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How to choose a web design course

Maximize Learning While Keeping the Convenience

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web design is one of those industries where you need continuous training or you fall out of the competition. Remember HTML pages from the 1990s? They looked nothing like what is designed today. Web design is like fashion in a sense: designs trend depending on current language preferences, UI tricks, and user behaviours. Years ago, the trend was the use of small fonts, but today designers use much larger fonts to cater to the increasing use of mobile devices. So, how do web designers keep up? The answer is either trial and error in the field or taking web design courses. If you don’t want to disappoint customers through the trial and error path, it’s best to keep up-to-date with web design classes that teach the latest in programming and UI techniques.

 

web design skills are like fashion

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Online Course or Onsite Class?

Once you’ve decided on a class, you have to choose between an online course or going local. There are numerous online courses to choose from, but you miss out on some key elements when you just watch videos. With onsite classes, you get more dedicated learning and meet people in your field. Whether you’re a designer or a marketing person, local classes give you the opportunity to do what everyone should do in their careers: network. As a matter of fact, networking has good potential to let you grow in your field and even find opportunities you wouldn’t find normally.

That isn’t to say that online classes don’t have their advantages. Usually, the class costs are lower and you can take a class in your pyjamas. However, these classes are mainly created for kids and not professionals. Most online courses are thrown together by someone who just knows the languages. Knowing design and knowing how to teach design are two different skills, and better teachers result in better web designers. While online courses have their perks, you just don’t get the personalised, professional learning environment like an onsite course gives you, which maximises your course investment.

How Long Should My Course Take?

The next question is whether you should take a course “boot camp” style or use university length coursework. This decision is mainly a factor based on the student. Some people retain information quickly and without any kind of repetition. You also get more information at a rapid pace with boot camp style courses.

Boot camp style classes take about 5 days. These classes are beneficial if you already know design and just need to freshen up your skills. In other words, you already know the ins and outs of design, but you’re unfamiliar with the tools and trends. Web design boot camps are perfect for these types of professional and let’s face it -- we can all use a refresher course at some point in our careers, especially careers that involve technology and the Internet.

If you want a refresher course, you can get a quick overview within a few days. However, if you’re completely new to the industry, it might be best to mix some boot camp courses with some onsite, longer courses. You’ll need to know so much when you first start out that a 5-day boot camp might be too much information all at once.

That Brings Us to Languages You Should Learn….

What if you’re new and have no idea where to start? What languages do you use? Should you use tools or become a die-hard coder who uses Notepad and HTML? There are two main paths in the coding world: closed source Microsoft languages or open source. Open source is usually Linux based programming and PHP, but there are other common languages popping up as a PHP competitor such as Ruby on Rails and Python. If you go the Microsoft route, get ready for C# or VB.NET. These are the backend coding languages you need to learn, but there are some languages you’ll have to learn regardless of your closed source or open source choice.

Web design bases its styles on two languages: CSS (cascading style sheets) and JavaScript. You won’t be able to avoid these two languages no matter how much you dislike them. You could argue that if you really dislike CSS, you should choose something else for your coding path. A designer takes layouts from programs such as Photoshop and turns them into the user friendly pages you see on the screen. It used to be that you could limp along with only CSS and HTML knowledge, but JavaScript and its associated libraries are now a mainstay. Ajax and jQuery, for example, are two libraries that let you make faster UIs. KnockoutJs and AngularJs are another two upcoming libraries. JavaScript along with HTML5 and CSS3 media queries are the foundations for mobile development, and you will need to know how to convert a desktop web application to a mobile-friendly one. Mobile traffic has increased exponentially through the last few years, so it should be a part of your coding arsenal. If you don’t have it now, you’ll need it later, guaranteed.


Web coding logos

 

Most designers know at least a little bit of backend language coding. PHP is a part of the WordPress framework, so it’s a go-to for most designers. Microsoft .NET C# and VB.Net languages are also an option, but remember that you’ll need object-oriented language skills to learn these two languages. Object-oriented languages are a bit more difficult than standard linear languages. It might be better to look for an web design course for PHP first and then move on to other languages. PHP does offer an object-oriented design, but it also stays linear in some applications. In other words, you have a choice in PHP as opposed to pure object-oriented languages such as C#.

What about Tools? There Are So Many To Choose From.

Most designers and coders have a list of tools they prefer. It’s better to learn the raw languages such as HTML encoding and basic JavaScript before relying on tools, but tools do make your life easier and speed up the development process. Visual tools such as Dreamweaver are used by some designers to lay out pages. Dreamweaver auto-creates much of the code you upload to your web servers. The one issue with this is that you don’t know what the code is doing, and it makes it more difficult to troubleshoot if you have a problem. This is why it’s better to learn how to code CSS, HTML and any other language and then implement tools when you’re comfortable with the language.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to learn Dreamweaver, though. You’ll run into the tool often in the design industry. If you go the Microsoft route, you’ll want to pick up a free copy of Visual Studio Express and start practicing. The Adobe suite of tools is also a part of almost every web design shop, but it’s a more expensive option especially for a beginner. If you’ve got some extra cash, we definitely recommend buying an Adobe license.

How about a Basic Introduction? What Do I Absolutely Need?

A simple search engine query shows a myriad of options for beginner designers. Let’s cut down your options to the very necessities. HTML5 and CSS3 are must-haves. When you look for a course, don’t go for any courses that don’t at least have these two languages. HTML5 is the latest in HTML markup that includes video, audio, and canvas elements. These elements aren’t included in older HTML frameworks, so it’s best to take a course that uses the latest in markup technology. The same goes for CSS3. CSS3 has media queries for mobile development such as responsive design. If you take courses with older CSS frameworks, you won’t learn mobile app development, which puts you at a huge disadvantage and behind the times.

More advanced users can work with a little more information from a course. You could also incorporate JavaScript with the two other frameworks (HTML5 and CSS3). JavaScript takes some coding knowledge, and most classes use Ajax, jQuery or one of the UI languages such as KnockoutJs or AngularJs when working with front-end design. Incorporating JavaScript can make it confusing for the beginner designer, but anyone who has a grasp on basic coding languages might appreciate it taught with the other designer techniques.

If you’re responsible for a site’s marketing, you might want to include SEO (search engine optimisation) into your class. SEO is about proper coding markup that lets search engine bots read and digest web pages. Bad code makes it difficult for browsers and bots to parse your HTML, which hurts your ranking.

Some miscellaneous subjects you can use to target specific customers: learn ecommerce marketing and design, ad placement and user engagement topics, and a little bit of server response code knowledge won’t hurt. These are more miscellaneous than necessities, but they will strengthen your overall knowledge of how the web works and working with UI engagement.

You can choose from numerous topics when you work with web design, but the right web design course will improve your knowledge quickly without bogging you down with technical jargon.

 

Jennifer Marsh
Technical Writer and Software Engineer.

 


 

 

If you’ve got any questions please use the comments section below or hit us up on Twitter/Google+/Facebook.

Also if you want to learn more about HTML & CSS join me for one of my classes here at Bring Your Own Laptop.

 

 

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