Tips for Teaching Yourself Web Design

Designing your own website can be a way to share your passion with the world, but it can also be a marketable skill. The advantage to learning web design is that you don’t need an expensive degree or many years of training. All the tools you need to learn web design are available for free online!

The basics
With a large website-building company, different tasks will be divided and assigned to different team members. A graphics designer will create a logo and design pictures, images, and color schemes. A web designer will create a mockup of the site, paying attention to formatting, placement, and aesthetics. A programmer will then create the site using web programming languages.

For a solopreneur or a hobbyist, these functions will usually be undertaken by a single individual. If there’s a little money in the budget, a logo design may be outsourced to a freelancer on a site like Fiverr or Odesk. Colors can be taken from the logo to use on the site. For most people, the biggest challenge will be using programming languages.

All those acronyms!
Scanning the resume of a web designer can be confusing, as it is often written almost entirely in acronyms! These acronyms are usually names of specific programming languages or platforms. Some of the most common that a new web designer will encounter are:

  • HTML: Hypertext Markup Language. This is the most basic language of the Internet. It changes and updates over time, and most current websites use HTML5 or XHTML.
  • CSS: Cascading Style Sheets. This is used to define styles and formatting for a website.
  • PHP: Now stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. PHP is a language that communicates with a database to send or retrieve information. It’s essential when designing with a CMS.
  • JavaScript: JavaScript is the most common programming language in the world. It’s used to create dynamic changes to HTML.
  • CMS: Content Management System. This is a pre-designed system that allows easy updates. CMS is designed to be easy to install and use, and there are a variety of free and commercial CMS platforms that can be altered and updated in many ways. These include WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Ruby on Rails, and many other platforms.

Learn in the right order
If you’re brand new to web design, the most important language to learn is HTML. Once you’ve mastered HTML, you can move on to CSS, PHP, and JavaScript, in that order.

Working with a CMS allows you to create a website before you’ve fully mastered these programming languages. You can find free CMS platforms, templates, themes, and plugins on the Internet. Learning your programming languages allows you to customize a CMS to meet your unique requirements, but if you’re the type of person who wants to get started immediately, a CMS can help to reduce your learning curve.

Getting help
One of the first things a web designer learns is that everyone needs tech support sometimes! If you’re using a CMS, you can generally find help on forums associated with that CMS. You may find tech support tips in a wiki that was designed for the CMS or for the themes or plugins you’re using. Difficulty with your web server can usually be handled through email or live chat.

With modern programming languages, an abundance of free education on the Internet, and user-friendly CMS platforms, even a novice can create a beautiful website in a short amount of time. Web design can be a useful skill, but it can also be a fun hobby!

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