I started this article a few days ago when everything still felt fairly normal. We are past that now. Some people feel the current measures are an overreaction. Personally, I’d rather go overboard on preventative measures and see very little happen. I feel it’s better than the alternative. This is a practical time to learn a new job that is possible to do remotely. If you are in quarantine right now it’s important to keep your mind active. I hope you find this article helpful. I’ve included a lot of free resources, as I know many people will be feeling the financial impact of this crisis. Stay strong everyone, we can get through this.
So you’ve decided that you want to learn web design, fantastic! Whether you are looking to learn for personal interest or career aspirations, there are a lot of great online resources. Some cost money and some are totally free. I will cover a few of each option and give you some resources to check out. Let’s start with…
Free Web Design Resources
Especially if you are just getting started with learning web design, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to learn some basics. Here are some of my favourite free web design resources:
Even if you prefer the design side of things, it definitely doesn’t hurt to know some basic CSS. As a designer, I think one of the best corollary skills you can learn is to be able to code your designs into a functioning theme or template. If you get really good at it, you can even make a decent passive income by selling them!
A fantastic free source for those looking to learn some HTML & CSS is W3Schools. What I love about their website is that it doesn’t just have reference materials, there are also examples of working code and exercises for you to do so you get to try it out yourself. Many studies have shown that you retain information better when you read and apply it. Just reading alone isn’t very effective for most learners, myself included! Spend some time on their website, you’re guaranteed to learn something.
This website is a perennial favourite of mine for years now. It’s less of a general guide to the basics than a great resources for figuring out how to do a specific thing. That being said, they do have a ‘Guides’ section that includes some great overviews of topics such as jQuery, the Grid system, and my personal favourite “How to center elements using CSS”. I gotta admit, I was pretty bummed when the <center> tag was deprecated. It was just so dang easy to use. But I digress…
They also have an indispensable almanac of all of the CSS selectors as well as properties that you can use as a reference guide. I use this thing all the time, especially the selectors section. Once you have a rudimentary understanding of HTML and CSS (that you picked up from W3Schools above) I find that CSS Tricks really helps you to expand upon that knowledge. They also have videos which tend to be more in-depth on advanced topics. Not necessarily for the total beginner, but they are very well put together and produced.
Okay, so Codecademy does have a Pro account that is pay-to-play. However you can access their Introduction to HTML course for free through a basic account. You will need to sign up with an email and a password, and yes then they will send you a ton of marketing emails. Just unsubscribe and you’ll be good to go.
They have a great setup for testing out code. Lesson notes are on the left, code console is in the middle. Once you’ve typed your code into the console, hit run and the results are displayed on the right. Since it’s an online course as well, it will save your spot when you close the browser or tab and take you back there when you log back in. Very handy! It’s also going to give you the information in a logical order and each lesson builds upon the one before it. I know I’m definitely guilty of clicking around on whatever looks shiny or exciting, which isn’t necessarily the most effective way to learn. (Okay, fine, it’s definitely not!)
And if you do decide that you want to go deeper and learn more skills the Pro plan is $20 a month, but let me give you a hint: they have coupon codes available so you can pay less! I’ll go over the paid options in more detail in the next section.
Paid Web Design Courses & Guides
You can definitely get a very solid basic education without spending a dime. If you’d like to dive deeper into certain topics there are some excellent paid options as well. For more advanced topics it’s definitely beneficial to learn in an organized fashion.
We’ll get right back into Codecademy, as it has one of the most extensive libraries of paid courses to learn mode advanced techniques. They also have ‘Career Paths’ which are collections of different courses that will give you the skills that you need for different careers in the tech field. There are also ‘Skill Paths’ for if you would like to learn a specific skill such as how to analyze data with Python or how to create a video game using Phaser.
As the name would suggest Codecademy is mainly about teaching how to code rather than graphic design. If you can put together your artistic and design skills with a solid knowledge of HTML, CSS, and one more thing such as jQuery you will be in very good shape.
EdX is a bit different from Codecademy up above. Most of their programs are either professional certifications or courses offered by prestigious schools from around the world. Their price point definitely reflects this. While their tagline is that they have free courses from schools like MIT and Harvard, an certification in beginner level Python from Georgia Tech will run you around $450. You do get certified though and it is from a name brand institution. There are a few free courses as they say, but you definitely won’t be getting a free diploma from MIT.
SkillShare offers you a few free courses and a complimentary 2 month premium membership to get you hooked. Their website is a bit coy about how much a monthly membership is after that. Just try some free classes, don’t worry about it! If you scroll all the way to the bottom there is a link to where all of the free courses are located.
They do have an entire section just about design of all kinds. Logo design, developing brand identity, visual storytelling, and one just about web design! The course creators at SkillShare definitely focus more on the creative side of things rather than the technical. To be honest, that is the harder skill to teach!
Now the Hard Part…Do the Learning!
Hopefully those are enough resources to get you started. The hardest part of course is actually sitting down every day and doing the learning. If you use one of the courses listed above it’s very easy to track progress and see how much you are doing on a daily basis. My best suggestion is to make a habit out of spending some time on your learning every day, and to specifically schedule it. If possible, schedule it in the morning. I find that the later in the day I leave things the less likelihood there is that I will actually get them done!
Have fun, and good luck!