Friday, December 28, 2012

Web Design Workshop

One week summer workshops are a great option to take an intense, short-term class that teaches you some real skills to begin putting into place immediately.

They've changed a little, as they're now taught throughout the summer, where they used to be taught during a workshop week between two of the four week terms. I guess that would be nice if you wanted to go through more than one workshop.

Looking at their current offerings, they have workshops related to using Photoshop, creating a resume and portfolio, sign language, understanding the history of China, and appreciating fantasy fiction. Okay, maybe all of those might not be immediately useful.

The summer workshop I went through was about using Dreamweaver and Fireworks. This was over a dozen years ago, well before Adobe bought out Macromedia, and the web still had a bit of a wild west feel to it. Sites were simple, designs were kitschy, and digital cameras were low-res and high-priced. I actually borrowed a digital camera from my department to do a couple websites after the workshop, and it totally reminded me of Luke Skywalker's binoculars.

It looked like his binoculars, and the quality probably wasn't much better. Of course at that time, you couldn't print digital photos anyway, and monitor resolutions on those fat old CRTs weren't good enough to be able to tell that the quality was low. About the best you could do on old CRTs to make them half decent was to crank up the refresh rate so they didn't flicker. You wanted something higher than 60 Hz so the flicker wasn't visible, but if you went too high, you could damage the monitor, so you had to decide how much you wanted to gamble. It was always fun degaussing old CRTs as well.

Here's a photo I actually took at the time. Note the little border I added around the edge for no good reason. Then there's all the dirty noise that almost gives it an instagrammy feel. I think most people taking photos on all but the nicest cell phones these days could just upload as is and say they used an instagram filter. That's probably why people like instagram, because it makes their phone photos look like they're supposed to be old and dirty. Someone recently sent out a photo from a major work event, of over 100 posed people. It looked awful - faces all blurry and washed out. I looked at the picture's metadata, and sure enough, it was taken on an iPhone4. Why someone would waste the time of that many people to get them all posed and then just take their photo with a camera phone, I don't think I'll ever understand. We have nice cameras now - use them.

The workshop was a fun one. It was one week, several hours in the morning and afternoon, every day. We even got brownies each day during an afternoon break. We each made a personal site and showed it off to everyone. They were all terrible, I'm sure. We learned the basics of using tables, lists, font formatting options, frames (I know), linking, creating buttons that changed when you moused over or clicked on them, etc. I figured out some basic JavaScript that randomly picked a different picture to show on the home page each time it loaded. Several of us used AnimationFactory, which is surprisingly still around, to find 3D-ish animated gifs to put on our sites. I remember after showing off our sites, we sat around watching random videos. In particular, I remember showing Weird Al's music video The Saga Begins (American Pie). Still a great video.

The most important part of the workshop is that I now had a few days' worth of exposure to Dreamweaver and thus could add it to put something on my resume. The resume with that skill listed got me a job on campus at Career Services. They had various IT-related tasks that needed to be done around the office, but the biggest one was launching a new website. Don't get me wrong - I'd been making notepad websites for several years at that point, but they wanted the site done in Dreamweaver, and I was the man to do it. That job was a really fun one and a great career starter. I used it as an internship, so I'll write more about it when I discuss the internship class.


Jodi W. Brown said...

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Samsun Nahar said...

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Lisa Ladrow said...

Every web designer should attend a web design workshop every once in a while. It does not only inspire them, but also connect them with the current competitive world and motivates them in a spectacular way.