Need advice: Which path should I choose next?

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by aaronchow, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. aaronchow macrumors regular

    Sep 29, 2007
    Some background: I love to read anything related to customer experience and usability stuffs. I have been reading Dr. Jacob Nielsen's articles since 5+ years ago, but since I have no actual experience or degree in this field, I still have no luck finding even an internship job in this market.

    I am not a programmer or a web designer. However, couple of years ago I started to learn HTML / CSS / JavaScript and JQuery, and I've built a website for my work using Drupal / CiviCRM and LimeSurvey, and I have been using it as my main portfolio.

    I would love to work in the web-related field (just the front end stuffs). Recently I work on several freelance projects, but I find my skills barely adequate for the jobs. I lack creativity and I can't write any custom Drupal modules, and I barely pull those projects off.

    I want to build a stronger foundation before I fully commit to it. Do you recommend me to take a year off and go back to school (there is a web design certificate program that lasts 15 months), or should I continue to learn the skills on my own pace (been using SafariBooksOnline for a while)? Also, I am just starting to learn PHP / MySQL now, and is there any emerging skills that I should be aware of?

    I know I have a lot of questions, so I appreciate all of your advice and response in advance.
  2. shinji macrumors 65816


    Mar 18, 2007
    Get the certificate while working on freelance projects, open source projects (maybe a JQuery plugin?), etc. Should help you get an internship and a clearer career path.
  3. AFPoster macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    Charlotte, NC
    Also take a look at TeamTreehouse which is an online education site that teaches you jquery, css, html, php, ruby on rails and how to build iphone / android apps and more. Great site and a lot cheaper than going to get a certificate right now. You can learn at your own pace and since it's all videos you're getting to see exactly how things need to be done.

    I don't want to take away from what a certificate can provide, this is definitely a great thing to have especially when going for an internship. In saying that showing an actual portfolio with skills in multiple mark-up languages would be more valuable in this market. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Exxon are just 4 companies would could care less about a degree and a certificate and more about skill level. So do what will help you learn the fastest with the ability to remember it all to build whatever a client or employer needs.
  4. aaronchow thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 29, 2007
    Thanks for the advice, and I'll look into those JQuery UI projects. BTW, do you have any good recommendation on any of the certification program? I'm in San Francisco, CA. Academy of Art College offers an intense certification program, but this program costs around $15K, so most likely I'll need to quit my current job in order to succeed the program.

    Thanks for the link, and I see that there is a first month 50% discount if I use your link, and I'll definitely use it. Are you currently using the $25 plan or the $50 plan? It seems like the $50 plan will offer videos of their workshops as well as the regular lectures. Am I right?

    I'm trying to re-learn all of the basics again. For Drupal, I'm able to modify the existing codes, but I'm too novice to create a custom modules from the ground up (tried several times, but ended up asking for help). Is this normal? Does most of the professionals ask for help? Just curious. And thanks for everyone's advice.
  5. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2008
    Wellington, New Zealand
    If you are interested in usability and user experience, I don't see why you would go back to school for web production skills.

    user experience design (UX/XD) does not equal "web design" does not equal "web development" in the professional world. It is a separate career path—a unique and different role on the same team.

    If that is what you are interested in I would find a program that focuses on Information architecture / usability / HCI and really dig into that.
  6. Jamesbot, Jan 3, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013

    Jamesbot macrumors member

    Jun 19, 2009
    Listen, you don't know me and have no real reason to trust my opinion, but please: Don't Do This.

    Find a class at San Francisco City College ( they have a bunch of CS and web classes ), keep your job, and grind it out in your spare time. CCSF is no Stanford or anything, but neither is Academy of Art. Not by a long shot. But CCSF is what? $30 a unit?

    Anyway, that's what I did, and I do web stuff for a living now. And all the people I know who took a web class or 2 when they were in art school? Baristas. With $50k in student loans.

    Certificates are BS. Nobody cares about those things.

    Instead, I'd recommend the following:

    1. Think of something you want to build.
    2. Ask yourself what technology will best allow you to build the thing
    3. Learn the technology
    4. Do what you can, get help when you're stuck
    5. Meet other programmers
    6. Land a job
    7. Bust your ass
    8. Meet other programmers
    9. Build more things

    And keep in mind that it takes time to learn anything well.
  7. AFPoster macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    Charlotte, NC
    I use the $50 plan, but honestly all you need is the $25. The added content is great don't get me wrong but I don't think it will hold any value in the initial stage of learning. I highly recommend it and I believe they offer free 30 days - PM me if you want to move forward and I will help with that and the 50% off the 2nd month.
  8. aaronchow, Jan 4, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013

    aaronchow thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 29, 2007
    Thanks for all of the advice. I'll give myself another half a year to study on the subjects I really like, and I will try to bulid something with it. If I still fail :eek:, I'll just go back to school, probably half time.
  9. jwm2 macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2012
    Take a look at Ruby on Rails. I won't tell you why but its by far the fastest growing language and platform available right now for various reasons. There is a steep learning curve but once you get the basics down your productivity will sky rocket and you'll wonder why you didn't take a serious look at it sooner. I'm still pretty new to rails and ruby but IMO its the technology of the future.
  10. aaronchow thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 29, 2007
    Thanks for the suggestion. I am learning Ruby now, but my friends told me to learn Python as well. They said that Ruby on Rails are very new, so not many company have developed with Ruby on Rails yet, so if I also learn Python, I will have a higher chances to get a job since this programming language is more established???
  11. charlieegan3 macrumors 68020


    Feb 16, 2012
    Python is a good language to know for sure but I found that django was awkward for me personally. I've been getting to RoR recently too. It's really great fun.
  12. grizfan macrumors member


    Feb 10, 2012
    Boise, ID
    Don't forget some of the less "sexy" but very important aspects of web development. A lot of people hone their skills working on their own, but there are several things you'll need to know when working on a team. Spend some time getting to know your way around some popular project management tools, such as Base Camp, bug trackers such as Jira, etc...

    Also, really get to know source control. Learn the high-level principles, and familiarize yourself with both SVN and Git. If you want to get paid for your work, knowing source control is a must.

    Finally, rather than branching out, I would continue to refine your skills with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP/MySQL. Make sure you can apply your front-end skills in a variety of areas such as traditional web pages, mobile and email marketing. I've hired 4 web developers/designers over the years, and people who have the skills and knowledge to be a developer or designer in a team environment have a big advantage over the lone wolves.
  13. macfanrutler macrumors regular


    Jun 13, 2010
    You might also want to take a look at It is all hands on learning and you can take whatever courses you feel comfortable with and can start at any point in the course so if you have a basic understanding of a subject you can skip the beginning.

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