Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

March 10, 2007

Personal Web Design Degree

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 6:45 pm

My Friend Ryan Doom has a page where he talks about The Personal MBA. Basically, it’s a list of reading material that’s pretty equivalent to what you’d study if you went back for an MBA.

I decided to do something different with this post. Instead of writing about a degree I want, I’m going to write about what I know.

I myself currently only have a computer science degree, however I’ve been working in web development since the mid 90’s. So, here’s my Personal Web Development Degree.

You’ll notice this degree isn’t just about coding. I’ve tried to throw in a robust mix of anything I think somebody working on the web should know. It’s organized by Topic. Here goes:

Programming Languages:

I’ve tried to pick some main programming languages just like most experts at this Web design Manchester company. I’ve based them on popularity and style. Some of you may notice that I’ve left out ASP and .NET and that’s by choice. I really don’t know those languages so I don’t feel qualified to recommend books on them. I don’t, however, feel that knowing ASP is crucial to being a good web developer.

  • HTML – HTML is a must for anyone. There’s no need to get a book, just visit htmlprimer.com and get started.
  • CSS – The web is trending toward standards compliant design. Start off right with Jefferey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards
  • JavaScript – If you want the hardcore javascript experience, you have to get the Wrox Professional Javascript. If you need a quick primer or a basic introduction, try the Visual Quickstart book.
  • AJAX – Ok, it’s not really a language but it’s still something you really should know. Try Head Rush Ajax for a unique approach to learning.
  • PHP – A great resource for php is the offical website: php.net but if you’re like me and need a physical book in front of you, check out the Wrox Beginning PHP
  • MySQL – The Wrox PHP book covers the basics of MySQL, but for the advanced stuff check out Jeremy Zawodny’s High Performance MySQL
  • Python – You pretty much can’t get a job at Google without knowing Python (at least that’s what I was told in my interview.) If you want to learn the basics quick, check out Dive Into Python. If you want to save money, it’s also available free online.
  • Ruby On Rails – It’s also a good idea to learn some sort of framework – if only to familiarize yourself with what a framework is and how they work. Sure you could use the php prado framework, but then you wouldn’t be expanding yourself into multiple languages. With Rails, you get to learn Ruby as well. Don’t worry about needing an intrd to Ruby book, Agile Web Development With Rails has a great appendix that will get you up to speed.


You can’t have a web page without content. The following classes deal with the non code side of a website. Here you’ll learn about things like copywriting, usability, and SEO.

  • Net Words should be the bible of copywriting. It’s a bit older, but everything it says still holds true today.
  • Of course you can’t have a website that doesn’t look good. Sum up everything that a design degree would entail with the new SitePoint book Principles of Beautiful Web Design
  • Anybody who deals with any part of a website should be familiar with search engine optimization. Sadly, not many web professionals even know what SEO stands for. While there’s tons of great books out there on the subject, I’d suggest looking online at places like Matt Cutts Blog. If you want a great overview of the field, try SEO for Dummies.
  • Usability is another topic that everybody thinks they know but really have no idea what they’re talking about. Nobody does usability better than Steve Krug in his book Don’t Make Me Think
  • There’s a lot of crappy news articles on the web. Don’t produce crappy articles, pick up an Ap Style Guide and learn to write like a professional journalist. As a bonus, the current edition also contains a primer on media law – another important topic.

Other Topics

The following books all add to the robustness of the degree. They don’t really fit a category, but they’re very useful nonetheless. Their topics range all over the place but that’s essential into getting a rounded education.

  • Software testing is just as important as development. Unfortunately, they don’t teach testing well in college. Mike Andrews has given talks on testing at various companies (Google included) and his book How To Break Web Software is short, concise, and a great reference. In addition to his book, Mike has a great lecture online that covers a lot of the book’s topics.
  • Business on the internet is no different than business in the real world – it’s still business. For that reason, it’s important that all web professionals are familiar with common marketing terms and philosophies. Dummies books are great for getting a basic overview of a topic, and Marketing For Dummies is no different.
  • The AP style Guide’s media law primer is great, but it’s not as full as it should be. Ethics are different than laws in that some legal actions may not always be good actions. Readings in CyberEthics is a collection of essays about various topics in cyber ethics.
  • I could do a whole blog post about John Battelle’s The Search but instead I’ll just tell you that it’s a must read book about Google, building an internet business, and what the future of the internet holds in store.
  • Speaknig of search, I’m amazed by how many professionals aren’t that good at it. Google Hacking For Penetration Testers will not only teach you how to get the most out of your searches, but it’s an invaluable tool for exposing web vulnerabilities as well.

