A common question I get from people, is whether it makes sense to go to college to learn web design?I’ve talked about the web design profession in other articles. Yet, as you will see in the following email I recently got, I haven’t dealt with all the issues regarding web design and education:

Hi Mr. Tatem,

Anyway, I am interested in web design. I am in the middle of trying to figure out whether I should go to my local community colleges for courses in HTML, photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc … or an actual art school for graphic art/ web design. Of course cost is a factor.

I am a mother of two, and my work schedule needs to be flexible. I am very creative and have a great eye for design.

My question is, which course of action you recommend? How much education is necessary? Is a degree necessary, if so, what type? associate, bachelors, certificate?

What are the salary potentials in web design working for yourself and for outside companies (I have research outside company positions advertising 40k – 50k, is that realistic?)

I’m not young, (a youthful 44) and I really need to do something in the form of a career for myself, other than taking care of everyone else.

Thank you so much for your time

Laura #####

  1. First, let me begin by saying that college degrees always help when looking to get hired as an employee. This is especially true in larger companies, where they have strict rules (in their HR departments) that have to be followed.
  2. On the other hand, if you are looking to become an independent contractor, degrees from college won’t help much … if at all.
  3. How much education is necessary? Is a degree necessary, if so, what type? associate, bachelors, certificate?
  4. The most important thing to have in the website design field is skill and experience. If you have a solid portfolio, where you showcase your talents as a web designer or web developer; that will go a long way to securing a job.    … When I hire people, I look at their past work and skills before their degrees.
  5. I would argue that if you have say, a bachelors in some other field (art, history) and then you supplement that with a certificate in website design, you would be better off than if you just had a tech certificate only. I have found that companies tend to like university graduates more than tech school grades.

Website Design Salaries

  • I can’t speak to exact salaries, as this will change from state to state or country to country. But I know that in large companies, degrees play a big role in terms of your earning potential. But again, more important than a college degree, is your skills.

Website Design’s Most Valuable Skills

  • Typically, the more technically advanced your skills are, the more money you will make. And this applies to both freelancers and employees. So unless your a fantastic artist (in the top 1%) I would be working towards learning more and more advanced skills like PHP, Javascript, Flash and AJAX. Not only will you be able to command a higher wage, you will be opening yourself up to many more job opportunities.

Case in point .. me!

When I was a really active contractor, I found myself more and more busy as I learned new languages. Over the years, I have done commercial work with around 9 programming languages! When you have that kind of flexibility and experience … it’s hard NOT finding work.

Matt Tatem
www.tatemwebsitedesign.com

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Floating around the universe, are certain universal principles that transcend disciplines. I would like to explore a few of them here, and talk about how they can be applied to web design.The Three Master Principles#1 Simplicity

This is such an important principle, that it can easily be made into the top three web design principles, just as location is to real estate:

– location

– location

– location

… we could say the same thing about simplicity in web design:

– simplicity

– simplicity

– simplicity

The important thing to take to heart, is that your web sites should be designed to be as simple as possible. You want to keep it simple for two main reasons:

  • To make it easy for you to update.
  • To make it easy for visitors to navigate the web site.
  • The simplicity principle applies to design, structure and the code.

What do I mean by ’structure’ of the web site?

I am simply referring to the URL structure. So we are talking about directory structures, page names etc. I’ve detailed this in my article on intelligent paths in websites.

I think the other two (design and code) are self evident.

… Now let’s look at principle number two:

#2 Modularity

Web sites, from the ground up, should be designed in a modular manner: websites should be built up as a series of modules/components rather than as a run-on sentence.

So that means a few things:

  • Creating logical divisions in your website’s structure.
  • Extracting out of your web pages, common elements (like footers) and use ‘include’ mechanisms to reinsert those elements back into your pages.
  • Using external CSS style sheets rather than embedding CSS code in your pages.
  • Modularity helps you comply with principle number one (simplicity) and helps you to save time and effort. Knowing how to intelligently segment your site into logical structures is a sign of maturity in your abilities as a web designer.

… When I see a web designer first conceive of a web site as a series of building blocks/components, I know this web designer knows what they’re doing!

