Advice on learning materials

Hi all,

I'm a newb around here. Actually I was browsing and came across the forum here and signed up wondering if I could get an answer to a question I've been working on.

I would like to learn about website construction and have thought about purchasing Dreamweaver but I've read that the newest version of it is NOT very user friendly for folks just starting out. Some of the older versions, from what i've read, were very easy for newbies to use.

It is a bit pricey too. So I was wondering if anyone around here knew of any courses or training in the area of professional website construction. I have a couple of sites that I've been using to learn with that are based on the Wordpress platform but I'm not satisfied with the limited design options.

I would like a  career change and getting into something that would allow me to work from home is very interesting to me. I would like to be able to offer professional website construction services to business ownwers. I have come a long way in the last 6 months and am looking to educate myself as best I can before haveing to turn to formal schooling on the subject.

Thanks in advance for any help you guys (and gals) can offer.

Have a great day!

Burk 

8 Replies
James Brown

Brian, I've been developing websites for approx 14 years and I have been using CS3 for approx. 3 1/2 years. The new CS5 is made for the windows 7 (64) bit enviornment where as the earlier versions were meant for Vista and XP. However once you understand say CS3 there is not really that big of a difference switching to CS5. 


The hardest thing to realize when building a website is that you are going to first need web space and information to upload your files to the web space. This information will be used when Dreamweaver Transfers your files from your local computer to your website.  Basically in Dreamweaver you are going to create sites with a certain file structure. I would suggest watching some YouTube videos for this. Anyway you will have the main folder and then under that you will have your main site which typically comprises of an Images folder, a Stylesheets folder, Javascripts folder, a Flash folder, a documents folder and a _private folder.

If you have never designed a website or used Dreamweaver, it may prove worth the money to take an evening course at the local community college.

Next you are going to have to decide on the webpage language. I have written websites in PHP, ASP and HTML but there are a lot of languages to choose from. I would suggest you start with HTML.

With that said there are a few books out there that will get you started on web design.

The Non-web designers book.

Dreamweaver CS5 the missing manual

Flash CS5

Dynamic Learning Flash CS3

Here are a few websites I would also recomment

* Webmonkey

* W3 Schools

* Lynda Online Tutorials

* Flash / Action Scripting

* Learn Flash.com

You also want to get familiar with photo editing software such as Photoshop or Fireworks.

I don't want to put a damper on your dreams, but unless you take classes on properly constructing a website you could run into issues. My biggest tip to new developers is to never use index.html as your starting page. Only use it to redirect browsers to your actual website. There are a lot of robots and hackers who will change the index.html code and put up their own information. I.E. you have been hacked!!!... Not a good thing if you are trying to guarentee a customer a safe website. My starting page names typically are something loke "Appollo.html" or "Venus.html"  Since i have done that my website has never been hacked by a robot.

Good luck..

Chantelle N

James Brown said:

My biggest tip to new developers is to never use index.html as your starting page. Only use it to redirect browsers to your actual website. There are a lot of robots and hackers who will change the index.html code and put up their own information. I.E. you have been hacked!!!... Not a good thing if you are trying to guarentee a customer a safe website. My starting page names typically are something loke "Appollo.html" or "Venus.html"  Since i have done that my website has never been hacked by a robot.

James, good tip - I had no idea about this and it's definitely valuable to know.

Robert Kennedy

Brian,

Dreamweaver definitely IS a bit more complex now than when I first started using it (Macromedia Dreamweaver 7 - eons ago ).  But, it it also a fairly comprehensive tool.  James is right.  To use it well and to use it to build sites well, I would definitely take a quick course or something to get up to speed because of all of the languages.  When I started developing, HTML was still pre-eminent for dev.  Then, I had to learn ASP and PHP and then XHTML.  Before I knew it, CSS became important to learn and then Flash and now implementation of jQuery and other java type coding, then HTML5 blah blah blah blah.  It's a lot of stuff.  But you can definitely do it.  Just go in eyes wide open and grab ahold of the proper resources to help you along the way.

In actuality, as far as Wordpress and any other CMS type dev tool, yes, there are some limitations, as there are with anything.  But, there is actually QUITE a bit of room for creativity if you can code for wordpress, joomla, etc.  A lot of developers are using that these days.  I don't do websites anymore but for my own sites(s), using WP makes maintenance REALLY easy for me and that is worth its weight in gold.  Time is money :-)

Steve Flowers

I'll second the vote for Wordpress / CMS. You'll actually learn quite a bit by starting with an established framework and taking on tasks to remake bits, to extend, and to make an output match your vision or requirements.

James recommends some good places to start. Aside from the technical design challenges, consider also investigating the user experience path. The core of the design is what should take prime focus. I consider visual quality to be a secondary, yet still major, focus. But this focus doesn't matter if the features don't match audience needs or if the experience is unpleasant or inconvenient. Add some study of problem solving skills and judgment that aren't directly IT related. Just as with ISD work, your beginnings should be substantiated away from the computer. A core design that is grown from organic means won't suffer the barriers that a technology based approach tends to throw. The cognitive task sequence associated with the establishment of requirements and core design elements is often done as well or better on paper.

As tools go, if the technical problem solving is where you want to move you should work to sharpen your skills so that tools don't matter. For coding, I often simply open Notepad or Notepad++. Dreamweaver can help you get to this point and can help to accelerate some tasks but is no substitute for the ability to solve these problems without training wheels on occasion.

Nemo Chu

A lot of web designers use delicious.com to bookmark their favorite resources, which means you can also browse what they've bookmarked to find useful learning materials. Check it out:

delicious.com bookmarks for "web design"

The number on the right of each listing is the number of times the site has been bookmarked. More bookmarks = more authoritative.

brian burkovich

Hey thanks so much to all of you. All of this info is great. I'm sorry its taken me a while to get back to this but I've hit a few of "life's speed bumps" here in the last two weeks.  Things weren't going so well between my "significant other" and myself so we've made a mutual decision to split I've had to find a new place to live, move and re-establish myself. 

I'll get to work on things again when I get settled. I'm sure you all have had your experiences so I'm sure you understand. Thanks again for all the great info. Can't wait to dig in.

See you around!

Burk

Ted Amenta

I knew only a little basic html before getting CS4.  There are a ton of tutorial videos on CS4, .css, and the rest of it.  I actually found CS4 rather user friendly and think it helped me learn about web development faster than I would have otherwise.  My skills are still not of professional quality, but mabey by the end of the year   BTW, Photoshop (or some similar program) will be on your list of things to learn if you are interested in web development.

Tara Johnson

I would definitely recommend the wordpress self-hosted option. I started out with dreamweaver about 8 years ago and liked it but as soon as I switched to wordpress it made life so much easier and provided great out of the box tools like seo and stats etc...

You can customize wordpress as much as you need. If you know a bit of css and php there's nothing you can't change. (of course it has to be the self hosted version not the .com one) there are also thousands of themes to choose from so there'll always be one that will suit your needs. Hope that helps.