Familiarize yourself with the terminology of web design at the outset, it will make learning the details that much easier when you come to them. Like any specialist subject there’s industry jargon and fair few acronyms used in web design. You can also find several good web deign glossary of terms by searching online which will get you started.
A basic understanding of HTML is still essential
There’s all kinds of content management systems and visual HTML editors which you can use to help you create your web pages these days but to really understand web sites and give yourself the best chance of learning quickly and being able to troubleshoot problems when they happen you should start your learning by getting a comprehensive understanding of HTML – the main language of the web. In its simplest form HTML is just a few tags used to identify different types of content on a web page. Follow some HTML tutorials and you’ll be up and running with your first web page before you know it.
Give it some style with cascading style sheets (CSS)
Where HTML is used to format content on a web page, CSS is a complimentary language used to instruct the web browser how a page should look. Things like colors, font faces and sizes, positioning of different elements and background images are all controlled with CSS. CSS is a remarkably simply language to learn (although it does get more complex at an advanced level) and once you have an understanding of HTML and CSS combined you’ll be ready to build your first pages.
Get to grips with web hosting, DNS and FTP
When you develop a new website you can save the files on your own computer and preview them in your web browser. But from there no one else on the internet can see them. To make your web pages accessible to the rest of the world you’ll need a domain name and a web hosting account. DNS is the system used to connect domain names to web servers (hosting) and ties it all together. Getting an understanding of these ideas at the outset will make a lot of things fall into place for you and you’ll have to work them out at some point anyway so you might as well do it at the start. FTP is the easiest way for beginners to move your web page files from your computer onto your hosting account server where they can be accessed by other web users.
Learn the basics of search engine optimization
Search engine optimization or SEO as its more commonly known is the process of making your website easier to find in search engine results on sites like Google and Bing. The way in which you build your website will have a big impact on how easily search engines will find it and how high in results they will rank your pages for important keywords. Identifying what those keywords are is the first step, for example I want to rank my site for the keyword 'web design brighton’ because it’s the best succinct description of what we do and how I want people to find us in the search engines.
From a designers point of view the most important SEO ideas to get your head around are correct use of HTML page titles, web page names and internal linking.
Understanding user behavior and how to make a usable website
Actually this is quite an advanced area of web design but getting an appreciation of the core concepts early on will help you to build better websites from day 1. Plenty of professional web designers overlook usability in their web sites in favor of advanced functionality and nice looking graphics. This is a short sighted approach as if a website visitor can’t use your website they won’t appreciate how clever or good looking it is.
Streamline your web design process with content management systems
Once you understand the fundamentals of web design and can build web pages by hand using HTML and CSS you can go on to explore ways to make your websites quicker to build and easier to manage. For novices the best place to start in this respect is with an open source content management system (CMS) called Wordpress which has become the worlds most popular tool for building websites. Wordpress has some very powerful content management features and can make web design very fast. However to get the most from a system like this you’re always best off going through the steps above first.