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  • Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
  • How I learned Design


    Mary asked how I learned web page design, and if I took any classes.

    In 2001-2002, I decided after playing around online for a few years that I was an expert and bought a domain, this domain. I used a standard online template editor thing and my site looked something like this.

    Then I started looking for programs that would let me create something myself, and tried to figure out how to upload it – where to upload it – and get it to display online. In 2003, my website went through several updates and changes while I taught myself html, tables, rollovers – with a WYSIWIG editor called IBM Websphere. It used to be very purple. I also used to have a gazillion pages that I had to hand code, upload, and make all the navigation work together on individual pages. Looking back on that? Ick.

    In 2004, I went from green to my pumpkin/gold color I got another new look, with a new color. That has been my primary color palette since then, too. I was still in the table based layout thing, but I was finding sites and galleries that were using this thing called PHP. I had no idea what that was, so I started Googling it and trying to find a program that would let me write PHP in a WYSIWIG way, like IBM Websphere did with tables. I tried a couple of things – but quite honestly I just didn’t get it. I was blogging at the time on LiveJournal, so that didn’t help me learn anything at all – their templating system either assumed you knew PHP or gave you a variety of free themes to choose from. I switched over to Blogger, where I caught my first glimpse and understanding of how it all worked. How information is stored in a database and delivered through PHP code in the form of div tags and stylesheets – but once again, I ran into a brick wall, because I didn’t understand div tags or stylesheets, either.

    I swear, you’d think I’d have given up by then – but no, I forged onward, determined to learn it (because I’m cheap, that’s why).

    Somewhere along the line I Googled for templates. Themes. Designs. And I found some. And I studied them – and I started to develop a basic understanding of the role CSS played in how things displayed. I’ve always sortof known what the code meant, how it was supposed to work – I can read it just fine. I just didn’t know how to write it, or where it all stemmed from – where the master list with the shortcuts was kept.

    I started applying the things I was learning – playing with stylesheets through Blogger, and went through several revisions of my blog as I went.

    I found WordPress. I hired Lisa. (and Becca, too!)

    I knew how to make graphics. That was not a big issue, although I did need to really get much more familiar with PSP to take my graphic design to the next level, too. (And I’ll keep going with that, getting Draw and Painter as I get more advanced.) I Google the things I want to learn, and look for tutorials online for some things – many of the things I just visualize in my head and make it happen.

    The next challenge was that I needed to make the whole design as a graphic first, and then *know* as I was designing in PSP how I would cut the graphics up into little pieces and how they would come together in the stylesheet. I needed to incorporate the PHP, knowing what information that code was calling to pull into what space and where, and how to wrap something pretty looking around that information.

    I’m a hands on kind of girl. I bought CSS Mastery and refer to it on occasion, but most of the time I teach myself as I’m creating it, live on my design blog. (Another resource: CSS for Dummies) I have another installation of WordPress where I code up all of my graphics, tweak them, and write the stylesheet. I did refer to other stylesheets for a while, and I also was fortunate enough to find a mentor in Lisa – after I taught myself the basics and could stand on my own 10 fingers most of the time. I also did some free designs to get more familiar with stylesheets – but you really do need to be careful about doing things for free, because you might find some people expecting things for free once you’ve got yourself established.

    Thankfully, there’s a wealth of information available to learn from all over the internet that offer up free information. I have a bunch of them linked on under design resources, and I am more than happy to share my resources with anyone willing to try to figure things out and learn it themselves.

    As for my current status, I’m still learning. I feel much more comfortable now with what I know – but I also know that I don’t know it all, and probably never will. At the rate things change and grow on the internet, that is an impossibility – but I am determined to stay current (and browser upgrades will force me to do that), and determined to continue growing and maturing with the code.


    clara said,

    I have a question, because you are so much smarter at this stuff than me! You told me how to get my name and copyright symbol on a photo, but then it saves it as a photoshop document and it won’t show on my website. I have lots of nifty photos from vacation to show everyone. How do you do it? Hugs, clara

    7.2.2007 @ 9:59 am
    Leanne said,

    Photoshop saves as a PSD (mine does), because it becomes a layered image when you add text. Under “layer”, flatten your image to one layer and then select “save as” instead of “save”, changing the file type to JPG. I would also “save for web” after you’ve saved it as a JPG, to compress the file size and keep the quality high. Let me know if that works for you!

    7.2.2007 @ 10:32 am
    pamibe said,

    Very interesting, and great links, thank you! :clapping:

    I started learning back in 1999 on Blogger’s style sheets – what a revelation that was! But unlike you, I only know enough to be dangerous… :rofl:

    7.2.2007 @ 10:51 am
    Mary said,

    Thanks Leanne! I had been ripping apart blog templates during the last year, and getting the basic concepts… but I still have a lot to learn to. Everything I have learned has been on my own so far and other than tweaking existing templates to fit blogger, I don’t have all that much experience. I am interested though.

    I tend to learn best while actually trying something out while I am reading it, otherwise it seems a little too technical for me to absorb… so I guess that means I am kind of hands on too.

    I kind of whimped out and went to bloggers new layout where ou drag and drop, but I am going to have to dig in again and start paying more attention to what each template/layout section does.

    I will check out the book you linked to, thank you so much for the info! :D

    7.2.2007 @ 11:56 am
    Mom said,

    sheesh! :squirrel:
    (just because he’s cute.. ;) )

    I LOVE the edit feature!!
    I don’t like the default check mark in “Notify Me..”

    7.3.2007 @ 5:41 am

    […] kindly uploaded that for me, and maybe I’ll use it another time [check out her post called “How I Learned Design” if you are thinking about a Word Press blog. It will give you hope!] ♥ ♥ ♥ […]

    7.3.2007 @ 8:41 am
    Nancy said,

    Perserverance. That is what is needed to learn anything with designing. And, I am so glad that you took up the challenge and continue to do so. That means I don;t have, too. I can just hire you! ;)

    7.3.2007 @ 9:01 am
    Christine said,

    Thanks for all the info, Leanne. I need to study the CSS in templates to gain a better understanding. I’m seeing how it is more easier to read than HTML. Nancy’s right, it just takes time and perseverance. :wave:

    7.3.2007 @ 10:42 am
    Utenzi said,

    It’s amazing how much webpage design has changed over the years, Leanne. I shudder to think about some of the pages I coded up 10 years back. And style sheets certainly have simplified maintaining complicated sites, that’s for sure.

    7.3.2007 @ 11:36 pm
    Jo said,

    I know just enough to be dangerous. I have style sheets from themes used on my first WP site still saved, even though I don’t use them anymore, just in case there is something “it” did that I want on an upgrade. I like the hands-on approach too, just don’t want to create themes – just tweak them. Thanks for the great insite though. ;)

    7.4.2007 @ 5:57 am

    Sorry, comments are now closed.

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