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Learn Creative Web Design & Development

Interest in web design in general has soared over the last few years, as having a presence on the web has become paramount for businesses. Marketing on the internet has far greater reach and power than any other advertising or promotional method - small wonder that it's now almost unthinkable to launch a new organisation without having a website as the 'shop window'.

The term 'web designer' is used quite loosely in industry today, as the expression can refer to both creative web designers and web developers.

Most people looking for a web design course have ambitions to become a creative web designer. This role deals with the 'interface' - making sure that the site looks and feels right, and the navigation is simple, intuitive and meets specification. Clients will also often need advice about how the website should perform; sometimes they will have strong opinions about how the site should work - opinions which may not always actually be the best for their business.

There is often some degree of education of the client, to ensure they're aware of what is possible or not possible - and indeed to make sure they're getting the most from their website investment. This is not to say that a web designer knows more about a client's business than they do - but merely that they have a responsibility to ensure their client is up-to-date with what tools technology can provide to assist with the management and promotion of their business.

To become a professional web designer, it's essential that you learn to use quite a wide range of commercial design and development languages & products. These have been adopted by industry as the standard and most effective tools to do the job. There are many web design packages available, and it's important to understand the differences between them. You'll come across many share-ware (free) products aimed at the private enthusiast, but these are in no way adequate for commercial and professional sites.

The most universally accepted commercial packages form the 'Adobe Creative Suite', and they include Dreamweaver etc. Adobe Creative Suite features many enhancements over the years, and allows for a speedier workflow on many key operations. Web design training in Adobe products will give you the ability to create the structure and visual aspects of the website. The recommended certifications are the Adobe Certified Expert (ACE).

People with web design knowledge will sometimes go on to become full Web Developers. Where web designers concentrate on all the visual aspects of a site (the pretty bit at the front!), web developers create the more involved software that enables an e-commerce site to function, i.e. the program code for the 'back-office'. This might check product availability when an order is placed. It could also check weight and delivery details, raise an invoice and update the sales ledger. The coding will also control the financial transaction, ensuring secure encryption details etc. This is only a tiny example, but the code that actually makes a professional site do what it's supposed to do is handled by the developer.

For dynamic web development, you'll need to learn about HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, JavaScript and maybe AJAX; these are all scripting and programming languages which allow control over server and browser-side interaction and content-delivery.

Following on from this, you'll need to know how to handle e-commerce sites, and perhaps the most important but often overlooked requirement is an understanding of Search Engine Optimisation. With over a billion people online in the world today, the internet is a busy place! Many new websites fail because they get lost in the crowd, so learning how to optimise your websites to feature well on the major search engines is highly critical.

It may be worthwhile to quickly define the difference between a browser and a search engine at this point - as there is a lot of confusion in this area. Google & You Tube did a survey and found that less than 5% of people knew the difference - so you're definitely not alone!

A Browser is quite simply a piece of computer software that interprets web-page code. i.e. it displays web-pages according to the languages they are created in (and there are lots of languages!) It is a fairly 'dumb' display tool and most of the fancy decisions and data look-ups are done at the web server, before the page is sent out to you to be displayed. Without a browser you couldn't look at web-pages. The most popular browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer (the blue swirly 'e'), Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera & Google Chrome.

A Search Engine is a dynamic website that holds a huge index of all the web-pages that it thinks are worth listing. It's kind of like the index at the back of a reference book. The bigger the book, the longer it would take to find what you wanted if you just had to flip through.

It's estimated that Google, for example, indexes over 100 billion sites now - just imagine trying to find what you want in that lot! So Google uses some very fancy algorithms (and according to recent publications, the most powerful computer on Earth,) to pull out a list of what you want according to the keywords that you type in, and in order of importance or relevance. Of course, this importance and relevance is somewhat subjective, which is why we often have to go through 3 or 4 pages to find what we really want. But you get the idea. Google is essentially 'just' a website that indexes an awful lot of other websites.

As the speed and flexibility of the internet continues to improve, how websites are built is quickly evolving . Text and pictures are giving way to moving tiles of video content, which will no doubt move onto full-screen three dimensional presentations. With this rate of change, websites 'date' and need re-building and upgrading at least every 2-3 years. As millions of new companies join the web to market their products, this has created a massive demand for professional web designers.

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