How to delve into web design

January 18th, 2011

Dominic suggested that a ‘where to start in website design’ post would be good. This is a big topic but I’ll do my best to tackle it. I’ll be talking mainly about my own experiences but feel free to add how you got into web design in the comments.

Firstly, it’s not something to be undertaken lightly. Once you start, you’ll always be honing your skills and attempting to better yourself (or at least you should be). If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last two years it’s that “There’s always a better way to code” – Mark Shufflebottom. So with those optimistic comments in mind, I’ll tell you how I recommend starting.

Get yourself a good text editor, be it the latest release of Dreamweaver or Espresso. Just make sure you’re using code view 99% of the time. You will soon start learning why certain bits of code are affected by that clear: both thing you thought was harmless. Bookmark pages that inspire you so that it becomes lists of stuff that you’ll rarely look at but are there:

Then look at their source code (right-click -> view source or similar) at the elements that make you think, wow, I wish I could do that! You can. I should note that tools like Opera Dragonfly, Firebug and the Inspector (built into WebKit browsers) are all hugely useful for pinpointing code that relates to that element simply by hovering.

But I can hear you saying, ‘Tim! That all requires so much work!’, it’s true, you do have to work and understand it but that said here are some not-so-secret helpful resources:

As far as design is concerned I think it’s essential to have the Adobe suite, I’ve tried to get out of it by using the GIMP, Pixelmator, Acorn, Scribbles, Inkscape, Picturesque and others but none of them have the feature-set of a Photoshop/Illustrator setup.

Key to that point, I read today that it’s best to design for the web using Illustrator instead of Photoshop. I haven’t put it into practise but the reasons Smashing lists seem intriguing enough to give it a go.

Immerse yourself in the brilliant designs the web has to offer, the FWA showcase brilliant sites everyday and are well worth following. Speaking of which…

Social media like Twitter and blogs (and a good RSS reader) are essential. A selection of useful ones that I follow are:

To wrap it up, I’ll direct you to a brilliant post one of my technical tutors wrote, it gives a very practical example of where to start with web design. However, his first link is to W3Schools, I often use them myself but I advise you to heed the warnings of W3Fools.

If you feel that I’ve glossed over something important let me know and I’ll add it, alternatively leave a comment with how you started.


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