Becoming an amateur web designer is a lot like heading to a new grocery store without a list.  When you look around, there are just so many things to choose from, it’s overwhelming.  How do you pick out what you need?  What if one is better than the other, or more suited to what you want?  Well, maybe you should do your research and come back a little bit more prepared next time.  Just kidding, it really is a difficult process.

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So you’re sitting at your computer, all set to start coding.  What program do you open?  Most professional designers will tell you Adobe Dreamweaver is the best choice.  But you’ve also got Web Easy Professional, which is easy and well suited to someone who doesn’t want to learn code, or CoffeeCup Visual Site Designer, which is like Dreamweaver but cheaper.  Not to mention countless other programs that can do the job, too.  You haven’t even started and you’re already making decisions.

You chose your program and you’re back on track; but now you need to decide what scripting language you’re going to use.  Yeah, this is going to take longer than you thought, isn’t it?  There’s PHP, which is the most popular scripting language, JavaScript, which most people say you must know, HTML and CSS, Ruby, Perl and Python, the list goes on.  How do you choose?

You take a look at PHP.  It’s popular, it’s easy to use… but it takes a long time to write anything.  It’s “server side,” which means if it works on your server it will work for everyone, and the source code is hidden so no one can steal your code.  It’s a solid language, but it doesn’t allow for the dynamic coding that JavaScript can provide you with.

So you look at JavaScript.  It’s true that most websites have some aspect of JavaScript in them.  It’s interactive, it’s dynamic, but if someone disallows JavaScript on their computer, it will severely limit your functionality.  It’s also “client side,” which means you have to make sure you code is compatible on every browser.  That just sounds like extra work.

You look at HTML, it’s used mostly for structuring content.  CSS is used to apply visual styles.  Ruby and Perl are basically just PHP alternatives.  Is this a nightmare or what?  Maybe you’ll use a little bit or everything.  But then you discover that PHP and JavaScript need an entirely different language – AJAX – in order to work well together.  So you go with HTML.  At least this way you can have JavaScript and CSS code, as long as you keep them separate, and reference them in your HMTL file.  After all this work, you go and get a highly alcoholic drink.  It’s okay, you deserve it.

bookshelfAll right.  So you’ve got your program open and you’ve decided on the language(s) you’re going to use.  You know that the site you’re designing must be reactive.  It must be able to change according to what your audience is using, whether it be a computer, a tablet, a smart phone, etc.  You know that it has to be eye catching and interactive.  It has to hold the attention of your target, at least until you’ve given them  the information you need them to know.  You want to make it different, so they don’t get bored.  You understand all of this, and you have an idea of what you want it to look like.  Now how do you get it to do what you want?
There are frameworks that you can use to make coding simpler.  Things like WordPress and jQuery are pre-made templates that you can plug into your code.  Now, you could just do all the work yourself, but even some of the experienced designers out there say that they’ve never managed to make a better code than the ones provided to you through frameworks.  Hey, this is your first time, of course you’re going to make it as easy as possible.
So you search for frameworks that you can use with your scripting languages.  Lo and behold, you’ve got a ton of choices to choose from.  At this point, are you even surprised that you have decisions to make?  Of course you aren’t.  You’re an intelligent individual.  Most designers say that it’s important to understand multiple frameworks before you can choose one.  You need to know how it works in order to know if it’s right for what you want.  Yeah, you’ve got a lot of frameworks to study.
iMenIf you’ve survived this whole process, congratulations.  You’re an amateur.  You’ve got a long way to go before you’ll be considered a professional.  But if you’re up for the challenge of making lots of decisions and staying with the current web trends, maybe you’re suited to this job.  Still, take a look at indeed.com

Becky Dagenais

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