Stories

Lily, Website Design, Software: Dreamweaver
When Lily reached out to me for help, she was failing her website design course and needed to complete and turn a full, functioning website portfolio for her final class project. From what she shared with me, her instructor didn't explain and teach the differences between HTML and CSS coding languages as well as the basics of website design. Since her project was due in two weeks, we had a lot of ground to cover before tackling the actual website.

The first week, we went through the basics of website design by understanding why we build a solid foundation with what colors to use and why, fonts, the different types of layouts, and more so she could create a concept on paper to work from as her final project. She seemed to have a handle on the material we went through, but something changed during the second week we worked together.

Lily's instructor informed the class that they could use a pre-made template design for their project and just swap out the graphics and text.

Unfortunately, Lily's instructor failed to tell the class that in order to use a template design, they would have to know and understand HTML and CSS to be able to manipulate the code for the site to look like Lily's vision and sketch. Since Lily didn't know this, she went ahead and purchased a $17 template design to use for her website.

When we met for our next lesson, Lily was determined to use the template she purchased and just wanted to swap out graphics and text.

There were many problems with this idea:

  1. Lily didn't know HTML or CSS

  2. Because the template was created by another designer, we didn't know their process for building it and how it worked

  3. There were at least 20 CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) attached to one HTML and it was a time consuming process to read the CSS code on every style sheet to make one simple color or text change


I had Lily email me the files so I could take a look at them in Dreamweaver, and I even had trouble figuring out the designer's process and what was on each style sheet based on how they were named!

So, I made a bold suggestion that would be better: Let's build your website from scratch using HTML and CSS because it'll be much faster.

She wasn't thrilled with my idea, but trusted me.

That week, I spent over 17 hours helping her build the website from the ground up in Dreamweaver using her graphics, text, HTML and CSS to be viewable on her school's website. Lily learned how to read and write HTML and CSS, what order they need to be written in correctly, and how they work together. I also made her use the sketch she created on paper as a guide of how the website should look. Once the site was built, Lily uploaded it to her school server so we could both test it on our browsers to make sure everything was working correctly and fix what wasn't working.

After giving it a thorough test, Lily was able to turn it in for a final grade which resulted in getting an A on her project and in the class.

Apparently, Lily was the only one in class to complete and turn in a full, functioning website and her instructor was impressed that it was hand-coded and not done using a template.

Raneisha, Web Technology, Software: Glitch and W3 Schools HTML Editor
By the time I had met with Raneisha, she was failing her high school Web Technology class and wouldn't be able to go to the 12th grade unless she brought her G.P.A. up and passed the class. We also ran into several technical issues as her school gave her a laptop computer with no Web camera or screen sharing capabilities with Google Chrome because they were firewall blocks. Her mother had to purchase a Web camera for an older computer so we could work together in the Zoom platform and share screens. No pressure!

Raneisha was completely lost and overwhelmed with the entire class and couldn't really share with me what she exactly needed help with, but knew she needed to pass the class. After asking her several questions to gain a better understanding of where she was at and knew, I decided to start her at the very bottom with the basics and put her through my course, Learn the Pretty Side of Website Design, so she would have a solid foundation to work from.

I spent the next several weeks going through each lesson with her making sure she understood the material before moving onto something new. She needed to understand how to create a website design on paper first in order to be able to build it into something that will function online.

Once we moved past the design side, it was then time to teach Raneisha HTML and CSS coding languages so she could build her website from scratch. We first started learning the differences and similarities to HTML and HTML5, and then start learning every HTML tag (I.E. <p>This is a paragraph tag.</p>) and practiced writing the code. Next, we tackled CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and how they work with HTML (they make items on the page look pretty). Last, Raneisha followed her website sketch while using HTML and CSS in Glitch and W3 Schools HTML Editor to create her website since it's free for an account and her mom's outdated computer could not run Adobe Dreamweaver. 

I had Raneisha build the site on Glitch and then test the code on the W3 Schools HTML Editor to make sure everything was correct. Since all my lessons are recorded, I made sure to email her instructor several recordings showing Raneisha building her website from scratch using HTML and CSS to show that she was doing the work herself and how her progress was coming along. It was important for me to share with her instructor that although Raneisha was moving at a much slower pace than her classmates, she was applying what she was learning and I was determined to help her bring up her grade no matter what it took.

Well, my teaching methods worked! Raneisha used only HTML and CSS to build her website and turned it in on time. She emailed a few days later letting me know that she passed the class with a B! Raneisha went from an F to a B in two months and I couldn't be more proud of her.


Zeina, Graphic Design Homework Help, Software: Illustrator
When I met Zeina, she felt like she wasn't going to pass her graphic design class and graduate on time. She was given the assignment to create a snowboard and have the artwork ready for the printer. She didn't understand the specs of the project, have a target audience, know how to correctly set up her file for the printer which needed a bleed or understand her teacher's instructions. So, I became a translator.

Although I didn't know anything about the instructor, the class or the assignment, I had to read and translate the project's instructions in a way that Zeina would understand. It was really easy for me to do that because I made her think of the class as a job, the instructor as her creative director and her grade as her pay. I wanted her to visual herself in a design studio creating a design project for a high paying client and if she didn't nail it, she'd be out of a job.

Then, we got down to business and created a target audience of who's going to be buying this snowboard rider and why. I wanted her to make a list of the type of people that she wanted to sell this snowboard to down to every last detail. By defining her target audience, she was able to create a niche market (smaller than a mass market) that would spend the money on her snowboard design over the competition. Once her vision was clear, I had her sketch out some concept ideas until we found a solid design idea before implementing it digitally.

Because the final instructions called for the file to be saved as an .eps file, that meant we'd be using Illustrator to design and build the file needed for the printer. Since Zeina didn't understand how artwork needs to be set up for the printer, I spent some time educating her on the printing process, especially why we need to add a bleed to our artwork when we want it to go to the edges. Then with my guidance as I watched her work, I had to set up her Illustrator file first for the printer and then start designing her snowboard.

I served as a guide and mentor during her design process because I wanted to know what it would feel like when she's working for an actual company and receives feedback from her co-workers, and more importantly, paying clients. She needed to learn how to handle feedback and criticism on her work so would be prepared on how to handle it when she was on the job.

By the time she finished working with me and turned in her final assignment, Zeina said she received an A on it and in the class. She also was able to graduate on-time and find a design job that made her happy.