One of the biggest mistakes we see from new webmasters is wanting to jump right into graphic design before even planning the website. Website design is different from creating a flyer or television commercial. Your website shrinks and expands according to monitor size and resolution.
Graphics can even move depending on the width and resolution of a monitor. It's no fun designing an entire site with a dark blue theme and graphic transparency to match, only to find out the client wants white and drop shadows. The more time you spend planning out your site, the less time you will spend reworking graphics and code. A few suggestions:
Have you ever surfed into a website and wondered what the heck it was even about? Make sure you have a clear message and business purpose. Consider the final width of your pages, especially if you care how it prints out. Start to visualize horizontal or vertical navigation based on the number of total pages.
Make it "fool proof" to contact you every way possible and easy to navigate. It's time to start choosing 2 to 3 colors that work well together. Plan your color scheme knowing the font color needs to have a high contrast for legibility. Determine which graphics and photos to use. Create pages that have added value for the visitor.
A word about HTML software
HTML code is much easier to write than the traditional programming languages of the past. Lines of code that looked more like foreign language. Today, modern software makes it easy to do complex jobs. Basically, HTML is plain english.
There are two basic programming 'modes' to work in, design view and code view. Both of these modes have advantages and disadvantages depending upon what you are trying to accomplish. Broken down to the most basic level, the best way to see the difference is by the following two graphics.
Design view is easier to use, requires less HTML knowledge but can be difficult to fine-tune a web page or graphic layout. Working in Code view allows for far more flexibility and control but requires more skill and time to learn. There are many other pros and cons but that's for another tutorial if we get enough requests.
Ideally, a webmaster should be able to work in both 'modes' as some tasks can be easier to accomplish in one view instead of the other. Precise placement over a photo usually requires HTML tag commands like vspace and align. When you know exactly how many pixels a graphic needs to move to line up exactly with surrounding text you want to be in code view. Text editing is easier in design view since you can see exactly how the text will look and wrap. One way to gauge your skill in HTML is to program an entire web page using only a simple text editor like notepad.
Regardless of which software you use, Macromedia's Dreamweaver™ or Microsoft's FrontPage™, learn everything command, option and setting the software has, not just the 80% you will use most of the time. You need to have expert knowledge of the software you're using including all 3D and paint programs.