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Webmaster General Forum

    
When You're Not a Webmaster.
Where do you start with no skills?
johnstac




msg:3446726
 8:58 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Back in 2000, I began learning how to design web pages. I started with Microsoft Front Page while my brother, who was doing the same kind of thing started using Microsoft Publisher.

It didn't take long to realize that his stuff looked a lot better then mine. He was able to drag and drop everything right on the page. I, on the other hand, was creating tables and cells and.....well, you get the picture.

Not long after, I started outsourcing all my design work to another country. They produced some fantastic work and still do. The price has gone up over time but they still create 5 page sites for me for about $200 each. So my question is this; is it worth learning Dreamweaver, Photoshop, php and more or given the amount of time it takes to learn, is it better to continue outsourcing? While I do have a basic understanding of Dreamweaver and Photoshop, I know only enough to manage the sites afterwards and do a little editing. Listen to this next question and tell me if you agree. Is it enough just to know how to design pages or does the person need talent? Imagination, etc? You see, I don't have a great imagination either. I look at other peoples work and it does help inspire ideas but nothing compared to the people for whom it comes natural. I just wonder if imagination and creativity can be learned. My guess is that even if I learn all the technical aspects, I could still suck as a web designer? Agree or disagree?

Lastly, does anyone know if there are still design programs that are drag and drop without code experience and tables, etc?

Thanks for the read.

 

Marcia




msg:3446784
 10:32 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

johnstac, the best favor anyone can do themselves, no matter how their sites are designed or who does it, is to learn the basics of HTML. If there's ever a problem with the code, knowing how to use WYSIWYG software (drag and drop) alone won't give knowledge of how to fix it, and neither will creative talent.

King_Fisher




msg:3447115
 8:11 am on Sep 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

JS. I agree with the above. While I can write enough code to fix, patch and edit, it would take me along time to be a proficient code master.

If you can farm it out at $200.00 a page or a $1000.00 for a 5 page site that's the way to go.

A very smart man told me once that you can work on your weakness real hard but will probably only get a 10% improvement so always stay with your strengths!..KF

rocknbil




msg:3447643
 5:54 pm on Sep 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Back in 2000...

Agreed, if you haven't learned to code by now you probably never will, work with what works.

if there are still design programs that are drag and drop without code experience and tables, etc?

I'm sure there are, but they probably build awfully coded pages.

Tourz




msg:3447691
 6:30 pm on Sep 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Take a three-night HTML course from your local community college etc, then get a copy of Dreamweaver and a good how-to book. After that you'll be able to make basic changes to your sites.

johnstac




msg:3448747
 5:53 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the info. I do have a working understanding of Dreamweaver. Although, when my coders get done, sometimes they don't appear correct in Dreamweaver but that is probably because they don't use it. They use a lot of php, and uri if: commands which really jack up the dreamweaver pages. Nonetheless, they do good work and that's what's important to me.

Thanks for the advice.

Lubitala




msg:3462151
 1:50 am on Sep 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

I also lack in-depth web skills so I thought I'd just purchase some ready made scripts from a professional company. What I learned is that you should ask your script supplier lots of questions before purchasing. I bought some out-of-date CGI scripts from <removed url>. After emailing them for 45 days the installations still don't work and are incomplete. I gave up on them. Now I'm out $100 and all I got was the run around. I still don't have a web site that works.

Buyer beware

[edited by: jatar_k at 1:44 pm (utc) on Sep. 28, 2007]
[edit reason] no urls thanks [/edit]

jtara




msg:3462251
 4:32 am on Sep 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

The best thing that happened to me in my technical education was the first computer class I took in high school in 1972. They started with MACHINE LANGUAGE. We punched numeric instructions on punch cards. (It was a decimal machine, BTW, an IBM 1620 - which made this somewhat easier.)

My first college computer course was similar, in fact, though they used a simulated machine language. Oh, and they let us use an assembler.

Alas, this is seldom done today.

I had the advantage of knowing from the outset the basics of how a computer works. Makes a lot of common sense that before you learn to program a computer, you should have some idea how it works.

You just don't know how hard it is to explain to somebody who started with a higher-level language just what's going on behind the scene. It's a heck of a lot harder to "get it" when you are taught the cart before the horse.

An analogy can be drawn to HTML/high level page design tools. If you don't know HTML, you'll never truly understand what is being put into place when you drag-and-drop. And that's awfully useful to know.

