How can you teach web design? Should you teach design? Or should you teach technologies? Should you start with a code editor, Photoshop, Dreamweaver or WordPress? I don’t pretend to have the answers to these questions but am going to use this blog to muse on these issues starting with the question:

Who would want to learn web design?

I have been teaching various web technologies for 10 years. In that time I have seen a range of budding web designers from all walks of life. As a technie and trainspotter I am going to attempt to classify the individuals who seek out training on web technologies. I don’t want to call them newbies because I find that term a little patronizing. Many individuals bring a wealth of skills not unrelated to being a web professional. And anyway I have thought of some much more patronizing terms of my own.


Some people have a desire to re-train and set themselves up as web professionals. This category often includes print professionals and IT professionals with non-web skill sets (ie database administrators, help desk personnel). It is not all IT professionals though. Over the years I have seen all walks of life including plumbers, and on one memorable occasion, a banker. (You would think bankers and plumbers already made enough cash – obviously web design must be more fulfilling).

This category tend to be very motivated and may well have already seriously dabbled with web technologies.


Small to Medium Enterprisers. Entrepreneurs who either want to build a site themselves or who sometimes want to get the jargon and measure to ensure they don’t get ripped off. If they are going to build it themselves they want it all (shopping cart, forums, great SEO) and they want it now ….. not now yesterday.

Friday Afternooners

Many individuals are given the task of maintaining or even designing a web site by their employer because their boss perceives them to be “good with computers”. The boss reasons “how hard can it be”. The role of web designer may have been reluctantly thrust upon this individual and they are often given little in terms of time and resources to assume the role of “Master of the Interwebs”. A couple of hours on a Friday afternoon is expected to suffice. And haven’t we got a copy of Frontpage installed somewhere?

The Print Professionals – IT RESIZES

I am tempted to give Print Professionals their own category (they are already in self-developmenters) because they seems to be so many individuals in this situation. I’ll treat these chaps as a special case as they come with design skills and often very relevant experience in Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark etc that can be fined tuned to web design. They just have to be told again and again that screens resize, that The Fold moves, that fonts can be limited, that colours aren’t always as you might expect and that font size can be relative. In addition, I once told a print professional rather frivolously that height didn’t matter. It was like lighting the blue touch paper.

and finally for now the group I never have ….

The Patsies (ie the Absolute Beginners)

Great. A blank screen. A white sheet of paper. Teach them the right way from the start. Could be secondary, college or university students. No baggage … but then sometimes no enthusiasm either.

In that case you need the 20/20 approach. Twenty HTML tags, twenty CSS properties to get you started.

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