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  1. #1
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    Are courses in web design useful?

    As someone with a day job that isn't totally to do with web design as such, I've been considering doing some evening and weekend distance learning courses with a university (UK) to develop my knowledge and skills in different web design practices and technologies. It's not the qualification I'm interested in per se - more the learning of techniques and developing the ability to apply them.

    Reading up on available courses and the amount of time they take to complete (especially given the pace at which techniques change and go out of date) has made me wonder whether I'd be better investing in a few decent up-to-date books and working through them instead.

    Would be interesting to hear how people got their knowledge in web design.

    Have you done formal training? What course did you study? Was it useful?

    Or are you self-taught? How did you decide what areas to study? What materials did you invest in?

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    The industry moves so rapidly that I would consider it a waste to learn outdated methods at some school. Your time would be better spent in the latest books in my opinion.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Tailslide's Avatar
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    I agree with oddz - generally these courses are not worthwhile. I did a few but stopped when I'd have to re-learn frames to complete a course! I've found books and internet forums plus tutorial sites much more useful.
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  4. #4
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    Courses on the programming side of web things would not go out of date, and learning how to plan and design a program rather than just diving straight in is very worthwhile. And it doesn't matter which langauge you learn, the same program design ideas are still valid. Similarly learning about databases properly would be a big help. But a course on how to build a web site would probably be a bit out of date. A course on the arty side of design would not be web orientated.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    I agree that a course on the more technical side of things such as programming would be a benefit. However, assuming this question is directed at the design side of industry an education is worthless in my opinion. That isn't to say that a design degree would be worthless, but that wouldn't be directly related to web design. If you want something directly related to web design then your better off reading the latest published material. If you would like a deeper understanding of design as a whole to grow as a designer then a design degree may be worthwhile. That isn't to say you can't make a living in the industry without one, but a degree would enable you the ability to explore proven approaches and methods beyond personal aesthetic appeal.

    For me personally, I'm 3 classes away from a Graphic Design BFA, but I have learned all of what I know about the web and programming in general from reading and real world application which has lead to my current position in the industry. The design education helped me get a foot in the door, but beyond that day to day my responsibilities are related to front and back end programming not design. The knowledge that I apply day to day has been a accumulation over the past four years on my down time studying on my own. The design stuff is just a extra cherry on the top – although I actually prefer programming over design. Which is why I fear those last two design classes…

  6. #6
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    I would have to agree that courses on the fundamentals of programming, etc could be very beneficial.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for these comments.

    In an ideal world of unlimited time and finances, it would be great to understand how the different technologies that comprise websites came about and to explore them at university level. I'm sure this would give a very strong grounding.

    In practical terms though, what I need to know on a daily basis is the 'how' more than the 'why'. I'm self-taught to this point - books and internet research (including asking questions and seeking advice from forums like this one) - and I am inclined to carry on like this. It seems to work, even though there are areas like asp, php which I know very little of.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Enthusiast tokyobabydoll's Avatar
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    Learning the technical side of web design from short courses can help with establishing the basics. Anything related to the internet is very fast paced though so you can always learn new things. Experience is the best way to learn.
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  9. #9
    SitePoint Evangelist
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    Most are self taught. But some courses only teach the basics, so don't rely too much on the lectures.Actual application and experience are #1 foundation.

  10. #10
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    I will suggest you to buy one good book and read it very careful and practice and practice!

  11. #11
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    Don't waste your money on a formal education when you can learn on your own with tons of tutorials and resources on the web. A good and up to date book is a definite must. go to some site that you like, save them and just learn what makes their site nice and beautiful. piece of cake. Sometimes I just wonder why I spent so much time and money just to earn a degree. dont think it's worth it if you wanna be a web designer or even programmer.

  12. #12
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    Indeed, I'm a strong advocate of online resources as well, No web design course should be taken,unless your getting some type of degree or certification. Which is ONLY useful for getting into a few job interviews.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Enthusiast Eleven2Brett's Avatar
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    I really like to learn things by grabbing a few online tutorials and just going for it.
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  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard Darren884's Avatar
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    Just buy SitePoint's book and you'll be fine.
    Have a good day.

