This week, I want to discuss how I learned about web design and what resources I use to improve my skills.
What Is Web Design?
“Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave” – Frederick Douglas
Web design “encompasses many different skills and disciplines in the production and maintenance of websites. The different areas of web design include web graphic design; interface design; authoring, including standardized code and proprietary software; user experience design; and search engine optimization” (Wikipedia).
For more than five years, I’ve worked continuously as a web designer who designs and builds websites. I’ve worked as a content writer and a search engine optimizer (SEO) for the sites I’ve managed.
Despite my history as a web designer, I graduated from college with an English degree. I worked in food and managed diners and restaurants. When I wanted a change of scenery, I began teaching myself web design. I networked while improving my skills until I landed my first full-time job.
Today, I want to give a rundown as to how I started, what habits I maintained, and how I continue to grow as a web designer.
Why Should You Learn Web Design?
Before we start, let’s cover why you should learn web design. There are three main reasons:
- Everyone needs a website – If you’re looking for a new career to join or wish to make some side money, you can earn a good living in web design. Why? Because everyone needs a website, and the industry isn’t shrinking anytime soon.
- You’ll be self-sufficient – If you know how to build even a basic website, you can fulfill your online needs. If you own a small diner or want to start a blog, you can save yourself thousands of dollars by being able to create a functional website yourself.
- It’s fun – If you have the time and want to get into a hobby, web design can provide excitement and engagement.
How To Learn Web Design
I learned web design through consistent studying, meaningful engagement, and fruitful practice. Additionally, I narrowed in on developing better behaviors in my personal life, so my professional life could flourish.
Therefore, here are the six things I did to learn web design:
- I started with free resources – Don’t sink money into learning a skill until you’ve reached a ceiling and proven you are passionate.
- I created practice projects – Every time I learned something new, I would apply my knowledge to a new project. Furthermore, I would always find something I couldn’t create and figure out how to do it.
- I rinsed and repeated – I looked over old projects and tried to see what I could improve and where.
- I focused on foundational knowledge – Memorizing every little thing isn’t productive. It’s best to understand what is integral and use the fundamentals as the foundation to build your skills.
- I mastered the basics then looked toward paid classes – Paid classes are great when you need more situational knowledge as well as projects you can learn from.
- I networked and displayed my work – Networking and showing your portfolio can help you earn more clients or gain employment. Additionally, being more involved with the web community can lead to more feedback and engagement.
1. Always start with free resources
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The internet gives you access to all of humanity’s collected knowledge. You can learn most things without having to spend more than a few dollars. To start mastering web design, all you need is effort.
How do you know what a useful resource is? A helpful resource teaches and inspires you. Furthermore, the material is not dry or too tricky. You’ll lose hope if the content is far beyond your current skill level.
Lastly, find resources where people teach the fundamentals. Avoid flashy tricks that sew bad behaviors. Always zero in on practical advice you can use to create complex projects.
- The best resources for learning web are as follows:
- W3Schools – This site is free, and where I first started my web design lessons.
- WordPress – WordPress is the world’s best CMS. The documentation site contains many elements, lessons, and explanations about the components of WordPress.
- Cats Who Code – There is technical as well as self-improvement information to help you grow as a developer.
- David Walsh – A staple in the community, David’s info has a learning curve. However, he offers incredible techniques and advice you can utilize as you grow as a developer.
- Stack Overflow – If you don’t know something, someone here has the answer.
2. Create practice projects with everything you learn
Furthermore, I would set a goal and try to reach it. For example, I wanted to build a webcomic, so I learned about WordPress, PHP, and HTML. By having a clear goal in mind, I gathered what I needed to learn to fulfill my goal.
Lastly, I urge you to remember you don’t have to learn everything. Personally, I’m not the best at design. I have a good understanding of what makes a pretty website pretty, but creating an attractive website is not my strong suit. Thus, I focus more on development, content writing, and SEO.
3. Rinse and repeat
Having practice projects and free sites to learn from will help with the next step. Rinsing and repeating means going over the knowledge you have accumulated.
