So you want to get into web design, HTML and CSS? Maybe you’re a graphic designer, maybe you’re a rocket scientist, or maybe you’re a plumber… whichever way, here are my top 3 guidelines to help you down the road of the webs.
#1: Don’t buy books on web design
Books on technology are the equivalent to the technology they talk about—they’re obsolete the minute you buy them. If you’re going to learn HTML and CSS, you’re not going to get much help in the beginning stages from a book. The best books I’ve found on web design have been more theoretical than anything and that’s just gonna fly right over the beginner’s head. You’re gonna learn a lot more, a lot quicker if you get rid of the notion that a book is going to help you.
That being said, then where do you begin?
For starters, http://www.w3.org/
Read, read, read, and then put that reading into action. The w3c has an awesome amount of up-to-date information to help you begin the web design journey. Not to mention that it’ll be a good reference point for you down the road.
And remember that ‘put into action’ part? They also supply you with some great hands-on tutorials to get you coding and understanding what you’re reading.
I had a friend who was learning web design and whom had asked for pointers to along the way. I remember a distinct occasion where I was reviewing some html for him and came across a “font” tag. At this point, I had trolled across some other portions of his code that were a little sketchy, but I was able to overlook them because he was a beginner—we’ve all been there—but a font tag?!
So I politely asked why he was using that and he said, “That’s what the guy in the video taught me to use.”
[Commence loud, squeaking tire brakes here.] “The guy in the video?”
“Yeah, the guy in the videos that I bought with the book I’ve been learning from.”
“Can I see this book that you have?”
After 15 minutes of reviewing this book (published in 2007) and video (which sadly, but true to form was narrated by a horrible, high-pitched nerdy voice) I put down the book, looked him in the eye, and told him that I’m extremely sorry but everything you have learned up to now (which had been about a week’s worth of effort) is completely useless to learning contemporary web design.
From that moment on I took it into my own hands to show him a few pointers around the web. In one 2-hour teaching block, I had taught him 10 times as much as that video/book combo taught him, not to mention the theory of ‘why’ to go along with the code; which was something Mr. Nerdy-voice never did. Though I would have loved to hear an explanation on why “font” is the best tag to use…
#2: Learn how to search and then do it all the time
Just as I said the web is going to be your teacher, it will also be your mentor through the rest of your career.
The biggest and most influential habit you should get into is: search. Have a question? Type it into google or yahoo or whatever. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ask a buddy if you have some code that’s being whack and you don’t know why. But I’ve seen a lot of web design beginners (and a few experienced ones) forget this golden rule of working on the web and in the end it could save you some time (and maybe some embarrassment, if you’re that type of personality).
#3: Write your own code even if it’s not your own code
Anybody that follows rule #2 will see that there is a cornucopia of codelines out there that you can easily copy and paste into whatever you’re working on. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had people c/p a piece of css into their page and then turn to me and ask why it’s not working.
Learning web design means that you’re gonna have to get your hands dirty with code, and the only why to learn it properly is to write it yourself. If you’re following along with a tutorial, then type it out as you go along. You’ll be able to see how your code is connected, how your html and css are working together, and although it may seem tedious at first, it’s going to be extremely beneficial down the road.
I would like to say that following these first few rules of thumb will make you into a ninja web designer in no time, but that would be lying.
I hold to the oldest teaching mantra: everybody is different. All the great web designers I’ve met have had mucho self-motivation: both as a coder and as a designer. These are some guidelines to get you started, but it’s going to be up to you to make it happen.