6 Steps to Becoming a Web Designer (Part 1)

Posted by in Basics, Tips, Web Design | 10 comments

6 Steps to Becoming a Web Designer (Part 1)

If you have thought about becoming a web designer or are in the process of learning then you probably know that you need to learn HTML and, hopefully, you know that you need to learn CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).  One of the big advantages to web design is that you can learn by doing.  You don’t have to get a degree or pass some certification courses before you start doing web design.  In fact you can put up your own website without having to learn one bit of HTML or CSS.  I’m not sure that this makes you a web designer, but it is a start.

The method that I purpose to get started involves learning as you do it, and possibly making money as you learn.  That’s right, $cha-ching$!

1. Start by learning the web design basics:

Go through the basic HTML tutorials at the W3 Schools website here: http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_intro.asp and then go through the basic CSS tutorials here: http://www.w3schools.com/css/css_intro.asp.  These will give you a very good understanding of content and layout factors for the rest of the following steps.

You will also need to understand how to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol).  FTP is how you upload the files you create for your site from your computer to the server that will host your site.

Unless you want to adopt a minimalistic mid 1990’s retro style where no one had the bandwidth to put images on their website, you need some graphics and images.  Start going through one to three of these tutorials each day: http://psd.tutsplus.com/tag/basix/, of course you will need Adobe Photoshop for these.  There is no need to have the latest cutting edge software if you are just starting out.  I recommend either purchasing an older version on eBay for a much cheaper price, or you can go with the less expensive Adobe Elements, or the free open source software GIMP, http://www.gimp.org/. (You can also try GIMPshop which closely resembles Photoshop and uses the same layout and names.  Many Photoshop tutorials will work with GIMPshop  as well.)

2. Create your own website

Start using the tools and knowledge above to create your own site.  Don’t finish step one before starting your site.  You will learn better if you practice everything you are learning above as you create your own site.  They say necessity is the mother of invention, and it is the mother of learning as well.

For this you will need a domain and a server to host it on.  No you will not create your own server and stick it in your basement or garage.  For this see “The 4 Things You Will Need to Create Your Website” and then “How to Choose The Right Domain.”

While creating your own site make sure you look at other websites to get ideas.  This will not be the final version of your site.  Most designers go through several drafts at the beginning as their skills rapidly grow and they want to try new things or get quickly tired of their old site.

 Part 2 of How to Become a Web Designer >>

This is the first of a 3 part series. In the next 2 parts I will talk about announcing yourself to the world, developing your portfolio, marketing yourself and targeting your clientele.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Your comment “I’m not sure that this makes you a web designer” is IMHO an odd comment coming from a web designer? This is the reason why we need to know the underlying language and that comment does not push the need to know that language.

    • Kevin, I appreciate your comment. Your right, I wasn’t very clear about what I meant by that statement, so let me clarify. I just meant that you can go to any number of places like Google Sites or Weebly or WordPress.com and create a website in just a couple of minutes without having any understanding of what you are doing. I am not saying that those things are bad, I just mean that making a website that way doesn’t make you a web designer any more than me installing my own garbage disposal made me a plumber.

      Having said that, it is essential for anyone pursuing a career in web design to learn the very basic building blocks of HTML and CSS, other wise you will always be limited to borrowing from what others have created and never actually creating or contributing yourself. You will also never be able to advance to interactive design elements like Javascript or Flash or web development with PHP, Java, Perl or Python, etc.

  2. Hi Heath,

    Thanks for letting me know on twitter that you’re out there!

  3. I just found your website on Twitter. I love what you have to say here. I’m taking a break from school right now because I threw out my back, but I was in school for a semester and I hated it. Why? Because all they did was take a book and a program and made you learn it. I can do that without a freaking teacher telling me to do that. Also, they just searched the web for cool tools, which people like you already give me access to. It’s ridiculous. And I don’t need all that debt, so I might not go back. But I did keep the books. I learned basic CSS, but have a book here that delves even more into CSS. I’m not at a point right now where I can do high end website. However, I’ve found with the use of WordPress, I can make some fairly nice websites and allow people to edit their own stuff using a limited WordPress CP. In other words, I don’t have to worry about them editing the important stuff like stylesheets, but can still let them add photos or text to a page. It’s pretty cool and if the client has some know-how with the web, it makes them feel like they have more control over their websites without knowing how to code a bunch of stuff. But, I find I really have been under-charging. Most of the people I’ve helped are non-profits so I haven’t charged them very much and I’m also still learning and feel like my “business” isn’t as good as others, so I sell myself short. I honestly don’t even know what to charge people. I have to go read part 2 of this post, but you have some great things to say here. Thanks for the advice 🙂

    • Hi Michelle.

      It truly amazes me that people are making regular-looking sites with WP these days. Kudos!

      You know, just with what you’ve said here, I bet you’re good enough to do some basic sites (at least). It’s just about finding the right market.

      Remember — and this is something that hangs me up, too: We DON’T all have to be exceptional at the latest scripting, or at building the type of super-advanced websites that can chew food for us and walk the dog. We just have to decide what we DO want to focus most on… and knock *that* out of the park. Leave everything else to the experts in it. 😉 Just be the expert in that which *you* decide to excel — and nothing more. It will be enough. 🙂

      I definitely understand not going back to school for it — I honestly wouldn’t either. There is too much debt to be had (as you’ve said), and too much knowledge in the right places available online at a much more reasonable cost (and often free). Though I just found him myself, Heath seems an exceptional resource.

      So keep it up; you’re doing fine!

      -H

    • I totally agree Michelle. I tried several academic courses to ‘formalize’ my knowledge over the years. They’re always five steps behind professional best practices that you learn from reading Web articles by seasoned developers and doing real work.

      Academia hasn’t been able to keep up with the Web since its inception, and googling and playing about is absolutely the best way to learn.

      I recommend W3schools.com and net.tutsplus.com for all the basics. Check http://www.abookapart.com for some great books about standards and best work practices.

  4. I like this article. For beginners i think 30 Days to Learn HTML & CSS by Jeffrey Way is a must watch. It is a Free Tuts+ Premium Course. I have learnt so much from this great course.
    Visit http://learncss.tutsplus.com/ to learn more.

    • Thanks for sharing Tahir, this does look like a great tutorial.

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  1. 6 Steps to Becoming a Web Designer (Part 2) | Web Design Business Builder - [...] of HTML, CSS, FTP, and Photoshop and you should have your own website.  If not, go back and read…
  2. 6 Steps to Becoming a Web Designer (Part 3) | Web Design Business Builder - [...]  Hopefully you have created at least one website for a paying client.  If not please look at part 1 and part…

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