Written by Tom Ewer on 24 February 2014
Web design is a fast-paced industry and it's important to keep your skills up to date if you want to be a contender in a competitive marketplace. It's not enough just to finish your studies at college and university and assume you know all there is to know.
New technologies emerge and design trends go in and out of fashion all the time. As a web designer you must constantly stay up to date with the latest trends and learn new techniques or your skills will quickly become obsolete. Freelancers must make time for professional development, just as they would be expected to attend conferences and training while working in-house.
Luckily, there are lots of resources available online to help you out whether you're fresh out of college or have several years of experience under your belt. Even better, many of them free. Here's our round up of the best online courses, tutorials and resources for web designers and developers.
Treehouse is a tutorials site that offers unlimited access to a number of different courses for a monthly fee. You can currently follow tutorials that include web design basics, front-end web development, Ruby on rails, iOS and Android app development, PHP, WordPress and the fundamentals of starting a business.
Treehouse membership starts from $25 a month and includes video tutorials, a "code challenge" practice platform and access to member forums. New content is released weekly.
Tuts+ offers hundreds of free tutorials and video courses covering everything from typography and design fundamental to coding skills and mobile design.
Some of the more in-depth courses have a small fee ($15) and it's also possible to upgrade your membership to premium level from $15 a month. Premium membership gives you access to all courses and tutorials, over 100 eBooks, member forums and the advice of professional guides.
Lynda.com currently contains over 2,400 video courses covering a wide variety of topics. As well as basic web design and development, you can branch out into video, 3D animation and photography, amongst others.
All videos at Lynda.com are produced by industry professionals and are great quality. Basic membership starts at $25 per month with new courses being uploaded weekly. Bear in mind if you want the ability to download the videos, rather than watching them online, this will set you back $375 per year.
There is little background and theory introduced before getting stuck into the practical lessons so you may want to invest in a more detailed course if you're interested in implementing the skills you've learned into your own projects. For those who just want a quick introduction to programming, this is a great option, especially considering that it's free.
5. Code School
Code School teaches through a combination of video lessons, practical coding challenges based on the theory introduced in the videos, and screencasts. The interface includes a coding console that provides real-time feedback and implementation so it's easy to see the effects of the code you create as you're typing it.
The unique aspect of Code School is that it's designed to be fun. The courses are based around a story such as "Rails for Zombies" and include quirky graphics and video tutorials set to catchy theme tunes. To further the game-like feeling of the system, students can earn points for completing challenges and earn badges when they've achieved a certain number of points.
Sometimes you need a little more support than what an online course offers you. This is where the mentorship offered by Thinkful can be invaluable. Thinkful offers four courses: front-end web development, iOS development, Python, and Ruby on Rails. Courses range from $300 to $500 per month and run for three months.
Expect to spend around 7-12 hours per week on a Thinkful course. Your assigned mentor will provide you with a one-on-one coaching session weekly and is available for questions via a community message board. Students are divided into skill groups and are also encouraged to discuss and help each other.
The amount and quality of online learning resources has really exploded in recent years and there's something for everyone, whether you just want to improve your design skills by reading up on colour theory and typography, or you want to expand your skill set by learning a new programming language.
With very affordable price points and many materials being made available for free, these online courses offer an excellent and highly accessible alternative to traditional college courses.
Invest in yourself by learning new skills and you'll be more attractive to clients, earn more money, and keep your web design career fresh and exciting.