What web training should I do?
September 9, 2005 12:02 PM   Subscribe

The company I work for has offered to pay for some website building/computer training. Help me to figure out what to learn.

At my recent review, I mentioned that I would be interested in learning about building and maintaining websites, as the company soon hopes to hire someone to build a new website (our current website is years out of date). The boss said if I researched it, they would be willing to pay for the training. I would like to be able to maintain and do some simple building on the website for this company. Thinking larger, I would also like to learn some solid web skills that would look good on my resume. What should I learn? What sort of class should I take? Let's assume I know nothing about building and maintaining websites (which is basically true). And of course, money is no object.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For starters I'd go to my favorite websites and view the source code. Then dump the code into Dreamweaver and take a cursory look at what does what. Then get your company to buy you a book on basic HTML and compare what you learn to the websites you like. (Or, if it's easier, take a basic design class). It will soon start to make sense, and that will at least get you started on the real basic page-building stuff—tables, colors, fonts—before moving on to CSS, Javascript or even XML or PHP. It's like learning guitar: listen to your favorites, try and do what they do, and along the way, pick up some basic books and magazines that help you understand the language better. But any basic HTML is a good start. Try WebMonkey.

Of course learning the graphical end of design is a whole other ball of wax...
posted by dhoyt at 12:28 PM on September 9, 2005

In addition to HTML, learn how a web site/web application is structured. Client machine, server, HTTP protocol, database connection, that kind of stuff.
posted by matildaben at 12:35 PM on September 9, 2005

You'll need to start with HTML and CSS. From there, what you learn depends on what kind of site your company hopes to build. If it's just a brochure site (who we are, what we do), learn some Photoshop/web graphics. If it's a database-driven site with lots of variables, you'll need PHP or ASP, SQL, XML -- a whole different bag of tricks.

Most company websites aren't built by a single person. Teams of designers and programmers with specialized skill sets work together to get the job done. Start with the basics, but be open to the idea that you may need a freelance programmer or Flash developer to do some of the tricky parts. It's usually cheaper to hire an experienced pro than to spend months climbing a steep learning curve yourself.
posted by junkbox at 12:37 PM on September 9, 2005

Start by learning HTML. Once you have a good handle on that, learn CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Then, evaluate the different editors - Dreamweaver, FrontPage, etc - and decide which you like the best, and learn that. You likely already have FrontPage (assuming that, like most offices, you guys use Office). You can get free trial versions of Dreamweaver and GoLive off the web. There are also plenty of code-based editors out there that you can take a look at.

The absolute, positive starting point has got to be HTML. Nothing else you learn or do will make a lick of sense without that.

Check your local community/junior college to see if they have basic HTML classes. Or, since it's on the company's dime, you can also look at local training centers. Any computer training company is going to offer various levels of HTML.
posted by robhuddles at 12:41 PM on September 9, 2005

Also, are you a microsoft shop or what? You'll need to learn about web applications eventually, I'm sure. Chances are you'll want to learn about Rails, or perhaps .NET, perhaps some LAMP programming. There are a lot of backend structures in place for web application, and if you're an MS shop you'll want to learn .NET...otherwise, you'll have more flexibility.

I also second the SQL classes. You will need to know how to interact with databases.
posted by taumeson at 12:46 PM on September 9, 2005

So 'Pink ( I hope you don't mind if I call you that):
A little more information would help (me anyway) provide a better answer:
- You say you know "...nothing about building and maintaining websites..." - but what is your technical background? Just how a big a geek are you? More importantly, how big a geek do you want to be?
- What about this appeals to you? The graphical part, the usability part, the technical under-the-covers part? There is as much or as little to a site as the builder makes it. But knowing what you really like to do will make your educational course of action easier to decide.
If you like graphics, well - have fun, and I hope your boss really loves you, because there's a ginormous number of graphic artists out there - many (most?) of them very very good with loads of experience.
If you like the code/programming aspects, get thee to your local community college and see what they offer. In the Puget Sound region there are a couple that are better than most universities for technical stuff (Bellevue Community College rox!).
If usability/content is more your thing, also seek out college-level coursework, and learn about things like information hierarchy, what reads well on the web, good/bad user interface design (as well as the "standards" that exist for weg design).
Also consider if you are the kind of person who can do as dhoyt suggested and pick up a couple of books and go forth - I'm not, I really thrive and learn best in a more traditional classroom setting, with assignments that force me to do stuff I don't think I'll like etc.
One last thing - do your research well, and be sure to tell your boss that this (learning stuff) will take some time, and should be an ongoing thing (a course or two every year, ideally), so that you can stay on top of the technology.
Good luck - although it seems you have plenty of that based on the boss you have.
posted by dbmcd at 12:51 PM on September 9, 2005

It's not just about learning tech skills.

A lot of people think that building web sites is about knowing how to translate a paper or text document into HTML, CSS, or some other language. But people who know HTML and CSS are pretty easy to find; good writing and well-structured information (structured to fit the web) are the foundation of really useful web sites, and seem to be difficult to come by.

[start gratuitous metaphor] Just learning HTML and CSS, even if you add Perl, PHP, Java, and/or Dreamweaver, will not teach you how to make web sites any more than knowing how to mix paint and stretch canvas would make you a painter. You'll be able to make a picture, but it probably won't be what you were hoping for. These tech skills are maybe a little more complicated than mixing paint, granted, so you will be able to get people to pay you for them, but you won't be able to mastermind a high-quality web site. [end gratuitous metaphor]

I'd start by finding some good usability and/or design training. UIE (User Interface Engineering) seems to have some intriguing workshops, and I subscribe to their newsletter. I don't believe 100% of what they write, but their information on user testing, taxonomies, and some other topics have been quite meaty. They're into something called "Web 2.0" at the moment which I'm not sure is really the next big thing, but you might find the archived newsletter articles interesting.

It seems that some web developers are coming out of Library Science programs; that might be a good place to look for truly helpful instruction.
posted by amtho at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2005

Always be very wary of courses teaching web technologies, particularly HTML/CSS. Most teach shoddy or outdated techniques, the money's better spent on something more useful, like pizza or a new monitor.

If you're keen and technically-minded then you can teach yourself XHTML quickly (it's really simple), start learning CSS, and generally try to pick up knowledge about information architecture, usability, accessibility, etc. That broad knowledge is crucial, it's what steers projects in the right direction.

If you can work alongside an experienced mentor then that's always good. I've trained 3 people in advanced markup/CSS and basic JavaScript while working alongside them, and although I can be a nitpicking pain at times, having someone always there to answer any query meant they got to a professional level within 6 months.
posted by malevolent at 3:03 PM on September 9, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the thoughtful advice, gang. It really helps me, and I do appreciate it all.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:08 PM on September 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

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