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How to Learn the A to Z of Web Design

One of my site's visitors recently asked, "how do I learn the A to Z of web design?" Well, most people just buy a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web page design tool like Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage so they don't need to learn anything. I recommend that you do NOT use a WYSIWYG web page design tool, but instead start out by hand coding web pages and web sites in a basic text editor.

Here are seven reasons why you shouldn't use a WYSIWYG web page design tool:

1. Some WYSIWYG tools bloat your web pages with extra and unnecessary tags.
2. Some WYSIWYG tools don't let you control the formatting of the code.
3. Sometimes a WYSIWYG won't let you do something you want to do.
4. With a WYSIWYG tool you don't know if what you clicked in the menu is what you really want.
5. When WYSIWYG tools doesn't give you what you want, if you don't understand the code, you can't manually edit to get what you want.
6. If you use a WYSIWYG tool and your web page contains and error, if you don't understand the code, you can't manually correct the error.
7. WYSIWYG tools are expensive, Notepad cost you nothing.

Let's try a basic web page to see how easy it is. Navigate to Start | All Programs | Accessories and open Notepad. In Notepad, type the following code:

<title>My First Web Page</title>
<p>Hello World!</p>

Then save the file to your desktop with the name e.g. "firstpage". On your desktop, change the file extension from .txt to .htm. Then double-click on the filename. Your default browser will open and display the text "Hello World!". Congratulations, you have just hand coded your first web page! It's that easy.

You may find it interesting that almost all the code in the above example is unnecessary. You could have just typed Hello World! and gave the file the .htm extension and it would have worked. However to actually code for the Internet, you'll need to include the proper tags to meet the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standards.

Now just go to the library, book store, or look on-line to find information about how to code xhtml. You find many sources about how to code html. Technically html is obsolete, but some sources refer to xhtml as html because the two are very similar.

So my first advise is to NOT use a WYSIWYG web page design tool, instead start out hand coding in xhtml and running your example web pages in your browser directly on your computer. When you get comfortable with xhtml, start hand coding CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

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