- Web Design Articles

Killersites Newsletter Archive

February 25, 2004

So, what's the big news this week? First of all, I recently launched a new website,, which teaches you how to build websites from scratch.

This web site is made up of eight modules; seven are instructional and contain both articles and tutorials; the final module wraps things up with some important points.

Here is the list of lessons:

  1. Basics Web Concepts
  2. Building your first web page
  3. Creating a web site
  4. Introduction to CSS
  5. CSS tutorial
  6. Advanced HTML - block element vs. inline elements / presentation tags vs. structural tags.
  7. Intro. to Java Script / Programming
  8. Misc. topics related to web design

I also put up a free video tutorial on how to use Dreamweaver MX to create CSS based web pages: .

The tutorial is Flash-based and has a controller at the bottom of the window so you can pause it, restart it, or jump to a section in the video. It was designed to fit a screen resolution over 1024x768. If enough people like it, I will consider making my own complete course, including a voice over from yours truly.

The top ten learning methods

Since most people are on this list (and come to ) to learn something about web design, I thought that some hints on how to better learn would be useful.

Of course, these tips can be used when you are in the process of learning just about anything, so that makes this article even more useful!

Where do these tips come from?

I wish I could say I figured this out myself, but I isn't that bright (!). Once upon a time, I studied psychology at university, and between the beer bashes I did manage to pick up a few things.

I'm surprised that I still remember anything from those hazy days, but, then, I'm in the surprise business, after all. The reality is that I picked up many of these points more recently from several sources. These tips are founded in research from various institutes and universities and are compiled here for your benefit.

Drink lots of water

This one sounds quite strange and out of place, but the old noodle (brain) works much better when it's all wet, (with water, that is). If you're dehydrated, apparently it makes it harder to think, so you should be sipping water all day long. Beer, wine, and spirits, do not count!

Slow down and think about what you're reading

The more you think about something, the better for your brain. By considering what you're reading, instead of just zipping through, the more you are going to remember. If, for example, you are reading about applying CSS styles to an HTML <p> tag, try to visualize what the actual CSS code would look like.

Write the code, and do the work

Nothing sinks in like when you are doing it! In boxing, one of the fundamentals you learn is to keep your hands up. The problem is that just about everyone learning will drop them after about 10 seconds, because the arms get tired. No matter how many times you tell them, their hands keep dropping down. That is until they get in the ring and eat a few punches to the head. It seems that getting punched on the nose is the best way to remember about keeping your hands up.

This also applies to web design, HTML coding, and programming, as well. You will not really understand what you are doing until you jump in and actually do the work, and take the blows.

Take notes as you are reading the articles or doing the exercises

There seems to be plenty of evidence to show that if you do some sort of physical activity while learning, it can help you to retain information. I personally like to write out code snippets on paper before I start typing them into my web pages. For some reason, the act of writing on paper helps me to assimilate the information required by the task at hand.

Take breaks

The brain remembers best only the first and last things you studied. If you sit down for three hours to learn CSS, you will remember much more clearly the stuff you did in the first and last hour while the material you covered in the second hour will be hazy. The solution is to take breaks regularly.

Some of you might remember cramming the night before an exam, where you would spend all day and night trying to cover all the material that you thought might be on the exam. How many of you actually remember anything you studied during that time? Most don't remember much at all, while those who just covered the material gradually over the semester retain the information for much longer.

Pay attention to your brain

Your brain can only learn so much; after a while, it starts getting tired, and it will do you no good to keep pushing it. If you find yourself having to reread sentences or you are skimming the text, it's a sure sign of brain overload. At that point, you have my permission to take a breather.

Don't always read or study in the same place

The brain remembers more easily when it is stimulated physically; move around, get up and go to another room from time to time when you're studying.

Tell your brain that what you are trying to learn is important

The brain needs to be told that what you are doing is important. To do that you need to associate emotion with your activity. This may sound hard because, after all, we are only making web pages. But take the time while you are learning to, say, make a joke or remind yourself of how you will feel when you are knowledgeable. Anything that can trigger an emotion will help you.

Think about the major emotional events in your life, things that are easy to recall because of the emotion attached to them.

Speak out loud

Speaking activates certain parts of your brain; speaking out loud while you are going over the text or solving problems will help you to learn more quickly.

Read a little bit just before you go to bed

The brain needs time to process what you been shoveling in. The less outside distraction it has the more it can retain. Reading or thinking about a problem just before you go to bed will give your brain a chance to absorb what you want to learn.

I have been in countless situations where I would run into some programming problem where even after hours of trying, I couldn't solve the problem. I've learned to just sleep on it, because usually the next day the solution seems to come to me almost automatically.

If you liked the article and you want to see more let me know!

Stefan Mischook.

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