If you do want to do your own page design, then, I'd join the "learn HTML" chorus.

But, yes, it takes talent too, and I just ain't got it. I stick to basic pages with no pretty formatting, but make sure I get what I want on the page. Then I let somebody else make it look nice.

CSS is a godsend for the talentless among us, as it permits the separation of design from content. Fortunately, like many with no artistic or design talent, I know good design when I see it - I just can't create it!

Marshall




msg:3462314
 6:55 am on Sep 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

I look at other peoples work and it does help inspire ideas but nothing compared to the people for whom it comes natural. I just wonder if imagination and creativity can be learned.

There are two aspects to designing a web page: designer (the "artistic side") and coding. Coding is mechanical while designing is creative. Now before everyone gets angry with me, let me continue.

We all know it takes good coding to make a page function, whether it be knowledge is CSS, HTML, JS, PHP, etc. These are all "learned" skills which some are naturally better at than others. It also helps too when you perform certain things regularly which makes it seem second nature.

Design or visual concept, on the other hand, and in my opinion, is more an instinct. Though design concepts can be learned such as spatial and color relationships, there is a certain degree of "instinct" that cannot be taught. This is even true with coders. However, the basics can be learned through design courses, journalism courses geared toward copy reading and editing, photography, and even drawing. All of these help with layout and visual appeal. Granted, a web page, like any visual medium, has both its limitations and accepted practices, but it is how you pull these things together is where instinct, and years of experience, come in.

Bluntly, anyone can "design" a page and anyone can write code, but to make these things work in harmony not only with each other but with the end user, that is truly designng.

Marshall

JS_Harris




msg:3462344
 7:35 am on Sep 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Drag and drop software, the free kinds, are notoriously css unfriendly and rely heavily on tables which is not a good thing these days.

I just want to add a suggestion, buy an HTML book, a php book and a mysql book and park them in your bathroom. Seriously. Next download some of the most comonly used open source software applications and get to trying out the things you learn from the books one at a time at your own pace.

It doesn't take long to get up to a level sufficient to handle your own as a webmaster because learning one thing tends to lead you to want to learn more. I taught myself in 98 and created some butt ugly stuff (functional, but fugly). Today I could dictate code in seven languages line by line without seeing it and you have it easier because there are ten times the number of code help sites out there now... like this one :)

I have to warn you though, when you master those you'll likely want the latest graphics software and several handy programs to do some of the more tedious things. Start saving a couple of thousand now.

Dilly




msg:3463714
 1:28 pm on Sep 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'd say get some good books for dummies and start reading. Thats what I did with php and mysql. It took me 3 months to get a website running which was a CMS for a college. I was pretty impressed. Then I found about sql injections and other security flaws. Now thats another story...

vincevincevince




msg:3463725
 1:34 pm on Sep 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

is it worth learning Dreamweaver, Photoshop, php and more or given the amount of time it takes to learn, is it better to continue outsourcing?

It is wise to never pay someone to do a job you are unable to do yourself. In that direction lies shoddy work, emergencies and woollen eye-covers.

The canny boss is able to do any job in his company. He might not be the fastest, the most effective or the most accurate, but he can do it if he wants to do it. He knows the processes involved, the requirements, the degree of flexibility and the outputs and because of that he is able to give directionswhich help rather than hinder and treat the causes of problems rather than their symptoms.

Be that boss. Don't be the suit who only knows how to sign cheques. Management is a very difficult task and those who say it is a generic skill which requires little knowledge of the company are entirely wrong.

Lorel




msg:3466516
 12:19 am on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

I agree with the above--learn HTML and CSS yourself so if it breaks you can fix it.

WYSIWYGs run by those that don't understand HTML, CSS and SEO put out a lot of code bloat (long download times) and do not incorpate CSS efficiently and still utilize Tables instead of CSS for the layout. Unless CSS is employed the site usually doesn't validate. Most WYSIWYGs input Javascript for navigation (which search engines can't read) and thus indexing problems. Most users don't know how to force the program to insert unique titles and descriptions and input unique image alt tags either. About 90% of the sites I have redesigned that never went anywhere were built with WYSIWYGs by those that didn't understand HTML and CSS. On the other hand if you know HTML/CSS you don't need them. The only ones who benefit from WYSIWYGs are the manufacturers.

