out using HTML based tables. After that I got pretty good at Flash development and writing action script. Well, those are skills that I haven't used in years. The web and the technologies related to it is constantly evolving. That means that your skill sets and focus should be constantly evolving and changing right along with it. By focusing on the user experience and how you can improve it you'll focus your learning without tying yourself to any one technology.
My hope is that you will find that this makes web design an exciting and dynamic field, and a very rewarding one.
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- What is web design?
- What is a web designer?
- Learning to code
- Choosing a web host
- Working with a CMS
- Exploring how websites are structured
- Choosing your framework or software
- Designing with standards and accessibility in mind