Miscellaneous: advice for newbies?

started by Joe Gillespie on Mar 26, 2004 — RSS Feed

Rogerj Rogerj
Posts: 3

Hi
I am just getting started pursuing webdesign as a seriuos part of my computer service and support business and am looking for experienced web designers to help point me in the right direction as far as finding good online resources, any recommended books, mac or pc , etc. I have done a few sites in Front Page, but I realize that to do this professionally that is definitely not the way to go. So I have been trying to ski Dreamweavers learning curve as best I can but I think I am at the point I need help from the elders.

Thanks

Mpj Mpj
Posts: 76

Hi juststartingout.

One piece of advice: learn to do things the "right" way from the start. It will save you loads of headaches later one. By the "right" way I mean learn good xhtml and css. This is the way of the future for web design.

For good online resources I reckon one of the best places to start is right here at wpdfd. Joe has put together a pretty extensive resource section that helped me alot when I was starting. Some of the info is dated now because webdesign moves so fast. Check out the wpdfd editorials to get an idea of what is the most relevant.

As for books, I like the Glasshaus series for technical subjects http://www.glasshaus.com. For the design side of webdesign I found "Son of Web Pages that Suck" http://www.sybex.com really useful for learning the common mistakes in webdesign. "MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer" www.newriders.com is also a great book. All of them are (or were) available from Amazon.

Good luck

Mpj Mpj
Posts: 76

RE The links to publishers in the above message:

Apress, who bought Glasshaus last year now have no mention of the Glasshaus range on their site.

New Riders appear to have been bought out too. You can check out www.hillmancurtis.com for details of MTIV or go straight to Amazon.com

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

One piece of advice: learn to do things the "right" way from the start. It will save you loads of headaches later one. By the "right" way I mean learn good xhtml and css. This is the way of the future for web design.


I second that! Learning Dreamweaver is actually more difficult than learning 'Web design' properly.

Look at it this way, if you want to learn to play piano, it's a bad idea to get a synthesiser with dozens of knobs and buttons. It may be gratifying to push a button and have a 'demo' tune played to you or hit another button and get an instant backing band - but it sure as hell isn't going to help you learn to play the keyboard.

Whether you learn to play from music or by ear, a plain and simple piano is the best starting point.

Learn (X)HTML and CSS first, then you can use Dreamweaver as an editor afterwards - except you might find that it still hampers you more than it helps.

Rogerj Rogerj
Posts: 3

Thanks guys....now my next question..(one of many future ones if you don't mind lol)

I assume by "learn it the right way first" you guys are talking about.... uggh...hand coding sites?

I have  played around with it  in the past , bought the HTML 4 for Dummies book etc. but it kind of makes my head spin after a few pages. I guess I have more of a Designers mindset because I can arrange and rearrange pages in a wysiwyg editor endlessly, but am easily lost in the code part. So any recommendations to get over that hump?

The pages I have tried to hand code btw look so 1995 if you know what I mean.  And you dont really have the luxury of layers and absolute position like you do in DW and FP when handcoding do you?-and what about plug-ins etc....

I have tried to work my way through the html tutes on W3 but can't seem to find that magic key that will let me put it all together.
I am open to all suggestions because I enjoy web design a lot more than the repair of pc's (which is kind of unfortunate since that is what my shop is known for) ...hoping to evolve it a little though...

Thanks for the advice and I am glad I found a forum that actually replies to my posts lol.

Roger

Mpj Mpj
Posts: 76

And you dont really have the luxury of layers and absolute position like you do in DW and FP when handcoding do you


Dreamweaver and all other wysiwyg editors provide a visual environment for creating (x)html code and also css to varying degrees. Ergo anything that Dreamweaver et al can do, you can do too by handcoding.

The problem with wysiwyg editors is that none of them write clean code. A simple example is that Dreamweaver writes the information to position layers in each page that you create. If you know how to handcode, you can create one css file that will define the position of every layer in your entire site. Very powerful and efficiient!

If you want to use a wysiwyg editor go ahead but I remember reading somewhere in this forum that even Macromedia say Dreamweaver is a tool to aid website design not a substitute for learning (x)html. Sooner or later you'll find yourself delving into the code to sort out those little problems that you find in your sites.

