Can You Teach Yourself Web Design?

Can You Teach Yourself Web Design?I recently received an email from someone who was interested in becoming a web designer. They wanted to know if they should go to school for it, or if it is possible to learn on your own. My answer, in short, was “Yes.” 

I am a completely self-taught web and graphic designer, so I know that it is possible to actually succeed in freelance web design from such humble roots. However, it has been quite an uphill climb and if I had the chance to do it again I probably would have chosen to go to school for it. My guess is that I could have greatly compacted the amount of time it has taken to get educated in everything that I have learned up to this point. A formal education could have provided a solid foundation to start from.

Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear: I am not suggesting that anyone who puts their mind to it can teach themselves to become a financially successful or even a quality web designer. I believe there is still a prerequisite of design talent that one must have in order to succeed. Others may disagree, but I can’t imagine someone with zero natural artistic or design talent managing to pull off a website design that meets all modern aesthetic standards. I think that one can ingest a wealth of information, learn and apply all of the available tutorials and teachings available, and still come up short if they have never demonstrated an ounce of artistic ability before.

This post will explore some of the positives and negatives of being a self-taught web designer, as well as some of the ways you can teach yourself. Let’s take a look at what it takes and how to proceed with teaching yourself how to design and build websites.


Pros and Cons of Teaching Yourself

Of course, the top benefit of teaching yourself web design is the cost. For little more than the price of some books, you can potentially learn everything you need to know to make a living designing websites. Obviously, this is significantly less financial investment than a degree. However, the money saved will be dramatically outweighed by the time investment, and, as they say, time is money.

When I first started learning web design, the internet and the industry were young (I believe Yahoo was the only available search engine), but I still managed to find all the tutorials and walk-throughs I needed. Today there is an overabundance of design blogs, websites, open-source software and more available online and elsewhere that you can easily access with a quick visit to your search engine of choice. Still, the amount of time you will spend acquiring all of the necessary links, bookmarks, tutorials, etc. will add up very quickly, and it is a good idea to think about this when trying to decide if you would rather be investing your time or your money.

Another benefit of teaching yourself is that you can decide your pace of learning along with your focus on which skills you want to acquire. Perhaps you are interested in learning web design so you can design and maintain your own site, but not for the purpose of making a career of it. In that case, you can take a more casual approach than a formal education would allow, and move at the speed you desire. On the other hand, if you are looking to gain as much knowledge as possible in the least amount of time, you can set your course for the fast track and spend 15-hour days devouring everything you can find on the subject. Either way, you are in charge of your learning.

The downside of being your own professor in web design is that you have little or no idea what you need to learn until the need arises. After 15 years of designing websites, I still run into situations that I’ve never encountered before, at which point I continue my education yet again as I search for the solution. Personally, I actually enjoy this part of being self-taught quite a bit–most of the time–but in the early days the amount of knowledge I had acquired was dwarfed by the massive lack of expertise and experience I possessed. At that time it seemed every new element of a site design was a new course to tackle, and the going was slow, tedious, and often times frustrating. Depending on your personality, this may or may not be something you would weather well, and should be considered before undertaking the self-education.

A third benefit of teaching yourself is that you will most likely develop your own unique approach and style along the way, which could quite possibly contribute to innovation. This is not guaranteed by any stretch, but it is possible and an enticing thought when so many websites are being cranked out as though from a production line, utilizing the same tried and true elements and templates without experimentation or creativity. Perhaps your web design creations could become the new standard, and while it is obviously possible that it could spring forth from a formal education, the odds are higher that it could come from a less conventional source.

The negative side of this is that your self-taught lack of convention could be more detriment than innovation. There are certain standards that are established for web design that you could quite possibly miss out on, or you could take on someone else’s personal interpretation of those standards. For instance, I am still learning how to write code that follows widely accepted standards for cleanliness and widespread legibility. For years I created websites without ever entertaining the thought that someone else might need to edit or work with the code I’ve written. The same goes for organizing your PSD files or whatever other files you incorporate into the design. It wasn’t until I began working with others in the field that I learned the value of this, and it has changed my process dramatically from my early web design days.

Finally, self-education is limited by your choice of tutorials and teachers. You will most likely become a product of those you choose to learn from and will tend to utilize their strengths, weaknesses, preferences and interpretations of what comprises good web design. This can work in your favor should you happen to find the best of the best teachers, but it can also hinder your growth if you make some substandard choices. The scary part is that since you are working from a beginner’s foundation, you will not necessarily be able to identify which is which, as opposed to a formal education implying that you are learning from those who are excellent in their craft.

Ways You Can Teach Yourself

The points I’ve shared above are not exhaustive, but they are definitely some key things to consider before diving into teaching yourself. If you have made it this far and are still determined to pursue self-education, here is a list of some of the things I have used and continue to use to learn and grow as a web designer.

  1. Print and eBooks–Obviously, you can raid your local library or bookstore shelves and find many helpful printed resources. There are also a multitude of free and inexpensive eBooks on design and web design that you can download and go through at your own pace. Here are two lists I recently came across:

  2. Tutorials–I could not even begin to list the plethora of tutorials that are available online for web design, but I would suggest finding and trying out as many as you can possibly digest. Practice makes perfect, and practicing your newfound skills will save you time later when you are actually designing and building sites. From the most miniscule and mundane task to the complete mockup, I say go for it all. Find your favorite tutorial sites, ask others for recommendations and then bookmark and visit often. Make your mistakes while practicing and you’ll be grateful–and pull less hair out–later.
  3. Design Sites and Blogs–From Smashing Magazine to Web Designer Depot to the Envato network, and on and on, there are literally thousands of design-related websites that provide a wealth of information to assist you in your education. I personally subscribe to hundreds of RSS feeds from these sites to keep up to date with the latest trends, tutorials, discussions and more. Many of them have tutorial sections you can rummage through to find what you need, and they will connect you with some of the best in the business to learn how they are doing things.
  4. w3schools.com–If there is a single resource to recommend, this would be the one I would choose. Touted as the “largest web developer site on the net”, it is probably the most reputable as well. Everything you could need from tutorials to glossaries to examples to certification is available. This should be a permanent bookmark in your curriculum toolbox.
  5. Google–Google is your friend. Use Google to find everything you could possibly want to learn about web design. Just now I typed in “learn web design” and came up with 138 million results. Overwhelming? Absolutely, but that should give you an idea of how much information–good and bad–is available. Be sure to check resources carefully for reputation and legitimacy before committing yourself to their tutelage. You can always ask other designers about sources you find to see if they’ve ever used or heard of them.
  6. The Design Community–Over the past year, I have only just begun to discover the amazing global design community. While most designers will not have the time to give you step-by-step instructions, most will be happy to point you toward a solution to a problem you may be having or provide a recommended resource. Connect with as many designers as you can, especially in your particular area of interest. Social media has made these connections much more accessible and I would highly recommend using as many tools and networks as you can to find and engage with other designers. I constantly ask other web designers for recommendations of WordPress plugins or where I can find a particular icon or anything else that I may get stuck on, and they ask me as well. There are so many valuable resources within reach simply by connecting with others who are already doing what you are aspiring to do. Until recently, this was something I was missing out on, but now I can’t imagine not having those connections, support and influence as part of my daily life.

