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Web Coding & Designing advice
I'm a graphic designer wanting to turn web designer

 10:21 pm on Jan 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

My career is stagnant -- I've gone as far as I can in my graphic design field. I want to take some classes and learn html and be able to write code and make websites and use my 25 years of graphic design experience to build great websites. Am I crazy or is this doable? And profitable? I see classes in my area I can take on html, web apps and web design. Any advice would be appreciated as I can tell how knowledgeable members of this forum are. thx



 1:50 am on Jan 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you made a living as a graphic artist then you should get along fine as a web designer. I'm a technical guy and my downfall is I'm not really an artist though I do OK. Some artists have trouble with the technical side but if you do well you can sometimes do better.


 2:53 am on Jan 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

Unless self-education is just not in your make-up, I encourage you to do just that -- self educate. The web is not mature enough as a medium for courses to be all that good. You can pick a project that you care about and just dive in. w3schools.com (and other sites too) have some very good online tutorials. HTML books are also widely available -- I got started with Sam's Teach Yourself HTML in 24 Hours.

With a bit of experience in self-teaching you can more easily decide if you really want or need the discipline of formal coursework in some area or other. But always remember if chosing a course -- there's often a difference between those who teach and those who can do.

I know for instance that part of a "web marketing" course at a major university included reading WebmasterWorld on a regular basis. That says a lot about where a good education is available.


 4:15 am on Jan 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

You can do it; I left the insurance business after 19 years and my freelance business is really taking off. My only advice is that along w/ HTML, you get right into CSS, and prepare to learn PHP/MySQL...because as soon as you can make a site LOOK good, someone will ask you about building databases and I firmly believe that you must be prepared to offer dynamic sites in order to keep attracting new biz.

Good luck!


 2:26 pm on Jan 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

TerriGW, Go for it!

There are significant advantages to a web designer that has a strong graphics background. While in most cases HTML coding can be learned, graphics design is a skill that you either have it - or you don't.

Having combined skills also makes the project more efficient to build, and offers more synergy, since one person is able to balance the graphics and code, rather than disparate elements from several people that can often take a lot of additional work to get to the desired result.

One caveat to remember is that the web consists of significantly lower resolution than you are used to. While a huge, splashy design may make an attractive magazine ad, the same size and detail generally makes for a poor - and very slow loading - web page design.


 3:04 pm on Jan 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

One caveat to remember is that the web consists of significantly lower resolution than you are used to. While a huge, splashy design may make an attractive magazine ad, the same size and detail generally makes for a poor - and very slow loading - web page design.

Indeed, and this is a problem that many (not all, but many) graphic designers have making the transition.

This offers you an opportunity. Web design or marketing or programming is all about finding a niche for yourself.

If you can marry your graphic skills with a use of CSS to create quick-loading yet visually pleasing sites then, IMO, that gives you a big advantage over both trad table-based coders married to their blocks of colour and converted graphic designers still stuck in offline mode. Have a look at zengarden or some of the showcase CSS collections to see what I mean.


 6:58 pm on Jan 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

A few words of advice when you travel this path, this is something I've experienced dealing with many clients who have had graphic designers design their page and pass it off to me. It took me a while to get it through my head also when transitioning from traditional publications.

Web design and traditional graphic design are two distinctly different mediums, and there is a very different approach to presentation. Do not fall into the "online brochure" trap.

You will also find a tendency to want to hold hard to your preference for certain graphical considerations, among them your preference for specific fonts as part of the design. Since a font will only display on a user's system if they have that font, to retain your design you may wind up making all display heads/subheads/and even text bodies out of graphics. DON'T DO IT! I've seen sites that are 100% graphics out of sheer stubborness - when search engines index these sites, they come back with ZERO content as search engines need to index TEXT. Additionally they become a nightmare to maintain.

Look at this font limitation, and other limitations you will encounter such as variable resolutions, browser differences, and dificulties you will encounter in positioning (this is not QuarkXpress :-) ) in the same way Piet Mondrian did his colors: build beautiful things with a limited palette. You can build an equally effective websites in this medium but it's a whole new canvas. Explore it and have fun!

Lastly I would stay out of WYSIWYG editors, on the whole they generate very bad code and when something breaks you won't know how to fix it. HTML/CSS is a very easy markup to learn, start by getting right into hand-coding or at least shortcut tools to help you. Macromedia Homesite is my favorite editor.


 7:31 pm on Jan 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

Wow. Thank you all for the advice. I did not mention this -- I do the web images for the company I work for (over 6,000 sku) so I am aware of the resolution differences, font restrictions, etc. I do the hi-res print catalog and then put it into our web format (no coding on my part required). I also handle our Adwords campaign and made it really take off (to the tune of $3 million in my first year doing it with zero gratitude from my company... another reason I need to get out and expand my horizons) and I learned a chunk of it here (this is how I know about Webmaster World!) and the rest was self-taught. So I can self-teach myself and also gain a wealth of knowledge reading here (I am just reading more now).

An IT friend at work also told me to learn CSS. All of you have given me valuable advice. Thank you. I am starting online classes Tuesday and hopefully this time next year (if not before) I can tell them to take this job and .... well, you know! :-)

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