Moving from print to web design — helping someone start from scratch.
August 8, 2014 7:36 AM   Subscribe

I need to advise a graphic designer whose skills are in print design only about expanding their skillset to include front-end web design work. At this time, the designer has a very, very basic understanding of web design.

The designer — who I’ll call Jaime — is now learning a bit about Dreamweaver as a starting point.

But Jamie does not really understand the way things fit together — HTML5/CSS/images/photos — to create a web page or an e-mailer etc. and thinks Dreamweaver is a good place to start. I am not so sure. Jamie does not see or understand the bigger picture my attempts to explain it have not gone well.

For example, I told Jamie that DW is just one tool to edit HTML, but not the best way to create/edit CSS. Now, I am not a web developer or designer (I’m more a project manager) and I can’t talk about the best tools and/or latest methods. I don’t know the best tools to edit CSS or HTML are, for example. But I explained it’s less about the tools at this point and much more important to understand the concepts first.

To that end, my attempts at explaining how CSS works (external, internal and inline) and what front-end and back-back end mean did not go well. I am not a very good explainer and this is not my area of expertise.

Ultimately, I think Jamie does need to learn some core skills — HTML5, CSS3, web graphics etc. — to update their skills.

But before that I think Jamie needs really good, simple and comprehensive overview (written for people moving from print or for total beginners) to digital design.

I am thinking of a book or website or online course that explains what print designers need to know to move into web/digital design and perhaps even compares the two disciplines to help illustrate the concepts.

In a nutshell: I am looking for something that can explain the general concepts before the person ever thinks about learning code. Does such a thing exist? I have searched the heck out of it and the info I am reading assumes a level of technical understanding that is not there yet.
posted by Lescha to Technology (11 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
While I can't speak to its use as a tool for absolute beginners, Jon Duckett's HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites is an excellent resource and uses comparisons to print to explain web design, as can be seen in the sample chapter linked above. Once Jamie's developed an understanding of web design, I'd recommend the articles at A List Apart, which explore the particulars of the web in depth and have changed how I perceive websites.
posted by lunch at 8:01 AM on August 8, 2014

I think Jaime needs to take a course in basic web design. A lot of continuing ed programs and community colleges offer them. I think a class with a teacher who they can bounce ideas off of to get a solid start is a going to move them along a lot more quickly than trying to absorb things online.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:24 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: dawkins_7 -- I agree. Not to threadsit, but I should have mentioned, Jamie has expressed that they can't take courses after work hours (con-ed/community college) due to personal responsibilities after work hours. That’s not ideal and I would much prefer Jamie to take in-person courses, but this the situation I am working with at the moment.
posted by Lescha at 8:36 AM on August 8, 2014

Best answer: What about

I recommend Web Design in a Nutshell or maybe Head First HTML with CSS and XHTML.
posted by jgirl at 8:53 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Also get some graph paper and some colored pencils (no, really), and a good text editor. Dreamkill ... er, Dreamweaver is nice for the side-by-side code view and design view, but a huge hassle otherwise.
posted by jgirl at 8:57 AM on August 8, 2014

Best answer: What a lot of print designers try to do is make print designs that work on computer screens. This trend reached its zenith in the late '90s when I saw websites that were almost all graphics, even the text, as designers tried to force things to look a certain way. This unfortunate and misguided approach to doing websites is even more unfortunate and misguided now that a quality mobile experience is not just a nice to have, it's a necessity. Find a decent site and look at it on your monitor full screen, your monitor in a smaller window, a tablet if you have one, and a smart phone if you have one. You'll see what I mean.

Dreamweaver is a tool, and can be used or misused, but unfortunately there's a tendency to use it on the part of designers who see that it's Adobe so it must be the go-to product.

A proper approach to learning web design/getting the job done might take one of two paths depending on your time, budget, etc.:

- hire a real developer to work with Jaime - Jaime provides the branding imagery, graphics to fit certain sizes and spaces in the template(s) and sort of enforce the "vision" the company has for the site; the developer provides the working website that meets modern display requirements, optimizes the SEO, etc.

- carve out the time for Jaime to take a deep dive into web dev. I'd recommend Wordpress, as it's the leading content management environment out there right now. Accept that it will take several man-hours for Jaime to understand the basics, several more to make a working site, and a year or two to make a great site.

It sounds like you're asking Jaime to drink from a fire hose right now, frankly.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:03 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Does Jamie want to learn this stuff? Even thought there is a lot of cross-over it's really a very different skill set and unless he/she is genuinely interested in learning this stuff you're asking a lot of them to follow through voluntarily. If it's a career development thing for a member of your team you should be able to offer them training as part of their professional development, setting objectives around what they need to learn as part of their job requirements. If that's the case your HR dept should be able to advise on providers, or you could look up CPD providers in your area who deliver 1-3 day courses in introductory web skills.
posted by freya_lamb at 9:05 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you really are interested in investing in training Jaime, definitely do something like or and have them do it on company time. Mornings on learning, afternoons on work stuff. Reduce their workload to compensate.

Also, consider hiring a local web developer as a consultant to come in for a few hours to lay it all out for them and work on giving them appropriate mental models for how all of the pieces of a website come together. Seriously, a few hour long conversations in which someone course corrects their understanding can do wonders for figuring it all out.
posted by beep-bop-robot at 9:06 AM on August 8, 2014

I've found to be a great resource for learning front-end web development. They're free, online (can be done at home), contain isolated courses (if you just want/need a refresher in java or css, for example), and also offer complete walk-throughs, such as building a replica of the AirBnB website. Easy to follow and ideal for beginners.
posted by stubbehtail at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2014

I think Jaime should check out the free resources at W3Scools first.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:35 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If Jaime is a print design person and trying to wrap their head around things then I would recommend this thin but good book, CSS for Print Designers, which shows the obvious correspondences between the two. Others have referenced other good books but start him on this book and then start taking a look at other Peachpit books, which specialize in designers' needs and technical material.
posted by jadepearl at 6:42 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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