These are just some of the resources that I learned from. As you grow and develop as a web designer you’ll discover other resources that will help you as well.

Your Turn

Has this discussion been helpful in helping you decide if you want to start teaching yourself web design?

As one who has done and is still doing it, I hope I have either encouraged you or at least helped you realize the hard work it takes to teach yourself. Should you choose to attempt it, rest assured that the reward at the other side–whether financial or simply the accomplishment itself–can be invaluable.

If you have experienced some of these things, or maybe have some other experiences or suggestions for resources, please be sure to share them in the comments below.

Image by Shutterstock

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Comments

  1. says

    I am coming from the opposite for of you. I have a degree in Interactive Media Design. For me personally, it was the best route. It gave me just enough knowledge and skill to know that I had the natural abilities to do this not only in college but on my own. Going to college for media design was great boost for me and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

    Would I go back for more education? Probably not, now that I have the skills and knowledge I can easily teach myself things. I also have great friends and resources who are a huge help as well. I think it depends individually as a person. “Do you have a self taught aptitude? Are you a better learner in a class?” I think either way is great! Most designers I know never went to school and their work is amazing!

    Great discussion and post.

  2. says

    I found this article pretty interesting considering I taught myself web design and I have always operated under the assumption that most people do. Now I could be completely wrong (hell, lets just assume I am) but perhaps the reason I feel this way is because your education in this field is never complete.

    Regardless of which direction you choose to take yourself as a designer or developer you won’t last long if you aren’t motivated to educate yourself on a daily basis.

    I became interested in web design at a very young age, around 13 or 14, as a way to build online communities for the games that I played. The interest just always grew within me and I educated myself through the whole process, starting at Geo Cities! My high school certainly did not provide technology classes (I took keyboarding) but I did want to go to college for a technical degree.

    I was somewhat disappointed with my college classes, finding that they were review to knowledge or skills I had acquired on my own using the resources mentioned here. I suppose I have always been somewhat curious to see if my situation is a unique one so I am looking forward to seeing other comments on the subject.

  3. says

    Hmm I’d say you cannot just learn how to design nor how to code (PHP for example).

    Yes you can learn some things but you need to have it in you to create beautifull designs. For the scripting bit .. everyone who is intelligent to some level can read a book and create scripts. If they are safe etc that is something you learn by doing and you need to have a feeling for that.

    That is also the same with graphic design, I’ve seen designers who really advanced in their skills within a short period, and designers who got stuck at their low level …

  4. says

    This is a great article. It’s a long-standing debate for any designer: to go to school or not to go to school. (Shakespeare could make it sound better, but you get the idea.)

    Recently, Ally E. Hardgrave wrote a popular guest post on my blog about a similar subject. She addresses the power of passion versus the power of a degree. Perhaps your readers would also enjoy the article.

    “Make your design career a reality through the power of passion”

    here’s the link -> http://bit.ly/dADlVZ\

    Thanks for a GREAT article.

  5. says

    @SnarphBlat: Great point about what type of learner and how disciplined you are in determining if you can teach yourself. I am pretty stubborn and patient, so plodding through learning curves works for me. But if that’s not your personality it could get very frustrating.

    @Jason: Thanks for your insight & sharing your experience. I’m interested in hearing from others here too. Should be a good discussion!

    @Ramon: In the 3rd paragraph of the post I shared the same viewpoint: “I believe there is still a prerequisite of design talent that one must have in order to succeed. Others may disagree, but I can’t imagine someone with zero natural artistic or design talent managing to pull off a website design that meets all modern aesthetic standards.” Knowledge can be acquired but the talent has to be there too. Thanks for your input!

  6. says

    I’m going to join this bandwagon of self-taught web designers. I agree the hardest part is the standards. I used to be a pro haha but then CSS came out and took over the scene. And accessibility still remains tough to learn on your own.

    I agree that you need some natural sense of design and aesthetics to do well. The only downside to learning web design yourself is you’re never confident in your natural sense of design. If a “real artist” comes along and says your design is no good, your sense of confidence will collapse, all because they have had experience or proper schooling in the area, etc.

  7. says

    I learned like you, Brian. But, I went to school for computer science so the coding part was easy to pick up. Plus I was always into art and music so it felt like an easy transition. I recently took a Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace course, and am currently taking some marketing/branding courses but the design/development I am pretty much self taught. I think the key to success in anything is being passionate about what you are doing.

  8. says

    For me, I recieved as BS in Informatinon Systems but really excelled in programming. I would agree with Ramon. Any one can pick up a book and follow along, just like any one can buy Dreamweaver and call themselves a web designer. You truly have to have a passion / obsession for design or development.

  9. says

    @AJ: welcome aboard the bandwagon, AJ. We all know it’s a bumpy – but fun – ride! You’re so right about the feedback from other professionals in the field. But it works both ways, too. When another designer you respect likes your design, the confidence boost is great!

    @Bill: Love your last sentence. It is my mantra. Do what you love and you will be successful. Just be free to measure success not by financial gain, but by personal fulfillment. Thanks for the input!

  10. says

    @Brian – very true, I hadn’t thought of it that way…I guess I always fear the worst! Nice to see things from the opposite perspective…

  11. says

    Excellent post, Brian. I’m a self-taught designer myself (I have a degree in Religion and Philosophy– with an Art minor), and I have to agree with the bulk of the comments that it boils down to drive, patience and perseverance, sprinkled liberally with natural talent.

  12. says

    Interesting topic to be honest. I started by myself many years ago basically just because I enjoyed creating websites for myself and various school projects. After a while I got the chance to do this as a full-time freelance web designer and since then I constantly try to learn something new in order to improve my skills.

    This doesn’t necessarily happen when I seek for new techniques but also during challenging projects or even when I read interesting articles in my RSS reader every day.

    This said, I definitely believe that it’s possible to teach yourself web design, but it might not be the most suitable way for everybody who’s interested in that. Some people just feel a bit more comfortable if they take lessons somewhere and that’s perfectly fine as well of course, as long as they understand that they continuously have to extend their knowledge after the course has been accomplished in order to keep up with emerging trends and techniques.

  13. says

    Brian, thanks for this article. I’m also one of the self-taught, but (in agreement with you), I don’t think one could do it unless a passion for problem solving, seeking out answers, and constantly bettering your work exists.

    I always get a lot out of your articles. Have you ever written about what it’s like to freelance and raise/support a family? I’d love to glean.

    Peace!

  14. says

    @Rafael: Religion & Philosophy? We will have to have a discussion about that sometime, given my religious history and experiences. Love to hear your take. Like how you said “Sprinkled liberally with talent”. Excellent way to put it.

    @Maximilian: First off, had our first child been a boy we were going to name him Maximilian, but she was a girl so we went with Madison. Not that it has to do with anything. :) Second, thanks for weighing in on this. It’s good to hear from others who have succeeded with the self-taught route.

