I enjoy playing around with software and learning how it works. As a designer, I enjoy wrapping designs with css and html around functional code. I have probably designed a wrap and stylized the majority of open source php scripts that you can find on the web today. There were some good ones and some bad ones. If you are inspiring to be a web designer or a graphic designer looking to get your hands dirty in code, follow this list of the top 3 web software to learn!
#1. WordPress has grown into this beast of a software application that is free and has a huge community of developers. I have been digging around in WordPress since 2005 and not shocked that it still is the top dog for web developers. There are world-wide brands that use WordPress as the core backend of their website. The beauty is the WordPress hook and the simplicity of the code. It is so easy to design around and make it look and work the way you want it, with the help of a few plugins as well. Overall, because there is a “plugin” for everything and anything and the simplicity of the code, WordPress is an easy number one slot of top web software to learn.
Digging Deeper: WordPress Plugins
The WordPress core is a great source of code with a CMS. WordPress pumped up on plugins can make it one of the most powerful tools on the web. To emphasize the ranking of the number one position, here are a few essential WordPress plugins to install when learning WordPress.
- Advanced Code Editor: This plugin turns your WordPress editor into a powerful code editing tool. Think of it like having Dreamweaver in the WordPress CMS. This could save you a ton of time jumping back and forth when inspecting code in your browser. Easier to just jump back into a tab versus editing a file on your desktop in a separate application.
- Shortcodes Ultimate: This wonderful plugin allows you to include some cool jQuery effects like animation and tabs with a simple shortcode (no hard code). This is a great plugin to learn how shortcodes work within WordPress. I would say that 99% of all professional WordPress themes utilize shortcode. So this tool gives you a free way to prepare for the big leagues.
- Responsive Lightbox: This feature is on almost every website because it allows you to let a visitor click on an image to enlarge but not really leave your website. This is a great plugin to use for your galleries and images. It is also a good tool to understand more about controlling the user experience (UX) on your website. UX is a big part of becoming a solid web developer.
#2. Joomla is great web software that has stood the test of time. It is a true CMS (Content Management System) out of the box and gives you more control over your content than WordPress. With Joomla’s popularity with web developers and it’s longevity as a CMS contender, it would be wise to learn how to install and design around Joomla’s framework. As a web developer, you will one day find yourself fixing an old Joomla site. Joomla is a more rigid platform compared to WordPress but flexible enough to make it look good. The backend of Joomla is sophisticated and a great way to learn CMS software, a knowledge needed these days in the digital world.
#3. CubeCart is the best choice for new web designers trying to learn and install an e-commerce platform. CubeCart has been around awhile. Not as long as OSCommerce but almost. CubeCart is a great e-commerce backend with an easy enough css and html structure to wrap and design as you see fit. Magento is probably the top open source e-commerce platform today but has way more complexity to it than CubeCart, making it a little higher on the learning curve. If you want to install and design an e-commerce website and it is your first time around, then play around with CubeCart. You will be happy with the end results and will have a better idea on approaching the much more complex Magento later down the road.
You can download, install, design, play around and break/fix these top 3 web software platforms… all for FREE! All you need is a computer with internet, mamp (or a hosting), and a few tools to edit code and artwork. It takes time but well worth it in the long run and really fun if you are a graphic designer. It is like having your portfolio for the whole world to see.
This post is for beginners looking for direction. There are so many other things that are involved when becoming a web designer. Sometimes it is hard to know what you really need to know until you play around with building websites. The top three web apps listed are great industry standards to learn and design for free. Web administration, SEO/SEM, hard coding, bootstrap, jQuery, hosting, PHP, HTML5, video, content, branding, UI/UX, informational architecture, media and much much more is involved with developing websites than just installing WordPress and hacking away at the CSS; however, it is a great start!