How to learn web designing?

Most people who want to learn web designing not have the faintest idea where to start – nowadays web is so full of different technologies that even professionals need to have specializations. In this article I will give you some hints what you should learn to have easier start into world of web design.

First of all you should think what exactly do you want to do? This will determine which programming languages you should learn. Do you want to become simple blogger, or maybe you have this great idea for amazon-like site, which is gonna bring you millions of pounds (per day of course)? I may sound like I am having a laugh, but this is important and may save you huge amounts of time. If you are into blogging, all you need is HTML, CSS and knowledge how to use blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger. But if you are gonna be proper site developer, you need better tools: a side server language like PHP or Ruby and some database knowledge. Of course HTML and CSS as well.

Let’s explain some common web standards and languages worth considering when making decision what web design language to learn:

HTML

HTML is language of browsers – you feed browser HTML page and it displays it. HTML “program” is just some text file with .html extension, using some additional tags put into < > brackets. If you press right mouse button on this page and select “View source file” (if you have Firefox browser) you will see page html markup. HTML is a MUST if you want to learn web designing – it’s a starting point for everything else. You don’t need to know everything about HTML, but you should have good understanding of it. At this moment standard is HTML4, while HTML5 is kind of novelty, but it may change in the future. If I were you, I would start my web designing adventure with HTML4.

Javascript

HTML is nice, but unfortunately it is static language – nothing changes once page is loaded. Javascript is commonly used to fix this – with Javascript we can create nice dynamic pages with great functionality, for example check demos of extjs javascript library. The only problem with Javascript is that it’s client side language – meaning anyone from the internet can peek int code and change it or pull out database passwords (which is not good) if we were dumb enough to put them there. This make Javascript nice support language for web, still worth learning.

Java

Many people think Javascript and Java are the same thing – believe me they are not. Java programs that run on client side are called applets and they need Java Virtual Machine to be installed on client computer – which is “heavy” and prone to hacking. Java applets are not as easy to debug and reverse engineer as Javascript, but it’s still possible to hack them. This makes Java not the best language for client-side programs. On the other hand, lots of corporations invested huge amounts of money into Java based server side systems, so if you want to work as professional Java programmer, there is potential in Java (it’s considered world’s most popular language). Unfortunately, I don’t think you should learn Java if you want to be blogger or do custom made sites for general web clients – the thing is that server-side Java (JSP – Java Server Pages) needs Java software installed on the server, and most Internet Server Providers don’t care about Java. At least not the cheap ones.

CSS

CSS is language for describing look and formatting of HTML, and it’s commonly used together with HTML and Javascript. When you define block in HTML, you can easily stylize it using CSS; this is very useful when you have lots of block which should look similar or the same – by changing one definition in CSS you can change look of them all (otherwise you would have to change parameters of all given blocks in HTML). CSS is not something you need to know perfectly, but it’s worth to have some good in-depth knowledge of it.

PHP

This is most common server-side language in the wild. I think it’s safe to say that all commercial ISPs support it. It is used to generate HTML before sending it to the clients, so it safe to use with databases (clients never get PHP programs, all they get is their output). I think most of the internet sites are programmed in PHP. Most Content Management Systems like WordPress and Joomla use PHP, so if you want to work with CMS this should be you language of choice right after HTML (even before Javascript I think). You can easily install PHP on Windows machine using software like WAMPServer.

Ruby

Another server-side language. Although considered general-purpose language, Ruby got into web development thank to Ruby On Rails – web development framework for Ruby. I don’t recommend learning Ruby as first language – the main reason is that it’s syntax is different from common programming languages (C-like), while PHP and Java are somewhat similar, making it easier to switch between them later.

SQL

When server-side programs talk to databases, they use SQL to ask for data. This means that you shouldn’t bother with SQL initially – once you learn PHP and have need to use database from within PHP, then it’s the time to find good book about SQL.

Conclusion

If you are complete beginner wanting to learn web designing, I recommend that you learn basics of HTML, take a good look at CSS and then install WordPress on your local machine using WAMPServer. This shouldn’t cost you anything at all, unless you buy some books to help with the learning – you can use web resources but from my experience good book can speed up learning process substantially.

Once you know HTML and CSS then it’s time to learn PHP and maybe SQL for database connectivity. This is complete basic set of skills for any web designer.  At this point you will be able to make your own decisions what to learn next.

Have fun learning web designing!

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