    @Michael: Thanks for the encouragement. Glad you’re getting useful stuff from my articles. That makes it all worthwhile! I haven’t written a post about that yet, but I do take requests…perhaps an upcoming article will follow your suggestion. :)

  15. says

    Brian,
    Excellent article! I would say that I am definitely the exception to the rule. I showed no artistic ability prior to starting in web and graphic design other than an “eye” for good designs. I can’t paint, draw, or sketch outside of a computer. I was interested in more the network side of the web, and was hired to do that by a small non-profit, where I was also expected to do web and graphic design and development. I taught myself from the ground up and a year later started freelancing part-time, and then transitioned to full time. I am in school to be a Youth Pastor, so graphic design is not something that I take classes for, but I do consider myself successful in freelancing. I understand that you and I are both exceptions, and I understand what you mean when you say that it “has been an uphill climb.” However, I will say that you made a point of saying that being self taught limits you to what your teachers can teach you (ebooks, tuts, and the like), but that is also true when going to school. Most graphic design programs and web design programs have a dozen teachers or less, and those teacher cover the entirety of your education. This limits you greatly in what you learn and what styles your emphasize. It’s not better or worse, just equal and possibly more complete in a shorter amount of time.

  16. says

    I’ve found your article really useful, anyway despite of going to a school to learn about web design, it’s a kind of job that requires to be always learning all the advances and changes in the web, I think that all of us programmers, web developers, etc. should be at least a bit self-taught in other case our knowledge would get obsolete easily.

  17. says

    I have to thank you for you have encouraged me to continue studying web dev’t and design by myself. With the help of the internet and the sites you mentioned I learned html/css and now pursuing to php but having a hard time with the codes. Its not really easy, i can’t continue schooling due to financial matters. I can’t afford to exchange my job for school as well. Thanks for the very informative article. Bookmarked! =]

  18. says

    I agree, one must have some artistic talent to begin with in order to become a web designer.

    However, as with any creative or artistic pursuit, I strongly believe in the value of getting educated or trained. The proper training from a skilled teacher will shortcut the learning process and help you avoid developing bad habits that will be hard to unlearn later on.

    As for personal expression and style, one must know the rules first before knowing how to break them.

  19. says

    I graduate in 3 months with a BS in Informatics which focuses on how people interact with information through technology. But at the same time, all of the real skills that I use to design and develop websites is self taught. What schooling has done for me is to create a framework on which to build my knowledge. It helped to teach me HOW to think but all of the technical skills I have are self taught through all the ways you described.

    If I had to do it again, I would definitely go to school but I wish I had known what to expect. If you stick strictly to the course material, depending on the major of course, you probably won’t have all of the skills necessary to build a great website. No matter what path you choose, you HAVE to be able to teach yourself and continue to learn indefinitely.

  20. says

    Great article. I am always interested in different perspectives when it comes to how people acquire their web design knowledge.

    About 8 years ago I went to design school and majored in advertising and design. My aim was to get into marketing and print design. This shifted when I got out of school and into the job market. I took a job (out of desperation) as a semi-small company’s eBay manager. I eventually became the graphic designer and then became the one and only web designer after the previous one left for another job. I knew close to nothing about designing for the web.

    For the next year or so I sat and tore through the web trying to learn how to build a web page. My main task at first was to find where to start. Luckily from the very limited web training I had in school I knew the basic skills I needed. HTML was on the top of my list. I totally agree with the w3schools suggestion. This is the perfect place to start. It was easy to understand, and most importantly it led me to the other skills I needed. I would not have known about CSS if not for w3schools and a plethora of other knowledge.

    I think my education in design helped me immensely. I knew my design principles really well and had created many successful print designs. It took a lot of effort to translate that to a structured web page. But, I think it may have taken three times as long if I hadn’t gone to school. I have learned that I have so much more to learn. I am still in the process of learning as we speak.

    I believe that you CAN learn it on your own. Like it has been said, you need to be driven. It helped me that one of my main hobbies is breaking computers (in different ways) to see how they work. This makes me almost enjoy the coding part of web design more than the actual visual design.

  21. says

    I’m a self-taught web designer/developer as well, with the help of online tutorials, resource sites and books. I have a BFA from SCAD, but at the time I was concentrating more on graphic and motion design, not web. My skills are limited, but I can usually find instructions for what I want to accomplish. I’ve thought about taking short courses at community college for specific areas such as Flash development, but I probably wouldn’t consider pursuing another degree.

    Thanks for the incite.

  22. says

    To your point that you still find things you don’t know anything about: I believe it’s the same no matter how you learned in the first place.

    I’m a software developer with a university degree backing me up. I still learn every day and I expect to continue to do so pretty much forever. The day I stop needing to learn something new will be the day I get bored with my job and go join a circus. :)

    If anything, I think learning on your own gives you a better base to continue learning. You already have all the methods and useful sites at your fingertips. Going through a program somewhere gives you a more structured foundation, but once you have your degree or diploma, it can be hard to accept the idea that learning doesn’t stop there.

    I guess doing both would be the best of both worlds: school can point the way, and you can be free to branch out on your own and teach yourself things school doesn’t or go into more depth into concepts you find most interesting/useful.

  23. Drew Lazere says

    I was able to teach myself at a young age how to develop and design websites. But I believe that can only get a person so far. I am 24 and almost finished with a Software Engineering degree from University of Michigan. They offered 1 course on web development. So in that aspect the college has taught me nothing about web design. However, it has taught me how to manage projects, attract new clients, and work in a professional manner. They taught me how to evaluate project risks, quality assurance, cost and time estimations, etc. So overall, I think what you teach yourself and what a college can teach you will more than likely go hand in hand. Yes you can achieve success by doing 1 or the other, but those individuals probably have a higher failure rate than those who can do both. (I have no stats to back this claim up lol, just my opinion).

  24. says

    I think that you can learn technical skills by yourself, but at school you are able to see the whole picture and get the basis for a better self-learning and understanding and to think in context. Sorry my english.
    Regards!

  25. says

    I was lucky enough to be able to receive 2 separate college degrees, a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising/Marketing and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications. I’ve been out of school and in the “real-world” for approximately 4 years now and have had time to re-evaluate my experiences. Being mostly a print and user-interface designer with absolutely no experience of HTML/CSS or anything, I have been interested in learning web in depth. It seems on a weekly basis, I get requests from possible freelance clients for web and I have to turn them away. Through networking in my community, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a variety of designers (most with a few more years experience than me) and get their opinions on going back to school for web. I mean, that is the first answer that comes to my mind…taking some web classes. One web designer that I contacted about going back to school or at least taking web classes advised me not to do it. And after thinking about it, I have to agree with him. I believe you have to have a creative mind from the beginning to be in this business, so if you have that…the technical skills can easily be attained. What all my schooling really taught me was technique and expanded my mind to bigger things than I was thinking at the time. Truthfully, my teachers taught me barely anything about the design programs, I learned the majority on my own. I learned though playing around, but also through trial by fire on the job. If you have a foundation and the basics, the rest you can work at. I will tell you that I learned a lot of “what not to do” while I was in school, unfortunately I didn’t know that at the time. So I’m going to be learning web on my own, enough paying someone major bucks to learn the wrong way to do something. Surround yourself with good designers in your community who are willing to help you, some good tutorials to get you going and just dig in!

  26. says

    Nice Article Brian..
    I totally agree that there is no stopping to learning if one has a desire to do so..
    but there is a flip side to it also which shouldn’t be ignored.
    Learning all by yourself gives the steering to learning to oneself and that has many chances of narrowing down the learning to a limited aspects.. A formal course exposes you to a wider variety (though not very fine grained).
    So, according to me, when one has fully developed an interest in any subject by exploring it for some time(in our case web design), it is never too late to get a formal education too..

