Coding is a logical process. You want the site or program to do a particular thing. You enter in the commands needed to achieve that end.
Learning to develop websites could be approached just as logically. Languages for the computer could be compared to math classes. You need to learn simple addition before you can even think about calculus. Going into it with the thought of languages building off each other might help you learn the languages more effectively. That’s why the answer to the question how to start coding lies in the logic and at the basic. In this article you will find resources where to begin learning and where you can get your knowledge to a higher level.
Table of Contents:
- How To Start Coding: The basics
- Options to Consider When Looking for Stock Photos: Free vs Paid Solutions
- From Coding to Starting Business and Hiring a Team [Podcast]
How To Start Coding: The basics
In the first section you will find what languages to learn first and the resources where to learn the basic knowledge of coding for the web.
The first language you should tackle is obviously HTML. Short for HyperText Markup Language, this was the first language used on the web and as such is the backbone and framework for many other languages. The syntax of HTML is relatively simple and straightforward and there are a number of books and online resources available to help you. Be aware of the dates of the resources, however, since some elements are no longer supported, especially since HTML5 is in the process of a release.
What I wish I had known: Make sure you close all your tags! I cannot count the times that a page displayed strangely because I forgot to close a div. In this, commenting may be your best option, especially if it’s only
<!-- This closes the Header Tag -->
It may save you a headache or two for HTML and will insure that you are in the habit of closing them for the stricter offshoots. A validation tool may become your best friend, so be sure to bookmark your favorite. I like W3C’s Markup Validator, but there are others out there, so check around.
Some good resources:
- Web Monkey’s “Make an HTML Document”
- University of Texas at Austin’s “Learning HTML”–This is more a list of other useful sites, but still good
- W3Schools HTML Tutorial–very basic, but good if you are just starting out
Offshoots: There are several other languages that branch off from HTML. This includes XHTML which tends to be more fussy about syntax—they don’t call it “strict” for nothing—but does have its uses.
Language 2–Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
There’s a good reason I put CSS here. It builds directly off of HTML, but lets you stylize your website more efficiently than HTML by itself. Having a visually appealing website also is more encouraging to work on and more fun to show off.
CSS also brings to your attention the issue of cross-browser compatibility, the sometimes frustrating problem of web browsers handling the same code differently. Learning CSS will help you anticipate the different ways browsers handle the same code. Developing a mindset to deal with these hurtles also builds general troubleshooting capabilities, a necessary tool for real life, as well as web development.
With CSS3, cascading style sheets now have more useful features than ever, including support for gradients and rounded corners. These can save you time and energy. The downside of this is that not all browsers support them.
What I wish I’d known: Internet Explorer is (arguably) the worst browser when it comes to cross-browser compatibility. Conditional comments work for IE5 and up, and make styling for IE a little easier. Here’s a fun way to use them in the head of an HTML document.
Only Internet Explorer will see the stylesheet contained within the conditional comments. Other browsers will only see a comment and ignore it. By putting the IE stylesheet second, you override any duplicate tags, so you only need to modify the elements that display incorrectly.
Some good resources:
- 35 Websites to Teach You How To Use CSS Effectively–on 1stwebdesigner
- 53 CSS Techniques You Couldn’t Live Without
- The Principles of Cross-Browser CSS Coding
The syntax for JS is less forgiving than HTML or CSS, but will give you a definite sign that you did something wrong. It won’t work! The frustrating bit is that it doesn’t necessarily tell you what is wrong, so you may spend hours searching for that missing semicolon.
Some good resources:
- Improve Your Skills: jQuery Beginner Tutorials Roundup
What I wish I’d known:Parse errors can be helpful. These point to the direct line number with the syntax error, which can save you time.
Some good resources:
Continuing your learning
Don’t forget to see even more courses that can teach you how to code the right way.
Now that you know the basics, your are about to start using images. That’s why it is important to know where to find them and which one to choose, free or paid ones.
Options to Consider When Looking for Stock Photos: Free vs Paid Solutions
As designers and bloggers, pretty much every project we do is going to involve photography in some way, form or fashion. With the way the internet is today, there are photos floating around everywhere and it’s very easy to grab one for use even though it may land you in some huge trouble. This isn’t a post on which is better so much as it is weighing in on the different uses for free and paid photos. I’ll interject some of my opinions in here but mostly keep it factual so the information is as correct as possible. What’s your opinion on free vs paid?
A Little About Free Photos
Free photos are awesome because they are, well, free. But, to be honest, most of the time they really aren’t that awesome at all. They are usually of lesser quality, require links or are far too small to use for anything practical. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Check out the pros and cons I’ve outlined below.
