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  1. #1
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    New to Sitepoint, have lots of questions/seeking advice

    Greetings all. I decided to join this forum to expand my knowledge and skills in all things web. A little background on myself - have been an underemployed recent college grad for a couple years now, working a retail job that is not in the direction I intended to go with my career.


    I took a year's worth of community college night classes and got my first contact with HTML, CSS, and Javascript. It's been a year or so since the last class I took, and I've stalled in my development since. Recently, I re-read Web Style Guide:Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites (Lynch/Horton) and it lit the fire again for me.


    I currently have the opportunity to be able to design a small site for a family friend of mine's therapy practice. I have not yet met with the client to discuss what kind of presence she is looking for, but jumped at the chance to be able to do something that I could use as a stepping stone into another career that I would find more satisfying.



    What I'm looking for help with from this community is advice on where to go from here. It's my thought that I should be working on tutorials and watching videos part of the week, and working on the actual project the rest. I expect to get stuck at various points and will be relying on the forums to help me through some of the tricky parts, both in planning and execution.



    Major questions off the top of my head



    What technologies do I need to spend the most time learning/should I be using here? The Javascript class I took I found to be somewhat outside of my comfort zone and understanding, so that's something I will wade back into slowly - plan to concentrate mostly on HTML/CSS.



    Need help with the step-by-step process of building a website. How to plan a website, stages of development, etc. Links, templates, videos, anything appreciated here.



    Have I taken on more than I can handle? Please, be honest with me here. I'm generally a "learn by doing" person, but this is my first time taking on a project like this. I'm expecting to be overwhelmed at first, but if I can break it down into appropriate pieces, I think I should be able to complete this task.





    As you may be able to tell, I've had these ideas rolling around my head for quite a while. Thanks for taking the time to read them. I look forward to your responses.

  2. #2
    Mouse catcher silver trophy Stevie D's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADHDAutodidact View Post
    • What technologies do I need to spend the most time learning/should I be using here? The Javascript class I took I found to be somewhat outside of my comfort zone and understanding, so that's something I will wade back into slowly - plan to concentrate mostly on HTML/CSS.
    HTML and CSS will see you through most (if not all) of what you need for a simple website. While there are certain things that you might want Javascript or PHP for, you can usually pick up ready-made scripts for common features, so no need to worry about those just yet if you're finding them a struggle.

    • Need help with the step-by-step process of building a website. How to plan a website, stages of development, etc.
    We all have different ways of working, so you might get loads of different answers to this, and it's really down to you to figure out what works best for you.

    I tend to start by sketching out the structure of the whole site, ie an outline of the different pages and where they sit relative to each other. Then I draw up a very rough sketch of what a typical page might look like, just outline boxes for the different content areas - eg branding/banner, main nav, secondary nav, content, sidebar - and vague suggestions for a colour scheme. Next I code up a sample page in HTML, bearing in mind the blocks outlined in the previous section. Then I apply some CSS to it, to get it looking roughly like the sketch. Lastly, I create the graphics, and tweak the CSS (and HTML if necessary) until I'm happy with the page.

    • Have I taken on more than I can handle? Please, be honest with me here. I'm generally a "learn by doing" person, but this is my first time taking on a project like this. I'm expecting to be overwhelmed at first, but if I can break it down into appropriate pieces, I think I should be able to complete this task.
    We all started somewhere, and there's no reason why you can't start here. If you haven't got a tight deadline then you've got time to play around with it, try things out, then go back a few steps and try a different direction if you don't like how it's going.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Enthusiast murphaloid's Avatar
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    I've just completed my very first site for someone, using only html/css. I know exactly where you are coming from and how daunting it feels!

    I also struggled with trying to organise my plan of action in terms of how to approach designing and building the site. There are so many free resources and tutorials out there it can be really difficult to keep your focus. Some things I have earned quickly:

    -Make sure you validate your code at http://validator.w3.org/ regularly so you keep ahead of some of the inevitable bugs.

    -Beware, there seem to be thousands of websites offering tips and advice on almost any question you might have. It quickly became clear to me that much of the info out there is either very outdated or just very bad practice (such as using tables for layouts). Be careful about where you get your information from.

    -I found this book brilliant for giving me the confidence to dive into doing a site: http://www.sitepoint.com/books/html3/

    Above all, I think the key for me has been practice and more practice!

    Good luck

  4. #4
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    Best advice I have read and also heard from many professionals is to start with the content. You can make a web site look as cool and "cutting edge" as you want but it won't mean anything if it doesn't have valuable content. When you meet with the client it is important to find what the goals of the site should be. Often times we can get caught up in design questions such as color, graphics, layout, ect and ignore the content. Take a look at some of the most popular sites out there, Amazon, facebook, ect. They are fancy graphically but they have engaging content.

