Your First 30 Days of Learning Web Design: How to Get Started and Not Give Up


Have you decided to learn web design?

Congratulations! Web design can be one of the most useful skills to acquire in your professional career. Your first 30 days of learning are crucial because many people simply give up after a week or two. In this article, we’ll go through some useful tips and tricks to help you get started with web design and stay on track. 

Web Design is a Broad Field

Saying “I want to learn web design” is like saying “I want to learn how to cook”. There are thousands of recipes out there and many different styles of cooking.

There are thousands of web design specific tools and general principles that every designer should know. Since web design is such a broad field, many people simply ask how to get started! It’s this question that stops people from even getting started at all with web design. With so many tools to choose from to start learning, they end up at not choosing anything at all. This is a well-documented psychological principle.

My Experience Getting Started with Web Design

I, too, was overwhelmed by the choices I had to make about how and where to get started with web design. Should I learn Dreamweaver first? Or Photoshop? Or maybe learn how to code in JavaScript? I could have done any of those things. The truth of the matter is, there are lots of resources for learning design, so many of us face an overload of choice and when you have plenty of choices, you often tend not to make one at all. This resource will help you understand which programming languages to learn.

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Dreamweaver is basically a program that helps you code HTML and CSS faster. It’s a text editor and you can just as easily start with Notepad, but you’ll spend a lot more time coding. So Dreamweaver is basically a time saver, but not a good tool to get started learning web design. That’s what I learned the hard way.

So I chose to learn HTML and CSS first before learning any software.

Why You Should Get Started with HTML and CSS

Most of the websites (I’m guessing 99%+) are made in HTML. Just go to your favorite website and press CTRL+U (this should work on most browsers, alternatively, find the “View Source” option in your browser).

Do you see things like <p>, <a>, <strong>, <script type=’text/javascript’>, <span>, <style> and so on? Those are called HTML tags. No worries if you know nothing of this, you will soon.

HTML is the structure of almost any modern website. What about CSS?

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CSS is basically giving that structure a style. Without CSS, websites would look awful, something like a bunch of text in a Notepad file.

To truly understand and become a good web designer, I think it’s crucial to know these two simple languages. The good thing is, they are really easy to learn once you grasp the logic behind them. Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with actual programming languages like PHP, Javascript or C++. They’re entirely different universes. Learning HTML and CSS as compared to these languages is like learning how to ride a bike versus flying an airplane. Do you know how to ride a bike? Then you probably have the ability to learn HTML and CSS. Here’s how:

How to Get Started with HTML & CSS

This is where I’ve tried and failed numerous times. In my opinion, choosing the right books on learning a particular topic can be the difference between giving up and staying on track. The right book will present everything concisely in a fun and engaging way.

One such book is Head First HTML & CSS. Generally, speaking, all “Head First” books are better than other literature on the topic.

This book might be the only book on HTML and CSS that actually focuses on your learning experience. They apply a lot of research-based learning principles to help you stay motivated and, most importantly, help you feel that you have accomplished something! This is the problem with other books: they simply have no feedback mechanism to tell you that you’ve made some progress (some of them tell you “congratulations” after finishing the entire book, but that’s far from enough). You have a pretty extensive preview on Google Books if you want to see what Head First HTML & CSS is all about.

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Before accidentally stumbling upon this book, I had tried around four other books but gave up on all of them mostly because somewhere in the middle, I found myself stuck at a concept that those books failed to explain in a clear way. No matter how many times I tried to “re-read” that section of the book, it was impossible to grasp it. Yes, searching on Google helped, but after the third or the fourth time getting stuck on a concept, I started wondering “Why should I continue reading the book at all when things are explained so poorly? Why should I waste my time with it when I can pick up another book or learn from the web since I’m Googling everything they say to get a better grasp of it?”

Trust me when I say it, choosing a GREAT book to get started with ANY topic is a major deal.

Give Me Some  Resources!

2012 was a great year for the “online education” industry. There were a lot of new startups to really help you learn web design. Some of them are:

Of course, you always have 1stWebDesigner and some of its really amazing articles, such as:

I highly recommend you read these articles but only after you have set your foundation right with a good book.

