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Whats the best way to learn about the ins and outs of web design, I have found from reading on this forum that designing website and learning as you go is the best way to do it?

I have undertaken an introductory course in web design learning the basics of HTML and CSS.

Enjoyed it that much I spent a few months over the summer designing a friends site <snip> with the use of Wordpress- this gave me a great insight into learning how to style elements, but became a bit frustrating in editing the layout due to my lack of knowledge in PHP, but managed to edit some pages and build my own templates.

I have now signed up to a web design course in CIW which I plan to finish next year. I am obviously keen to get into web design and wondered the next way to take the next step?

Suppose I just wanted to get feedback from people that have been there and done it, or people that are in the same situation as myself?

A structured course gives you that: structure.

When everything is organized and in place, it is easier to find. With knowledge, I think that it is similar. A good course will give you a good base to learn by yourself (since there is no way that even the best course can conver everything)

The problem that arises with some courses is that most of the time they’re not uptodate with the lastest techniques. Still, it may speed your learning if they do it right.

I learned the basics through self-study, using information from books and websites. I then took an existing site that had been generated by Frontpage (which produced what I now know to be terrible code), and I re-did the whole thing, hand-coding it from scratch. (I’m not saying that hand-coding is necessarily a good way to create a site, but it is an excellent way of learning HTML and CSS.)

My aproach might not suit other people. Some folk learn faster through a structured course; some need face-to-face tuition; others manage quite well with books.


Whats the best way to learn about the ins and outs of web design, I have found from reading on this forum that designing website and learning as you go is the best way to do it?

One of the best ways to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of web design is to visit forums like Sitepoint and study the questions and answers. Most courses miss out on the real issues (such as browser, bugs behaviours and support) and you will soon see from the types of questions asked where the problems lie and what the fixes are.

As Molona mentioned most structured courses are out of date by the time they are constructed and although they do give a good basic grounding they are often wide of the mark as far as current practices go. That doesn’t mean that they are not worthwhile as you do need to know the basic principles and have a foundation to build on. However the cutting edge of web design is usually found in forums, articles and various well know sites around the web.

A quick google search will bring up some good resources such as CSS Tricks, Smashing magazine, A List apart and many more. You should subscribe to as many as you have time for and read the latest articles to understand current trends and practices. I learned most of my CSS here in the forums answering questions. If I saw a question I didn’t know the answer to I would then do some research and make sure that I found out what the answer was.

Building your own site is also a good way to learn as long as you don’t mind making mistakes on the way and indeed you learn more from your mistakes in some ways. In the end learning web design is a mixture of a good basic grounding in the subject which you then build on with real life applications and latest techniques and practices.

You get around don’t you Paul O’b, had an answer for everyone of my posts- great stuff!

I have found this course very good for the legalities of web design and copyright infringement etc. It has also given me a good insight into more technical CSS, but as you said this course covers CSS2 and talks about CSS3 coming out, which I have now learnt is widely used. I have found forums a god send when having a problem and I think this is the way I am going to progress with my learning. I can also see how there are many different elements I have to take into consideration- I have also learnt that Internet Explorer is the devil to designers when it comes to websites, is this true?

I am not sure but if I write @Mikl will that inform him I am directing a post at him? Anyway thank you for the response Mikl, I would like to do that- rebuilding a site, but when you say you re-did the website, you mean you copied the code by typing it or did you start from blank and just try and make the same website on your own?

I have tried this method, I think, by using Firefox and Firebug to inspect different elements and try and get a feel for the website- but there is some Javascript in there that then confuses me (as I haven’t delved into this area yet) then I lose focus.

I am going to set up my own blog using wordpress, more for my records so I can go abck and see what I have learnt or done, then build this same website in Dreamweaver.

Thanks for the advice guys, really helpful!


I think you need to add a space and ; after it. I can never remember, and find it easier to wrap the member’s name in [noparse][mention][/mention][/noparse] tags.