You may wan to try some of the simpler editors. I love using Webdesign by Rage Software (can't remember the url but you'll find it in Google...) It has a half graphical interface that creates code before your eyes. It's only available for Mac OS and does not always write clean code but at last you see what's going on. Other good news it that there is a free trial and it is about 15 times cheaper than Dreamweaver.

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

Rodger, have a look at my series of articles CSS From the Ground Up which makes it very easy to understand HTML and CSS. There are six easy lessons so far and another three due this week.

The big problem with what you are trying to do is that you are 'styling' your pages, only concerned with what they look like, but you can't separate 'styling' and 'design'. 'Design' is about making something fit for a purpose. The 'design' of a building makes sure that it stays up, the 'design' of a car makes sure that it runs. 'Styling' is added onto 'design', usually for marketing reasons.

When you do it the other way round, style something and then try to make it work, you are usually compromising the design and it won't work as well as it could. If you try to style a building without any knowledge of building constructions, you will probably fail. If you try to style a car with no knowledge of engineering, you will have a disaster on your hands. Why should Web pages be any different?

WYSIWYG editors like Dreamweaver will let you build a page without the 'building construction' or 'engineering' knowledge and they will just as happily build you a bad page as a good one, they don't care. It is down to the person using the tool to make it 'bad' or 'good'. If you don't even know the rules, how can you begin to make the correct decisions?

To put things in perspective, think of Dreamweaver as a building labourer or car mechanic - useful, yes, but YOU are the architect or design engineer and you have to do your job first and foremost and then be able to quality control what the labourer or car mechanic do afterwards.

Paulhboyce Paulhboyce
Posts: 1

With a few exceptions, most books from Glasshaus are almost incomprehensible and suitable only for the real masochists amongst us webbies......... computer-manuals.co.uk were selling off Glasshaus titles cheap last year and may still have some left.

Best advice for a newcomer,  find a good FE College offering a web design course and get stuck in. There are plenty of good tutors out there, and this way of learning is the most supportive and cost effective.

Jjv5 Jjv5
Posts: 1

I found the Css Zen Garden site  http://www.csszengarden.com extremely helpful in understanding what xhtml and css are and can do. They give a very simply xhtml file and a sample css file. They are easy to read and understand. You can easily edit them by hand and see the changes. There are many sample designs done by designers who were only allowed to change the css, not the html. Amazing stuff.

Baxter Baxter
Posts: 157

Roger, if you're doing things the right way, your code should look about like 1995, with all those stupid font tags removed. You will be able to look at it and pretty much instantly see what things are and what they do. The css does the heavy lifting.

Forget html 4.Most every resource I've found for html 4 or earlier is absolutely riddled with Very Bad Advice.  Find a book or something that specifically dealing with xhtml. It's not any harder, and the author won't waste your time telling you how to nest tables and crap.

Rogerj Rogerj
Posts: 3

Well I invested in a couple of books. Interested in hearing what you guys think about them. Just started power reading them, one in the morning and one in the evening.
They are SAMs Teach yourself HTML&XHTML with CSS in 24 hours and Elisabeth Castros Visual Quickstart guide HTML for the WWW with XHTML and CSS. I also checked out teh Zen site...very impressive designs on that one. A bit out of my league at the moment I am afraid. But it certainly shows me where I can go if I keep at it.

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

SAMS '24 Hours' series is pretty good, as long as you don't think you are going to be an expert this time tomorrow. It's twenty four one hour lessons that need a lot longer than that to assimilate.

You are spoiled for choice with web design books, there are so many but they date quite quickly. I find Amazon's reviews quite helpful. At least it keeps you away from the bad ones.

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

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Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

Along with the principles of free speech comes the responsibilities of free speech. You are what you say!

Stan Stan
Posts: 44

paulhboyce said:
Best advice for a newcomer,  find a good FE College offering a web design course and get stuck in. There are plenty of good tutors out there, and this way of learning is the most supportive and cost effective.
What's an "FE" college? Anyway, I wish I could suggest a college course, but the field is so new there are a lot of bad ones out there. I know, I took one and I know others who took bad or misleading courses. I'm sure there are lots of good ones, but I don't know how you could tell unless you already knew the subject. Then, of course you wouldn't need a course in it.

You'll be a lot better off knowing at least a little XHTML and CSS. Then you can fix things when Dreamweaver or whatever you use screws up.

Please don't use FrontPage. It's evil.

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