What’s next?

Well, once you have learned the basics, it’s time to delve into WordPress. WordPress is the easiest and fastest way to start building professional websites for clients.

If you are a bit more experienced with PHP and WordPress, consider reading also more about theme frameworks, for example Genesis is the best choice for professional web developers. Read here why.

A Book is Not Enough

Consistency is the key when getting started with web design. Are you learning everyday? Are you applying whatever new concepts you learn at least three times a week? Learning a little bit everyday is way better than covering a lot of material in just one day of the week.

But how exactly do you get consistency? Are there any ways to improve your chances of taking more action regularly?

Making the Right To-Do Lists

I once read about a study where the goal was to get more students to do a specific thing like writing a report. The researchers separated the students into three groups:

  1. The first group was just told what to do, in this case, it was “write a report”
  2. The second group was told not just what to do but where to do it, in this case, “write a report in the library”
  3. The third group was told what to do, where to do it and when: “write a report on Monday at 3PM in the library”

Can you guess which group completed the task more than the two groups?

It was the third group, which was not just told what to do, but also when and where to do that thing.

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When you want to do something specific, it’s also a good idea to specify when and where you plan to do it. The “when” part doesn’t have to be at a specific time. It can be “immediately after I wake up” or any other activity you normally do, like “immediately after I get back from the gym”.

It’s also a good idea to keep track of all your daily tasks using a checklist. Tracking my goals for the day enabled me to discover the periods of the day when I am most productive (it was in the morning, immediately after I used to wake up).

Motivation is like Fuel

Motivating oneself regularly helps you accomplish more with your time.

For example, I was a lot more motivated to learn programming when I read blogs like TechCrunch talking about various small startups being bought for millions. The startups were all software based and some were relatively simple to make — this pumped up my motivation even more!

Discovering what motivates you can be discovered mainly by observing yourself and the way you act.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you were surfing the web and stumbled on this article and got to this part, I want you to slow down and relax now. Just forget about everything for a moment. Ignore that rush of browsing to the next webpage and then the next… one of the best ways to gain self-control is to relax for a moment.

Now think: can you set up a goal tomorrow at some exact time to start learning web design? A goal such as “Read 30 minutes of Head First HTML & CSS, or some other preferred book.” Also, when will you start? 3PM? 4PM? Immediately after waking up? Decide the time.

What is the current biggest obstacle that you’re facing when learning web design? 

I’ll be waiting for your feedback in the comments!



  1. Jojo

    What about visual design – actual design principles and aesthetics? Any shmuck can start learning how to code a site or use a program, but they aren’t “designers” until they know contrast, color theory, typography, etc. Putting more emphasis on this will make you stand out in a field full of terrible-looking websites.

  2. Ang

    Very motivated, thanks for shared this post. I will try myself to learn it “Immediately after waking up”. Nice post

  3. Diwyanshu Tomar

    liked your post a lot,, its a real motivation for novices in the filed f web design .
    I have just completed Head First HTML with CSS. It was the best book i ever read about a learning procdure. they made it so simple to learn.Now i am very keen to work with one of the professional companies,

    But befroe taking that huge leap of faith, i have to Brush up my practical knowledge. just today,When i was trying to capture some ideas for portfolio projects, i landed on this great :) website.Every single topic ,and update is enriched with right amount of details and knowledge plus not to forget motivational boost up bogs from time to time.
    Now , In order to build my portfolio, i need to start from the scratch.What shall be the right way to proceed further,because till yet i had only theoretical knowledge of things apart from the example pages that i built through HEAD FIRST HTML WITH CSS ofcourse.

    The issue arises when i thing about the layout design to be made into photoshop , i am well versed with the tool ,
    after designing the layout ,it has to be converted to HTML/XHTML.

    This part of the design process is where i am lagging behind,Can you please recommend some nice tutorials for this , or youtube has to be the lat resource , as if in you tube , everyone has there own way to do it and sometimes it gets very confusing,

    DO recommend and advice please.
    and shall i start learning any tool for coding other than notepad as well like dreamweaver or other,,,, what say?

