Good Way to Get Back Into Modern Web Design?

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by astrostu, May 27, 2008.

  1. astrostu macrumors 6502

    Feb 15, 2007
    I've been making web sites since 1997, but I've been on hiatus for the past few years ... just when all the new-fangled "Web 2.0" stuff has really kicked off.

    I know HTML, I'm decent with JavaScript, know my way around CSS, and I can design layouts, but other than that, I'm fairly naïve when it comes to stuff like AJAX and other modern web technologies.

    What's the best way to get back into modern web design, to make web sites less than a digital pamphlet, essentially? The advice that I used to give people who wanted to learn websites was to go to a page they liked and just look at the code. Is that still the best way? Or is there a particular book that gives a good summary? I think part of the problem at the moment is that I'm just not certain what tools are out there to use nor what to use them for, so I don't know exactly what I'm looking for.

    Thanks for any advice! :eek:
  2. angelwatt Moderator emeritus


    Aug 16, 2005
    From my personal experience I still occasionally breeze through other people's code, but you can't take a peek at someone's PHP code. There's plenty of AJAX tutorials out there to get you going on that subject. I only have a couple reference books, and not really worth mentioning as I have found most of what I know just out on the web. I read a lot of articles and have RSS feeds for a couple to help keep up with new ideas.

    There really isn't a ton of new stuff out these days, it's more of a change in how they are implemented. The ability to use AJAX has been around for a while when IE first implemented it. It just took some people with creativity to make an interesting use of it for people to start taking notice of it. It's the same with JavaScript, more and more developers are using it in a Object-Oriented fashion and creating unobstructive code, which has been capable for a while, but is simply becoming a more popular way of coding. I've come across these new "techniques" by way of articles and just trying to keep in the loop. Books don't seem to keep up as quickly.
  3. redwarrior macrumors 603


    Apr 7, 2008
    in the Dawg house
    one of the ways i learn is to use templates that are written in the code that i want to learn. a few searches will usually turn up free templates. i always end up changing everything so much that it doesn't look anything like what i started with. i would use a good code validator too though; just because it's a template doesn't mean it's written well.
  4. earnjam macrumors 6502a


    Jun 7, 2007
    North Carolina
    When I have questions about any of that, I always consult

    They have nice little testing pages where you can modify the sample code they provide and see how the changes affect it.
  5. SrWebDeveloper macrumors 68000


    Dec 7, 2007
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    Couple of thoughts and suggestions for ya...

    You might want to learn about LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) all of which have advanced greatly last few years. Start by setting it up on your Mac (or Windows, although we pity you, kidding) and start coding some sites that use a database layer. Pay careful attention to PHP which is now in version 5 and very advanced, checkout of course. Start downloading and examining classes at and learn about the object oriented approach as others mentioned here but installing a few classes (i.e., email handler, database wrappers, RSS and other XML implementations, and XML-RPC and maybe write a simple web API). One tiny class that is powerful beyond belief is ACE which allows Ajax calls to PHP classes you manage in a secure manner passing any arguments to any functions you wish transparently - 100% object oriented approach with almost no overhead from ACE itself.

    If you are into frameworks and PHP, Zend has released a new PHP5 framework which the open source community is checking out.

    As others suggested I also suggest you visit and learn the basics of Ajax and install and test a few components found there -- all part of so called web 2.0/rich web.

    If you need a refresher on CSS check out this W3C site.

    And download some cool open source encoders to convert common multimedia video formats to FLV format if you want to create some Flash video presentations with minimal effort. Up to you to find those based on your platform, just Google the heck out of all this stuff. :)

  6. &Ingonyama macrumors member

    May 6, 2008
    Use Javascript frameworks like mootools, jquery or prototype. They make javascript so much better :D (especially mootools).
  7. werther macrumors regular

    May 15, 2006
  8. astrostu thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 15, 2007
    Thanks for the advice, folks.

    I've gotten mySQL installed on my computer, activated PHP, and am looking around the web for script demos and samples of what can be done for inclusion in the 3 sites I'm supposed to be maintaining.
  9. anubis26 macrumors member

    Jan 14, 2008
    Let's not forget HTMLdog (, one of the best no-frills reference guides for (x)html/css. You might want to learn PHP and a CMS, or Ruby (+ Rails) if you want to be adventurous. Knowing AJAX is nice but I think that if you're not building large scale web applications it shouldn't provide more than a subtle touch here and there. IMO creating a website in 100% AJAX is as bad as making it completely in flash or frames.
  10. astrostu thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 15, 2007
    I HATE sites that are flash-heavy and use frames. Blech. I remember the few months back in the very late '90s when frames were all the rage, and then people realized that they're much more of a pain than they're worth. :rolleyes:

    I've taken over my department's website for the next ~2 years, and it needs to be woefully re-designed. It's an amalgamation of 1990s design with some PHP and SQL back-end that's been tacked on over the last few years. Like the footers are written by calling a PHP script which calls a second PHP script to actually write it instead of just using JavaScript. Sigh.

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