Web University: Get a Higher Education in Design and Development From the Internet for (Almost) Free

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James Fruth
James Fruth



The worst time for any college grad is usually a month or so after graduation. The excitement and feelings of accomplishment are over, and it’s now time to hunt for the job that you have worked years to secure. (And you better get that job quick, because the first payment for those college loans is due next week!) The only problem is that you have a ton of experience talking about design and coding, but how much creativity or problem-solving experience do you really have? Are you missing some basic coding principals? Are you staying on top of new technology? Are you still telling people to build their websites in Flash?

Because the web design industry is still relatively young and changes literally year-to-year, (responsive web design is a perfect example), universities have a hard time keeping up with the industry.

As college tuition is going up, people are looking for other alternatives to get into professional jobs. As a result, the Internet has become a place for higher learning for certain professions, most predominantly, design and web development. The following is a list of sources outside of the university that you can use to learn about web design and development. Does this replace the university curriculum or experience? I don’t know for sure, but I know that everywhere I have worked, a good portfolio always trumps a good degree.

Online Sites


A great place to start learning all you can about web development. From the very basics, such as CSS and HTML to JavaScript and even PHP, this is a great place to form a foundation for your web skills.


After getting familiar with web development at w3schools, head on over to Codeacademy where they have tons of exercises and breakdowns. Unlock achievements and put what you learn to practical use.

TutsPlus (Free/Premium Membership)

There is a premium membership plan for the site (I’ll cover this later), but TutsPlus free courses and tutorials for Photoshop and Illustrator will have you building graphics in no time.

World Wide Web Consortium

One of the best ways to create designs and develop sites that break the rules (in a good way) is to know the rules. Here you can find out what the standards are, participate in discussions, and as they say, “Lead the web to it’s full potential.”


The great thing about today is that it is possible for anyone to interact with others who share their interests. And if you have an interest in designing or development, there are several podcasts and iTunes U classes that can help grow your knowledge and creativity. It also offers a break from reading and doing so you can just relax and listen to some experts. Here are a couple I find helpful, but I’m sure if you hunt you can find others.


In between looking at the “Tron Guy” or watching “Dramatic Gopher” for the 17th time, I have found a couple of really great tutorials on YouTube just by searching for the issue I was currently having. It is a great forum for seeing how people work and not awkwardly staring at someone’s screen over their shoulder.

Online Trade Publications / Blogs

Most people in advertising swear by Adage or Adweek, and while they are great resources for the business side of the industry, there are a couple of better publications that are geared more toward the designer / developer. The nice thing is, most of these sites have tons of inspiration and tutorials for you as well!

Project Sites and Competitions

One of the biggest problems for new designers and developers is having work to show. When you don’t have experience, your portfolio is thin to say the least. But by participating in these free online projects you can be creative and use these sites to showcase what you can do.

Books ($1-$100)

With e-readers and iBooks, books are easier to get than ever. Some are even given away. Be sure to do your research and look at reviews to get the book that are at the right level for you. A good website for web design and development books is Rockable Press.

Paid Membership Education ($30-$100)

There are many good places to learn to be a great developer/designer on the web. And while these are paid services, they are well worth the money because of their constantly updated libraries of tutorials and practice files. Here are some of the best I have found:

  • Lynda.com - This is the largest library of video tutorials for almost any software program or skill you would want to learn.
  • Team Treehouse - Large archive of web development tutorials, and badges are given for achievements.
  • Code School - Includes in-depth coding tutorials, as well as theory behind coding techniques for beginners and advanced professional
  • TutsPlus - Provides access to subjects on design, development and how to make money from your skills.
Topics: Website Design

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