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Need Advice (transitioning From Print Design To Web Design)


metalmaiden
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Hello-I'm a creative professional with 15+ years in print design, branding, and communications. Like others, I find myself displaced by the recession and am trying to update my skills in order to secure a new position. Many have suggested gaining skills in web design and multimedia (e.g., XHTML, CSS, Flash, Javascript, SEO). I contacted a number of schools in my area, but none offered any kind of continuing education, only degree programs, so I looked into alternatives and was referred to online training. Being relatively new to this technology and more of a right-brain learner/thinker than a left-brain learner/thinker, where would one recommend I begin in terms of gaining the skills needed to design and build websites with all of today's "eye candy" (e.g., audio, video, animation)? Is there a study plan I can follow, preferably one with visual aids and/or interaction with an instructor?Any advice appreciated. (I've totally struck out with the colleges and tech schools.)Thanks.\mm/

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Frankly, it's going to be difficult to pick up all of the skills necessary to create web sites or web applications quickly without a formal education course. Even with formal education you can expect to study for a few years before you're ready to go into a career, there's just a lot to learn (HTML and CSS could take up a couple courses, and Javascript, Flash, databases and PHP each could require several courses to learn everything you need to know). There is a lot of information online, and there are a lot of books available, but it's pretty difficult to replace actual interaction with a teacher who knows what they're talking about.

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Surely, there must be some option for folks in my position. The few programs offered in my area are 2 year, full-time commitments, and the costs start at $45,000 (that's twice what I paid for my design degree!). My aim is not to go back to school full time, pick up a second degree, and take on a hefty student loan debt, but to get back into the workforce ASAP. I'm already a senior-level professional (i.e., art director/designer). I'm just looking to add enough to my current skill set to expand my proficiency base and give me greater marketability.Are there workshops perhaps? Something geared towards adult professionals like myself who need a short-trek solution?\mm/

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There might be, I'm just not aware of any. For what it's worth though, I've got a bachelor's degree in computer science from Arizona State, and that didn't even give me all of the skills I use today (it definitely gave me most of them, but I never took a class in Javascript, for example, or PHP, or even HTML for that matter). But, then again, I'm a programmer and not a designer. We've got several people on staff who got associates degrees from places like the Art Institute, and they're great designers, but they wouldn't be able to build any web sites without my help, they do all of the design work and I do all of the programming work.If all you want to do is design work then you probably don't need much additional training, there shouldn't be too many differences between the print and online worlds. Print media works in CMYK and pixels per inch, and web media is usually done in RGB with just pixels, but there aren't a lot of big differences. So, you may be able to find work designing web sites and having other people implement them (you could start a business doing that, where you design someone's site and then outsource the work, or find a programming house looking for designers). But, if you're expecting to go from no programming experience to implementing best-of-class sites yourself within a couple of years, I think you're being a bit too optimistic. A study course on Flash alone could take several years, not to mention things like Javascript interfaces and PHP running on the server.So, there might be workshops, but the problem with a workshop is that it just isn't going to be able to communicate all of the skills you'll need to know to implement an entire site yourself. You may be able to pick up a lot of the basics quickly, but you'll soon find yourself wanting to do something that wasn't covered in the workshop. Programming is both a very broad and very deep topic, there are just a ton of languages and a lot of information about each language or concept. It's kind of hard to break something that big down into easily-digestible pieces.

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Yes, I'm looking to stay in design, not move to programming. Granted, I have some experience designing for the web, but this has been done mostly in applications, such as Photoshop or Illustrator, or occasionally Dreamweaver. And, as you describe, a programmer is generally involved in implementing the design. The challenge I'm encountering is many job postings desire or require an alphabet soup of web skills in addition to art direction, print design, and front-end web design skills. The more common skills I find listed are: HTML, XHTML, CSS, Flash, Javascript, and SEO. Occasionally, I see ASP, PHP, and SQL as well. Which are web -design- skills? And, which are web -programming- skills? That seems to be where I need the most direction. Then, from there, how do I begin to learn? Is there an order to which I ought to learn these skills?I hope that helps to clarify what I'm seeking.Thanks.\mm/PS- So far, the local schools have turned up nothing. All who had workshops or certificate programs have discontinued them. One school offers online training in web design, XHTML, and CSS, but it looks like it would be no different than studying here, except that I would have to pay for it. The instructor emails the students lessons, and there's a help forum. Doesn't seem worth writing a check for. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but if I'm writing a check, I expect for there to be a classroom, books, and instructor provided in a real-time, real-world setting.

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The more common skills I find listed are: HTML, XHTML, CSS, Flash, Javascript, and SEO. Occasionally, I see ASP, PHP, and SQL as well. Which are web -design- skills? And, which are web -programming- skills?
SEO is a design skill, that stands for search engine optimization. That deals with how to lay out and design both the page and the copy on the page to maximize search engine placement. There aren't many technical details with SEO, and in fact SEO may be getting less important as search engines get better, but you may want to read through some SEO guides just to make yourself familiar with some of the techniques that people use to get ranked higher (the best techniques are just to do the right things - put your keywords in as much copy as possible, use your keywords in page and section headings, etc).All of those other skills mentioned are programming or implementation-relatedHTML - laying out the structure of the web pageCSS - defining the presentation (style) of the web pageFlash - could refer to creating Flash movies in the Flash authoring tool, and possibly writing code in ActionscriptASP - Microsoft server-side languagePHP - open-source server-side languageSQL - database communicationIf you're seeing jobs with those requirements, they're probably looking for someone who can do both, either a designer who knows how to program or a programmer who's decent at design. That's probably just a company trying to save money by hiring someone to do 2 jobs.
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Yep, just about every job posting I see wants at minimum HTML, XHTML, CSS, Flash, and Javascript in addition to design skills. I assumed from this that this was the direction the design industry was taking. But, you're saying that these are programming skills that are separate and apart from design. Very confusing. All I can discern from this is the market wants designers who can at least do some programming. If that's the case, I need to pick up the skills.To that end, what order would you recommend I study these skills?Thanks.\mm/

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You need to know HTML and CSS before you can do really anything else. Javascript is required to make interfaces more usable and dynamic, but there's a lot to learn. Javascript libraries like jQuery, Mootools, and ExtJS make a lot of things easier to do with Javascript. Flash is standalone, you don't really need to know much else to build Flash applications (although Actionscript and Javascript are both based on the same standard). If you had to learn one thing I would say to focus on creating interfaces in Flash, although the heavy Flash interfaces are slowly being phased out in favor of Javascript interfaces which don't require additional plugins like Flash player (virtually all of the interfaces for Google's online applications are done using Javascript). If you want the site to be dynamic, where it saves user data or displays dynamic content or does anything like sending emails or uploading files, then you need a server-side language like PHP or ASP to handle the heavy lifting and database interaction.If you want to list a couple sites, I could probably guess at what it would require to build something like that.

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Thanks, that's helpful and gives me a starting point. Will start with the HTML tutorial series here and see about getting a class in Flash. I did find one school that offers a non-credit, 8-week course in it over the summer - as in an actual, go to the school and sit in a classroom course.Since I'm new to this, I'm not yet sure what to look for in the way of sites that might be good examples to analyze. As I explore, though, I'm sure I will probably post questions. :)Thanks again for your help.\mm/

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