  27. says

    Thank you everyone for your input and sharing your experiences. It’s very interesting to hear your different stories and thoughts.

    My hope in writing this post was not necessarily to say any particular way is better than the other, but just to answer the question, “Is it possible to design websites being completely self-taught?” I believe the answer is yes, and many of you have helped to find that answer. Does that mean being self-taught is the best way? Personally I don’t think so, but the success of my freelance web design business at least tells me it’s possible. Hopefully that is an encouragement to those who are just starting out or who are thinking about teaching themselves.

    Thanks again for your participation. Great comments here!

  28. Jen says

    One strong pro for getting a degree is gives you a lot more “credibility” when working for clients. I know this doesn’t always matter, but some companies still want to see that piece of paper. A good compromise could be some type of online degree where many of the classes are in a self-study format anyway.

  29. says

    I’ve always found that as long as someone is driven to do something, they can do it, so being self-taught isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many of the best web designers I know are self taught peeps that started when they were 16 and got their first computer.

    That being said, it’s also never too late to go back to school :)

  30. says

    I am partially self-taught. My father worked with computers, so I was exposed to HTML at a young age. I taught myself a bit more as I progressed, including CSS and JavaScript.

    I am finishing up my degree in Information Design, but have been disappointed with computer programming courses. I find I learn programming better on my own.

  31. says

    10 or 15 years ago, it would have been easier to teach yourself web-design than it is now, simply because there was less to learn.

    Doing a degree level course is going to lay a LOT of foundations for good web design, such as UX, design theory etc which would take many years of experience to teach yourself.

  32. says

    if you’re really interested in learning and teaching yourself web design, “Google is your friend”. To get more ideas, exposure and direction, blogs are a big help like smashing. nice post.

  33. Ward O. says

    Like this article. I agree with you for the most.

    I am a self-taught web designer as well. Started out when I was 12 years old because I was interested in it. Over time it developed to be a hobby and now it is developing into a job steadily. It is very true that you some amount of talent to succeed.
    From my own experience, I’ve seen a lot of people take the formal education path,…and very many of those people didn’t succeed or had a really hard time. Simply because getting at a certain level takes some artistic talent, but also a lot of discipline and motivation to learn and continue to learn. In my opinion, no study programme can teach you to become a successful web designer. You need passion, dedication and prior experience.

  34. says

    I started learning web design in 2002 by “mistake”. There was no specialized schooling in Romania back then. Even now I doubt they have courses that keep up with the latest developments. I read tutorials and did a lot of stuff myself. It’s true I’ve spent thousands of hours with this. I was “playing” web design for at least 8 hours a day (always had a relaxed job that allowed me to “multitask”), used to work 15 hours/day in the weekends etc.

    I don’t believe school can give you what you can achieve by a lot of work. The information online is infinite, I cannot say I need a special book available only for a college course for instance, so I had access to ALL I needed. Hard work and dedication make us good. School does indeed help, but it doesn’t replace talent and work. I laugh when I see very bad designs made by people who list tens of diplomas and certifications, trying to make me feel bad for not having taken courses. These diplomas show me you have studied the curriculum and passed some exams. They don’t replace your talent (if you lack it, then 10 schools cannot solve your problem) and surely they don’t replace PERSONAL work and development.

    Taking specialized course does make it easier. I have made a lot of mistakes along the way and wasted time with useless stuff. More structure and support from specialists would have made my journey a bit easier. But I don’t regret a single minute of my sleepless nights or weekends I sacrificed for my passion. I am what I am today because of my drive, talent and confidence.

    So my advice for anyone would be to get information and then work their minds off. If they can access a QUALITY course, then it’s a good investment. If they can learn well on their own, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.

  35. says

    I think a lot of it will come down to motivation. If you’re not self-motivated, school will probably be a good choice. However, you don’t get as much control over what you learn. I started taking some college courses and quickly realized that I wasn’t going to learn the things that would help me succeed at freelancing, so I dropped out and studied on my own for a year. It seemed risky at the time, but I’m really glad I did it.

  36. says

    Learn web design is not easy task.Because if you make a web site then you have to take in mind that make a web site which will user friendly,attractive and also should be useful as per seo concern.

  37. says

    there are many video tutorial through that there is not any need of instructor. by the way good article and help those guys whose want to learn web design.

  38. says

    I agree with some of the opinions that learning web design 10-15 years ago was easier because there was so “little” to learn but nowdays online tutorials can do miracles.
    It is not easy though.
    Self-education is painful but it gives you that feeling “I did it myself”, Best solution is the mix of both approaches, Like learning a new language it is much easier once you learn the basics.

  39. says

    I went to college and the web design courses were a disappointment, too outdated, they teach me how to build a website with tables, so imagine. The teachers just teach, they don’t work in the industry, so they don’t have real life experience.

    A degree is good for getting a local full-time job, but if you really want to learn, I think that reading books and blogs is the way to go. At the beginning, Brian said, it’s hard to tell who is the better to learn from, but once you’ve figured that out, it’s easy.

  40. says

    This is a great article! There are some points I like to add:

    One thing that came to my mind while I was reading this article was the fact that web design as well as graphic design means “life long learning”. So even to those, who have a degree like me, you should constantly look for a way to teach yourself. For me it was really frustrating to discover that as soon as I learned something the next month something new appeared (like AJAX). Something that teachers can’t cover because it’s new to them as well. It was funny to see that some teachers taught us something that they actually learned themselves.

    Another thing that I struggle with all the time teaching myself is the fact that after a while I keep forgetting about things that I’ve learned in the past especially with all the new technologies and languages out there. Maybe you know a method how to “refresh” knowledge after a while?

    Finally it is really necessary to have some sort of network because when I teach myself things sometimes I get stuck on stuff that I don’t understand and I cannot find a way to solve a problem myself – even with all kinds of articles and explanations in the web. Besides that a network provides you with feedback. This way you can figure out how you are doing.

  41. says

    My case is similar. I have a degree in Computer Science and always worked on Web Design. Although my years studying coding made learning html & css quite easy, I had no formal training in design. I still envy those who studied arts history, colour theory, typography, etc. Luckily for us we can easily get this knowledge from great books and specialized websites.

  42. says

    I agree with Natalie. While I’m a self-taught designer I’ve taken a course or two to make sure I’m not missing anything. They were a waste of my time and money. A degree looks good on your resume but for a freelancer, experience is most important and you get that either way. No doubt, the road to success will be different depending on the route you choose but with today’s accessibility to all kinds of resources formal schooling is not necessary.

  43. Jorgen Kesseler says

    I have a degree in system engineering but gave that up about 1,5 year after leaving school. From my second job to my current on steadily build up the skills needed to be a webdeveloper. When it became my job I pretty much did anything necessary to get the skills. From digging trough manuals, following tutorials and reading books. I learn best by trying, failing and trying again. In this line of work you never stop learning.

  44. says

    I am going to vote yes. My background is firmly planted in digital/print design. There isn’t that much different about designing for the web from designing for print. You just have to understand your limitations.