  4. thumbs up for code academy

    Frameworks also help people learn design by encouraging good habits. Bootstrap is a great one.

  5. Wendy

    What is the current biggest obstacle that you’re facing when learning web design?

    I get an idea of how I want to design a web page for someone/self.
    I mess around in Photoshop with some color schemes.
    Gather content material on what the page is about or for.
    Write the basic code in html: head, body, footer etc etc…
    Write a few divs

    Problems begin. I can’t get to work like I want. I can’t figure out why I can’t get certain content to lay where I want it to. And well the page stops there. Weeks later I try again. Stuck. Upset. Frustrated. Try to move on.. get frustrated again.

    That is my role so far. :-(

    Any help?



  6. like your post. I personally give up learning web designing twice. But now i am good in web designing and its my profession :).
    the learning point is dont give up at any stage, you will learn alot.

    Emma Jones, UK

  7. I have to say that the best way to get started in web design has to be to just get at it and try to build a website right away. Start with some of the basic reading materials as outlined in this post and then just start making one just for the fun of it and you’ll be surprised what all you’re able to learn along the way.

    Website design is always evolving and even after doing it for over 15 years I learn new things on ever single new project.

  8. Dueep Jyot Singh

    I went a step further and borrowed the Essential guide to HTML 5 and CSS3 web design By Craig Grannell and Victor Sumner published by Apress from my library. Believe you me, I borrowed it of a Friday and finished it by Tuesday but then I “willed” myself to study it grin (yep weekend included groan…). I applied all those ideas on my DreamWeaver CS6 without being lazy and letting it do the automatic coding for me. Was enjoyable and I do think this learning CSS and HTML is well worth the metal effort!

  9. Ffion

    Awesome list of resources. I’ve been wanting to learn Javascript for quite some while and just jumped straight into the first Codecademy course! Loving it!

    Thank you very much for your great content!


    Loved this article. I have been trying to learn to build a web site for a long time, but this article defined every roadblock I faced along the way! I even took an online class which left me more confused than ever. I feel a little more motivated after reading your article and ordered HEAD FIRST five minutes ago. Thanks again…

  11. Yettie

    Since 1995, I learn Webdesign and I never stopped since then. It was HTML 3.0 for my first website, but until today I miss standards. Every browser has his own thing and now with HTML5 there is another pusher aside W3C. What for? I vote for standards and for one source for all standards! Like this I don’t have to multicheck in more than five browsers.

  12. Frank Verhagen

    Thanks a lot.
    I have read many articles and watched many video’s from 1stwebdesigner lately. Every item is a part of the puzzle that we call WebDesign. 1stwebdesigner can make your puzzle complete. Just put the right amount of effort in it and you will get payed!

  13. Thank you for this article and book recommendation. I now want to buy this head first book now but I’m from Sri Lanka and the books cost is about 10 times higher than any normal book here.

    • kings

      Hi Aksam, just reach me on my email and I give you my own copy of the book on the ground you don’t infringe on the copy-write of the book. I mean no copying and selling of the book. That’s my condition.

  14. I think web design is very easy to learn. Many people over complicate it, but if you find the right learning method that works for you, then learning web design will become easy.

  15. Alia

    This article really helped… I suck at keeping my words on thing but reading this made understand if i want to get things done i need to stay focus. like Spoken Reason say #FCHW Faith. Consistency. And Hard Work
    Have Faith
    Stay Consistency With The Things You Do
    Hard Work Pays Off In The Long Run

  16. Sumit Baid

    Site Point books are also very easy to understand and learn the practical HTML and CSS.

  17. Darren,
    I appreciate all of the resources listed and really like the way you encouraged Stipe. Do you ever use Word Press and or do you have a favorite theme?

    Thank you.

  18. Stuart

    Excellent article and this came at just the right time. I am the worlds worst procrastinator. I know what I want to do abut never seem to figure out how to do it. The sheer volume of languages and platforms available to the web designer is unbelievable and massively daunting, every time you think you are off down the right path, someone will mention to you that you should go off in another direction…….it’s the old opinions are like a-holes analogy.