Firstly, you’ll want to look over the lessons you’ve mastered in the past. A mere five to ten minutes of daily scanning and studying will do the trick. Next, revisiting the projects you’ve already created is a crucial step. You should aim to improve them as well as review them. Make improvements, minimize mistakes, and enhance the look of what you’ve created.
For example, I’ve made changes to my portfolio website over the years. The slow changes and upgrades have helped me overcome bad habits and instill good ones. Such constant study is necessary for achieving mastery.
4. Understand you need executable knowledge, not book knowledge
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
Once you’ve mastered studying, creating, and practicing, you have to start shifting your mindset. When learning web design, it’s easy to want to memorize everything. The smarter path is to focus on mastering foundational information. Foundational knowledge includes learning about optimization rules and the structure of specific formulas.
For example, learning !DOCTYPE is a good thing. However, this knowledge is not a necessity. Why? Because by the time you’re working as a professional, you won’t want or need to write !DOCTYPE every time you work on a website. Either it will be done for you, or you can safely copy the skeleton code from a previous project.
However, you should know most HTML elements need an opening and closing tag except for a few exceptions. Knowing this foundational knowledge will help prevent you from breaking a site in the future.
Lastly, all developers utilize Google search and Stack Overflow to find answers to gaps in their knowledge. If you can’t remember something right away, then Google it, and you’re more than likely to find the answer. However, if your code is breaking because you didn’t close a tag or format a formula correctly, then no one can help you but yourself.
5. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can look at paid classes
You never want to start with paid classes. The primary reason is to avoid paying to learn a subject you lack discipline in learning. By learning about web design through free resources, you solidify your persistence and fortitude. Furthermore, after absorbing as much as you can, you prove you have the discipline and zeal to learn.
Therefore, you should sign for premium classes when you’ve reached a threshold in the free courses available. Premium course can offer complex examples, a community to engage with, and shortcuts you haven’t mastered.
In conclusion, don’t jump straight into premium courses. Take your time and learn what you can without spending money. Once you’ve got the habits down, you should consider premium classes to deepen your knowledge.
6. Network and display your work as often as you can
Lastly, I took my skills to the next level by seeking gainful employment as a web designer. I networked and developed my portfolio.
In terms of networking, I landed my first job by asking a local marketing company if they needed help. I would pester the web developers from the company whenever they came into the diner I worked. They started me as an intern, and I worked hard before being hired full-time.
With my portfolio, I update my site once a year. I apply the skills I learn and ensure I featured my latest works. Improving my portfolio helped me with three things:
- I increased my chances to find freelance jobs and other companies to work for
- I remained inspired to develop my skill
- Consistent updates to my portfolio site allowed me to track my progress
There are many benefits to networking and working on your portfolio if you want to grow your career. Even if you don’t want to build your career, creating a portfolio site can help you remain motivated.
Becoming a Web Designer is a Rewarding and Enriching Experience
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
I want to conclude by highlighting my learning flow for web development:
Lastly, I want to highlight a few things you should keep in mind:
- You can’t know everything, but foundational knowledge is crucial – For example, my expertise with PHP is WordPress. However, I know enough about the fundamentals of PHP that I can understand native PHP as well.
- Study every day – Find at least 15 minutes to cover improvements you’ve made as well as fundamentals you’ve learned. However, the bulk of your time should be focused on growing and stretching yourself.
- Learn as much as you need and want to – Admittedly, over the years, I’ve shifted towards SEO and content writing. I’m still passionate about web development, but I have no interest in making websites pretty. Therefore, I focus on what I love, learn what I need, and discard the rest.
Web design is an excellent skill to learn. Start with free resources to build your habits before increasing your skills. One day, you’ll be able to create whatever you want.
- If you are looking for paid courses, Codecademy and Udemy are the best resources I’ve come across.
- Have you ever wanted to learn web design? Why or why not?
- What is one skill you’d love to master? Why this skill in particular? What is involved in mastering the said skill?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.