The first web page I ever created had a gray background, not because that was “in” but rather because it was the only option available. All the links were blue, again because there was no way to change the color. And the text was Times New Roman (why, oh why did anyone ever think that was a good idea in the first place?).
It was 1996 and I was a college student in Los Angeles. I signed up to take a new course called Web Design without even really understanding what it meant.
All I knew was that I could somehow learn to create designs that would then be visible to anyone with an internet connection and a computer, no matter where they called home or what language they spoke. I didn’t have to fax them the pages, or have them printed and shipped. They just appeared… magically… with the click of a button.
To anyone born since then, this isn’t a revelation. But to me, particularly as a graphic designer, this was mind-blowing.
The professor handed us the course text, which she happened to have written and had published a few weeks prior. Most of the students didn’t get past the first page, where she introduced hypertext markup language (HTML). “But wait, we came to art school to avoid science and math!” we all complained.
And yet, I couldn’t stop reading. I had the same thoughts about science and math (pretty much still do), but there was something about HTML. It actually made sense to me. And, it offered something I had always craved in my computer-based design work: control. So often, I would attempt a task in Macromedia Director (old school, I know) and have no idea why the system wouldn’t do what I expected it to do. I felt like I wasn’t driving the proverbial bus and just wanted to get off.
But with HTML, it was like someone handed me the keys to the bus and said, go ahead and take it wherever you want. [Well, almost wherever, we were still limited to gray backgrounds, remember… but progress was coming.]
<head><title>This is my first web page</title></head>
Before I knew it, I could type HTML as fast as English. It was my final year in college and I had finally found my thing. I was a teacher’s assistant for that same professor in my final semester, and then I was off and running when I found a company that gave me my first job as a web designer. Part of me felt like I had tricked everyone: how had I found an actual job doing something so fun? Could I actually make a living creating these so-called web pages?
Almost twenty years later, the answer is obvious. It wasn’t just me who was captivated by designs and text that could be accessible to anyone with a connected computer. The whole world caught on. And the train has only picked up speed since then.
I don’t think I ever imagined how integrated the web would become into our lives and how relevant my job would be. (I can find work wherever I live, and everyone from missionaries to manufacturers can use these skills.) But as I keep telling my kids: do what you love, and love what you do, or you’ll never want to do anything. I am so privileged to have work that I love…
A lot has changed since that first gray page I coded. I have now joined my former professor as a published author of web design-related how-to books. 🙂 And my web design work has helped support the other stuff that matters in my life.
Ninety-nine-percent of the sites I create now are accomplished through a tool called WordPress. In many ways, this tool has almost completely removed the need for people like me to learn HTML. But remember the control that drew me to web design in the first place? Well, you still need to understand the code happening behind the scenes of WordPress in order to really feel any sense of control.
<p><strong>so I still write with brackets and tags as much as I can</strong></p>
A few months ago I was asked to write an introductory course about WordPress for an online learning company for whom I had previously written a web design course. I loved the idea because I love this tool. And I love opening the door to web publishing for anyone with the desire and fortitude to learn. The course is for anyone who is brand new to WordPress, and would like to learn how to use it to publish a personal, organizational, or professional web site.
So… if you’ve been interested in learning more about WordPress (or web design or a slew of other great topics), check out EwB’s online training. Who knows, if you haven’t already found work you love, maybe this could be it?! 😉
Tip: EwB is currently selling both my Web Design and WordPress courses for $39/each on Amazon! Check it out by clicking the image below.