    I’m off to read “Head First” for 30 minutes as you suggest.

  19. First up, thanks a million Darren, you just did a perfect job. Being a technology person myself, I feel people give up too early, even I do that too so times, while learning anything new especially when its making no sense at all. But after reading your post, I feel I should try once again and learn the hard stuff. Thanks again :)

    • Darren

      Deliberate practice is the way to go (Google ‘deliberate practice’, a lot has been written on the subject).

  20. This article hits the nail on the head – I remember first starting to learn web design, and it was so frustrating as there was so much to learn, and it was so tempting to try and take huge leaps rather than learn the foundations first.
    Exactly right though – HTML and CSS is definitely the best way to start, which is what I did, then started branching out into different areas such as SW packages, scripting/programming etc..

    Another really good idea is to ALWAYS keep trying to learn more – which is why I have been a regular on this site for quite a while ;-)

  21. I just wanted to say thanks for the encouraging article. I recently made this same decision to become a freelance web designer, and reading this article gave me a few good ideas. I have dabbled with many coding languages in the past but have never really done anything professionally. I like you decided to focus on one area at a time and try and effiecant in one before moving on, I am starting with WordPress. I know this isn’t a language but a collaboration of languages(HTML, CSS, MySQL, ect. ), but some many site are using this these days. Keep up the good work.

  22. “Learning a little bit everyday is way better than covering a lot of material in just one day of the week.” — So true, especially for such a broad topic as web design!

  23. Great article you have wrote here.. I think one of the best ways to learn web design and development is to just dive in and learn from trial and error. Thanks for the great article.

    • Darren

      Yes but you also need to have set up some ‘limits’ to what you can do and when you do it. Just saying I’ll do anything often makes you do nothing from choice overwhelm.

  24. I think one of the biggest motivators for learning anything is to have a project to work on. A lot of books teach the skills but there isn’t a particular goal to work towards, which can be demotivating (at least it was to me!). But I agree, the recent surge in online resources are great, especially when you have a particular problem to solve.

    • Darren

      It’s important for the project to be something achievable, not too complex and not too simple. Read about ‘deliberate practice’ to see what I mean.

  25. I built my first website many years ago using the not extinct geocites platform. I built my geocites website using their on-line WYSIWYG editor. It was there that I learned how to view the source of the page to see how the page was laid out. These were the days before css and the styles were included inside the HTML. We used to use Tables to layout and position things on a webpage. Today it is much easier to learn HTML because the HTML on the page is much cleaner without all the tables on the page, and with the styles being on a separate page.

    I would like to encourage anyone who would love to be able to build websites to learn HTML. Learning HTML is probably the most useful thing I have ever done. It helped me to start to web design business.

  26. George Sumpster

    Headfirst is how I learned and it worked, I used that and then just reference sheets ect.

  27. Darren that was impressive and inspiring article, all of you from 1STWebDesigner are my fuel ;). Now Thank you for your question about obstacles. In path of being Web designer/developer biggest obstacle that i am facing right now is that my family and friends don’t appreciate and support my field of work. I am freelance in graphic design for almost a year now, trying to move forward in web design and code. Despite that i earn well, they say i must find a real yob and they think i am only spending my time playing on my computer, when actually i work and learn hard trying to keep clients coming and improve my skills. Instead feeling good i feel lame that I work on the computer in my home, and not in an office like my friends and family.

    • Darren

      I recommend you simply don’t tell anybody you’re doing this till the money start flowing it. This has happened to me, once the money starts coming, they eventually shut up :)

  28. nazanin

    First all , thank you for the information. Hopefully I can stick to my promise and teach my self HTML and CSS at least for the next 3 weeks! My biggest challenge is motivation, even though I know I have to improve my HTML and CSS skill but for some reasons I am being lazy about it! If I set a regular schedule this time, I might “will” succeed!

    • Darren

      For this I also recommend you read “The Willpower Instinct” on getting more self-control.