    I would stick with html and css. You can do a lot with those and make clean content focused web sites.

    Like others have said the best thing to do is practice a lot.
    Bryan Waldron
    Waldron Digital Designs
    waldrondigitaldesign.gmail.com

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the help everyone! I found all your advice very helpful. I'm going to wait until I meet with my client before I start worrying too much about the building of the actual site. In the meantime, I'll practice my HTML + CSS through tutorials. Can anyone recommend a specific place for tutorials? I've done the ones on HTMLdog and found them to be quite helpful. Also, any resources specifically related to the planning and development of a website would be excellent as well. Thanks again for everyone's help.

  6. #6
    <title class="lol"> bronze trophy TehYoyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADHDAutodidact View Post
    Thanks for the help everyone! I found all your advice very helpful. I'm going to wait until I meet with my client before I start worrying too much about the building of the actual site. In the meantime, I'll practice my HTML + CSS through tutorials. Can anyone recommend a specific place for tutorials? I've done the ones on HTMLdog and found them to be quite helpful. Also, any resources specifically related to the planning and development of a website would be excellent as well. Thanks again for everyone's help.
    I would recommend reading. I would (and commonly do) recommend the Sitepoint books to anyone and everyone. That's how I found this wonderful place, and I think it'll really help you. There's not even any need to buy them. Check your local library (shocking, isn't it?). I guarantee they'll have two or three. I'm from Chicago, as well, and if you live in the city (not a suburb), I know for a fact that they have many books.

    Two Sitepoint books that go over the design process are The Principle of Beautiful Web Design (which is my personal favorite) and Sexy Web Design by Elliot Jay Stocks. Both authors are respected web designers and developers.

    In terms of online, I say just read those books and a few other html books and then start building! Post here for questions. I find that, for me, what's most effective is looking at a website that I like, and then trying to emulate what they did (WITHOUT COPYING THEIR CODE!).

    Good luck.
    ~TehYoyo

  7. #7
    SitePoint Addict kvnwpts's Avatar
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    What I did, I had a little experience with coding (with dreamweaver). I watched a series of dreamweaver tutorials on how to build a website, he is extremely detailed (almost too much) and in the end of the series you have a completed website and that will help you alot.

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...A&feature=plcp

    Thats the series. After I watched it I managed to build my own website it's nothing fancy but it's still a pretty good looking site since I'm beginner.

    --I'm not advertising my site, you don't have to watch it--
    Last edited by Paul O'B; Mar 18, 2012 at 08:32. Reason: Unnecessary link for topic

  8. #8
    <title class="lol"> bronze trophy TehYoyo's Avatar
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    I wouldn't recommend using Dreamweaver or a similar WYSIWYG editor.

    They tend to write bad (both semantically and syntaxically) code that gets complicated and inefficient.

    ~TehYoyo

  9. #9
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    Yoyo -

    I agree with your point on WYSIWYG editors. The classes I took in community college, one was strictly in that and I didn't like it because it seemed like too much of a short cut for learning the skills I wanted.

    Thanks for the all the Chicago Public Library stuff. I'm actually in the north suburbs (Evanston) and will try to do an interlibrary loan for a couple of those Sitepoint books. I'm quite excited about starting this project, and the outpouring of response and help I've received so far from the community ensures that I'll be back here, posting regularly.

    Love your location tag as well - where are you in the burbs? Thanks again for all your help.

  10. #10
    <title class="lol"> bronze trophy TehYoyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADHDAutodidact View Post
    Love your location tag as well - where are you in the burbs? Thanks again for all your help.
    Haha thanks a lot After I wrote it, I literally sat around my computer waiting for someone to compliment me on my creativity. OK, fine. I didn't. But still thanks. I'm in the Western suburbs.

    I love interlibrary loans. (I've probably requested 12 books in the past month) At my library, you can request a book to be purchased. It might not be the same at CPLs, but it was really easy for me to con ask for the book Simply Javascript to be purchased. Got it four days ago, as a matter of fact. It felt like I was the only person who had requested a purchase for a good month or so. I actually feel like I abuse my library. I'll be browsing the forums or the web and see a good book, open up the library catalog and just request the book (even if it's in the library) right from my computer Those poor librarians...

