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September 21, 2010 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Currently I am a marketing writer in Massachusetts and I would like to develop some new skills for Web page Usability Best Practices and also content and design generation.

What are some inexpensive ways to accomplish this? I'd like to learn HTML and Adobe Photoshop for sure and have been searching for some resources. I know there are all sorts of online tutorials so if anyone has done this before where did you go for the best experience.

I also checked out some local night classes in my area however the prices are a bit steep for me right now, although in the future I'll probably try and save up some money to continue my education with some supplemental classes.

I know I'm hungry and motivated, now I just need a little guidance for any of you that may have some experience with these topics. I do some web posting and writing for the web right now but it's only using Frontpage Express which is obviously not the leading edge of technology, or so I hear.

In addition, I just took a seminar on Writing for the Web that incorporated Web page usability and best practices and I'm extremely interested in learning more about this as well.

Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by modoriculous to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
PhotoshopSupport.com is a pretty good site that's loaded with Photoshop tutorials.

If night classes are steep, talk to somebody at the college or school you're looking at. Many of them have a way to get in cheaper if not for free. (Source: I used to teach Photoshop and CG classes at my local college)

I happen to work with web writers a lot (I'm a freelance web designer), so looking at what they're doing, here's what I'd do in your shoes:

1. Tutorials and classes are good, but please find some local web people and at the very least do informational interviews with them. This means you promise not to ask for work during the interview, but what you can learn from them (ask what they'd do in your shoes) can be really valuable.

2. Ask those same people if there are networking or mingling groups that get together that you could attend.

3. If you struggle to find people like that, go to your local college, find the head of the department that teaches PS (usually Art) and ask them. They've almost certainly spent a lot of time talking to local web and graphic designers, trying to get them to come teach.

4. There's a lot of good SEO/Usability writing material to be found in books. There's one called "Letting Go of the Words" that is *loaded* with information. Jakob Nielsen's Web Usability books are great too, even if they're a little old.

5. You can't learn creative writing through books alone, but they can point you in the right direction.

6. You might like this article if you haven't already seen it: Why I Stopped Throwing Out Junk Mail. Cheap, effective stuff.

7. One of the most effective things you can start doing as a web writer is working with Content Management Systems (CMS). If you can learn how to work your way around Wordpress' control panel, learn how to make hyperlinks in the text editor, insert images and videos, etc., that makes you valuable to web designers. Their clients are going to be asking them to recommend people who can edit web copy. That's where you come in. Photoshop skills are handy here too.

8. Once you start working with this kind of stuff, just make sure you save your money so you can start doing it full-time sooner.

9. Be reliable, keep your clients updated more often than you'd think appropriate, make a short introductory website of your own (just use a default template for Wordpress if you like), make sure you have an email address that's not weird (fantasyguy39@hotmail.com) or annoying to remember (b_g3@internet.cc).

10. Just give it time. You'll get where you want to go.

Good luck!
posted by circular at 11:02 AM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wow, couldn't have hoped for a better answer than that circular! Thanks for taking the time to write all that out. I actually just got done checking around some more and was able to find some classes that were a lot less expensive so I'm going to see what I can do and try and get into those.

I also signed up for Wordpress last week so I'm going to start working on that as well, thanks again!
posted by modoriculous at 11:41 AM on September 21, 2010

Glad you were able to find cheaper classes. There's a lot you can do once you get into a class, too, in terms of pushing your career forward. I had a lot of students who made sure every project they did was work-related, and a couple of my students ended up working with me on web projects.
posted by circular at 11:55 AM on September 21, 2010

Steve Krug's book Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability is widely cited as the best book on web usability.
posted by Ask Ives at 5:05 PM on September 21, 2010

If you are looking for a basic crash course in HTML then webmonkey has some good examples and cheatsheets for beginners. http://www.webmonkey.com/category/html/

A bit more useful on usability is the WC3 schools website. This is the bible of usability sites. It also has some neat tools for checking your coding and even automatically correcting the mistakes. http://www.w3schools.com/

Hope that helped. Good luck!
posted by RogueDesigner at 6:19 PM on September 23, 2010

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