Web Graphics programs
You will need some program for producing Web graphics. Web graphics, as mentioned above, are compressed to reduce their size for transmission over the phone lines. There are three types of Web graphics. The GIF file is used for pictures that have large areas of flat colour, such as headlines, buttons and other interface elements. A GIF image can only have a maximum of 256 different colours in it, but to be certain that the picture looks right in all browsers and computers, you have to stick to a maximum of 216 Web-safe colors. The less colors you use, the smaller the file will be.
JPEG files are also compressed, but are more suitable for photographic images as there are no restrictions on the number of colors that you can use. JPEGs use a form of variable compression where the higher the compression (or smaller the file) the worse the image gets. There is a trade-off between image quality and file size. This is called 'lossy' compression and requires that you make a judgement as to how small in file size you can go before the image visibly deteriorates.
The third Web graphic format is called PNG, but it is relatively new and not used very much just yet. There are other new Web graphics formats in the wings, such as SVG, but I won't confuse the issue with these at the moment.
As far is producing Web graphics goes, there are low cost solutions such as PaintShop Pro for PCs and Photoshop 5 LE for Macs and PCs. As you get more demanding in your needs, you will probably want to move up to Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Fireworks for more professional graphics.
One of the most common mistakes beginners make is trying to run before they have learned to walk. There is nothing wrong with having a simple Web page, in fact, it is actually quite difficult to keep it simple. Knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to put in!
This site is aimed specifically at graphic designers, so what difference does being a graphic designer make to someone starting to design Web pages? Well, if your graphic design experience is centred around print, you are in for a big shock. You have to start unlearning most of what you know about graphic design and start all over again. Web pages are not printed pages, they have a whole load of problems of their own - that's the subject of this site in a nutshell.
Some people say, I want to make a career out of Web design, where do I start? I would say that Web design is not a career. It might be at the moment, but in a few years time, general purpose Web designers will be two a penny and only those with exceptional abilities and skills in some specific area will find employment. It's a rolling bandwagon at the moment, every man and his dog is producing Web pages (I won't use the word 'design' in this context). But the ability to put a Web page together is no better than being able to type or put up wallpaper.
It's what you do and how well you do it that counts.