    Quote Originally Posted by ADHDAutodidact
    the outpouring of response and help I've received so far from the community ensures that I'll be back here, posting regularly.
    Fantastic! *Whispers to self, 'Nice. We've got him now.' Takes out ambiguous notepad and makes checkmark*

    ~TehYoyo

  11. #11
    SitePoint Guru dojo's Avatar
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    You need to WORK a lot, if you want to achieve anything as a web designer. The fact you have graduated a specialized school is zero, if you cannot obtain enough experience with this. There are thousands of people with zero 'classical' schooling (such as myself) who are earning well and are more experienced with this. Theoretically you have the advantage of a diploma, but you need to start working in this area. Create a small site for you and star putting to work all your knoweldge. Work on HTML/CSS and layout design since most of the time you can do a lot with these. Create a portfolio, and work. You shouldn't only work for clients (especially since for a new web designer these are scarce), so hone your skills with personal projects and try to put as much work into this as possible. Best of luck

  12. #12
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    Thanks again for all the answers I got. I have an additional question that I thought I'd ask here instead of starting a whole new thread. Should I charge for the project? Since it's my first, I wasn't sure if I should. What advice does anyone have to offer on charging for their first web design job? How much ($US) would I charge? Do I charge per hr or for the whole project? Thanks again folks.

  13. #13
    <title class="lol"> bronze trophy TehYoyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADHDAutodidact View Post
    Thanks again for all the answers I got. I have an additional question that I thought I'd ask here instead of starting a whole new thread. Should I charge for the project? Since it's my first, I wasn't sure if I should. What advice does anyone have to offer on charging for their first web design job? How much ($US) would I charge? Do I charge per hr or for the whole project? Thanks again folks.
    I'm in the same boat as you - starting out web designer/developer, looking to go (maybe) into part-time freelance along w/ school.

    I'm working on a project for my church - it was an easy get b/c they didn't have a website that was updated or good. I'm just asking them to provide money for the first 6 months of my personal website hosting costs. That's about $60. Normally, I think my price would be about $300 for a standard, 5-page website.

    I'd charge a very small amount for your first project. At this point, I'm trying to build my portfolio.

    As for charge in general, read John Tabita's fantastic articles on that:
    Read First
    Read Second

    It's really up to you. I tend to like all-encompassing rates based on how much work you think it is, etc. Hourly seems to me like it will attract accusations of lying. Also, some things can take me really long to do - I'm a very tedious worker, stopping to adjust padding by 1 or 2 pixels until it looks perfect.

    ~TehYoyo

  14. #14
    billycundiff{float:left;} silver trophybronze trophy RyanReese's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADHDAutodidact View Post
    Thanks again for all the answers I got. I have an additional question that I thought I'd ask here instead of starting a whole new thread. Should I charge for the project? Since it's my first, I wasn't sure if I should. What advice does anyone have to offer on charging for their first web design job? How much ($US) would I charge? Do I charge per hr or for the whole project? Thanks again folks.
    The question really just comes down to: how much do you think your time is worth for your skills?

    I took some other web designers rates and slashed their prices. I don't have hardly any clients so hopefully the cheap rates will bring them in.

    Don't make the rates too low as to make customers doubt your skills.
    Always looking for web design/development work. Willing to do it cheap to build portfolio!

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the articles and everything everyone! I'm excited to come back with more questions as I progress forward into this endeavor.

  16. #16
    <title class="lol"> bronze trophy TehYoyo's Avatar
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    Always happy to help

    ~TehYoyo

  17. #17
    SitePoint Member jwmollman's Avatar
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    I'm in a similar position as you. I'm new to SitePoint, and I'm also starting my entrance into the world of web development. So far I love it and I'm very excited for what's to come. I'm currently on my last few classes to get my associate's degree and I've done an internship doing RPG IV programming on the IBM i platform (green screen programming; didn't click so much with me), and am now doing a new internship working with a graphic designer and back end developer to create a mobile version of our company's website for iPhones, etc. It's been great so far. I've also built a website for my dad's local transmission business that's led to higher business volume. It's just an informational presence with some simple car/transmission care tips, etc., but it's seemed to help him out.

    The best thing to do is to keep practicing your HTML and CSS. Whenever you have free time, start creating some simple layouts and then get more and more complex with them. Even if it's just layouts that you'll probably never use, always keep them for reference. I have a folder on my flash drive under /html that has about 35 different layout designs I've created over the two years I've been working with HTML and CSS.

    Once you've become comfortable with your HTML and CSS, I think it would be good to begin studying JavaScript. It's all over the place in web development, and it's the backbone of popular technologies like AJAX, etc. Everything here builds on each other.

    Also, I think it would be great to take on the website project. It would be a great way to get your foot in the door and a possible recommendation. I wouldn't let this opportunity pass you up. Once it's complete, it would be a great addition to a resume. When I started working where I am now, I was apparently the only person interviewed that had something to showcase (my dad's website), and they really liked that. waldo567 makes great points also. Collecting requirements for the website and finding the goal of the website will lead to its success. Together with the HTML, CSS, and design skills, and the ability to deliver great content will lead to a successful website.

    And thanks all for the links as well! I'm sure I will make use of them myself.


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