Getting Started in Web Design

Over the last twenty years we’ve watched the internet gain popularity as a preferred medium for artists, businesses, designers, and geeks alike.  Today there are literally billions – yes, with a B – of websites across this great spectrum of wires, waves, and interconnected tubes!  And the best part is – it’s still in its infancy.  The internet gave birth to mega-companies like Microsoft and Apple, Yahoo and Google, Facebook and MySpace, and thousands more.  Perhaps you’ll be the person with the next big idea that revolutionizes the way we think about our personal computing.  Or maybe you’d just like to build a cool looking website to share your experiences or ideas with the rest of the world.  Either way, I’m here to tell you that it’s not only easy to do.  It’s also pretty fun.

For those of you who are trembling right now while reading this, let me once again calm your nerves.  This isn’t hard to do.  You don’t have to be a geek or have a degree in advance astrophysics.  In fact, you don’t even have to have any prior computer experience.  You just have to know some basic rules.

Ok, so I stretched the truth a little.  You should be comfortable enough with computing that you know how to open and use a browser (like Internet Explorer or Firefox, for example.)  Also, you should be comfortable using a simple text editor like Microsoft’s Notepad, which comes free with Windows.  Don’t be afraid to use Notepad, it’s absolutely a breeze. There’s no trick to using it – you just have to know how to type!

If you can handle opening a browser and typing words, you’ve got all the skills you need  – I promise.  The rest is merely learning how to tell the computer what to do.  If you’ve heard anything about web design, you’ve probably heard of the four letter acronym, HTML.  Just typing those four letters reminds me how silly I once was long ago, when I used to think that HTML sounded difficult.  I didn’t have any real reason to think it was hard; I was just scared because it was it was unfamiliar.  Well, guess what?  HTML is easy too!

HTML, which stands for HyperText Markup Language, is the most basic web design language.  Sounds complicated right?  At first I thought so too.  But in fact, it’s pretty darn easy.  You see, computers are dumb.  Really!  You have to give it instructions, or else it has no idea what to do.  HTML is called a “language” because it allows you to communicate to a computer – or in this case a browser – so that the computer understands what you want it to do.  For example, you have to tell it things like “This is a paragraph” or “This is an image” or “This is a headline.”  HTML allows you to do this quickly and effectively.

There are plenty of great books on the subject of HTML.  Some are thick and look like encyclopedias.   I recommend you skip those, as they can often be filled with so much technical information that it will overwhelm you and lead to more confusion.  Instead, I happily recommend you pick up Quickstart Guide to HTML by Elizabeth Castro.  It’s a great start for anyone wanting to learn the basics of websites because it holds your hand step by step as it explains how certain things work with HTML and CSS.  Castro will show you how to build a simple website quickly and easily.  Before you know it, you’ll literally be a pro at it yourself, and you’ll wonder why you were ever scared of learning it in the first place!

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