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Thread: Becoming A Web Designer

  1. #1
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    I am a junior in high school and have taught myself fundamental HTML and PHP. But, would it be a smart idea to take Web Design at a community college and become a freelance web designer?

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Webzarus's Avatar
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    Good thing that you're starting out young and have some goals.

    BUT

    There is a whole lot more to this industry than just making pretty pages.

    and since there is an overabundance of people with the thinking that they can learn the basics ( including anything that they may teach at community college ), then go out, put up a few sites and make a ton of money...

    What is more in line with reality with your thinking is.... you spend time learning some intermediate skills, you may even have the desire and drive to learn some advanced stuff... but since you'll jsut be starting out, YOU WILL BE COMPETING for business with the same people with the same skills offering the same things... I see ad's on CL 5 pages for $99 ... that is your competition.

    if you really want to be in this industry, then take the time to not just learn how to make web pages, but learn some "scripting languages", server management, graphic skills as well as marketing and general business skills.

    Then do like every other successful business, create a business plan, creating a marketing strategy ( using CraigsList is not a strategy, it's a desperation move ), then follow your plan, and build your business.

    The Community College Courses are not necessarily a bad move, anything that can teach you new skills is a good thing in this industry, but I would hardly bank on getting enough skills to set you up in business. I have observed and help setup curriculum's at local Tech Schools and due to limited time they have to teach... even the intermediate classes can only hit so many subjects

    Probably not what you wanted to hear, but trying to be a truthful as possible.

  4. #3
    WDF Staff mlseim's Avatar
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    This industry (of websites) sort of reminds me of the age of TV. At first, there were thousands of TV repair businesses, lots of parts, training in tech schools, it involved a lot of people. But as technology improved and became cheaper, there are very few repair shops ... there is no longer a need. I see the same thing happening with "websites". By the year 2000, there was a frantic need for people to create websites. Everyone wanted a website and not many people knew how to do them. Things are different today. You can get a website without hiring anyone or without doing any programming. All you need is a credit card. Sites are stamped out from templates, various CMS systems, and pre-programmed from a list of existing scripts.

    What happens in 10 years if websites are no longer needed? I agree that the focus of skill should be in the programming area, specifically server-side and also native languages used for apps, like iPhones and other smart devices.

    I see the internet becoming a huge exchange of information ... in many cases, a company doesn't need a website. Sometimes they only need to provide other people/companies with information from their database. That type of info exchange is done using API's. Businesses that sell products online will need to use websites, but the software is already created to do online ecommerce.

    So is learning to script/program important? yes. But not necessarily for website design. You'll find the skills you learn will be needed in a different type of online world.
    TheGAME1264 likes this.


  5. #4
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    I'm going to agree with what WZ and mlseim said, but I'm going to add a twist.

    First off, for a teenager, you've got your head screwed on incredibly straight because 1) you have an idea of what you want to do for your future and 2) you knew exactly where and who to ask. That means that you'll be able to get exactly what I'm about to tell you.

    Like mlseim said, learning to script / program a server-side language is very important, since it's where the "real work" in web design is done. It's where databases are connected to, it's how APIs work for the most part, it's where e-commerce transactions are conducted, it's how CMSes are built, and a whole big list of other things. Learning how to do the HTML/CSS part of it is important as well, but learning HTML/CSS and learning it well makes you one of millions of people...learning how to code a server-side language and learning it well puts you in a much smaller class.

    Now, here's the twist...you need to cultivate your ability to apply knowledge. Most of the time, web development starts with something along the lines of "I want to download my supplier's Excel spreadsheet and upload it to my site, but I only want certain information and these other fields will need to altered to fit what we're doing and so that we're not going to have to deal with duplicate content." The person who came up with that idea may or may not have any idea of how to actually code it, but most likely won't. So you'll be on your own to figure the whole thing out. And when you do that, your reward will be to solve a hundred more problems that are nothing alike other than "some guy came up with an idea and you have to figure the whole thing out yourself." And once you solve 99 out of those 100 (there will always be one you can't quite do for whatever reason), you'll be a true code warrior.