Magazine Subscriptions

Subscriptions to the following magazines will also be required for this course:

In a few days, this post will be available from the main menu of dotCULT.com. In addition, I may update or add new books or classes as I see fit. If you have any reccomendations, suggestions, or comments please leave them below.


  1. […] Original post by Ryan and a wordpress plugin by Elliott […]

    Pingback by Internet Phone Directory » Personal Web Design Degree — March 10, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

  2. That’s all great shit, homeboy. Always fancied dabbling with Ruby on Rails, not sure exactly why but there you go.

    Comment by Alexander — March 12, 2007 @ 6:13 am

  3. sweet article man,
    I just started on principles of beautiful web design and I love it already.
    I reccomend the Javascript bible as a reference book, rather than a cover to cover read.

    Comment by Drew — April 30, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

  4. Nice article

    Comment by création site internet — May 28, 2007 @ 7:33 am

  5. Hello, i´m designer, from Brazil, I did a post about your “feedbuton” engine. Congratulations for your great ideia! =)

    Comment by Flay Mantoan — July 18, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

  6. How freq you update your work?

    Comment by Aw — January 28, 2008 @ 9:13 am

  7. Degree for web design …..why are you defrauding

    Comment by Miracle studios -- web design company — June 10, 2008 @ 12:45 am

  8. I’m not defrauding anybody. Did you read the post, or did you simply see the title and come down here to shill your company? I’m guessing the latter.

    The post is buit on the idea of the “personal mba” – being able to teach yourself everything that you’d learn in college without actually going to college.

    In this example, web design isn’t an actual degree (no i don’t count those certificates as degrees)

    But you don’t need one. Colleges don’t teach the material listed above. As somebody who’s worked in web design and programming (and now marketing) I’d rather hire somebody who knows the above than has a solid background in c++

    As for the update, I update this post whenever I find better information, I just don’t update the date or anything.

    Comment by Ryan — June 10, 2008 @ 11:44 am

  9. I think i looked at the ‘Net Words’ once, it didn’t look very filling. I like my books with some meat and potatoes inside. I like Jason Beard book ‘Principals of Beautiful Web Design’; catchy title too – books that have pretty pictures and start each session looking to do something new and different and are exciting to read. I like the Ap book – and any grammar book describing the difference between lie and lay is a good one. I sort of object to learning Rails, and if you had to choose a framework why not Joomla! I don’t work for them either. But if you had to puzzle out a mystery and develop something that others can also understand, then imho you are better off with Joomla for a ‘framework’ .
    For someone who wrote in 8080 and .asm in the pre internet world, and who knew what a chad was early on, I like to stay away from big mysteries that take a lifetime to solve. I’m 65 and was searching the net for a good college to go to to learn web design. I think your blog probably saved me around 4-$8,000 over the long haul. I’ve read a lot of these books you mentioned, but experience is the best teacher. I’m a strong advocate of what Twain said – something like – “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”
    I would mention one catastrophe associated with design and the web – that in today’s global village, it’s very easy to become confused with a good designer, if only that one can practically make a living of cut and paste…

    Comment by eddie — July 20, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

  10. that is really interesting, i totally agree with you on html is a must thing, i read the search twice to get it ..

    Comment by bloggersmosaic — November 19, 2008 @ 6:03 am

  11. Hi Ryan,

    I like your personal web degree comments. I also very much like the design of your identity.net web page. It’s simple, clear and easy to use.

    I’m looking for a designer to help me re-design this language learning web site http://language101.com .

    Any chance you can refer me to the person who did identity.net ?


    Comment by Brent — February 4, 2009 @ 1:28 am

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