Jane_Doe




msg:3466568
 1:37 am on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

For me to get started, I took a few classes at the local community college and bought a lot of books on web programming and design. After that the best way to learn is to just get practice by making lots of sites and reading a lot at webmaster forums like this one.

bill




msg:3466666
 4:48 am on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

A WYSIWYG is a great way to learn. It speeds up your learning curve as you can play around with page elements and see what sort of code is generated. Today's WYSIWYG software is quite a bit more standards compatible than its predecessors were. However it's a good idea to know the markup generated so you can decide for yourself about the quality.

You can use a WYSIWYG as a tool to make your site and to learn HTML. Any good HTML editor can help in this role as well. DW, FP and FP's replacement Expression Web are all pretty comparable these days.

Microsoft Publisher

Microsoft Publisher is for print, not the web. Things will look prettier and more controlled for that reason. Publisher will make HTML pages, but the compatibility is awful and the code not very clean. I don't think you'll find a WYSIWYG that will lay out pages to that degree of precision that will make an HTML page worth anything. You've got to understand the limits of what can be done with HTML and CSS to understand how to design properly for the web.

BarryStCyr




msg:3466699
 6:00 am on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have used Frontpage since FP98. I use it to lay down and manage my sites. Other than the navigation sections, I don't use many of the Extension functions. I write my own javascript, asp and php code. I hand code most of my forms and other stuff.

I like it. I do more work in the code window than I do in the design window.

Barry

dailypress




msg:3468372
 9:05 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

johnstac: with an engineering background I learned the basics but still use dreamweavor. I also outsource my work (esp. front page) and then play around to create other pages.

I rather spend my time on managing websites (uploading content) rather than learning how to code hardcore.

But thatís just me. I have a full time job and also 2 other part time jobs so I rather not invest my time in learning how to design Logos and design websites. HOWEVER, if I did learn how to do all that stuff I am sure I would have made much more money off my websites and owned many more of them.

in summary I donít think anyone can give you a definite answer and that you should go with your gut feeling.

You know your business/talent and your personal goal best; so you have to evaluate what works for you.

just an FYI: all that said: Im taking two Dreamweavor classes next month to learn a bit more. I also figured it would be good networking to meet other webmasters...

Good luck.

Essex_boy




msg:3469093
 3:01 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

Teach yourself HTML its easier than you think then at least youll know whats going on in a drag and drop piece of code.

So once you know HTML then you have to ask, can I do better than the $200 people?

I understand HTML but still outsource my work, why?

They can do it faster than I can, all I do is give then an indication of the layout I want and they take it from there.

windwalker




msg:3469221
 4:58 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi John,
Good to hear you are joining the world of webmasters.
After reading your post I think there are a few things which could help you a ton that I'd like to share with you:

1. Great software and great code isn't worth its salt if it supports bad design. I see some of the best coders in the world with the worst webpages ever because they are bad designers. Then I see phenomenal pages with terrible, horrendous code, built by great designers. Guess who wins in the world of the web? If one page view is one vote, great design triumphs over great code 1000 to 1, or more! Being a good coder is important, but in the actually nuts and bolts of 99% of the web, it doesn't add up to much. I mean even the ebst coders will probably agree with this - "A 85k webpage functions no differently than a 150k webpage in the modern web." Even if your code is cluttered, ugly, convoluted, table-rich, it won't make any significant difference as long as it is cross browser compatible. Note: You spoke of $200 a page, so figure we are dealing with pretty static pages...

2. You design software is only as good as your design. For 99% of users MS Frontpage or Expressions is no different than Dreamweaver in terms of functionality. I see 1,000's of people say, "Frontpage is terrible because it makes cluttered WYSIWYG code, I simply can't build anything good in it." Then I look at their design, and guess what? It would still be weak in Dreamweaver! People blame the software as an excuse for not doing great work. You can outperform Publisher or Dreamweaver with Frontpage, or vice versa, the best designer can use any tool to make incredible designs.

3. My advice: Stop shopping software, stop worrying about code (you'll learn html as you learn to verify your sites, expand your sites, and repair your sites, learn as you go!), instead of worrying and learning code, spend all that time looking at the award winning sites. Go to the award sites and see who's winning in the different categories. Find what you like and print out the source code, print out the design layout, now try to replicate the look, feel, and functionality using whatever tool you have.

Does that all make sense? Start with a great design, then modify it until it is unique and your own. Use the award winners for inspiration, spend your energy learning great design and you'll learn code naturally and organically over time, and all your users will see is the great design!

Cheers!

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