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  1. #1
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    Help! Am I Too Old for This?

    I am 52 years old, trying to get back into freelance graphic design after taking time out to be home with my 3 boys.<br>
    <br>
    I have taken classes in InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator and am currently learning web design (html &amp; css) along with Dreamweaver. I am really struggling with web design. I have built a few sites, but it takes an incredible amount of time and frustration getting there. The obstacles seem to be endless, even though I think I have a pretty good understanding of html and the css box model.<br>
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    I may just be feeling discouraged, but I'm wondering if I'm cut out for this.<br>
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    I love designing sites, but I'm really struggling with the technical aspect of it and I feel like giving up. Is there a way to bypass years of cussing and hair pulling and still achieve my dream of designing websites for small businesses? I've heard about using WordPress or other CMS to do just this, but I don't know much about it.

    I'm wondering where it would be best to put my time and energy?<br>
    <br>
    Thank you in advance. Any guidance you can offer will be appreciated.

  2. #2
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    I'm not too much younger than you, and a few years ago sat down with a good book on HTML/CSS and read it cover to cover. That gave me a really solid foundation for building good-quality websites. So I'd say it's not hard to get going with web design. Programming (like JS and PHP) is harder (at least for me!), but that's where a CMS can be very handy, because it has a lot of programming functions built in for you, allowing you to provide clients with a very fancy site without knowing programming. Personally, I think there are better options than WordPress, but that's up to you really.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for you response. I have done some reading on html/css, but I still seem to get stuck over and over, however, I've not been in a forum before, so this might be just the helping hand I need. Since I know nothing about cms, can you tell me what other options there are and which one you use?

  4. #4
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    ralph.m's Avatar
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    I admit that, after reading my first HTML/CSS book (which was Stylin' with CSS ... very good book), I did have to practice and learn quite a bit; but hanging around in these forums made a huge difference, as there are some amazing people around here, from whom there is a lot to learn. Yes, any time you are having a problem or difficulty, you have direct access to some of the best experts in the business, so it's a great place to hang around.

    I have played with a number of CMSes, including WordPress. WP is good in a way, but it's a bit messy, too, and is really for blogging that standard websites, although that is changing. Still, it's a bit of a mess to bend to your will, and I wouldn't recommend it unless you have a bit of programming knowhow.

    For most websites, my favorite option is ExpressionEngine, which has a price tag on it, but it's a very clean and logical system to use. But there are lots of others, many free. The closest free option to EE that I know of is MODx, which is also very popular. There are bigger, more powerful CMSes like Drupal, but they are a bit intimidating for a beginner. Then there are some smaller, easier-to-learn CMSes that don't allow you do do as much but are very good all the same ... such as Perch, MojoMotor and Unify.

    Another option is to use a hosted CMS, where you get web hosting along with all the CMS tools you need, without having to worry about updating the CMS etc. Usually this has a monthly fee, which can be highish, but it's worth considering. Options include WebPop, Webvanta and Business Catalyst.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for all the helpful advice, I appreciate it!

  6. #6
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    You are never too old to learn something, if you are willing to put in the hard work and stay motivated you wont have a problem. Just don't try to force the information into you. Take a break from time to time and you will find that it all comes back to you naturally.

    Good luck!

  7. #7
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    No, you are definitely not too old. When I started in web design, I was older than you are now. (Not that I consider myself an expert; I'm just saying that 52 isn't particularly old in this business.)

    But there might be other reasons that you are struggling. It could be that you are trying too hard to learn too much at once. You've taken a lot of classes in various products, not all of which are necessary for getting started.

    You might find things easier if you started by trying to create a very basic, simple site - one that doesn't have any fancy features of any kind. Learn enough HTML to create such a site. Code it manually. Gradually add features as you go along.

    When you're comfortable with basic HTML, take on a little CSS, and use it to improve the site. And so on.

    You don't need to learn a whole bunch of technologies or products in order to get started. Do it gradually, and you'll find things much easier.

    Mike

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slow as Molasses View Post
    Thanks for you response. I have done some reading on html/css, but I still seem to get stuck over and over, however, I've not been in a forum before, so this might be just the helping hand I need.
    My story is similar to ralph.m's. The book I started with was "HTML4 for Dummies", which was written with some humour, which certainly helped. If you're having trouble getting things to stick in your brain, try explaining it step-by-step to the dog/cat/budgie/teddy bear/goldfish. There's nothing quite like explaining to someone else to help you concentrate on exactly what it is you're doing, and how. It's particularly useful if something's not working as you expect and you're going over it to try and find the cause. (Of course, if I'd found the SitePoint forums back then, my teddy bear might not be as well-versed in web design as he is now. )

    Quote Originally Posted by Slow as Molasses View Post
    I've heard about using WordPress or other CMS to do just this, but I don't know much about it.
    I'd never used WordPress (or any other CMS) until yesterday. I'd been asked for advice by somebody trying to set up a WordPress site and I installed it on my own site to see how it works. An hour later, I found myself thinking "Why am I doing this? Why would anybody do this?" because it seemed so much more difficult than building sites from scratch, which is what I'm used to. And that's the point, really. Anything seems difficult when you first start learning it, but if you're keen enough to stick with it, you'll get there in the end. Especially with all the expert advice you can get from the forums here.

