The best way to get started in web design

I am posting this on behalf of a member that PM’d me so that we can all weigh in.

Hi Hawk!

I have been making web pages for quite awhile, but just simple, insignificant things. I feel that it is time to quit mousing around and get serious about it!

Out of all the great resources available on this site could you recommend which ones and in what order I should study to learn how to make decent, close to state-of-the-art, web pages.

I know that this won’t be an over-night task which is why I would like some advice and suggestions so I don’t waste my time studying outmoded or superseded subjects.

Just assume I know very little except the names of a few things, like HTML, CSS, PHP, etc. I would probably benefit from a review of things a already am slightly familiar with!

Thank you very much!

P.S. Please feel free to post this, and your response, in any area of the site where you think it might be of benefit to others!

We have a couple of excellent beginners books. I think the route I’d take would be

Either Build Your First Website: Getting Started with HTML & CSS or [URL=“”]Build Your Own Website The Right Way Using HTML & CSS, 3rd Edition followed by [URL=“”]Jump Start JavaScript and then, if you want to get into a bit of back end stuff, either [URL=“”]Build Your Own Database Driven Web Site Using PHP & MySQL, 4th Edition or [URL=“”]Jump Start Rails.

That is the SitePoint route. For the best value for money, sign up for Learnable and you’ll get access to all of these titles, plus many more books and courses. You can do a 14 day free trial. More info on that and pricing here.

I’m sure other people have lots of other non-SitePoint approaches, so I’ve opened this thread so that they can advise, and then you can weigh up the options.

I hope that helps. :slight_smile:


Thanks for that info. It is very useful.

The reason I want to learn HTML & CSS is that I am thinking I could get a few jobs and make a little extra money. (I’m retired and while the expenses keep going up, my pension doesn’t! :frowning:

Today I was talking to a friend who is fairly high on the ladder in a large IT shop. She said that it would be difficult if not impossible, to make any money doing html & css web pages. That the money is in WORDPRESS and I would be better off learning all I can about that.

Is that right? Does SitePoint have similar coverage of WordPress? There are probably a dozen more questions I should be asking, but I can’t think of them right now!


Don’t be confused.

WordPress pages are HTML and CSS (and JavaScript and PHP) so learning HTML and CSS is still a good idea, especially if you’re thinking of designing Theme templates rather than Plugin development.

Hey Dennis,
I don’t totally agree with your friend when she says that there is no money to be made in standard development, however WordPress is certainly a popular option.
And yes, there are plenty of WordPress resources on Learnable.

“WordPress” has sort of become another word for “CMS”. There are lots of CMSes out there, many a lot better than WP. Most clients these days will probably want a CMS through which they can manage their site, make updates to content etc. But the notion that only WordPress will do the job is just plain wrong.

It also depends a bit on where you are and who your target audience is.

I build a lot of small, static sites for local businesses - mostly tourism-related, such as guesthouses, etc. The only updates they need are occasional changes of photos and an annual update of the prices. They don’t need or want Wordpress, or any other CMS. On the whole, these are businesses run by one or two folk, often with minimal computer skills, and they’re grateful to have somebody else deal with all the website stuff for them.

If you can target this kind of business, you won’t get rich, but you may be able to fill a gap in the market. And it’s a way to practice your HTML/CSS skills while you learn Wordpress or another CMS, if you decide to go down that path later.

Many web designers would probably poohoo that approach, but to be honest, I’ve pretty much decided to dump CMSes altogether now and go just for this kind of client. I’m so absolutely sick of the constant CMS updates that break the site, break functionality, break add-ons … and so on. And I find that many clients with a CMS rarely use it, and when they do, they just make a mess and often ask for help anyway … meaning that it would have been simpler to manage the site for them in the first place.

A ‘static’ site doesn’t have to be inefficient, either. With just a tiny bit of very simple PHP you can use just one template for the whole site anyway, and thus not have any difficulty updating the layout and components like menus etc.

There is somebody else who works in this area who (as far as I’m aware) only uses Wordpress - and most of his clients never update their own sites; he does annual updates for them. Without wishing to criticise (he’s a nice guy) that seems like unnecessary bloat to me.

I’ve just converted a site (not one of his) from Wordpress to static (PHP with includes) for a client. The CSS file alone has been reduced from 28KB to 2KB, for a very similar layout.

thank you for the information, i am a guy who is like Hawk, I am now going to learn some knowledge of my web design, this is a good guideline.

I have had a few books from sitepoint and also done quite a few online tutorials, only been designing websites for 18 months now here’s my input:

Find this CMS very easy and there are some great themes out there that can be installed in a matter of minutes. I then take these and make some adjustments using CSS to how I want them. Obviously there is only so far you can go with changing a Wordpress theme but found this a great way to learn CSS.

I have heard many other people talk about other CMS but have never used others, I find Wordpress a widely used CMS and there’s a lot of support around for this type.

Photoshop for design
After realising that I couldn’t design a website exactly how I wanted it using Wordpress I used this tutorial On how to build a website from scratch using Photoshop, how to design it, code it and make it responsive.

As I said I have only been in web design a short time compared to some of the experts on this forum, but I have come to learn that making a site responsive is very important these days if you want to get serious, so I have put quite a bit of time looking into making each web site I design responsive.

PHP Javascript
As everyone will tell you these are two languages that are ones you need to learn, I have found that offers free online learning that gives you chance to practice your code and will tell you if its right or wrong there and then. I’m astounded that this service is free as I have found it a very useful tool.

Personally I find tutorials online easier to follow opposed to books but each to their own!

Hope this helps, being a new guy to web design I’m in kind of the same position. One ridiculously helpful tool is this forum, have to give a big shout out to @Paul_O_B and @ronpat as they have helped me tremendously with CSS in the past 12 months. Everyone really chips in and helps out and I can’t mention them all but these two guys have helped me no end.

Hope this helps

would have been simpler to manage the site for them in the first place.

This has become so true. The web in general has just become so complex for the average business owner that so many are just turning their backs on the whole process of blog posting, social posts, daily additions to content or content changes. Even though they still might ‘want’ to have a cms, after a month of being so excited about it and adding a post here and there, their inspiration fizzles out. A cms is probably even more useful now for virtual assistants or web managers managing content for multiple sites than it will be for the actual business owner.