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New To Web Development Forum

Getting involved in web development
First steps
Dalone Ranger

 2:03 am on Nov 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

I will be graduating soon with a 4-year liberal arts degree and have been doing some really hardcore self-reflection about what I want out of a career. I've decided that being a self-employed webmaster can provide me with the flexibility and pay that I am looking for in a career, while giving me room to be creative and use my copywrite skills. I took a Web Development course in high school and did really well, but I ended up not taking any more courses after that.

I'm familiar with really basic HTML code, but I know that since it's not the 90's anymore, that won't be enough to create a successful website.

I'm planning on taking some web development and e-commerce courses at my local community college to get certified. But if the classes are full before I can register, then I don't want to wait 6 months before starting.

Essentially, my question is where do I start?
Are there any self-taught webmasters out there?

I've been researching webmasters and came across an organization called the World Organization of Webmasters. I've noticed that they have educational materials and certification programs, should I look into those?

Lastly, are there any good tutorial programs I could use to jump into this field?



 2:47 am on Nov 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

First of all welcome to WebmasterWorld :)

A lot of the questions you have asked will be common to a lot of us, especialy when we where getting started.

I'm familiar with really basic HTML code, but I know that since it's not the 90's anymore, that won't be enough to create a successful website.

Don't be so sure. Its what the site provides and not the underlying technology that brings success. You could build the most advanced website possible, but if it doesn't provide the intended user with what they are looking for its all wasted.

Are there any self-taught webmasters out there?

Loads, myself included. I think its a good idea to get a qualification behind you, but its more about "what can you do" as opposed to "what qualifications do you have". Its your portfolio that will bring in business, not the qualifications you have obtained.

I know a lot of web developers, although I don't honestly think I know any that have a paper qualification. In this business when you're working for yourself you are providing a service. By providing links to work you have carried out it tells a potential client a lot more about your skill set and quality of work.

No course will give you all the knowledge you need. I have been involved in web development since the mid 90's and I am still learning. You will be amazed how much this industry changes in a very short time, you need to keep yourself up to date.

How do you get started? Build websites, build sites for yourself. What are your hobbies and interests? Build sites within these topics. By doing this you will learn. As you learn new things put them to use on your sites.

When you feel have gained some experience offer your services for free to non profits. These are the initial sites that go on your portfolio. Later as you offer your services for a fee you will already have a fairly nice portfolio established.



 3:24 am on Nov 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

Just don't be puddin' head (rule 1)! (laughing)

As for the rest, dive in with both feet. Gain experience in the real world (coding) and go from there. Yes, there are some things you can learn via courses, but what you KNOW will be what you have DONE. As for making a living out of webmastering that's both hard work and luck... and the luck is very iffy in the competition pool.

Welcome to Webmaster World! Good place to view what works and what doesn't... and suggest reading as many of the currently available threads as possible. And if having done that you aren't scared away then you're even MORE welcome!

Dalone Ranger

 6:25 pm on Nov 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the replies, they've been very helpful. I now realize that a large amount of successful of e-commerce sites are largely HTML/JAVA/CSS and don't require fancy stylish Flash-like designs. The more I look into this area, the more I realize how many misconceptions there are and why there's so much opportunity.


 7:03 pm on Nov 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

I've decided that being a self-employed webmaster can provide me with the flexibility and pay that I am looking for in a career

I might be the only downer here, but I think this is a horrible idea. You should pursue a stable job as well and work on websites on your free time. Should your websites take off and you feel that they will bring in enough money for the long haul, then you could leave your stable job.

Are there any self-taught webmasters out there?

Pretty sure most of us are self-taught. Pick a language, add tutorial to the end of it, and type it in to Google. You won't need classes as everything is out there, but some people learn easier in a group environment with a teacher.


 8:12 pm on Nov 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

If there is one thing I wish someone had banged into my head from the start, it is everything mentioned on this site [websitesthatsuck.com]. Read it, study it, beat your ego down into the box where he/she belongs and apply it to your own work, you will become stronger and better for it.

But alas, I probably wouldn't have listened. I have a BFA in Art, came from the print industry, so a large part of my directive was all about the design, all about "how it looks" and to heck with everything else.

I'm just thankful I learned how wrong I was early on, but still, too late. :-) Lost a lot of years defending my cheesy designs and approaches.

The second piece of advice, question everything. There is so much B.S. taught in "classes", so much unimportant trivia that winds up on tests, so much incorrect info on the 'net - and it appears they all read the same book, bought into the same half-truth philosophies - if there is one thing to constantly remain aware of, it is this. Question everything.


 6:44 am on Dec 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I have quite a bit of formal education in mathematics and computer science, plus a graduate degree in business. This helps me think about problems in a very structured way from all the relevant perspectives.

But self-instruction is pretty much a necessity to keep current. Taking classes all the time on the latest things coming up would cost a fortune and I'm not sure that the return on investment is there after a certain point. It is more efficient to grab a book or tutorial, code up some of the examples, and start tweaking things to learn how it really works.

Small business is really brutal. It can take a whole lot of non-billable hours to get those billable hours. Plus you'll be trying to learn at the same time. I think it makes a lot of sense to have someone else pay for you to learn the ropes, e.g. a regular job for a while with a steady paycheck so you can eat while you build a skill set. That is a good way to start.

Dalone Ranger

 7:13 am on Dec 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks again for the advice. I see the point about working for others first. I just don't know how I'd get that first web development job. I can stay in school and live comfortably and work on getting "certified". If I feel like I'm catching on to it quickly, I could try to find a job if I make a good enough portfolio. How proficient should I be if I am looking for an entry level position?


 11:15 am on Dec 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I am totally self taught originally building a site for a community group that I was involved with. With some basic html I took over our departmental intranet pages pretty well by default and now have the luxury of being able to use company time to expand my knowledge.

As a side issue discovered that html wasn't just for the web. I reformatted all our departmental reports to output to HTML rather than to MS Office. Result, a totally portable format that can be opened in a variety of programs and we didn't need to retest every single report when we upgraded Office.


 4:47 pm on Dec 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

You might find this from a previous new graduate interesting



 7:41 pm on Dec 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

For an entry level position, you need an entry level skill. Now, you can approach that from a variety of directions.

1) Direct approach. If you know how to code PHP, then get a job writing PHP, and spend as much time as possible with the people that code Javascript, or work with design, or the OS people to round out your set of skills.

2) Indirect approach. Get the job doing something else; sales, copy writing, research of some sort, etc and again, spend time with others learning, and once you demonstrate yourself to be a strong team member, begin asking to be included on projects that have a lot of learning value.

When you say you are graduating soon, I assume you mean you'll be done in the spring? Hopefully you have taken classes that 1) give you some marketable skills and 2) make you a more interesting person.

In your spare time, write code. Then, write some more code. Once you've done that, write some more code. Give yourself little projects and code them.

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