    Now coding on the other hand is a whole other bag of worms. That is a little difficult to learn on your own, but if I have been able to learn all of it on my own so far…

  45. Scott says

    I have a Bachelors in Psychology, Associates Degree in Fine Art, and had some computer background. When I lost my sales job 17 years ago, someone said, “You can check out job listings online.” I’d never even been on the Internet.

    When I got online, I started thinking, “Why don’t I make the Web my next job.” I picked up an HTML book, downloaded Painter (didn’t even have Photoshop), and went at it.

    Six months later I was a Sr. Web Designer with Yellowpages.com…

    But it’s still like being a doctor (or should I say, a good doctor) — you need to constantly be learning new approaches, and new technologies. Keep your skills up-to-date.

  46. says

    Personally, I taught myself how to design/code websites and I was 12. If I could teach myself when I was 12, I’m sure others can.

    Nonetheless, an educational background doesn’t hurt. I am currently going to college for Graphic Design which will include web design and I believe it will benefit me greatly. In my high school courses, I knew more than my teacher, but in college, I will be learning new techniques and new perspectives.

    If you really want to learn web design from an educational school, then I say go for it!

  47. says

    I don’t know about you, but I have a deeper understanding and knowledge about things I’ve learned by myself (trying hard, going crazy when failing etc) compared to things I’ve been taught in school.

  48. says

    Great article, really share a lot of your experiences being self taught myself. Though my method of teaching myself was a bit more haphazard and I just threw myself into creating a site using the not-at-all advisable Microsoft Frontpage. However designing with a split design/code view helped me learn the code in a way I was comfortable with.

    It has been a bit of a steep learning curve, but learning the way I was comfortable with helped me along a lot. As it developed into a passion of mine I wanted to learn more, so that helped too!

    I’m now a full time web designer and while I’m still learning, this is a field you can never stop learning in.

  49. says

    Great article and a very enjoyable discussion.
    I’m a self-taught designer too and that worked well for me, but I’m not sure it does for everyone.

    I think one big problem is that you just don’t know what to learn and what not to, if you are teaching yourself. I learned the basics, like color theory, typography etc. rather late, even though I should have started with them (I didn’t know any better). My luck was that I already had some sort of natural feel for these kind of things and didn’t make any unforgivable mistakes, but it was only later that I understood why certain choices I made simply looked better.

    Many self-taught designer don’t ever learn those basics and just follow the latest Photoshop Tutorials and even though it is important to master your tools, it doesn’t make you a good designer quite yet.

    Regarding going to school: I think the problem here is that schools hardly ever teach current standards and practices. They are often constraint by regulations and schedules and are often a year or two behind – a big problem in just a fast-paced industry. The good thing is that you’ll learn the basics, which are always valid (color theory doesn’t really change drastically).

    So the way to go is: Go to school and learn the basics and then learn current practices and standards online and with books – or – teach yourself, but inform yourself exactly what is important to learn and where you can learn it best.

  50. says

    I’m self taught and that’s what worked for me. Self taught is cheaper too, but you should spend money.

    Buy books!!! You can get 10 great books for the price of one (overpriced) college manual.

    Seminars and webinars are great substitutes for classes. You’ll hear from more real-world accomplished people than you ever would at most colleges.

    WORK, WORK, WORK. Mason’s didn’t learn to build walls by reading about bricks. At some point you have to build wall upon wall upon wall. School may give you projects, but there is nothing like the unseen problems and solutions of real world work.

    Volunteer, beat down doors, intern, listen and learn. Whenever you meet another designer, listen and learn. Always. Also, it’s amazing what free advice and teaching other artists will give back to you. I volunteered to clip a ton of product photos starting out once and got weeks of color correction and color theory training in return. When you then start working as a designer, don’t forget to give back.

  51. says

    Simply, take a look at each commenter’s personal website and you’ll inevitably get to the conclusion there’s no rule and the only way a topic like this one could be useful is by letting people share knowledge and skill, any of which is learned individually. Anyway, everyone of us is shaping this business one way or another. Keep it fun, above all :)

  52. says

    I went to college to learn web design.
    I had already created sites in the past but college explained why to do things certain ways, like why not to use table or frames.

    Web designers have to have a balance of technical knowledge for coding and creative flair which can’t be taught anywhere.

    I think the only issue with self teaching is you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing is right. There are many ways to do things in web design but if you learn a certain way odds are you won’t try to learn a second way of acheiving this. The second way could have been easier, faster and better but you won’t know.

    In college you have set assignments so you are forced to learn parts that you may nit like. This helps you a lot further down the road.

    I think anyone serious about web design as a career should do at least a years training. It helps you start with good habits and not have to learn by mistakes

  53. says

    I went to uni and studied ‘interactive media’ which covered a whole variety of web-related subjects, however I felt I learnt the most after I left uni and taught myself html and css from scratch. It was also much quicker!

  54. says

    Guess I’m a little of both. Started out as a self-taught designer, then took a few odd classes, then signed up for a design program via an online school, currently teaching myself new things every day. I can’t imagine not learning and keeping up with the latest developments in design, it’s detrimental to this field.

    Having said all that, for me signing up and taking classes in the design program was the best thing I did for myself. It helped me tremendously. It gave me a great foundation to learn more on my own. And yes, I’m still learning … every every day!

    Great post! Great topic!

  55. says

    Except for the truly motivated, it’s very difficult to teach oneself the principals of design: balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, and unity… a formal education can provide that along with the opportunity for constructive criticism – something you can’t get on your own.

    That said, I’m not sure there are many, if any, schools out there that are teaching the the latest techniques in web design…

    One of my ‘web design’ classes actually spent time teaching how to slice up a Photoshop comp with ImageReady, and export the html! And CSS? A passing mention, that it was mostly for controlling fonts, but nothing about layout.

    The best web designers are self taught, and constantly teaching themselves new things.

  56. al says

    Interensting article and discussion. I have a similar case as the ones above, I studied graphic design, we had one web design class where we were taught to use tables (gasp! then again, this was years ago) and not much more. From there I taught myself web design and currently work in it but I still learn something new all the time. Im pretty sure a degree in web design would’ve help me but the truth is all web designers, with a degree or not, must continuously educate themselves in the latest technologies or they’ll fall behind.

    I do think going to some kind of design school or taking design courses is helpful to learn and practice the bases of design, typography, use of color, proportions, etc. This areas are quite abstract and Im not sure how could one could learn that by themselves unless they are naturally gifted.

  57. says

    I am a self-taught web coder with a degree in graphic design and I feel like I got the best of both worlds. A formal design education helped me grow as a designer because I received criticism and influence from my peers in school, which is difficult to gain on your own. Web design courses in college offered very little and usually involved basic flash/Dreamweaver solutions for designers, which in the real world is a recipe for disaster because much like the article states, every job brings new challenges that need to be met on a deadline. My experience as a self taught coder has enabled me to meet new challenges quickly as they come up no matter how frustrating they can be because I have learned to solve problems on my own without the help of software or a teacher and remember. Google is your friend!

  58. says

    Great article, I can greatly relate to this as I’ve started creating web sites at the age of 12, and further educated myself through Google and those I met online. I’m 17 now and have pretty much mastered (X)HTML and CSS, and am intermediate in PHP and do some work with JavaScript/jQuery.