  15. #15
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    Good question. I'm sure taking a course will get you "something" but probably the best way is to create a site for yourself then submit a review here in sitepoint. Let others criticize and see if you agree or not.

  16. #16
    SitePoint Zealot Rexibit's Avatar
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    It honestly depends on the course. If you are going to a school that doesn't have a strong graphic design or web design program, then taking a course will be largely comprised of basic information you can find on the web.

    If you want to stay current, find some good blogs of people who are on the inivation side of the web design community and read what they are experiencing. Then, purchase a good $30 book and start off. Sitepoint has some of the most current methods I have seen out there. The rest is up for you to experiment with.
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  17. #17
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    I was in a similar situation as yourself, in the UK, Day job, kids, etc.

    I had used lots of online tutorials on web, some good, some bad, but eventually I enrolled on an evening course for a basic dreamweaver course. One night a week, 2.5/3 hour sessions, 12 weeks and about 80.
    I was very lucky that tutor was really good and pace of course was just right. I finished that and did the intermediate course, then advanced course. Then onto Basic Flash course, all really good and learnt a lot.

    Unfortunately then college restructured, lost all their good tutors and changed courses to some imedia thing, course was terrible and I did not learn anything.

    I have used a few lynda.com training disks and found them to be quite good.

    The best learning aid I have found is building yourself some sites, getting them online and getting traffic to them.

    Well that's my opinion!

  18. #18
    SitePoint Member aramiK's Avatar
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    With this sort of thing, basic knowledge and trial of error is what make's the best, the best.. University doesn't make artists into great artists and this is art

    Goodluck!

  19. #19
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    Rather than doing a web design course look into computer science courses. They are far more technical and generally have a very solid database module.

    Plus you'll learn about software engineering and get a grasp of many programming languages, both usable on the web and more desktop orientated languages. It is very doubtful that being self taught will give you the same proficiencies as a good computer science course will.

  20. #20
    Nicking the Bevel Highway Seven's Avatar
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    Taking courses would be a waste of time and money.

    You can learn HTML and CSS just by researching them online. I taught myself HTML in 1998 just by studying online tutorials, and built on it over the years.

    Now, whether or not you have a good eye for design is another matter...
    Daniel

  21. #21
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    Play, Play Play!!!!

    In my opinion, the best way to learn, is to make something really good via tutorials, or using other people's code, then try to break it, and find out why things do and don't happen!

    I know it sounds awful "try to break it", but it works. (Well, actually in reality if something is broken it doesn't work, but you get my drift! )

  22. #22
    Nicking the Bevel Highway Seven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by F.Danials View Post
    Play, Play Play!!!!

    In my opinion, the best way to learn, is to make something really good via tutorials, or using other people's code, then try to break it, and find out why things do and don't happen!

    I know it sounds awful "try to break it", but it works. (Well, actually in reality if something is broken it doesn't work, but you get my drift! )
    Totally. I spent many a late night view-sourcing, copy-pasting and figuring out what did what.
    Last edited by Highway Seven; Nov 7, 2008 at 18:57. Reason: my tenses are/is/would all over the place!
    Daniel

  23. #23
    Non-Member Musicbox's Avatar
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    go through sitepoint books or just a suggestion go learning with programming language as it can give you full results, after you learn these languages visit www.rentacoder.com and www.getafreelancer.com and www.elance.com to work for others and get your money which you invested in learning languages.

  24. #24
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    the only thing they'll teach you is coding in css and HTML... but they can't give you ideas or update your tastes for designing, that comes only with traffic.

  25. #25
    SitePoint Enthusiast EvcRo's Avatar
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    In my own experience such courses are a waste of time. They usually teach you the first 3-4 chapters of any "Learn X in 24 hours".

    It's totally different if the course is teached at the school you learn at and is part of a bigger method.


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