Matt Jones

Teaching Web Design

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For a bit of extra cash, I have secured another contract to teach web design to a bunch of photography students during a series of evening classes.

The first session went well, I taught the basic concepts of Mark-Up, a brief history of the Web, the ‘browser wars’ and the importance of standards [I used the analogy of ISO photographic film speeds such 100 and 200 etc., – clever huh?] . I then got them started with a basic HTML document ready to resume in the second session.

So, after 3 hours, they went away having learnt quite a bit about the web and everyone – including me – was happy. Then the second session came along and I hit a dilemma, which was this: Do I teach ‘old-style’ HTML [tables, font tags, style merged with content etc.] or do I teach the emerging technologies of XML, XHTML and CSS [style separate from content], so that they will go away armed with a bit of knowledge about how to develop for today’s multi-platform Internet.

The ‘old’ way of designing would be easier for them to grasp because there is much less to take in [remember that these guys have no previous experience of web design, many of them are only just starting to be interested in it], and it would be enough to knock-up a basic online folio of their images.

On the other hand, even though the ‘new way’ is a much better way of designing web sites, there is much more to take in. But what is the point in teaching out-dated methods that will not give them a competitive edge if they ever want to become professional web designers?

So… I elected to teach them a bit about the ‘new way’, which, although is perhaps the best thing to do in the long run, there are a few reasons why I shouldn’t have done this: a] I’m only just learning about all this myself and I’m certainly no expert; b] It involves concepts that are tricky to grasp if you’re new at all this stuff; and c] they only want a simple folio of images anyway, so teaching these new technologies might be overkill. Anyway… it’s a difficult dilemma, what do you think I should do?