… Now onto principle number three:

#3 Balance

When I think of balance, the first thing that pops up in my mind is a boxer moving around the ring, always in balance, so that they can easily move in and out to land that knockout punch.

Being in balance gives the boxer his best chances to hit and not be hit. If off balance, they will be limiting their choices … missing opportunities to get out of the way (of a punch) or to move in and deliver a nice flurry of punches.

So what is the balance in a web page?

You can look at this in a few ways, but for me, the most important is to balance out how much information you deliver on a page versus making the page easy on the eyes. If the page is too busy, then users will be frustrated trying to find what they want to find. The same thing for the search engines, to much content on a page removes specificity, making it hard for the engine to categories your pages properly.

Design Aesthetics

This can be also looked at from the point of view of design aesthetics – white space on a page. You need ‘breathing room’ in your pages so that it is easy for eyes to move around unfettered by obtrusive content.

So what is the balance in a web designer?

It is the balance of being a coder vs. designer and how knowing a bit of both, will make you a much better web designer.

Understanding the aesthetics of web design (nice layouts, usability concerns) is an important ingredient to any successful web site. If it doesn’t look and feel good to the visitor … they will leave and not come back.

On the other hand, if you know nothing of code and just rely on programs like Dreamweaver, eventually you may find yourself with a big mess of code that makes keeping the website up-to-date a hard thing to do.

Matt Tatem
http://www.tatemwebsitedesign.com

Google

Posted: March 16, 2008 in Google, SEO
Tags: , , ,

Does anyone remember the argument put forth when the US banned online gambling that basically said that by banning the financial transactions associated with this, it would consequently open the door to new ways of funding terrorism? It made perfect sense. The same was said by Geoge Will about Prohibition. Making something bad makes PEOPLE bad. I can’t put it any better than he did with this comment: “…someone stands to make money from interfering with other people making money.” Right now, that someone is Google.

Now I’m not about to liken black hat SEOs to terrorists or makers of crap moonshine, as tempting as that would be for someone who loves satire as much as I do, but the point here is that an institution threw up a roadblock that would potentially open up giant sinkholes that would swallow many more people than the original offending acts would ever have done. Google is seriously venturing into this same territory with their constant attempts to make the web a better place (gag) and reduce SERP spam.

Think about this for a minute…during the past year, Google trashed several of our tried and true SEO techniques. Obviously we’d all be bored senseless if things stayed the same, but there were certain basics that I never thought I’d see vilified. Does this signify the fear that Google has? When they start messing around with such low-level techniques as directory listings, I have to think that it’s because they are truly at a loss over how to maintain control of something that they think has gotten out of hand. However, that is certainly their right but the main issue that I see with all of this is that it’s going to force people to sneak around and find other options. If the basics no longer help you, what else are you going to do? Put on some death rock and start getting your hands dirty.

If you’re fully white hat and you’ve written great relevant content and only received proper inbound links and your rankings go to hell in a handbasket and you have a client threatening your life (that’s a lot of ands there, sorry), chances are that you’re going to start thinking about something a little darker than meta tags. So as much as Google hates the supposedly unethical methods that the black hats employ, they’re sure as hell forcing all of it to happen aren’t they? Otherwise you’ll just sit back and watch your life fall apart.

Everyone games the system on some level. That’s what makes this all so enjoyable. the basics of SEO are honestly not that exciting, no matter what many white hats say. The fact that we may have to rewrite the basics IS exciting, though. I’m really quite sick of meta tags anyway.

Back in the day when I cloaked every site I worked on, I had fun. I even giggled with glee when I got my first site banned because I was excited by the challenge of getting it relisted. Some people argued that I cloaked because I couldn’t compete without using black hat techniques, but the fact is that I thought it was the best idea at the time in order to get good rankings in Google, since all my sites sucked a duck’s arse back then. When you’re dealing with a 4 page site with no text and a homepage consisting of nothing more than an image, cloaking is really, really appealing. Especially when it got number one rankings and massive amounts of traffic. So let me ask you this…if the Google algorithm was built to rank you due to your inbound links, why was I so easily able to get number one rankings without having more than 3 relevant inbounds? I could easily outrank sites that had tons of links, tons of content, etc. just with keyword stuffing the beJaysus out of a few cloaked pages. Talk about gaming the system…and thus we have yet another hole in the Google algorithm. Technically speaking, Google made me cloak. Ahem.

