Although I could read half a dozen books or go through a load of online HTML and CSS learning websites of dubious quality, I felt I needed something structured to make sure I do learn the basics from the ground up. So I enrolled with the Distance Learning Centre’s Webmaster Course (available from a few providers). Some online sites warned against the rigidity of many of the courses out there and to a degree they’re right. The course is delivered through a DVD containing 10 lessons of 4-8 hours each, which you can do in your own time. By the end of the 10 lessons, I had built a basic website. I started the course in January, and intend to go on to the WebMaestro course afterwards which is a more advanced follow up.
It is clear from my reading that web standards are constantly changing and that the course is already a bit dated (dating before HTML5 and CSS3), but I’m aware that there are newer standards and newer ways of doing things, so I guess it’s not so bad. It’s important to be aware of this though and I certainly wouldn’t rely on the course alone. Back it up by reading some books from your local library or buy a couple of books on HTML5 or CSS3.
Notepad++ and Paint.net
If you do the course, download Notepad++. It’s a big improvement over the basic text editor, Notepad, which comes as standard with Windows, and which the WebMaster makes you use as a default. By using colours to display codes and attributes (e.g. the <P> tag is displayed in blue), it makes it a lot easier to see what you are doing. I’ve also downloaded, paint.net, again, an improvement over the standard Paint you get with Windows. I got to play a bit with DreamWeaver in the course which was great but it’s best to try to work through the course learning raw code to really get to know it – so avoid any fancy web software and stick to basics!