Getting started in 'professional' web development.

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by leRiCl, Jul 8, 2009.

  1. leRiCl macrumors member

    Jan 15, 2008
    Just a bit of background. I'm studying a software engineering and commerce degree. I studied graphics design in high school but dropped it as I approached the final years in favor of the sciences. (My school made me choose... either graphics or chemistry). I chose science because of my mis-informed belief that it would better get me jobs, despite having gotten first place in class for graphics, and was my favourite subject.

    I'm in the middle of my degree, I love everything I'm studying, programming, economics, etc, but some part of me yearns for _drawing_, creative stuff.

    As a programmer, besides proper programming languages, I've also learnt these web languages: HTML, javascript, CSS, SQL, because I was interested in web development. I know how to make a simple site, possibly involving databases, I know how to use dreamweaver, rapidweaver, etc to make a decent looking site.

    But how do I learn to do more advanced features?

    Look at the top of this site. See the navigation bar "Mac Rumors" "Page2" "iPhone"..."Forums", and see the sub-bar "User CP" "..." Forum Spy"...

    How would I think of, and implement things like that? I don't mean copying it, that's easy, but implement my own design ideas? Do you draw your own images? I don't know how to draw 'navigational images' like the nav-bar up top. What about design principles? How do you know if something is first-time-user-friendly or not?

    I want to develop websites as good as you, and any other professional. Good enough to have someone want to hire me. (Even though I'm probably doing it for amateur purposes).
    I am guessing your answer is "Take a course". Okay, I'm ready, I want to take a course, either during my semester holidays, or when I get home from uni. When my degree finishes if it needs be. Not on weekends, though. Will my local vocational school offer good enough education? Or will I need a full blown university degree? If the latter then I'll definitely need to delay this a year or two until my current degrees finish.

    I want to be able to construct a website as good as commercial ones like (just an example), hopefully even better, using only code that was authored by me, and graphics designed by myself. (EDIT: including the forums too, for the first time, just for fun.)

    Given as much time and money as you had, would it be possible?
  2. angelwatt Moderator emeritus


    Aug 16, 2005
    I'll give my feedback, though I am not a professional from the profession sense. I have been doing web design/development as a hobby for about 8 years now though so I compare well to professionals (from the skill side anyways). My background is in computer science, psychology, and human factors as well as a drawing hobbyist.

    Breaking out what helps with becoming a professional is kind of hard. I've seen rather unskilled individuals make a living creating web sites. The code they produce is horrible, but the customers don't know the difference because it simply "looks" fine so they continue making money. Some take a somewhat lazy approach and just reuse a site framework and tweak the style sheets a little and toss that out (this is often based from a CMS). There's not a ton of designers who work from scratch or even do any development.

    One recommendation would be to figure out a focus area. It sounds like you're more development-oriented than design. So focus your skills there. You can always team up with a creative person to help on the design side. There's also existing site designs that you can purchase for use and tweak them to customer needs.

    As far as creativity, you may not ever think to setup a navigation menu the way you find on sites, but there's likely ways that you would think of to do it that would never think of. That's the brilliance of creativity.

    On schooling, I'm not sure how best to advise you. I'm completely self-taught on my web design and development skills, but college did get me started on programming languages and psychology and human factors taught me how visitors will see a site when they arrive and what color combination work as well as why. You likely won't find any great schooling options as most that I've seen focus more on the basics than getting you ready for advanced levels ideas. A number of places will also focus a lot of time on Flash and related products. I recommend studying on your own for the moment and figure out where your gaps in knowledge are at then get more feedback from forums like this. You could definitely learn everything you need on your own, it's just a matter if you have the discipline to get it done.

    Something else to consider, do you want to be a professional on your own, or for a company as part of a team?
  3. snickelfritz macrumors 65816


    Oct 24, 2003
    Tucson AZ
    I draw my navigation buttons etc... in Photoshop, Illustrator, or Flash.
  4. SelfMadeCelo macrumors regular


    Sep 9, 2008
    Tulare, CA
    I'm kind of stuck in the same spot. I can put together a mean page as far as coding goes but the design side could definitely use some work.

    (This might seem as sort of self promotion but hopefully it'll help you because its starting to help me.)

    A few months ago I put together a blog post of over 100 design blogs. I listed the blog and the RSS feed and put together an OPML file to import into your reader.

    Everyday I see something I like in these feeds. Some days theres tutorials on how to design and code a website including how to create the site in Photoshop, export everything and put it all together. Some days theres some inspiration, they show off really nice websites and it gives you some new ideas of what to include on your next project. Every once in a while you'll come across a list of do's and don'ts, or even a list of new tips and tricks.

    Anyways, the post is here. Hopefully these blogs will help sharpen your design skills as it has for me. You can learn a lot from other designers. Get the Firebug extension for Firefox and start tearing apart their pages to see how they make it happen and read their blogs. Good luck! Let me know if this helps.

    I wanted to add something else. I just started reading this book about thirty minutes ago and it's for people who want to learn how to design websites. Check it out
  5. moderniste macrumors member

    May 7, 2005
    I'd highly recommend starting with Edward Tufte's books, especially this one:

    As a professional web designer, you won't normally get to choose what kind of content the site will have. Your clients will tell you what they want and it will be up to you to create an online user experience that meets their needs. It's not just about making the site look pretty. Tufte's books will get you thinking along the right lines.

    For learning software like Photoshop, the courses at are excellent, especially Deke McClelland's courses.

    My favourite web resource for inspiration is the showcase at

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