1. Platforms...Or Lack Thereof
There are many, many choices for pre-built website templates. These are all considered user-friendly platforms you don't need a coding background to set up and customize. Some offer a suite of "widgets" like calendars, e-mail signup forms, and so forth, which can be helpful for a small business:
- Cargo Collective
Go through their available templates and see if there’s something that suits you. Just a couple of many theme galleries below:
Example keywords to try while searching for a theme:
- (We'll revisit design adjectives in Chapter 5)
If you found something you like...well I guess you can stop now? :) Just kidding. We’re going to dive in and learn about coding learning, user interface design on the web, project organization, free tools, and how to work with tech professionals. We’ll also do a web content exercise and look a some artist websites.
And don't forget those themes you liked! Looking through themes is a great starting point, whether you use pre-built themes or not.
If you have the slightest interest in learning to code, give it a try.
- Foundation for knowing what's "doable" or complicated to build
- Vocabulary for communicating with tech folks
- Understand the medium and how to control your message
- Incorporate free pieces made by other people (e.g. slideshow photo galleries, see Lightbox as an example). "Open source" is free stuff which you can contribute back to (you probably heard that term before). Using these typically involves copying and pasting code and swapping in your images.
- Unique website that doesn’t look cookie cutter. How many times have you seen the Twenty Ten WordPress theme?
Places to learn to code in-person Boston:
- MassArt Continuing Education: Attracts lots of graphic designers, other arts-inclined folks also looking to build a portfolio. Highly recommend this! This is where I took my first web design class.
- Girl Develop It: Short classes and workshops, they often have a basics class. I haven't been to one of their classes, but I've been to one of thier coding meetups and had a positive experience.
- General Assembly: Offers longer term bootcamps (high time commitment and price), but they also host lower cost weekend/one-time courses. I took an evening long workshop covering the Sketch software which was great.
- Artisan’s Asylum: Doesn't consistently offer web design classes, but I took one there in summer 2015 which was fantastic.
I highly recommend attending a course or workshop with the intention of building your portfolio site. Pretty much every class works toward a final project of your choosing...so choose to do a portfolio!
Look for courses about HTML and CSS. Those are the main building blocks and most accessible for arts-inclined people.
The Learn to Code With Me Getting Started guide is a great overview and lists several online learning tools.
Tips for learning to code:
- Start with small consistent steps and a disciplined schedule for learning. For example, choose to read 1 article and watch 1 YouTube video a week
- Talk to fellow learners: online, at Meetups, at conferences, anywhere you can find them.
- If you like podcasts, there are some good tech ones out there. I find it really helps me to hear people talk about coding, revealing their ups and downs and things that motivated them to keep going. I really like Developer Tea.
Choosing a pre-built theme vs. custom coding is not an all or nothing decision. If you find an online platform you like, such as Flickr or YouTube, for displaying photos, video, etc. you can set up an account there and then link to it from your home website. May be helpful if you want to be search-able in that platform’s database (e.g. appear when someone searches for “furniture design metal Bauhaus” on Etsy)
The in-between option (most complicated) is to customize a content management system like WordPress. This is called “theming”. For example, you could have a WordPress site with that platform’s blog post functionality, but have it look different than any other theme you see on sale. Theming is an advanced topic you would need more than a basic understanding of web design/development. Content management systems introduce databases, which have their own quirks and setup requirements. Custom-themed sites, however, are something you can keep in mind if you 1) have the budget to hire someone or 2) that is something you want work toward over time.
Be a spy! Wondering if a site you're on is WordPress? Right click on the page, then select “View Page Source”. You'll see a bunch of website code. Click command + F and search for “wp”.