Web Design, Video and Photography

Web Design for Beginners

Web Design for Beginners, what you need to learn

Web design can be difficult for people when they’re first starting off. When we started our first question was, “What do I need to learn?” I saw things mentioned like C+, JavaScript, Java, PHP, HTML, CSS, Python and a whole other mess of acronyms and letters that I had no clue about. The problem was not knowing which one to learn for web design. Most of these can be used in web design in some way, but they’re not primarily used for web design itself.

If you’re starting off in web design then the very first language you should look into learning is HTML. HTML is a simple language to learn. The majority of HTML entails putting tags around different parts of your text or document. For instance, when writing a paragraph in HTML you’d place a tag at the beginning and end of each paragraph. The tag before the paragraph would be <p>. At the end of the paragraph you’d place an almost similar tag like this </p>. Notice the only difference in the end tag is the slash before the ‘p’ that tells HTML that it’s the end tag. There are a few more rules for how HTML works, and a few exceptions, but the majority relies on opening and closing tags around elements of the page.

The second language you’ll want to learn is CSS which stands for Cascading Style Sheets. CSS basically deals with the layout of a website along with colors and fonts. With CSS you can change the width of a page, add extra space around paragraphs or pictures, change the font size or color, and even change the font itself. Its like someone writing up what they want on a plain sheet of paper (HTML) and then you moving stuff around, coloring, etc. to turn it into a creative design (CSS). Most books these days include lessons on both HTML and CSS.

You’d be able to design extremely great looking websites with only these two languages if you stopped learning here. The only thing you would possibly miss out on is the ability to design your own slide shows, maybe some nifty animations, or add working forms to your page among other things. Basically little things that might make the website pop a bit more, or might be fun, but nothing that would hurt you in the long run.

If you do want to start doing things with your web design to make your site more dynamic, such as using animations, putting up slide shows, making forms that will actually work, along with a host of other options then there are at least 3 other languages you’ll want to look at.

If you’re looking to be able to do some animations, have colors change when certain things are hovered over, do a photo slide show, pop ups, etc. then you’ll want to consider adding JavaScript to your web design plans. Even games can be designed using JavaScript. These are just a few of the things JavaScript can do. There’s a whole bunch more it’s capable of, but the above is what it is usually used for. If you’re going to look into learning JavaScript you’ll likely want a book that includes Ajax and jQuery.

Most JavaScript books I’ve come across lately include a section on Ajax so that shouldn’t be hard to find. JQuery is actually a JavaScript library with prewritten JavaScript code to help make writing JavaScript easier and quicker. A solid understanding of JavaScript should be known first before looking into jQuery. If you can find a book that includes a section or two on jQuery then you’re ahead of the game. Finally, JavaScript should not be confused with Java. They’re both different languages. JavaScript runs in your browser, where Java is a compiled, server-side language.

The last two things you may want to look into are PHP and MySQL. Usually they’re used together. If you’ve ever used a WordPress or Joomla site, both are designed with PHP and MySQL (along with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript/jQuery). You can have a whole web site built with just HTML and CSS, and only have one PHP file to handle a form for sending information once the form is submitted. An example would be a PHP file to handle a “Contact Me” form. Most websites today use PHP because of how easily it can be used to add pages to a website when combined with MySQL.

MySQL itself is a database. You can picture MySQL as looking like an Excel spreadsheet or a grid with rows and columns. It’s usually used to track and store data, or content on a website. If you’ve ever seen a WordPress website, the layout and what visitors see is HTML and CSS. The files though contain PHP code. As you enter or write in the forms on the website, it sends the information to the file containing PHP and the PHP then sends the data to the MySQL database. It may store a name in one column, maybe a comment or article you’ve written in another column, and so on and so on in an organized fashion. PHP in this case merely works with MySQL to get the information from each column in the MySQL database and then sends it back to the user. The PHP is wrapped around or inside the HTML and CSS when displayed to the user.

So that’s it. There are other languages that can been used in place of the above mentioned languages (in particular PHP and MySQL) with web design, but the 5 listed above are the most popular and widely used for web sites. In many cases HTML and CSS are also the easiest to learn. If you’re looking to design your own website start with HTML and CSS. Then turn to JavaScript, PHP, and MySQL to add an extra bit of oomph and go above the basics.

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Black Door Media specializes in web design, photography, video, and motion graphics.

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