I recently had the pleasure of taking Brad Schiff’s Web Design for Beginners course on Udemy, and all I can say is that I wish this course existed when I was first trying to learn HTML and CSS. I first stated learning web design from a web developer bootcamp course, and while I picked up HTML without an issue, there were some CSS concepts that I struggled with, such as understanding the box model and creating special effects.
If you’re reading this article and wondering what exactly HTML and CSS are, you can think of them as the first two building blocks you need to create a website. In a nutshell, here is what they help us, as web developers and designers, accomplish:
- HTML defines the structure of your webpage so that the browser knows if it’s displaying a header, paragraph, list, image, etc.
- CSS adds a presentation layer and is responsible for the style or the look and feel of your webpages.
These are the two technologies Brad Schiff’s Web Design for Beginners covers, and if you’re new to web design, this is an excellent introductory course that will help you get started. If you’d like to learn more about how they work together, then be sure to check out my introductory article on web design.
Who Would Benefit from the Course
If you want to learn how to design and build websites but don’t know where to begin, then this is the course for you. Web Design for Beginners is truly a beginner-level course, and Brad Schiff does a wonderful job of explaining the concepts in detail. You will not only learn the first two skills you need to design and build beautiful and fully functional websites; you will also understand the technology behind the web design concepts Schiff teaches. I appreciate that he takes the time to explain what is behind the code, which is one of the reasons why I wish this course had existed when I was starting out.
This course covers the essentials of HTML and CSS, the first two technologies beginning web developers need learn in order to build websites. Schiff also explores more advanced CSS topics such as responsive web design, responsive grids and animation and special effects that are achievable with CSS.
The course begins with step-by-step instructions of how to save and open HTML files. If you’ve never worked with a text editor before and are not sure what that is, Schiff tells you exactly what you need to know in order to get started and shows you how to choose and download an appropriate text editor for designing web pages. The course then moves into the most common HTML structural elements, such as lists, paragraphs, headers, etc. As mentioned, these are the elements that add structure to your webpage so that your browser knows how to interpret your file.
In the HTML section, Schiff does an absolutely wonderful job of explaining how attributes work. I recognize that this term might be unfamiliar to you, and that’s okay. You don’t need to know anything about attributes in order to get started, and they are covered thoroughly in the course. For now, I will just say that there are some HTML elements, such as links and images, that need a specific address or attribute in order to function properly.
As Schiff further explains, “HTML needs attributes to make the [structural] elements come alive.” In piloting web design courses for beginners, I was specifically looking for a course that explained how attributes worked, and I am pleased to say that Shiff’s course delivered. If you are someone who needs to understand the “why” behind how things on the web work, then you will appreciate the explanations that Schiff offers.
The next section of the course covers HTML media elements, such as images, audio files and videos, and you will learn how to make HTML media work properly in every browser. Schiff then moves into how to initially set up a navigation bar and how to create HTML forms and tables. These can be difficult topics for beginners, but by the end of the HTML section, you will have a decent amount of exposure to them and practice with them.
Schiff begins this next section with the web design basics of CSS, covering how to add colors, specific styles and typography, as well as how to style tables and forms. He even has a unit on background images, which can add a slick look to any website.
Increasingly more challenging CSS topics are also explored, including how to create a page layout with floats. Learning how to create a functional layout with floats is an intermediate CSS concept that I will admit took me awhile to learn, and Schiff’s unit on this topic is one of the best I have seen in any web design course.
The units on responsive design and responsive grids—concepts that teach you how to design for different screen sizes—are also very clear. Before Schiff launches into the unit on responsive grids, he defines a grid as “a layout that follows a uniform and valid structure.” Designing on a grid is a concept that is also used in graphic design, so if you decide to dabble in print (graphic) design at some point, you will already understand the principle of using a grid to structure your layout.
In the CSS sections, Schiff also covers the CSS box model, a concept that can definitely be tricky for beginning web designers. He provides a powerful mental construct for margin, padding and borders, which are the elements that allow you to put space between elements when laying out a webpage.
Learning how to style a navigation bar is another tricky concept for beginners, and Schiff’s lessons on this topic are excellent. He walks through the process step by step so that you can easily replicate it on your own and troubleshoot any issues you might encounter.
After taking Schiff’s course, it is important to continue to hone your skills and put the concepts you’ve learned to work. Building a portfolio of web design projects is a logical next step. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Redesign an existing website. Find a website of a local nonprofit or business that has a poor design and improve it.
- Build a tribute page. Here is an example of a tribute page to Father John Patrick Raynor, from one of my early portfolios when I was learning web design. I first came across this idea of building a tribute page on Free Code Camp, but after you take Schiff’s class, you’ll have the skills you need to replicate a webpage like this.
- Build a webpage outlining a topic you like. Include a navigation bar with at least four working links.
- Create a webpage with a link to a registration form. Schiff’s course covers web forms in a fair amount of detail, and I encourage you to try to replicate building a web form yourself. It’s a good exercise, and showing that you can design a nice-looking form is a good skill to demonstrate in your portfolio.
What to Learn Next
After you take Web Design for Beginners, if you would like to go deeper into certain topics or feel that building your own portfolio from scratch is too large of a leap, there are a couple more courses you can take to further build on your web design skills:
Responsive Web Design by Paul Cheney. In this course, you will gain more practice with responsive web design, a skill that all web designers need to demonstrate. I credit this particular course with allowing me to drastically improve my web design skills. It gave me the confidence I needed to start taking on freelance gigs and apply for jobs. You will gain three new websites to add to your portfolio, but again, I encourage you to apply the skills to different websites that you’re building from scratch.
Advanced CSS and Sass by Jonas Schmedtmann. This 28-hour mega-course dedicated entirely to advanced topics will help you become a CSS expert. You will get extra practice with responsive design, grids and Flexbox, the Flexible Box Layout Module. You will also learn Sass, an extension to the CSS markup language. In this course, Schmedtmann teaches you how to write and compile Sass. This is a tool that professional web designers use in their work, and knowing this CSS preprocessor will definitely give you an edge with employers.
These last two courses cover more of the advanced CSS topics, so be sure to take them after you have had a chance to take at least the first half of Brad Schiff’s course, which is truly geared towards beginning students and assumes no prior web design knowledge.
I hope you enjoy Web Design for Beginners as much as I did. If you have questions along the way, Schiff is responsive to student questions. You can also feel free to write to us here at You Can Learn How to Code, and we’ll be glad to help you out, too!
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