    I'd also have to agree with all @Mikl 's advice. The first site I ever built was a "spoof" site, built just for fun. I really enjoyed doing it and there was no pressure on me.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Addict WebMachine's Avatar
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    I agree with Mikl. The trick is to take a break from learning when you feel like you are on overload, and just play with what you have learned. Don't try to pack in too much at once.

    I am 59 years old, started self-learning web design and development about 6 years ago and I found the project-based html and css books the most helpful, because I could 'do' as I was 'learning' instead of stuffing my head with all sorts of facts and knowledge.

    I since went back to college to get my diploma in internet applications and web development (learned php/mysql, asp.net with c#, the whole Adobe package, design principles, javascript, etc and now run my own freelance web development business. Life and learning does not stop at 30!

  10. #10
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    Yep, you're right. Crawl, walk, run. I get a little overwhelmed with all the technology out there, but you're right, I don't need to know everything to get started.

    I'll slow down and try not to put so much pressure on myself. Thanks for the words of encouragement!

  11. #11
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    HTML, CSS, and any programming language require one very important thing: experience.

    How do you get experience? Practice. Then practice. And practice some more.

    Seriously, it can be a bit frustrating because you want to get it quickly... but you can't. It always takes lots and lots of practice to get good. I've been programming since I was 12 (I'm almost 25 now) and I still learn new things every day, or find a better way to do something than I did before. It's just one of those things you can't rush.

    Keep practicing and you'll find each project gets a little bit easier.

  12. #12
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    Thank you for your reply. Apparently my expectations have been unrealistic. My brain is wired more for design than for programming, so I guess I'm questioning if I'm going in the right direction, but it seems that in order to work as a graphic designer these days, you've got to be able to design and build websites.

    I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other and be more patient with myself and the process. Thanks for pep talk : )

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slow as Molasses View Post
    Thank you for your reply. Apparently my expectations have been unrealistic. My brain is wired more for design than for programming, so I guess I'm questioning if I'm going in the right direction, but it seems that in order to work as a graphic designer these days, you've got to be able to design and build websites.

    I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other and be more patient with myself and the process. Thanks for pep talk : )
    It is hard to know if your expectations were are unrealistic since I don't know which they were.

    There are coders and programmers that need good designers becuase they're rubbish at it. Many designers follow that route and team up with a good coder and a good programmer (they may not be the same, the coder will specialize on HTML and CSS while the programmer can do the backend and the javascript, if the coder can't)

    Having said this, it doesn't matter if you want to team up with someone else, it is good that you have a good understanding of HTML and CSS because it will help you to design realistic websites, and not beautiful pictures with lots of graphic details that the coder will simply not be able to replicate in a web layout.

    It is also hard to learn by yourself and this is why forums like this one are important. You get stuck, you try over and over but can't see what's wrong.

    Another pair of fresh eyes (or a few hundred of them ) and someone more experience than you can help you to find the problem and to learn from your own mistakes.

    And then, some more practice and head to your next goal :-)
    Last edited by molona; Feb 15, 2012 at 11:15.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Guru dojo's Avatar
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    Age is just a number.

    If you don't seem to have the talent to design (some people are just 'bad' with colours and design, no matter how much schooling they have), you can always code the templates and port them to Wordpress or other scripts. We're not yet there. Just try to ENJOY this, without pulling your hair. I know how annoying it is to have an idea and get a crappy design out of it, but with patience and more experience you'll design better and better. Start a project on your own (it's easier to focus like this, when you have something to think about) and apply design, HTML on it. Tweak it, ask for reviews, tweak it again. You will learn and get better

  15. #15
    SitePoint Member Cythes's Avatar
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    I am 21(soon to be) and just getting started in the field of web design. I have been working on it since I was in 8th grade. Which was not long ago since I ended up failing a few grades. But I got into web design from a friend of mine in Canada. I needed to get something done for a graduation project. So I worked on building a website from the ground up. Using just XHTML and CSS.

    I have been debating going to college for a certification class but decided that the path less traveled is the better path. I am going to seek online certifications so I dont need to go "Retake" highschool classes (In other words I dont want to have to deal with Liberal Arts. I spent 14.5 years with that I'm not going to blow another one on it..)

