Did some Joomla/Wordpress. Now what's the next step?

Hey guys,

I’ve done some Joomla-managed sites before, and working on a Wordpress one at the moment. Let me tell you what I know before I ask my question.


  • Taken a few general programming courses
  • Familiar with HTML (CSS, not as much)
  • Don’t really know any web languages like PHP
  • Do know some basic SQL
  • Familiar with Photoshop

I feel I’ve dabbled in a few things, but largely work from a CMS, and know just enough to customize and mess around with it to achieve what I want to a fair degree. I’ve been reading about things like the New York Times’ and Crackberry.com’s site redesign recently.

Stuff like that energizes me. Looking at a team with a goal to RE-ENGINEER an entire site based on some goal is fascinating, both its process and implementation. I want to be able to not simply DEPEND on others’ templates, but actually create things of use that work and function on the web. Given that I like designing some graphical work, I also want it to look amazing.

What do you guys think my next step is? I feel I need to learn some web languages (PHP? JQuery?), but am not sure which ones. CSS is basic, and though it sounds basic to learn that, do you guys think that’s super-relevant right now? I feel a little lost. Any insight or perspective or comments, period, would be appreciated.

Thanks folks.

I was kind of on the same boat as you, I knew html and css pretty well but didn’t know php or jquery very well. I started working with Wordpress and picked up a lot of php knowledge and I purchased the novice to ninja jquery book from sitepoint during the holiday sales and have learned a fair amount from that as well. Being employed as a front-end developer I can say that CSS is the main thing I do and am glad I know a lot about. If I were you I would focus on getting a strong working knowledge of CSS and CSS3 techniques being used (like box-shadows, transitions, gradients etc).

In the end though, it’s all about what your end goal is, do you want to stick to front-end stuff, designing, or backend?


If you want to learn other languages there are tons of tutorial around the web. If you aren’t going to take traditional classes, the best way to learn is to just start working with different languages and try your hand at building things. Buy a domain name and some hosting for a year and make it your sandbox.

There are some good tips in this post for learning web design,

Hope that helps,


Quality graphics are huge but so is quality programming. Due to the fact that learning the newest techniques can be a full-time job itself, making the choice to go in one direction vs the other (graphics vs development) is really what you need to do in order to produce quality work.

If your passion is graphics, I would become an expert on that end. Your basic knowledge will help you, but you can always partner with or hire someone to do the programming for you. It is impossible for you to be expert on both and do really awesome websites, like you sound like you want to do. I am a programmer with some basic understanding of graphics, and my business partner is a graphics designer with a very basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. Cross training is important and is a goal we are always trying to improve upon, but sticking to our areas of expertise is helping us to become a successful new web design company. Since I’m the nerdy one of the team, I can’t give you much advice about improving your graphics skills.

If programming is your passion, I can tell you what I believe to be the correct path, based on my experience:

  1. Become expert in writing XHTML & HTML5 from scratch using a text editor like Notepad++
  2. Become expert with CSS & CSS3
  3. Learn Javascript – it’s easier than some of the other programming languages and is a great one to transition into the other ones
  4. Learn JQuery. It’s basically Javascript with additional capabilities/built-in-functions
  5. Learn Server-Side Languages. There are two different directions you can go with depending on the web hosting platform you prefer:
    a) If you want to work with Unix or Linux Based systems learn PHP. Most web hosting companies are Linux and it’s the platform that I personally prefer. You will also need to learn MYSQLI, which is very similar to SQL. MYSQL is the precursor to it, but MYSQLI is the newer/improved version of it. MYSQLI is not supported by Wordpress, however . . . at least it wasn’t last time I checked.
    b) If you prefer a Windows Server, you need to learn ASP or ASP.Net, either Visual Basic or C#, and SQL.
  6. Familiarize yourself with the content management systems that run on the server platform of your choice.

Good luck to you. I understand your excitement – it is incredibly satisfying to create a website and see it come to life, and even more satisfying when your client is pleased with it and the coup de grâce is watching the website help your client’s business.