website design

Check out or portfolio below and read about my path to provide North Myrtle Beach website design, the online learning tools I used and the ups and downs I faced.

Recent Work

sand dollar media website design example
sand dollar media web design example
sand dollar media website design example
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WORK IN PROGRESS
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Website Design

A freelancer's path

My journey started in the winter of 2015.

With two kids, one and three at the time, I was on vacation from work through the Holiday break. I had twelve straight days with no work and cold temperatures. My wife worked, so it meant I was home with two children that still took regular naps during the day- oh I miss those days.

I have always been interested in computers, graphic design and programming. My life path didn’t lead me in that direction, but over that break I was determined to forge a new journey.

The path to learn website design began with the book to the right. A Smarter Way to Learn HTML & CSS by Mark Myers. I reviewed multiple books on Amazon and this one fit my style of learning — repeat, repeat, repeat until its drilled in.. This book did just that. Constant repetition forces you to learn without feeling the pressure to remember. The book allows you to read short chapters and then practice, practice, practice. I’m talking like two page chapters in some instances. This was an excellent starting point for my journey. But it wasn’t enough. I completed this book and two other from the same author, ASWTL Javascript and ASWTL jQuery. And now it was time to get serious.

The journey continued...

My confidence in the skills acquired after “graduating” from the book series was strong. I was building basic, and I mean very basic, web layouts. I was able to use the browser inspector and understand how complex websites were built. But I needed another way to interpret my newfound languages, increase my back-end knowledge and continue to learn website design in more detail.

Enter the online learning tools.

Codepen is, as it’s tagline states, a social development environment for front-end designers and developers. It’s an environment were developers, young and old (me), can share designs, learn and develop all in one interface. This site helped me to network and develop new skills that I had not acquired through book learning. Just another brick in the wall.

Treehouse is an online learning tool that offers a free trial and then the cost is $25/month to take their courses. If you choose to receive a “tech degree” the cost is $199/month.  Treehouse was an awesome platform for code learning. They offer videos, interactive lessons, etc.. Everything you need to learn computer programming. Their “tech degrees” are respected throughout the community and their instructors are second to none.

I stayed on treehouse for about nine months and I made it through quite a but of courses. My ability to develop new skills and tricks was increasing… Skills and tricks that I took to codepen to continuing networking and practicing.. Then I hit a lull and took a break from coding and discontinued my subscription… I truly enjoyed the instructors on treehouse and learned a ton but sometimes life interrupts..

A few months later I jumped back into things and continued the journey. Thats when I found freeCodeCamp. FCC is similar to book learning but it is a complete online learning tool that is interactive. They have a structured full-stack development program and it’s free. Donations are accepted to fund their mission, but they are not required. I completed the full stack program on freeCodeCamp and was now ready to take a deeper dive into Javascript, jQuery, nodeJS, mySQL, Python and php.

Hello Udemy!!

When I stumbled upon Udemy I didn’t know what to think. They were offering $200 courses from $11.99 to $19.99. I thought, well this is my lucky day, so I scooped up five courses all geared towards learning website design.

*Disclaimer – It wasn’t until months later that I realized Udemy’s sales are perpetual. Meaning, they are ongoing. They do change the values slightly but I, to this day, have never seen them reach their standard price.

My first course was Colt Steele’s Web Developer Boot-camp. I highly recommend this course for anyone entering the web design world. Colt’s course covers HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, Javascript, jQuery, nodeJS, API’s, databases (mySQL), REST and authentications. It really is a boot-camp. The course is 43 hours spanned over 396 lectures. It is a grind, in a good way, with exams and quizzes peppered throughout. You earn a certificate at the end and truly feel a sense of accomplishment. See my certificate n this page. I know its only a certificate, but it meant a great deal to me after completing the course.

It was at this point I knew I could do this.

I continued on Udemy with various course ranging in topics from web design, iOS app development, advanced Javascript, Python and mySQL. All in all, I spent hundreds of hours studying and watching instructional videos from all sorts of different instructors. Some good and some not so good. But overall my experience with Udemy was first class and really shaped my views on computer programming and full-stack web development.

Note: Udemy isn’t just for website design. They have various course ranging from photography to business to nutrition. If you want to learn anything on a budget, Udemy has an online learning tool for you.

Ok real world, let's go!

So, after three years of constantly (well, sans the lull) studying, practicing, studying and practicing (plus full-time job) I wanted to test my skills in the real world. Well, as luck should have it I had a friend who was in an ownership position with a local company. I reached out to him about redesigning their website.

At that first meeting I was nervous. Was I ready to jump into this and manipulate their HTML & CSS? Could I possible be able to manage their SQL databases? What about Javascript and interactivity. I wasn’t sure what to really expect but I was ready nonetheless.

What happened was something that I’ve never seen before. They presented me with their administrative login to their WordPress web page. I was expecting to receive their host admin login with FTP access, not this.

WordPress, what is that?

I logged into WordPress and was underwhelmed. Drag and drop web building? This is just another Weebly or Wix interface. I know programming languages, how am I to manipulate code when I don’t even see an H1 tag… All of the hours I spent coding, only to realize that a hired  professional web design firm use drag and drop page builders? This was completely out of left field. But the more I navigated around the options, the more I thought to myself that I could get used to this.

Through trial, error and a lot of studying I quickly began to enjoy working with WordPress. I found that my countless hours studying helped me to understand the behind the scenes functions of WordPress. I understood all of the terminology and knowing how the back-end and front-end synced, I was able to navigate the  WordPress dashboard and cPanel with ease. It turned out that my hours had not been wasted.. WordPress just eliminated the laborious chores that were associated with HTML and CSS.

Still going...

But it’s not to say that my coding skills do not provide me an advantage over a WordPress only firm.

WordPress is supplemented by plugin software applications that allow you to perform certain functions easily. Functions like, inserting metadata, styling forms and even copyrighting. Think of the common saying in 2015, “There’s an app for that”. Well, the same rule applies to WordPress plugins, “There’s a plugin for that”.

But these plugins, just like apps on your phone, can slow down performance. Some more than others and I have learned this the hard way of course, but I make sure I do not pass this along to my clients. I’ve developed a strong set of necessary plugins and I have developed a sense of what tasks are best completed manually. Well, that ends this “journey” story and I don’t want to close with a sales pitch so I will leave you with this.

Go for it!!

If you are thinking about learning website design, coding, graphic design, or any other tech skill, don’t be afraid. There are multiple online learning tools available to assist your own journey. Just step in and make it happen. You will get frustrated and you will want to give up. But if is truly something you want to learn don’t quit. Reach out to me or the countless other online resources there for you.  You are not alone and certainly not the first person to learn something for the first time.

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