    But this is not about me. So to the OP I have been meaning to say:
    Its never to late to get into it but if you do do so because you love it... Not because you need to.

  16. #16
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    age should not be an issue, if your a talented designer you can switch it to web design, just need practice

  17. #17
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    Thanks! I'll keep at it : )

  18. #18
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    One thing you should consider doing is to carefully look at how old each tutorial/book/blog on css/html is. Anything older than 2010 should probably be ignored. Maybe even 2011.

    There has just been so much effort over the years trying to get things to work on multiple browsers that any real code is just full of hacks and tricks and all kinds of stuff. Not only makes it difficult to learn but in many cases is obsolete.

    Stick to the newest technologies and the newest browsers while learning. As soon as you encounter things like "conditional comments" or "vendor specific properties" then run away. You can always add the hacks in later.

  19. #19
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    While I agree with this gist of this post, I have to disagree with the specifics. There are quite a few of the "older" tutorial/blog posts which I still hang my hat on - mostly because they still work, often more inclusively than the current techniques. There are a LOT of "current" tutorials/posts which are very much in the same vein of the old "best viewed in IEx.xx" way of thinking, and there are a lot of people being left out in the cold because they don't keep up with the latest and greatest technologies....and shame on the developers/designers that are doing so.

    And if you ignore the vendor hacks, you may well be ignoring the next "great" W3C idiom - let's all use webkit!

    Quote Originally Posted by ahundiak View Post
    One thing you should consider doing is to carefully look at how old each tutorial/book/blog on css/html is. Anything older than 2010 should probably be ignored. Maybe even 2011.

    There has just been so much effort over the years trying to get things to work on multiple browsers that any real code is just full of hacks and tricks and all kinds of stuff. Not only makes it difficult to learn but in many cases is obsolete.

    Stick to the newest technologies and the newest browsers while learning. As soon as you encounter things like "conditional comments" or "vendor specific properties" then run away. You can always add the hacks in later.
    Dave Maxwell - Manage Your Site Team Leader
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  20. #20
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    That's good advice. I just bought a book on HTML5 and CSS3 (Visual Quickstart Guide) and the reason I bought it was because it has just been revised in 2012. I think focusing on the latest technology will be less overwhelming and easier for me to move forward. Thanks for the suggestion : )

  21. #21
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    You make a good point, but my wee little brain can only take in so much. It makes sense to me to learn the newest ways of doing things. I can always add things later as needed. Thanks for the input!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveMaxwell View Post
    While I agree with this gist of this post, I have to disagree with the specifics. There are quite a few of the "older" tutorial/blog posts which I still hang my hat on - mostly because they still work, often more inclusively than the current techniques.
    I agree 100%. But look at through the eyes of someone fairly new. First time I saw the float property for positioning I remember thinking "Hey, I don't want to float anything. I just want my divs to line up across the screen". So you turn to your trusty search bar and type "tutorial css float" and now you have a thousand articles to look at with no real way of knowing which ones actually apply.

    For me at least, filtering by age is the first line of defense.

    The good news is that I'm sure this will settle down in next 30 or 40 years.

  23. #23
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    Actually, if you focus on the latest technologies for HTML and CSS you are shooting yourself in the foot. =p

    HTML 5 is built on top of HTML 4.01, which has been around since the mid to late 90s, and has changes very little. Without a firm grasp of that, it's next to impossible to use HTML 5 well. Similar with CSS; CSS3 is built on CSS2.1, which hasn't changed much in about a decade.

    While I wouldn't go with anything too old, going with something too bleeding edge is just going to get you cut. =p

    I have an older HTML/CSS book that is just as valid today as it was a while back. I'd say when you are dealing with HTML and CSS, anything within the last 5 years is pretty safe (as long as it was a good book when it was released). I highly recommend Sitepoint's HTML and CSS reference books. They are pretty recent (I think the second edition came out not very long ago). They easily replaced my old reference books.

  24. #24
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    ralph.m's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by samanime View Post
    I highly recommend Sitepoint's HTML and CSS reference books. They are pretty recent (I think the second edition came out not very long ago). They easily replaced my old reference books.
    Yep, I use these weekly (if not daily). They are available for free online too, and are kept up to date there.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahundiak View Post
    One thing you should consider doing is to carefully look at how old each tutorial/book/blog on css/html is. Anything older than 2010 should probably be ignored. Maybe even 2011.
    Not sure I agree with that.

    It's clear that the questioner's main concern is to learn the basics: to get started with basic HTML and CSS. Although there have been plenty of developments in the last couple of years, the basic stuff hasn't changed. It's better to focus on those fundamentals than always to worry about learning the latest technology.

    Mike


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