    It’s overwhelming how much stuff there is to learn though, but the intention is to further imrpove your own sites, projects, whatever. I am in love with CSS3 and HTML5, makes things so much easier. I remember how images were used for almost everything back then, and that’s before sprites were popular or even created maybe.

  59. Jaime says

    Hi, nice article. I want to tell you about my experience in the field. I do development in my day job, web design in my past job, and both (and also business) on my startup. I’d argue that more important than going to school to learn web design or development, it’s more important to go for a different field altogether. The skills taught in universities around the world are incomplete, old and generally speaking not in line with what the “real” world asks from you. I started going into code when I was about 12, so when I went into the university I took a degree in Finance and Economy. That has truly helped me advance my skills in all fields. In comparison, I was interviewing for my day job, for a few non senior positions in development and front end design. Out of tens of applicants, only one passed the tech test, and at least half had awesome CV’s. One applicant was a 40 something, ultra certified, 11 page CV kung fu master. When he came into de interview, he got 0 out of 10 questions right. That said, there are three things I value in a designer or developer: experience (no college will give you a tenth of the skills you really need), conviction (you need to have a strong personality), and passion (people with passion can do anything you throw at them as long as they find it challenging… even if it means learning a language from scratch for a project due in a month). So there, thats my take on this topic.

  60. says

    I would have to say learning yourself is better, its better to understand why things are the way they are rather than being told it!

    You can read every book in the world and it aint gonna make you a better designer, get your hands dirty and find out why you screwed up that way you won’t screw up again!

    Great post!

  61. says

    I had the basics in college, very basic, as i was going to be a librarian. I built a basic webpage with very basic code. The rest has been self taught through tutorials and lynda.com (review on my website for this). I have learned so much and still have more to learn.

    I think no one can know it all, we all learn differently so there is no one right answer.

    I know when I first started out I didn’t know where to begin. That’s why I created tutorials on my site for the beginners… using Dreamweaver.

    I’m glad you posted this because I have wondered about the route I took before and it was great to read others views too.

  62. says

    Hey Brian, great tutorial on what it takes to get started. I’ve been doing this for an insanely long time and the best advice I could offer somebody just starting out is not to panic, there’s a lot to learn but really once you get past the basics (which is a steep climb) the rest is super easy.

  63. says

    This was great! I have been a hair and makeup artist for the past 3 years, and recently graduated from college as a computer tech. In my first yr I had an web development class and fell in love. I have done a few websites and have done a pretty good job, and I want to teach myself as much as I can without going to school but was always told I need to have an educational background.. This confirms for me that if there is a will there is a way.. Great arrival and valuable information. Thank u!

  64. says

    For me, college wasn’t even a question. I studied and got my BA in Management/Computer Information Systems, though. I didn’t study web design or interactive design. Everything I know about HTML/CSS/Javascript/PHP and design itself is 100% self-taught. A lot of what I know about basic programming and computers is also self-taught, having had computers in my home since the late 80′s. But I learned A LOT in college about business, systems analysis, specific languages like Perl/C++/VB/Java/CL/RPG, and a lot about writing, thinking, creativity and more. I plan to go back to school in the next two or three years and study raw computer science. I’ll probably never go back for web design.

  65. says

    I think the principles of design are better learned in a school setting which exposes you to the endless critique and gives you the thick skin to listen to and evaluate criticisms of your design. While it’s true there are a lot of tutorials out there on how to achieve certain looks or mimic button styles, that’s all based in achieving someone else’s look and design–a design education gives you the confidence to go forth and forge your own look.

    While it may be different now, coding was another story when I was in college–even a decade ago, the comp sci dept offered classes where you were taught to design web pages in FrontPage and even PowerPoint. I mainly endured these just to be able to point to some education background in the field.

  66. MGant says

    An important piece of advice I would give others is to always look at the date the articles and tutorials were published. While still helpful, I found that some I was referencing were published 5-7 years ago.

    Things that needed to be worked around back then are accomplished with only a few commands today. The date published is especially important when learning how to protect against attacks.

    I am still in the process of teaching myself how to do the coding side. I will never have the talent needed for graphic design. I was a computer operator/programmer 16 years ago (pre PC!) so I did have a head start.

    I will be forever grateful to all the Pros in the field who freely publish their knowledge on the internet for everyone to use. My education would not have been possible without them.

    It has taken me 8 months so far. I hope to have my site up and start doing simple jobs within the next two. Even though it has taken me almost the same amount of time as a vo-tec course I believe my education has extended beyond what they teach. It is one thing to be told what to learn, another to find out for yourself.

  67. Ethan says

    Great article! I spent the last year and a half as a self taught freelance web designer working with a programmer who had little design aesthetic. I had no code understanding at all. Now, I’m back in school full time to get a degree in web design and I am loving the holistic fundamental design education. I knew that I could teach myself the missing pieces of development through tuts and blogs, etc… but I am learning much more efficiently being in university. Hopefully by the time I get out of school with my personal education and formal education I will be unstoppable.
    Again, thanks for the article.

  68. says

    With all due respect, some of these comments are very silly. CERTAINLY one can teach themselves to do high-quality web design and coding…especially in today’s searchable world. HTML is very simple, and there are tons of excellent tutorials online. CSS is pretty simple, and there are tons of tutorials online. PHP is very well-documented, with thousands of tutorials and code snippets all over the place. Want to learn to create nice web graphics? You’ll never touch 90% of the graphics tutorials online, and you’ll never run out.

    EVERYTHING can be “self-taught” if you take advantage of the tools and teaching available. In the early days of the web, there were NO formal educational opportunities. Art and design classes, sure…but web design? That’s a very recent development.

  69. ethan says

    @sarah le — I’m at the Art Institute of Raleigh Durham in North Carolina. It’s a newer program and the curriculum is updated every few quarters to stay current with what’s going on. So far, it’s great.

  70. Philip says

    I would like thank you for a great post. I ‘ve been learning web deveoplment for a year.
    I have been doing it myself I no formal web design education but havng said that I still feel that I can learn web design with the help of books and on-line tutorials.

    I know some may not agree with me but that is I what think about this subject.

    All the Best

    Philip Davies

  71. Jennifer says

    At school, I was taught the most basic of things, just because it’s secondary school.

    The rest, I have figured out myself. I had to do the design of a school project website, and I have learned a lot from that.

    But I don’t think I can learn all of it myself. Therefore, after I pass my exams this year (hopefully) I am going to study to learn more.

  72. says

    When you go to school you learn how to do one thing…teach yourself.

    So learning website design with out formal education should actually give you the same results if you went to school. Only thing you’re missing is a mentor/teacher who can send you in the right directions. But getting lost on a topic helps you in the long run by making you self reliant and overall a smarter designer.

  73. says

    There were web designers well before there were classes in web design.

    When we first started our web design company (Image Refinery Productions, which later became Refinery, Inc., which then eventually sold to G2), we were all self-taught. I remember when the first job applicants who had taken actual course work in web design and development began to show up on our doorstep: they were abysmal. Academia’s first attempt to “teach” what we all had been doing by the seat of our pants was a mess. The field was changing too rapidly for the schools to keep up.

    Which is not to say we didn’t continue to study and learn. But for awhile, at least, the best ways to learn involved working with another, more experienced designer, and/or becoming a voracious consumer of zines, blogs, conferences and usenet discussions.

