I've received quite a few emails over the years TJN has been up and running (and while it was known as Dragonrain before that), asking good questions about how to get a start on graphic or webdesign, what books to buy, what classes to take...etc. This post is here to address that without having to repeat myself overmuch x). I hope this will prove useful to any would-be designers out there.
You just knew this was coming didn't you? As with most successful undertakings in our lifetime, the greatest achievements are almost always the result of a good, solid plan. Even if you don't have everything figured out yet, starting one is a good start (no pun intended).Some things to think about:
This should get you started quite nicely. Next is to think about the materials and tools you'll need.
If you're starting where I started, which would be about 99% of you, you're probably on a budget and would prefer the free route to success (we all love FREE right?). Well I've got good news for you: the internet provides a wealth of information free of charge, so why not take advantage of this resource over those $20-$80 How-To books, or business-minded college crash courses falling in the even pricier $100+ range?
All free, all with fantastic tutorials from basic to lukewarm to advanced. And if all else fails, Google has made itself a big name in the market for finding the answers to most logical search queries ;).
Truly. Whereas before I mentioned bookstores as pricey, there's no law saying you can't go in and take a look! Check out the magazine section, especially the design and photography books for inspiration; check out different mediums like architecture, engineering...even cookbooks from Barnes & Noble or the local library. Almost everything had to be designed in some way, and it's those ideas that you can put in your pocket for future references.Some fantastic resources for inspiration:
Next up would be all those technical questions about webhosting, software, and any other go-go gadgets of the digital age. I'll start with the myths:
No, you don't. This is a very common misconception. Building a website is just like writing an essay: you can type the thing in Word, or you can write the thing on good old-fashioned pencil and paper. The tools don't determine the quality of your writing.
You could build an entire website from scratch in Notepad if you wanted to.
However, most people don't use Notepad for a few reasons: it's harder to read, and harder to organize your files (going back to my analogy, I'd rather type my essay in Word and save a few trees and Pink Curl Erasers). Programs like Dreamweaver, Frontpage, Espresso, and the other millions of software packages out there that cost a good amount of money are not required, but they are definitely luxury goods.
Myself? I use Dreamweaver which does cost some $$, but only because I work and have the cash to spend on it.
However, I could get a very similar level of satisfaction with my next (and free) favorite: Notepad++.
Some fantastic free webdesign software alternatives:
I glanced briefly on this in my intro, but just to elaborate: You don't need to buy them. We're in the age of the internet - which is free.
Using the right key terms, you can simply google for the tutorial you need. Even if you don't know the exact name of the function or tag, you can usually get a good lead by searching for the resulting effect or output you're looking for. For instance, if I didn't know any CSS terms, but wanted to find out how to make a non-repeating background in CSS, I might type in:
"no repeating background css" in google.
Read the previous section for my recommendations.
I'm a die-hard Photoshop fan. But it's also an expensive choice. There are free options out there:
This allows you to actually save those files online (official term is "upload"). Again, like the editing software, there are pricey options and there are free options. My recommendations are all free:
This is where you "upload" your web files. Think of it as an external hard drive placed in a far away land, connected to you via the internet. More on this later.
This is where you register (and pay for, usually yearly) your domain name. More on this later.
The total cost of all these tools? Could be $0 or $100+. It's up to you - and you can achieve almost the same results on any of those budgets.
Once you've got that Plan set up, a clear idea of what your site will be about and how you'll go about doing it, the tools, and the time and the will to go over all those coding tutorials, you're on your way to making a nice, decent website. I hope this has been helpful, and good luck :).
Tammy @ Saturday, March 19, 2011 -- 7:24 pmThis is a nice starter guide indeed.
Not going to lie, I have been mega lazy on the designing front, and found myself dedicating less and less time doing so.
I guess I'm the oddball that still uses notepad. Even during the earlier days, I've always used it b/c I liked its simplicity. One of these days, I'm sure I'll try notepad ++ once I actually design my own again. It doesn't help that I'm currently using wordpress and sparing myself of making a layout.
GoldenApe @ Thursday, March 10, 2011 -- 10:25 amSolid starters guide, well explained. Still one of my favorite webdesign tools is Firebug (for Firefox). It's great for spotting flaws in your code and trying out some solutions, all with a real-time preview. It's also an awesome tool for learning CSS, because you can just run the tool on any site and mess around with the code, just to see what certain things do, without breaking the entire site.
Gideon @ Tuesday, March 8, 2011 -- 12:56 pmNotepad++! I love it. I used it to replace Notepad as my default. I remember using Dreamweaver. I find the writing it out by hand therapeutic though, so I never felt the need to go back. I'm also someone to write a paper out by hand before typing though, so . . .
And might I suggest FireFTP for Firefox users?
I had not considered FireFTP. Will add that in, thanks.
I remember printing out the code to an entire website once. (I promise, it was only the 'once').
That said, writing code out by hand is really hardcore!