Hi there,

I've got a few questions regarding the web development and design industry (I'm aware they are different things) and was hoping you guys in the business can offer your thoughts.

I'm a 27 year old architecture graduate, and have worked in the architecture industry for the past 5 years or so. Whilst I've never really thoroughly enjoyed it, it's been ok. However, the industry has suffered horrendously through the current economic situation; the company I work for has cut its staff almost in half over the past 18 months or so, and I'm now on a much lower salary than I probably hoped to be on when I started. I appreciate that almost all industries have suffered a similar fate, but I've seen a lot more new websites go up over the past 6 months than new buildings.

With that said, I've felt for the past few months that now might be a good time for a career change, or at least a good time to start looking into one. This is where we get onto the web stuff.

I've long had a great interest in graphic design - web, print, all aspects. I actually did some graphic design during college, but never followed it through any further. I've kept up to date with design trends simply because I enjoy it as a spectator, but I think it may be something I'd actually like to get into as a career.

I'm not currently sure whether I'm leaning more towards design or development, but let's say at this stage probably a bit of both. At least initially. I'm more technical than I am creative, but I do like to get the crayons out every so often, so to speak.

So, after that unnecessarily long intro, I have a few questions.

1. Is web design and web development a career choice likely to hold opportunity into the foreseeable future? I know nobody has a crystal ball, but just hypothetically, is one likely to be able to find jobs are available, either freelance or in-house.

2. How long, typically, would be a realistic amount of time to set myself to aim for employment (again, either freelance or in-house). 1 year, 2 years? I suppose it is very much a subjective question, but assuming I learn at a reasonable pace and spend a good amount of time actually doing it.

3. If you were starting from scratch, would you recommend design or development as a more viable career path?

And finally, the most important question:

4. What kind of 'roadmap' would you recommend for a beginner to take. For example, HTML+CSS + General Design > JS/Rails/PHP > ??

I think it's safest to say I have zero experience. I did actually explore HTML and CSS a long while ago, and built a very very basic page using it when I wanted to try to set up a portfolio site. This was back in the 2.0 days, and I've probably forgotten 99% of what I learned. That said, I do still understand a lot of the core concepts of HTML/CSS. So, with that in mind, where would you recommend I start?

It's probably worth mentioning that I'm not concerned with the technicalities of things like software or design fundamentals. I've used Creative Suite for many years anyway, and things like design fundamentals and user experience I like to read up on in my spare time.

I should also add that I'm not in this for money. I just want an enjoyable, rewarding career that pays the bills and supports my family! I also want to help rid the web of the awful examples of web design that seem to still remain all too familiar.

So, thanks for reading this mammoth text and I look forward to your comments.