- They’re free
- They are sometimes very large photos like the ones you’ll find on Stock Exchange (see below)
- You can use them pretty much wherever you want, even commercial projects
- Occasionally you can find really good ones
- Can alter them if you need
- They are of lesser quality for the most part meaning less MP
- Also have bad or sub-par composition and color
- Often too small
- Will be seen in multiple places since anyone can get ahold of them
- Most likely you won’t find exactly what you need and you’ll have to settle
- You’ll also have to sift through ads to find the photos…they have to generate income somehow
- Sometimes require a link or attribution
I’m an advocate for using free photos during the composition of a client project. The reason why lies in cost. I’m not going to pay for photos for a client to change them anyway, it’s just not being smart with your money. That said, I definitely have to do some explaining as to why the photo isn’t exactly what they are going to end up using or why it has a watermark on it. Most clients are okay with it if you tell them the alternative was charging them for stock photos they may never use. However, I proceed to push the sale of professional photos for the live launch of a project. They will make or break or design no matter how great it is.
A Little About Paid Photos
Paid photos on the other hand are a whole different breed. They are usually the opposite of free photos but also come with their own set of pros and cons. Let’s check these out.
- Usually professionally shot
- High Quality
- Can purchase different sizes
- Good composition
- Plenty to choose from
- Can get a bit pricey
- Multiple usage restrictions
- Many times can’t be used in commercial projects
- Require additional research to find exact usage
Difference in Quality
There’s a definite difference in the quality you will get with free versus paid photos. Free ones are often shot by amateurs or as candid and it was an afterthought to upload it for use by others. You can tell in the composition, the coloring, and even the actual pixels or picture quality. That’s not to say that all paid pictures are fantastic, but you’re much more likely to find paid photos with better quality all around.
It would be my assumption that the people uploading pictures for free don’t take as much time or have near as much experience as those who upload to paid sites. I think it’s safe to say that. But don’t feel free ones are useless, they can serve their purpose and then be replaced by a professional image for the final product.
What are you using it for?
If you’re using photos for a personal project, you might be able to get away with using free or very cheap photos. And by personal I mean like a poster for your child’s classroom or something along those lines. However, if you’re a web designer building a site for yourself, I highly suggest you get some professional photos. These are going on your portfolio and whether you’re a photographer or not, clients will expect perfection from you for the most part.
Client projects nearly always require professional photos. Clients don’t always want to pay for them, but I urge you to do your best to explain to them the difference it will make for their clients. You don’t ever see major brands like Dell or Nike using cheap or free photos for their marketing. It makes a difference and it’s your job to translate that to your clients.
Photo Copyright Infringement
Copyright is a huge deal these days as well. It’s difficult to trace exactly where photos have gone once they’ve been uploaded to a site. Paid sites use watermarks but those are easy to cover up if you know Photoshop very well. And free photos have their own issues even though they may be considered “free.” For example, if there’s a person in a photo, that person is supposed to give a model release to the photographer so it can be used in any way. But I’ve personally come across hundreds of photos with many people in them that I know they didn’t get model releases from all of them.
On top of model releases, the photographer still owns the photo and all copyrights to it regardless of whether it’s posted on a free site or not. They have to sign a release to the person that wants to use the photo in order for it to be legal. I know it sounds crazy, but there are some very strict guidelines for photo copyright and people infringe on it everyday. And the thing about copyright is that it’s different from country to country, and in the US, from state to state even! So it’s best to contact the photographer directly before using the photo in any way such as client work or on your own site.
A Few Good Free Photo Sites
Stock Exchange is probably my personal favorite of the free ones. Some of it has to do with the fact that it’s the only one I really use. Like I said, I use these images for mockup purposes, not for the final launch of a project. Their search has always been pretty lame so you’ll have to deal with that should you decide to use them.
Flickr is another great resource for some free photos. You’ll have to give attribution for most of them but they definitely work and there are tons to choose from. Be sure to check out the copyright restrictions on this site as well as the other ones.
FreeDigitalPhotos has some great stuff as well. However, they only offer the small size images for free, the others are paid. Most likely you could use their photos for a small image on a project but they wouldn’t work for a large banner that would be on the homepage of a design…at least not without pixelation.
EveryStockPhoto is a great place as well. They’ve got plenty to choose from and most of them are actually very good shots. They come in a variety of sizes but many of them will work great for mockups.
A Few Good Paid Photo Sites
I’m pretty sure that mostly everyone has heard of iStockPhoto. They’ve been just about the only place I go to buy photos when I decide to. Over time their pricing has crept up a bit but they are still very reasonable and allow you to purchase small photos for as low as $1. Most of the web ready ones will run you about $3 or so, which is awesome for the quality you get here. They also have stock video, audio, illustrations, and a plethora of other things.
Ah, Getty Images. Seems these guys have been around since the beginning of the internet. They have some pretty awesome stuff, but it also gets a bit pricey and quick. If you can push the cost off on your client, which you should do if it’s for their project, they are a great choice to find what you’re looking for.
Yet another great resource for paid photos is ShutterStock. You’ll find what you’re looking for here for sure but again, it will cost you a bit to get the quality they provide. I’m not against quality but sometimes it seems they’re charging a bit much for it.
