Two Great Online Alternatives to Traditional Web Design Schools

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Let me first just say that everything I’m writing in this article is pretty much my personal opinion. Who am I to talk about web design schools and whether it’s better to learn online or at a traditional brick and mortar school? Good question. Well, I’m currently a web product manager at a large internet company, where I previously worked as a front-end web developer and designer. When it comes to web design, I am mainly self taught except for an associate’s degree I earned online a few years back. I did go to a traditional school (many years ago), but believe me, a degree in theater/broadcasting did not get me to where I am now.

Most of what I’ve learned about web design I figured out on my own. I’ve always loved computers, but my interest in web design started about 13 years ago when I realized some of the cool things designers were doing on the internet. I wanted to do those things, so I started studying code on different websites and reading tutorials. As I mentioned before, I did earn my associate’s degree at an online university, but I’ve realized that everything I learned from online school I could have easily learned from online video courses and tutorials. There’s so much more available now in terms of video design tutorials compared to even 3 or 4 years ago.

So with all of these opportunities to learn web design through video courses and tutorials online, why would anyone need to spend the money on a traditional web design school? In my opinion, you can be successful as a web designer as long as your willing to put in the time, learn on your own and work hard to create a killer portfolio. One of the great things about interviewing for design work is that your portfolio can basically do all the talking (unfortunately, you still have to be able to communicate and back up your work).

Where to Start

Ok, so I’ve told you that you can make it without traditional schools and here are two great options for sites online where you can start:


These online video courses on Udemy are created by all different types of people… professionals, professors, or just people that are really good at what they do. Prices for these courses run from FREE to over $400, but the majority of them are under $100 and a lot of them $50 or less. The great thing about this site is that you can do the research and choose the course that’s right for you. Be sure to view teacher bios, read reviews and watch video sneak peeks to see what you can expect from a course. Right here on there is a search tool where we’ve listed a lot of the design courses they offer by topic. Get Started »

Team Treehouse

While Treehouse is still learning through online videos, the format is different from Udemy. With Treehouse you’ll have an extensive library of step-by-step video courses and training exercises that will give you a wide range of competitive, in-demand technology skills. Their format is more like a curriculum where you learn, practice and complete exercises in order to earn badges. They have two different types of subscriptions to choose from… The Silver ($25 monthly, $250 Yearly) or the Gold ($49 monthly, $490 yearly). If you think you would be overwhelmed by this, don’t worry. As they say on their site, “No Experience. No Problem!” Get Started »

Looking at the Costs

If you’re just looking at the prices above and thinking, “I don’t have $500 to spend!” Well, then you may have an issue, but if you’re comparing it to traditional or online schools, then it’s a no-brainer.

  • Looking at just a two year school (online or traditional) it could end up costing you around $40,000 in the end. Plus, you would probably be stuck with thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
  • Now if you consider the two options above, let’s say you decide to do a little of both. You sign on to the Gold plan for Treehouse and you do it for a two year period ($500 x 2 = $1,000). Then you decide that you’ll do 10 different courses through Udemy at an average of $100 a course ($100 x 10 = $1,000). That’s $2,000 total after two years.

I may not be a math genius, but $2,000 is looking better than $40,000. I know that there are other factors and there will be critics, but it’s something to think about. In the end, the final decision is up to you.

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