Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time learning on the web. I’ve temporarily put blogging and all the social stuff on hold in the name of focusing on teaching myself things I’ve always wanted to learn, as well as essential skills that, as a freelancer, help me deliver value to clients and broaden my skill set. When I initially decided to take a few months off to do this, I spent the first few weeks in discovery mode trying quite a few different sites – some I stuck with, some I dropped. Here are the ones where I’ve been spending most of my learning time, where I think the value really is -
My Favorite Learning Hubs:
This one is by far my favorite learning hub, so much so that I subscribe via email so I don’t miss anything. It’s actually a network of blogs that post daily tutorial content on Photoshop, Flash, web development, graphic design, photography and video creation. Most of the content is free, but for $9 a month, you can get access to their archive of premium video tutorials, screen casts and tutorials, which I do. It’s not all great, but 75% of it is – Jeffrey Way‘s screencasts on PSD to HTML to WordPress alone are worth the price. Many of us spend more than that on any given weekend in Starbucks. Believe me, if you’re already at an intermediate level with multimedia creation and want quickly build a broader skill set, this is the place to go.
Adobe Photoshop is a linchpin application. So many higher-level skill sets these days depend or build on Photoshop that you just can’t get by doing anything front end or visual without it. I’m not saying that Kelby Training is the only place to learn photoshop, but it’s almost certainly the best. For $25 a month you get access to a constantly updated stream of online video training by Scott Kelby (president of the NAPP) and a host of other experts . The content is all targeted towards creative professionals and focuses on Photoshop and the rest of Adobe’s creative suite, as well photography and DSLR videography. Most of the video sessions are over an hour long, and they’re segmented into 5 to 10 minute targeted chunks so you can skip around and just focus on what you want to. Great time value for money and I never leave without feeling like I learned something.
O’Reilly continues to publish some of the best tech books available on the market. The Missing Manual and the Head First series are great. A lot of thought’s put into the delivery of the information in both series which is an important thing when you’re trying to learn quickly and get bang for your buck. The Head First HTML with CSS and XHTML is still a book I go back to frequently for refreshers. I’m still waiting for O’Reilly to expand it’s offerings into a Kelby Training type of video-lecture format, I’ve got to admit that sometimes there’s just no substitute for one of these books when you’re trying to build foundational knowledge, especially when you can download them. Almost all of O’Reilly’s books are available as ebooks via the website and if you follow them on Twitter, they dish out daily $9.99 ebook deals.
Last but certainly not least, this site deserves a mention. It’s a great source for information and tutorials on graphics, coding, and design inspiration and tools. They often have great freebies. In particular, it’s one of the best places to get an idea of current design trends and tools in web design.
For me, what differentiates the sites I’ve mentioned above from others is the value I get for my time and money. It takes thousands of hours to get good at web design, creating media and using creative tools like Photoshop. Any resource I can go to that allows me to focus my energy and feel like I’ve learned quickly and effectively is a plus – and at prices like these, you can’t really lose. It actually makes me question whether traditional schooling is even necessary these days. Why would you pay 50-100K to go to college to become a creative professional when you could spend a fraction of that to get access to really recent content, interact with industry experts and get the same skillset? That’s another topic for another time, I guess, but I’m happy to discuss it here with anyone in the comments.
What are your favorite places to learn web design, development and multimedia on the web?