DreamsTime has some good stuff as well. I personally don’t use this one but it’s another place to visit should you not be able to find what you’re looking for at any of the above ones.
So In Closing…
Keep in mind that photos can make or break your design. Obviously it’s your choice as to whether you want to fork over the money to pay for them, but most of the time when working on a client project you can pass the cost along. Just make sure you thoroughly explain your stance on using professional photos and maybe give some examples comparing free versus paid photos. Point out some differences and let the client make that call, even if it is against your better judgement. What do you think of free versus paid sites? Are they truly worth paying for or just a waste of money? What other sites do you use?
Now let’s see how to go from starting to code to your own business.
From Coding to Starting Business and Hiring a Team [Podcast]
The Podcast Episode with Ouida Mac
Ouida Mac’s Success Story
You have a lot of projects going for you and more are waiting in queue. You even have a business. The frustrating thing, however, is that it is not moving into the direction you want and growing into the scale you desire.
It’s not that you lack the talent or the technology. In fact, you’ve continuously allow yourself to learn new systems and technologies but why is everything on a standstill?
This was the same frustration Ouida Mac faced not a long time ago. Like all average web designers, she was charging $15 – $20/hour for her services. Ouida doesn’t lack talent nor knowledge.
Describing herself as your typical nerd/geek, Ouida has written her own CMS and she is constantly learning new technologies to make her craft better. Even her resources and support are abundant.
That story was a long time ago. Ouida was able to transform herself from someone else’s contractor to becoming her own manager hiring other designers to do the work while she focuses on the more important aspect of her business. From $15 – $20 an hour, Ouida now charges $75/hour, an amazing 200% increase from what she used to charge.
Mindset Change… When Ouida was asked what brought the 180-degree change in her life and her business, she would always stress mindset change when she entered the $10K Boot Camp. According to her, she had self-esteem issues where she acted like a Xerox machine doing what her clients require of her but not getting paid according to the efforts she exerts.
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All that changed when she realized that being a web designer is not just about coding, mastering new technologies, or solving the client’s problems. It is also about viewing web design as a business and not just a job – and therein lies the difference.
When you think of your profession as a job, you will feel no sense of ownership. After all, you are just another face in the workforce – someone who has to finish a task because it is an obligation.
On the other hand, when you view of your profession as a business, you begin to own it. You begin to develop a vision how to make it grow.You begin to innovate. Most of all you begin to look at the big picture and start to ask the right questions.
Asking the Right Questions
How much are you worth? Any successful person or business does not become successful because they are offering a great product or service. How many great products and services are out there? How many great products and services have established themselves as a brand to be reckoned with?
Only when you begin to understand your worth and your value will you be able to bring your business and your service to a bigger scale you want it to be. You are the only person who can tell you how much you’re worth, not the clients who use your services, not the consumers who buy your product. When you treat what you offer as something of great value, people will just follow suit.
As Po’s father in the movie, Kungfu Panda, had said, “There is no secret ingredient.” Po began to act to his full potential when he realized his value. This same strategy has been used by con artists throughout history.
People bought something of no value at a very valuable price because they’ve been told so. Furthermore, those con artists acted and spoke with much conviction how valuable their product is.
You have an edge – You really are offering something valuable. The greatest challenge, however, is how to make your clients see your value. The Confucian principle of doing unto others what you want others to do unto you provides the clue.
Ouida Mac and the other $10K Boot Camp graduates might have reworded it differently but it resonated throughout her interview. This same mindset can also be seen and heard from $10K Boot Camp graduates.
The principle? It is not about you or your talent but about your clients. It is placing them at the forefront before you even start to think of design. It is thinking about their breakthrough first before you think of your own.
If you are able to bring a breakthrough to your client, they will know that you are worth the money. If you bring value to your customers, you can ask for more money. If your clients earn more money, they will have no difficulty paying the high value work you bring into the table.
That is why Ouida had no difficulty charging a 200% increase to her clients because they cannot replace the value she is bringing.
Accountability & Collaboration
Like all the rest of humanity, web designers should understand that success can’t be achieved single-handedly. Even those who call themselves self-made millionaires did not reach the place they are in without any form of support. Ouida has mentioned this in her interview. She said that the support and accountability she gets from her 10K mentors and fellow graduates are priceless.
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In terms of accountability,she emphasized the importance of choosing the right counsel. You can have mentors but you can’t always have the right mentors. What do they look like?
They are the mentors who will keep pushing you to move forward. They are mentors who will keep pushing you to have new discoveries in every project you undertake.
Support-wise, the 10K Drive and the constant communication she has with fellow $10K alumni keeps her in touch with new trends and strategies. She further emphasized that web designers should never feel threatened to share their knowledge and experiences with fellow designers because there is always plenty of work for everybody.
On the other hand, sharing is what makes the community and the industry dynamic because of the new knowledge. Besides, no one has really become successful by hiding what he has discovered from others.