The links thing is quite possibly Google’s biggest hole at the moment, but they’re certainly doing everything in their power to fix that. It’s making us all have to THINK too, which is nice, for once. However, when they start devaluing the fundamental things that one does in order to build the foundation of an SEO campaign, that’s when it’s seriously apparent that things aren’t going so well on their end. And I love it, honestly. It’s hard to be white hat all the way right now, and it’s getting even harder with each little tweak of the algorithm. What’s going to be the next argument then? Social vs. mobile media? How will we sling THAT mud? I can’t wait to find out.

Does anyone remember the argument put forth when the US banned online gambling that basically said that by banning the financial transactions associated with this, it would consequently open the door to new ways of funding terrorism? It made perfect sense. The same was said by Geoge Will about Prohibition. Making something bad makes PEOPLE bad. I can’t put it any better than he did with this comment: “…someone stands to make money from interfering with other people making money.” Right now, that someone is Google.

Now I’m not about to liken black hat SEOs to terrorists or makers of crap moonshine, as tempting as that would be for someone who loves satire as much as I do, but the point here is that an institution threw up a roadblock that would potentially open up giant sinkholes that would swallow many more people than the original offending acts would ever have done. Google is seriously venturing into this same territory with their constant attempts to make the web a better place (gag) and reduce SERP spam.

Think about this for a minute…during the past year, Google trashed several of our tried and true SEO techniques. Obviously we’d all be bored senseless if things stayed the same, but there were certain basics that I never thought I’d see vilified. Does this signify the fear that Google has? When they start messing around with such low-level techniques as directory listings, I have to think that it’s because they are truly at a loss over how to maintain control of something that they think has gotten out of hand. However, that is certainly their right but the main issue that I see with all of this is that it’s going to force people to sneak around and find other options. If the basics no longer help you, what else are you going to do? Put on some death rock and start getting your hands dirty.

If you’re fully white hat and you’ve written great relevant content and only received proper inbound links and your rankings go to hell in a handbasket and you have a client threatening your life (that’s a lot of ands there, sorry), chances are that you’re going to start thinking about something a little darker than meta tags. So as much as Google hates the supposedly unethical methods that the black hats employ, they’re sure as hell forcing all of it to happen aren’t they? Otherwise you’ll just sit back and watch your life fall apart.

Everyone games the system on some level. That’s what makes this all so enjoyable. the basics of SEO are honestly not that exciting, no matter what many white hats say. The fact that we may have to rewrite the basics IS exciting, though. I’m really quite sick of meta tags anyway.

Back in the day when I cloaked every site I worked on, I had fun. I even giggled with glee when I got my first site banned because I was excited by the challenge of getting it relisted. Some people argued that I cloaked because I couldn’t compete without using black hat techniques, but the fact is that I thought it was the best idea at the time in order to get good rankings in Google, since all my sites sucked a duck’s arse back then. When you’re dealing with a 4 page site with no text and a homepage consisting of nothing more than an image, cloaking is really, really appealing. Especially when it got number one rankings and massive amounts of traffic. So let me ask you this…if the Google algorithm was built to rank you due to your inbound links, why was I so easily able to get number one rankings without having more than 3 relevant inbounds? I could easily outrank sites that had tons of links, tons of content, etc. just with keyword stuffing the beJaysus out of a few cloaked pages. Talk about gaming the system…and thus we have yet another hole in the Google algorithm. Technically speaking, Google made me cloak. Ahem.

The links thing is quite possibly Google’s biggest hole at the moment, but they’re certainly doing everything in their power to fix that. It’s making us all have to THINK too, which is nice, for once. However, when they start devaluing the fundamental things that one does in order to build the foundation of an SEO campaign, that’s when it’s seriously apparent that things aren’t going so well on their end. And I love it, honestly. It’s hard to be white hat all the way right now, and it’s getting even harder with each little tweak of the algorithm. What’s going to be the next argument then? Social vs. mobile media? How will we sling THAT mud? I can’t wait to find out.

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