    What I would suggest you do to start cultivating that ability to apply knowledge is work on some sites yourself in your spare time (if you have any). Get involved with a not-for-profit and build their site (might also help grease the community college wheels and gives you experience). Build sites about things you're interested in and try to come up with ideas and features for the things you're interested in that don't exist anywhere else. Build a site around something you tried to search for information on and found no real authoritative source. Basically, get in touch with your inner creative and uninihibited wildman and build some cool stuff.
    mlseim likes this.
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  6. #5
    WDF Staff mlseim's Avatar
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    Also ...
    Since you're age is about 16-17, you may have a job but not a credit card. Somehow get your parents or yourself to subscribe to a webhost account (using a credit card) and get your own website to work with. You have to actually create your own scripts, PHP, MySQL, XHTML, HTML5, CSS3 .. etc.

    You can get an account for as little as $50 per year ... that's pretty cheap to have a platform where you can experiment and learn server-side scripting. If you have any interest at all in programming, you'll become obsessed with it. Make something out of your website, do something interesting with PHP or Perl, work with AJAX, JQuery and HTML5. Have fun with it.


  7. #6
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    I think that's good idea. Many people are still working at home as web designer. So, the most important thing that is you have to get experience, and became an expert of web design. (take a course, and practice).

  8. #7
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    Hey man, it's incredible that you want to become a web designer. I think since you are so young, you have a lot of time to experiment and play with different things. There is good money in knowing how to script and program. I have been in this business for quite sometime, and have worked with people who are JUST designers. They do not know how to program or script on a intermediate or high level. So although scripting and programming are important, if you feel more comfortable just designing then you may still do well just doing that.

    I think an education is important for a lot of reasons, but you don't necessarily need it to work in this field. One thing people forget, school is an excellent place to network, especially with teachers who are usually pros in the industry and have a ton of connections. If you can get one to sign on as a client or refer you, your career can really take off.

    Even if you don't go to school (although I would recommend you at least finish college), you should still seek to advance yourself through experimentation, networking, and taking classes or getting certifications on your own. As one of the posters said, this industry is constantly evolving and who knows what will be in demand in the future. So to keep up with it you have to network and learn new things as time goes on.

    I hope this helps - good luck man.

    Sidney Lisojo
    TheGAME1264 likes this.

  9. #8
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    Bobby,
    I'd like to chime in and echo a lot of the other comments, plus add my own 2 cents.

    First, I think all of us here are glad that you are thinking about your future, working on a plan to make it happen, and asking for advice from those that have gone before you. This is a big part of the recipe for success. So good for you.

    Second, I think any form of education is good. Community college, on-line classes, self-study,.....it is all good. Unfortunately (IMHO), you probably still need to get a college degree (in something) to be considered by most employers (still) for work. Everyone knows how tough the job market is so getting a degree (maybe in Business) might prove to be very useful. With that said, there are a ton of resources available here on the web (including this one) to learn new website building skills and build a portfolio.

    So in keeping with what the others have said, I strongly suggest building some sites for yourself. Choose a subject you are passionate about, decide what you want to say and who you want to say it to, build a site, then ask for a site review here. You will learn a ton.

    And as for my 2 cents, many years ago (decades), I thought (like you) that it might be fun and profitable to build websites for clients. After working through a few projects and dealing with low paying clients, I would rate my success as "poor". However, I did build a decent site (I think) for my wife's day spa. My wife wrote the words, I took the pictures and designed the site. The reward came when my wife received compliments on the site and we both saw how much extra business it generated. This was my most successful site to date.

    So now, after many years of being away from site building, I am back to build another site for myself. This will be my first dynamically build site using php and MySQL and I am sure I will learn a lot.

    So my advice in a nutshell. Build your own site(s). (Web hosting is very inexpensive.) Experiment with it. See if you can come up with something no one else has done yet.

    Good luck. And please stay in touch here and let us all know what you decided to do.


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