Studying and Applying to Learn New Skills

One of my favorite things about learning any new skill is applying what I learn. Whether it’s new software, new hardware modules, or web design, I want to practice it to master it.

Learning Web Design

There are so many parts to learning web design, and new things all the time. If you’re learning on your own, like me, it’s a good idea to have a plan on how to move forward. I’ll tell you what I do and you may get some ideas for your trajectory.

  • Learn HTML/XHTML: This is the basic code to get your website up and running. You can use only this code for your whole site. It won’t be pretty, but you can see from the naked beginning how things work.
  • Learn CSS: This is the code for prettying up your site. It’s for layout and color and font style and decorations.

Truthfully, these are all you need to build attractive, functional, user-friendly sites. Once you get these well in hand, you can build useful sites that can be a virtual shingle for yourself or others. And then there’s the tons of other stuff you can use.

How to Learn the Basics

You can buy a book, find an online resource, or take a paid course. I wanted to try it out before taking a class, so I did the first too.

  • I bought an HTML and CSS book and a CSS book to get started.
  • Online I found About.com and signed up for their email lessons.
  • W3 Schools website was on my radar before long.
  • My training software was HTML-Kit, (which I still use today), which offers a free download version.
  • My training space was a free website built on GEOCITIES (now defunct) from Yahoo!

Once I knew I was hooked, I bought an address and signed up to self-host, and the rest is history. There is a lot of power in the basics. I try to learn new pieces often.

There’s lots more to learn, apart from the basics, if you’re so inclined. For these I will likely take a course as they are more complicated. I’ve touched them—which is to say I’ve tweaked them to customize them which is totally superficial. My list is short, only two powerful coding languages:

  • JavaScript
  • PHP

You need to know that there’s tons more out that you can learn and use. These two I mentioned, and many others, put a great deal of power at your fingertips. Flash is very popular in some circles, to animate your website. JavaScript can allow you to animate your site also, on a smaller scale.

Claiming your Power

My dad used to tell me that learning computers anything is like learning a romance language. Once you learn one, you can build on that to learn others. You can see that clearly in Windows (pun alert) if you look. Many key strokes work the same in different applications.

While it may be a little more complex in coding, the same principle applies. What you can do with only the basics is read other code. I can’t build a blog today, but I can get inside the blog theme editor and tweak some files to make changes I want to see. I can manipulate the font size, the color, some other things I would not have touched before.

Follow directions to customize free JavaScript code. That offered me the ability to customize drop-down menus for my websites. It also helped me work with a nice audio embedding code.

Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston is a site I made in HTML-Kit. The code I used is the basics, (XHTML and CSS), with a little JavaScript thrown in. Remember, I don’t know JavaScript. These were codes I found online and plugged in my site’s information where appropriate.

That’s a lot you can do with XHTML and CSS, right? What’s your strategy for learning web design?

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