Online Website Development Courses
September 8, 2004 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Which online courses would you recommend for a beginner in writing website templates, and how long would it take to progress to 'intermediate' level? What are the essential technologies I should become aware of?
Assume basic html skills, some Blogger tinkering, and a desire to learn quickly - I'm hoping to experiment with something on my webspace which I can show to a panel of interviewers in about a month.

I'm awaiting redeployment out of front-line social services [for health reasons] in the UK. I have already decided to take classes in either networking or programming 101, but now have seen a totally desirable job on my employers website - and am reconsidering the skills I need. Never having done a course in website management, I need some advice on getting up to speed!

The job title is: Web content manager, and the criteria required follows: -
Essential: Microsoft Office; Experience of writing for the web, demonstrating best practice for optimising content and images; Experience of working with colleagues to improve business processes using the web; Good working knowledge of HTML; Experience of managing website content - including an understanding of navigation systems, creating templates and basic forms, maintaining existing content and working with colleagues to develop; Knowledge of how to assess and improve accessibility and usability of websites.

Desirable: Knowledge of ICT software packages for template creation; Experience of using a content management system.

Now, I don't want to underestimate the skills you guys have, nor overestimate my capacity - at my advanced age (",) - to pick it up and have a rough & ready grasp before a possible interview, 1st week of October. But I do think I have a chance.

Any tips, people?
posted by dash_slot- to Education (9 answers total)
You have a blog, but you might want to think about moving it to another webhost, and installing moveable type, or another blogging engine yourself. There have been a couple recent threads on these, which are essentially content management systems, and many of them use templates. This would give you some points in the desirtable column, and should be well documented across the web on how to set up and get started. The other stuff is a bit dicey because they may have different things in mind. There's the "I've build websites and the look great and are easy to use" angle which works for one type of job that perhaps is described there.

But, at bigger companies with an established web development staff that you'd be joining, the employer could have something much more rigourous in mind. I'm having trouble finding it, but someone just did a "tips on breaking into usability design" article and it had a daunting list of qualifications that would need to be worked up to get a certain kind of job. Experience creating wireframes, notebooks recording user response times, observation reports, all kinds of "scientific" research you'd need to have done to get the job. is good for accessibility. (Surprise!)

But that business processes part is tough too, without knowing the level of rigor they mean. What's you're impression there?
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:46 PM on September 8, 2004

Trust me, most interviewers/decision makers don't really care about the web programming skills versus Project Management skills. Focus on your ability to push a project through and stay on track. If they are serious about programming skills explain that web scripting is all pretty much the same except for syntax. If you understand one you can learn any.

In the meantime, learn Javascript--I think you can be up and running in a few weeks. Then go for ASP or PHP (server side). Concurrently learn about Relational Databases and Photoshop. If you need any help let us know, I'd be happy to answer any questions.
posted by Yossarian at 1:55 PM on September 8, 2004

Oh and for courses try as a good start.
posted by Yossarian at 1:57 PM on September 8, 2004

Demonstrating best practice for optimising content and images.
- you'll need some photoshop abilities for this.
- Try and get hold of a copy, and a "21 days" book.
- Lycos webmonkey has good articles.

Experience of managing website content - including an understanding of navigation systems,
creating templates.
- Have a look at the CMS's they have at Try and get a feel for what they do, what they would give to an organisation and how you can change the templates to produce the look and feel you want.
- examine and then contribute to

Knowledge of how to assess and improve accessibility and usability of websites.
- read everything by Jacob Nielson and Joel Spolsky.
- Read "Eric Mayer on CSS"

- You need to be aware of php, perl, asp, mySQL, javascript, etc and how they are used on websites, but time may be too short to give them anything but a cursory glance.
- Finally, practice, read, practice and read.

There's an awful lot for you to do before October.
Good Luck.
posted by seanyboy at 2:45 PM on September 8, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks guys. Sheesh - not sure now if I can do it, but the course I'm signing up for is Javascript level 2 & 3, so thats a start... I'll sound out HR to see what training I'll get on the job, too. Cheers.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:00 PM on September 8, 2004

Dash, don't get to intimidated. A lot of it's really easy stuff.

Also, I think Javascript is extremely overrated. By all means learn some of the basics, but you'd be better off concentrating on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and proper XHTML markup. Most of the crap old webhands like myself have to go through is finding hacks for the various bugs in different browsers -- not very exciting stuff, and best understood over time (which you don't have much of).

I'd spend a week learning basic Javascript and CSS (they're both very easy if you have *any* previous programming experience). The nice thing about both is that a lot of implementation requires nothing more than "COPY... PASTE" into your own code.

If I were you, I'd try and learn some basic PHP. It's probably the most user-friendly scripting language out there, and you can do some fabulous stuff with it. Provided your web provider has the capabilities, you can learn basic MySQL database stuff (the heart of just about every big-content website out there) in a couple of days.

I'd agree with the above statement that your implementation is not necessarily as important to management as your method. Basically, all web design comes down to:

1. What do you want it to do?
- a. What's the easiest way to do it?
- b. What software/special code will be needed?

2. What do you want it to look like?
- a. Fire up Photoshop and come up with some proof-of-concepts
- b. Resist the urge for bells and whistles; look at good, clean interfaces and mimic them

3. How much will all that cost us?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:17 PM on September 8, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks C_D.

I'll do a search on php tutorials - anyone wants to send me links - feel free!
posted by dash_slot- at 4:29 PM on September 8, 2004

I'd spend a week learning basic Javascript and CSS (they're both very easy if you have *any* previous programming experience).

They're both easy until you get to the implementation-level pitfalls. Beware. But this probably isn't the level you need to know things at if you're the project manager.

Can you figure out what CMS they're using. Do their page extensions on their site give any clue (.aspx? .jsp? .php? .lasso? something else?)?
posted by weston at 6:11 PM on September 8, 2004

dash_slot -- I always liked the way had their tutorials. Very simple, straightforward examples that have actual output right in front of you. Also extremely thorough. They have an HTML Tutorial, a Javascript Tutorial, and a CSS Tutorial available. Good luck to you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:48 PM on September 8, 2004

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