    Eventually the schools started to pump out students whose coursework was actually relevant to what we were doing with clients, but that took awhile. I’m out of the business, now, but I could believe that one could learn a great deal today from a good academic program. But if so, this is a VERY recent development. The graphical web itself is less than a generation old, still.

    But can it be done without? You bet it can!

  74. says

    Hi, nice article. I want to tell you about me
    Hello my name is Ziane Maamar and I am a 18 year old self-taught graphics designer. I have been using computers since the age of 11 and immediately got into designing. I don’t, by any means consider myself to be the best, but I took take pride in what I do. Designing is my passion.
    HTML :7/10
    CSS :4/10
    Java scripte :0/10
    Php :1.5/10
    I hope that one day i will be a better Web Designer

  75. says

    Interesting Article – I really appreciate it. I am at the very beginning of my web design career. I still have a corporate job in online marketing, but I’m trying to build my portfolio with my first few websites. So I spend as much time as possible reading articles and watching tutorials.

    I have a bachelor’s degree in a completely unrelated field. I loved college and I am comfortable with the classroom environment; If I could find a degree on websites, I’d do it in a heartbeat…. but……

    …..A good friend of mine got a degree in computer science. He’s an application developer. I asked if he was going for his master’s and he said, “no, my degree was obsolete before I graduated. It would be the same with a master’s”. It’s hard to get a degree in technology-related fields, especially web.

    I don’t think the answer is a traditional degree program. Business principles don’t change, and general art principles don’t, either. A degree in eCommerce or eBusiness makes sense, but come on, if you got a degree in web design two years ago, you probably used the CS 2 suite. And flash was still king!

    Certificates are the answer i think. You don’t have to renew a degree, but you must renew a certificate to stay fresh. I know I need multiple certificates, but I don’t know what!

    Certificates aren’t the perfect answer, either, though. To do my job well I have to know Design, codiing, SEO, Online Marketing, Databases, and all the steps in between. This crap is hard and I drift toward what I’m already good at (Design and HTML / CSS) If I had a classroom to push me to learn databases and SEO, I’d learn it faster than on my own.

  76. says

    Hey, great article. I’ve learned everything on my own, following everything that I liked, from nature, to people, to roads etc… tutorials, examples can tach you the mechanics, and be a good tool, but no one can teach you design. It’s something You carry in yourself and can only be expressed by practicing and constant work. design blogs and community was something I discovered lately, and It gave me a goor inside of something I wont to become, A man who will also give back to community as much as I’ve recieved, even more! :)

    I’m part time freelancing for 7 months now and publishing my 3D web comic: Tap-Tap Adventures :D So I’m grateful for that!

  77. Abhishek says

    hai all the member i do not have a degree but i know some thing about web design coding according to me the things you should know are
    1.php
    2.mysql
    3.html
    4.css
    5.joomla
    6.ajax
    7.javascript
    8.word press
    that’s all if you want to teach your self then just download the books for dummies have fun
    and say thanks to me ……

  78. Ursula says

    Brian – thanks for the article and all the leads on web design – I can’t wait to begin!

    @Rafael – I, too have degrees in Religion/Philosophy, minor in Sociology. I love it when I see other people with this degree – sometimes I think I’m the only one!

    My plan was to continue on to graduate school but that never happened so I ended up in electronics distribution…was laid off last year and picked up web design as a hobby and fell in love! I enrolled to go to school in web design this fall but all my funding fell through. It’s probably for the best, though because I was going in knowing I could teach myself – I just wanted the fundamentals and the structure. And I wanted the certification so I could land a job – you know, pretty up the resume. But the universe knows your intentions better than you do – I don’t want to work for anyone else! Not really! Just like I didn’t want to waste time going to school for web design! What I really want is to get my graduate degrees in comparative religion! LOL – follow your hearts, my friends – it will never lead you astray…

  79. says

    The question was “Can you teach yourself web design?” Or in other words, I suppose, do you need a degree or formal training to be a web designer? The answer to the latter is certainly “no”. If you teach yourself using the resources in the article, put together your own portfolio and have a bit of flair and good soft-skills, you stand just as much chance of landing jobs as someone with an graphic design based degree. Indeed in many cases, teaching oneself is the only option, as web design techniques are fast moving and most course syllabuses are out of date before the term has even started.

  80. says

    (first of, apologies if this comment appears twice – first attempt disappeared on submission)

    The question was – “Can you teach yourself web design”. In other words, I suppose, do you need formal training or a degree to be a web designer? The answer to the latter is certainly “no”. If someone teaches themselves using resources such as those in the article, puts together a good portfolio, has a bit of flair and good soft-skills, then they will stand just as much chance of landing a job as the person with the graphic related degree.

  81. rachael says

    I’ve recently, in fact 2 weeks a go started an Interactive Media course at college and the only part i am interested in is the Web Design, to learn anything about Web Design i have to wait until Christmas 2011, i am not willing to wait this long, i am 19 years of age and don’t have the time to be waiting around learning about something i am not interested in. If anybody has any good links of tutorials etc please could you post them. I have a part-time job at the moment which i’m earning enough from but i have now decided to teach myself Web Design. I am very creative, I thoroughly enjoy the creative arts i am interested in Web Design and Photography, I have taught myself the pro’s of Photography and really do wish to pursue my ambition in Web Design. Any tutorials as i said would be a great help and in general anything that you may think would benefit my learning.
    Thanks.

  82. says

    This was a great article, because I went to school for it. But I think that YES you can teach yourself.

    Why I LIKED going to school for it:

    I have a BA in “Arts Technology” I created this major because it wasn’t offered at my college. It was too new of a profession, and a growing one. So I merged Computer Science (Programming) and Art (regular media, and also graphic classes).

    This prepared me by having me practice in many different languages in many differente situations. I also got experience in an internship doing graphics in the “real world”

    Why I think you CAN TEACH YOURSELF:

    Once I graduated, I felt lost and behind in the field because I hadn’t completed one single website. I have since taught myself SO much in the field that is more relevant than any school could teach me, because I needed the real world experience. Yes, you may have to motivate yourself to practice a lot, but it is quite possible to learn on your own.

    Go for it!

  83. Will says

    As someone who has gone to school but not finished my opinions are slightly different. I did go to school to get my AAS in Graphic Design and then took several years off before transferring to a university. During that time I absorbed as much knowledge as I could. If I was not working on a project for a client I was spending several hours a day reading and working on personal stuff. I learned exponentially more in this time than ever in college. I barely learned anything in college, partially because I was not ready to listen. I do not think the information that comes from school or the resources online are much different, they are just presented differently. I think that school is good, however, I also lean toward the direction that school is just a money sink. I quickly dropped out in the university and continued learning, now I feel more confident in my ability then the freshly graduated Comm Design students. To me it boils down to personality type. If you do not have a degree to tout your skills then you better be able to sell yourself. If you are resourceful and want to be the best then I advocate self teaching. If you like being spoonfed(nothing wrong with this)then formal education is probably better.

  84. C_Denney says

    I know I am very late on this post but, as someone who is currently attempting to teach themselves web development, I thought I would comment.

    Thank you for the post, it was very imformative and great to hear everyone’s take on this matter. As a graduate of Biomedical Science the world of web dev wasn’t something I originally wanted to go into but, having somewhat stumbled across it I would say I’m pretty much hooked already.