And yes, that does then alert the member that they’ve been mentioned. It appears in the Notifications menu next to your name, @ontargett. :slight_smile: [/ot]

One approach I take to learning ANYTHING new is the process of ‘dissection’.
I began on the Internet when it was very young. There were no books; there were no rules! Then and now, whenever I see something I like on a site I immediately View Source and study it. I dissect and dig into it, following the paths to CSS and Javascript. Then I study and try to fully understand what is making it work the way it is.
This is the essence of the real meaning of “Hacking”. The mass media has confused Crackers (illegal vandals) with Hackers (those who have a true curiosity about how things work and honestly want to learn in order make a better world for all).

Best of luck on your quest @ontargett; and, as @Paul_O_B; stated, stick around here on Sitepoint. You are guaranteed to learn (good and bad methods and techniques!)

I would like to do that- rebuilding a site, but when you say you re-did the website, you mean you copied the code by typing it or did you start from blank and just try and make the same website on your own?

No, no. I didn’t just type the whole thing again. Doing that would undoubtedly have improved my typing skills, but it wouldn’t help me learn HTML or CSS.

What I did was a certain amount of redesign of the site, especially the layout of the individual pages and the internal navigation. I then just coded it all from scratch, based on that new design. I copied the actual text from the old site, but I threw out all the old tags and other language elements.

I should add that the site was my own site. I had developed it some years earlier to market my services as an independent database developer and trainer. In those days, I knew zero about web sites. I just used FrontPage to generate it for me, without my realising what awful code it produced.

In your case, Ontargett, I assume you don’t have an existing site. But it really is a good idea to set out building one from scratch. There’s nothing like good, solid hands-on experience to teach you how to do something.

P.S. Re your question about directing a post at me: I always re-visit every thread that I have posted in, so I would have seen your reply in any case. But I would think that other forum members would appreciate your using the Notification menu, as per TechnoBear’s suggest

Firstly thankyou @TechnoBear for that bit of information, will allow me to mention people in posts.

Thanks, I have started getting into the habit of that, I didn’t know I could view the html and css code used until a few months ago, so anything I like I have a look at the code- I sometimes get lost in the code, as I said I haven’t learnt javascript yet, so once I learn that I will be able to dissect the code a bit better. But great tip thanks.

Its also true when you say hackers, because until you just mentioned it I had negative connotations regarding hackers- i was confused the other day when someone said on here that they needed to hack some code; I immediately thought it was a bit strange, but I understand now the terminology, thanks.

If you don’t mind telling me, are in Web Design as a career and how long did it take you to get there?

I understand what you did now, I actually jus tried this for a couple of hours, once I understood the div classes the website used I could start editing the code and got a good understanding for the structure.

I’m quickly learning that looking at existing websites and forums like this allow me to learn a lot quicker than reading from a book and doing set activities!

Cheers guys

Good luck with it, Ontargett. And don’t forget that if you get stuck on any of the details, you can always post a question here.


After you complete all required courses in web designing, you should look for a good software to save your time and bring in more professionalism and proficiency in your skills.

I agree with others above that studying how sites are built by looking under the hood, and also reading about issues that come up in a place like this is a great way to learn. HOWEVER, I also recommend getting a good book on each subject to give yourself a solid platform. It helps to ensure that you’ve covered all the basics and set the foundations right. Then, as you read and study, you’ll be building on the foundations you’ve set. One thing I notice about those who have just learned everything by random reading is that there are often major gaps in their understanding … which can lead to a lot of trouble for a while.

The bulk of my coding knowledge I gathered in the “forum way”, exactly as Paul O’B told in post #4: “I learned most of my CSS in the forums answering questions.” :slight_smile:
Accompanied by Google and the links in forum posts the good references are floating to the top pretty soon.
The “View Source” method of ParkinT in post #7 is also familiar to me.
When I did that in my old FrontPage site, I went over to coding by hand and learned from my errors. :wink:
I can also agree with ralph.m in post #12: were my awful gaps are I don’t know…

  • For “common javascript” (not the inside of jQuery and so) the [U][/U] site was/is very helpful for me.
  • For the combined html/css approach I can recommend the 550 pages “CSS and HTML Web Design” pdf (download mirror [U]over here[/U], 9.7MB). Probably it is not completely up to date nowadays (arrival of html5 and css3), but 3 years ago I didn’t read anything I disagreed in the first 50 pages. *)
  • And maybe as reminder [U]these short tips[/U].

*) The other 500 are several years on my ToDo-list for the winter time. :frosty: