A List Apart


Illustration by Kevin Cornell

The ALA Primer Part Two: Resources For Beginners

A note from the editors: While helpful when first published, many of these links are now out of date.

A List Apart publishes articles written for working web professionals, but we appreciate the predicament of new web designers and builders who aren’t sure where to begin. As we promised in our primer for readers new to ALA, we’ve collected a set of starting points for the next generation of people who make websites.

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But before we jump into the lists, a personal note. Early in my career, I found myself at a crossroads: I had to decide whether I should finish my design degree or to go the route of self-education.

I’d been e-mailing Carole Guevin, the founder of Netdiver, with questions about the design industry and about her site — and she was always warm, receptive, and patient with my myriad of inquiries. When I asked her about my educational dilemma, her reply was one of the most memorable of my career to date: “The formal education is good for teaching you the basics, but your real design education begins once you leave the university.”

“Web design” is a much more complicated profession than it was ten years ago, but we still believe in the ability of the self-taught professional to develop top-notch skills through immersion in the kinds of resources and communities we’ve collected below.

ALA peanut butter sandwiches

The following websites comes from ALA staff recommendations. Many of these are the sites that we’ve used—and still use—to improve our own skills. We hope this list can serve as a starting point for a larger collection of resources for fledgling web designers and developers.

Where to begin: essential reference and tutorials

We think these articles, tutorials, tools, and reference guides will help you build a bookmark collection that’s vital to your everday work.

Web design

Information architecture

Markup, CSS, and scripting

Sites that grow with you: magazines, communities, and portals

While the above sites will help get you up to speed to begin with, the following sites will help you keep learning, stay inspired, and join the global network of web professionals. Most of these sites are updated frequently, and several contain forums or e-lists where you can ask questions that even the strongest Google-fu can’t find answers to.

Multi-subject resources



Markup, style, standards, and accessibility

Your turn

New web folk, what resources would you add to these lists? Advanced readers, where do you send your new colleagues when they have questions? Tell us what’s missing in our discussions.

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