Advice for starting (nearly) at the bottom

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by irishgrizzly, Feb 12, 2009.

  1. irishgrizzly macrumors 65816


    May 15, 2006
    I'd like to learn complete proficiency in web design. I have designed sites before using HTML and others just using Image ready, very simple sites but they did the job at the time. My background is print design.

    I am wondering where do I start? How much do people use Dreamweaver as a starting point for every job?

    If I start learning from books like this or this I imagine they would be a good basis but would I be able to readily apply that knowledge to starting a job in Dreamweaver? What other apps do people use, do many build everything from scratch using just code?

    Some other questions;

    • I understand PHP and MySQL are very important for creation of larger, dynamic websites. Where would the best place to start with these? How much is necessary to learn for getting smaller site running?
    • Where are all these standards heading in the future? As thing change so rapidly are any on the way out, soon to be replaced with a new standard?
  2. angelwatt Moderator emeritus


    Aug 16, 2005
    Every work environment is different. They may want you proficient in any number of applications. DreamWeaver is a common one, but I never use it. I learned to hand code everything so as long as I have a text editor I can be productive. My preferred editor is BBEdit, but there are a few nice ones, and what's best for me isn't necessarily what's best for you. Try some out and see what features help you the most and let that guide you to a editor of your choice.

    The books linked looked OK, but nothing special. I learned everything online through tutorials and scanning through other people's code. There are a ton of online resources to make use of so don't be too quick on buying books until you get a feel for where you may need the most help.

    PHP/MySQL: Lots of online resources, but a reference book may come in handy. Some stuff you can download and use without understanding the languages but it would be good to start understanding them. Security is an issue here as well though. Even creating basic contact forms can be troublesome if a malicious person comes across the site. Be sure to become familiar with SQL injections and methods to prevent it. Not addressing the security issues can result in spam, data corruption, and even losing your hosting after a hacker turns your site into a zombie. Not trying to scare you, just want to emphasize there's more responsibility when you start dealing with MySQL in comparison to CSS and JavaScript.

    Standards are reasonably stable currently. CSS has been progressing the most, but that's from a perspective that browsers and finally catching to existing CSS standards. We're still far off from CSS3 being fully implemented. HTML standards; concentrate on understanding XHTML 1.0 and casually see the differences with HTML 4.1 Strict. HTML5 is worth looking at, but don't spend too much time right now. You've got time to worry about it later, and won't be much of a learning curve when it arrives. Those are the only standards you need to really worry about in terms of change. You'll want to become familiar with accessibility standards too (WCAG, Section 508, etc.) just to know what they're about and how you can address them.
  3. SrWebDeveloper macrumors 68000


    Dec 7, 2007
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    Nobody will ever have "complete" proficiency - but if you code to standards, keep up on the latest technologies and practice what you preach, you'll be many steps ahead of most developers who get lazy and stick to only what's comfortable.

    As to Dreamweaver, I find it excellent for code development and site management, but buggy in terms of wizards that generate code, plugins and overly complex ways to integrate database queries into code. It handles basic layout and templating just fine, has a nice set of tools, code coloring, excellent validation extensions and works well with other Adobe products such as ImageReady, Photoshop, Flash and Fireworks. But I use it mainly for code view, not WYSIWYG view and preview everything via browser.

    In the Mac world, you also can look into MAMP for setting up a PHP/MySQL local sandbox for developing and testing, and use Rapidweaver which is quite powerful and a great substitute for Dreamweaver. The themes and templates for Rapidweaver actually are better, in my .02.

    As to PHP/MySQL, of course visit and to for both reference and a great collection of open source PHP object oriented code to save you tons of development time. And you can study actual code by looking at those classes, all free, too. As you seem a serious user I recommend the PHP Bible, Sams publishing, available many places.

    As to larger sites, PHP has replaced ASP and companies enjoy the savings working with open source platforms. However, Java (.jsp) and .net in various flavors is still very well used in commercial sites. PHP5 is a completely different platform than PHP4 especially when object oriented code is invoked or extensions added for database support including the latest Oracle. It's deceptively powerful and Zend has a compiler for PHP as well as open source phc and others, so there is literally nothing you can't do anymore. PHP is gaining market share in the enterprise level every day.

    Nobody can guess where all these standards are heading, just keep up to date with W3C standards and best practices, meaning refresh your HTML skills then sit down and learn XHTML transitional then strict, in that order. Who knows if HTML5 will overtake XHTML strict or not, and who knows if CSS3 will actually be supported in all major platforms - the key is to visit forums like this, visit to learn stuff, do alot of Google searching, and start coding.

  4. Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    I came from a print background as well (years ago) - so welcome!

    I agree: You'll never have 'complete' proficiency in anything. The difference between advertising and web design is that with print, the medium of delivery is consistent. Web design is delivered through XHTML, CSS, Flash, etc - coding & technologies that change and evolve. It just means you're always learning new applications of your knowledge, new techniques and/or new stuff as it comes out and becomes relevant.

    I won't state what ^^ they've already said since they covered it well enough, but I will offer some advice: Don't expect perfection from web delivery the same way you expect it from print. They may look very similar from the front but any way you cut it you just will not have the same control over a website's design. I say this because I used to obsess over the details myself, and recently I worked with a print designer who had me build a site he designed for one his clients (...that he's done brochure design for for aeons) - he was almost impossible to work with due to his expectation and mistaken belief that it was possible to control every single thing on the page as if it were a page in a magazine... he didn't grasp that you can't divide pixels and unless you want rasterized text you have less control over type than you'd like.

    just m2c. At any rate, welcome to web design :) You'll love it, really.
  5. a cat *miaow* macrumors regular

    Jun 12, 2007
    Haha that's a very good point. Whenever I work with anyone who mainly comes from print it's always "well why can't we just make all text this typeface... and hand-kern every letter in titles". You do need to appreciate web design as a very different animal.

    As far as what you need to learn. Dreamweaver is a good place to start because if you do get stuck you can use a bit of WYSIWYG and see how the code comes out. Sorry but everyone says how it doesn't produce clean code - but it gets very very close. You can also tidy it up if needed.

    I think the next step from where you are is learning CSS. You can go into programming/scripting but as you're from a design background you'd be better off to build your presentation skills. Most websites i've been involved with i've handled only the presentation layer - creating templates, style sheets, user routings etc.

    The big one to learn would be PHP. You can start by incorporating simple stuff into sites you already make to get to grips with the syntax. Just learning simple functions like 'include' where you can pull in snippets of code and using 'if/then/else' arguments can let you build simple 'brochure' sites much much faster. A great place for learning any new software/language would be I can definitely recommend their videos on CSS - they are great. The PHP one's are not so good might be worth checking out (not a very inspiring 'tutor' in that series).

    So in short, I think you should learn CSS and basic PHP so you can build template based sites that are quick to create. From there you can start looking at adding more complex php functions. At this point you won't be using Dreamweaver because you should have built up your own library of code that you can simply reuse and hand-code everything inbetween.
  6. Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    I once worked very closely with a graphic designer who did the interface for a website I had to cut up... he was just like that. Incredibly, incredibly anal about even the minutest of details because he was used to controlling it so finely in print. He actually attempted to talk me into rasterizing the type on the site just to have 'the right kerning'. As it was, we ended up using 10px body copy all the way through. 10px!!
  7. irishgrizzly thread starter macrumors 65816


    May 15, 2006
    Thanks for the replies! It is good to hear of peoples experience going from print to web.

    Here are some responces on got on a local site I also post on;


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