    I have definitely thought a lot about taking a course but financially I think it is just out of my remit! I’m lucky to work for as an Editorial Assistant for a company that has a development team – mainly software – but they are still able to give me useful advice. I would say the overall response has been to just stick with teaching myself. They have all noted that with so much information readily available on the web you’d almost be wasting your money to pay for another degree or masters. Having said that, I also often find it hard to know ‘what to learn next’ and every few weeks or so I will have a hard time knowing which direction to take my study – I feel this may be what you miss out on by not taking a “proper course”. None-the-less, I will persevere!

  85. Tim Wood says

    I’m just starting out on my journey to learn web design and coding, and I’d just like to thank you for your inspiring words and experienced advice. You’ve helped me believe this is possible. Many thanks!

  86. says

    This is a nice tutorial. You can also refer to w3resource.com. This site is prepared by keeping the ‘teach yourself’ method in mind. Covers HTML, JavaScript, PHP, SQL and MySQL.

  87. says

    I am pretty interested in learning Web Design and Graphic Design but didn’t know how to take steps to proceed and learn designing if you could help in getting few links of tutorial from where i can learn designing.

  88. says

    hmm I think, it is better ..to comment after getting some knowledge about web designing from some tutorials (w3 schools..is my first choice). See later, Brian. Thank you…

  89. Caio Almeida says

    Brian McDaniel, good article, it was also very enjoyable reading the comments on it. You were very honest in saying that if you “had the chance to do it again [you] probably would have chosen to go to school for it. I am looking to start learning webdesign. I am in University for Bible and Theology at the moment. I’d like to know more of the credibility of W3 schools as I’ve been thinking of studying there. Thanks!

  90. says

    Love the article. It, and most of the comments, have got me truly inspired!

    I’ve been through 4 years of education in Graphic Design, Media Arts, and Communication Design, but have no knowlege of web design whatsoever. I have a vague idea that ‘b’ ‘u’ and ‘i’ inbetween ” makes this bold, italic, and underlined, but thats it! I am now DESPERATELY searching for a job in the design field, but have noticed that everyone wants someone who can web design. What with having an abundance of empty space in my wallet, the ‘self-taught’ approach definately seems best suited for me. I will not let go of the inspiration I have gained from this page, and teach myself web design with the upmost determination that seems to be needed. I will come back (if my god-awfull memory allows it!) and let you know how I have got on.

    Also, relating to the whole ‘confidence from respectable artists/designers’ thing; if you have a spare five minutes, check out my work and tell me what you think. http://bezzie-landhog.deviantart.com/ I can safly say, from looking at your website, you are a designer who should be respected, and any feedback (good or bad) will be keenly noted and considered!

    Many thanks again, to you and everyone else here, for hopefully forwarding my career :)

  91. S. Newton says

    Thank you for a great and useful article! However, I was surprised to find a recommendation for W3schools.com. As someone trying to teach myself web design, I have a hard time knowing what the best resources are, but I have come across many negative comments about W3schools.com and have avoided the site. I’m curious what your thoughts are about the http://www.W3Fools.com site, which warns people away from W3schools.com?

  92. says

    Great post. I am a “hybrid” I guess. I started out teaching myself and then got schooled. I think you are totally right, you can teach yourself, IF you are the type of person who can be disciplined enough to push through. Design, especially early on when you are still learning the basics of the tools like photoshop, can be VERY frustrating. Once you push through it, design can be so rewarding. Then you’ve got clients to deal with!

  93. Hiba Al-Masri says

    Thank you for this informative article which is written thoughtfully and really in the spirit of helping those who are struggling with the question.

    Peace :)

  94. says

    Nice article – I too am a self-taught web designer with about 16 years of experience. I totally agree that an ambitious learner with at least some design talent can become a web designer, but should realize it’s really a moving target – I don’t go more than a week without learning something new, even now. That’s one of the best parts of my job.

  95. says

    You can teach yourself website design if you have a lot of time on your hands and a lot of patience. You also need to have some sense of artistic ability and business sense as well.

  96. kelley says

    I’m so grateful for this little pep talk!

    Literally, I searched “Teach me web development” in Google, and in a click, I was here. I’ve been struggling with the idiosyncracies between browsers. So, I bought a web template from my web host. Turns out it can’t do what I want it to do either.

    So, I’ll download more e-books, spend more time on http://www.w3schools.org instead of spending money and time in a classroom.

    Thank you!

  97. says

    Hey how are you. I found your blog via Search engines and that i wanted to express which i think your writing is simply spectacular! Thanks again with regard to providing this content for free.

  98. Michael says

    I think you need a formal education first in math and programming before you go to the web to be a coder or in art for art and multimedia for multimedia. I do not think you can 100% teach yourself period. There is just sooooo much formal programming stuff you need to learn before you learn about web programming. It is not click click you need to know fundamentally how computers and programming languages work – that is a degree and why people go to school!

  99. says

    Hi Brian, thanks for posting this I think you hit the issue square between the eyes!

    I am a self-taught developer, and I agree that one must have an innate ability for design and scripting (if one follows that path as well). Fortunately I consider myself under this category.

    Can a self-taught designer with an innate ability and eye for design out-do someone who has gone into the field via a bachelors? In my experience, I’ve seen this happen, and am it makes me wrench at the thought of some people thinking that they are better just because they went to school for it and got the information fed to them. What do you think?

    btw, I’m studying for a computer science degree so I am technically going to school but just not for web design.

  100. says

    Oh and I forgot, in reply to Michael, what you said is just not true.

    First off, there is no way to learn the art of webdesign or programming. It’s a constant learning curve. Whether you’ve been trained or self-taught, you are constantly learning.

    And secondly, what makes you say something ins’t possible?

  101. says

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my site thus i came to “return the favor”.I am attempting to find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

  102. says

    Hello there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog. Is it hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? With thanks

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  105. says

    Having read through most of the above entries, I just wish I was forty years younger so that I could engross myself in such wonderful applications…

    You must all feel highly honoured…

    Robbie…. (78 yoa)

  106. says

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  111. says

    As an SEO i know i really need to have a good understanding of web design and development to really work well with my team and grow so this is really useful, perhaps not so much to teach myself but get a better understanding than the ‘top tips’ articles i keep running in to. Thanks!

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  112. says

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  113. says

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  114. says

    This article is about what I am doing right now, I plan to self study to be a web designer. I have a time frame to attain it in one year, I also create a blog to share, step by step, what I learn and what I have done along my career journey. Thank you so much for the very useful info.

    • Ryan Domm-Thomas says

      J.J.

      With the amount of resources available, self study is a great way to launch your career. Your time frame goal is important too – stick with it and you’ll be there in no time. Keep checking back for more relevant content and keep sharing how your journey is going!

  115. Carrol says

    Hi, thanks for your information I completed a Bachelor of Arts and majored in graphic design and animation. I feel I made the wrong choice of doing graphic design over e-media, now graphic design courses are including app and web development. I’m left floundering again, so I’m thinking of trying to teach myself web design and coding, can’t seem to find any suitable online courses and I don’t really want to spend another year in a classroom. Everyone wants web design and quite understandably so.
    Cheers!

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