The Old Dog

So I have actually built a website. You can click here to actually view the real thing (and help increase it’s prominence on the web): www.catskillriding.com
 It is for the small farm where my daughter works and learns horse-riding. The owner of the farm doesn’t even have a computer, so we decided to bring her establishment into the 21st century ourselves. It provided a good learning ground for me, as there were no scary deadlines or even specific requirements, except that I use her already created logo. My daughter knew that she liked the color green.

That is a picture of the website above. So far, that is all it is, except that the image of the girl on the horse changes to 2 other images in a little slide show. The slide show aspect was way beyond my abilities at this point and required intervention from my 16 year old son, my web guru.

I vacillate between certainty that I can master this skill set, and anxiety that I can’t. I am currently focused on learning as much as I can before above-mentioned son leaves home, because learning is so much easier with a guru in the house. Of course, when he learned, he did not have a guru. He struggled and pondered and drove himself. I watched, helpless to help. He got on forums and asked lots of stupid questions before he got to where he is now, the one on the forums answering the questions….I guess I will be able to post questions on the forums and hope that someone like him is on the other end waiting to answer them.

One immediate issue was that my energetic and bright son immediately rejected learning website design via Adobe Dreamweaver, which I suspect bridges the gap for an artist like myself who has a pretty big grasp of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I was encouraged to begin with Dreamweaver by another not-so-young web-designer who asserted that she had taught herself and that it was easy and that I could do it as I already had a grasp of the other Adobe programs. This was several years ago. I went home and told my then 13 year old son about it. He began teaching himself Dreamweaver but within about 2 weeks, had decided that is was a shortcut that didn’t allow him enough control, and abandoned it forever. Leaving me to straggle along behind him as he learned HTML, CSS and javascript and all sorts of things that I don’t even know what they are.

I  took his advice and continue to do a series of tutorials on learning code. These tutorials did not exist when he was teaching himself! It is a wonderful site called “codecademy”. It is very well designed, with short simple lessons in how to use code to create visual information. The part that is not so well covered is how to translate those lessons to actually building a web-site. If my son were not here to coach me along, I am not sure I would have begun to understand the difference between using the remote server versus the local one. (I’m still negotiating this, but at least I understand the concept)

My years of working in design and advertising combined with formal art school training, have made me a very critical judge of what I see on the web. There are many websites that look like some one certainly knew how to code, but they do not know how to design or maybe worse, they do not care about what things look like. I imagine that this is getting rectified in art schools across the country; at least I hope so.

One big glitch in web design has been an inability to deal with type in a measured and specific way. With print design, the designer can fuss about how far apart the letters are from each other both vertically and horizontally. And I don’t mean adding a whole line or letter space! I mean tiny iotas of space; tiny smidgeons, that can make a seemingly huge breathable beautiful amount of space that completely changes the way a given word appears.  So far, (and keep in mind that I am definitely a novice) it seems that tasteful web designers must resort to using the Adobe programs to create well-spaced type layouts and then use them in toto in their web design. I must remember to inquire about this of my son. The formulated question being: Can web designers use code to alter the spacing by tiny increments between letters? and lines of type?

My web involvement has made me curious about how art schools are handling web design. Are all design students still introduced to actual physical materials like plaka and illustration board? or can the whole art be learned electronically? I imagine that this is subject to opinion. Do art schools deal with detailed aspects of web design? like the user experience? or is that relegated to computer technology school? The more you know, the more questions there are to ask.  

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One thought on “The Old Dog

  1. Your determination is an inspiration. I can totally relate to missing the gurus. I know in my digital arts class I suffered over the tiny increments and found all sorts of really retarded ways to overcome my computer inefficiencies. More often than not I had to stop. breathe. let it go. give it up. But what joy when you learn the new stuff!

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