MA Web Design + Content Planning

Preparing for study

So you’re getting enrolled and ready ~ welcome to an exciting and intensive year. We look forward to meeting and getting to know you over the course of the programme.

The purpose of this page is to answer some common questions and to get you prepared. Our MA is quite challenging but you’ll do well if you can put in a great deal of time and hard work. Even though the programme assumes no prior knowledge, you will give yourself a major advantage by at least reading through the recommended materials ahead of time.

Whether you are new to web design, a dabbler or already experienced – it’s important that you start studying early and before the course begins.

Online reading

We are very fortunate that there is a great deal of good quality learning material available on the web for free. We recommend the listed materials as a great start to getting a good understanding of web design basics. These articles and sites will get you well prepared for what’s to come.

Developing a good understanding of the Web landscape is a key first step. Read this book first.

Familiarising yourself with the fundamentals of HTML and CSS is the second step. First of all, we recommend that you read through the beautifilly illustrated chapters at Internetting Is Hard (but it doesn’t have to be), then there’s a choice: use either the two Codecademy interactive tutorials or the Shay Howe tutorials – or both. Repetition will improve your learning!

We always aim for a balance between coding and design because in the context of the Web, the two are inseperable and, in fact, in many cases they are one and the same.

There are many online references for Web Design, some better than others. We recommend going to the source (W3C) and learning from the excellent MDN documentation.

Learn by any means

We would recommend that you scour different media and sources as you learn and progress. So if you prefer reading actual books, we can recommend two which are perfect if you are very new to the subject.

Active learning is always best, so make sure you follow up on any examples in videos or tutorials with some hands-on work to get some practical experience. Once teaching starts, we will be sharing our own resources as well as additional material in context to the sessions in hand.


Our digital work will of course require a certain setup to be accomplished. We are lucky in our field that web design is not particularly demanding in computing terms and the operating system itself does not matter either.

Popular hardware setups
Most of our students favour a laptop with either Windows, Mac or Linux as the portability makes it easy work between home and class seamlessly. It also makes our teaching/learning environment more flexible, allowing you to get the most out of the programme. Any mid-range computer less than about 3 years old will be ideal.

Software needs
It’s a good idea to become familiar with a text editor specifically designed for writing code. There is a lot of choice but we recommend Sublime Text (Windows/OS X/Linux). However, an excellent free alternative is Atom (Windows/OS X). If you use a Mac, check out Nova which is fairly new to the game and very good.

Don’t spend a lot of money on software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator before you begin the programme. As a student, you will be eligible for free versions of these applications during your time of study.

In order to upload files to your server, you will need a FTP (file transfer protocol) client. This is an app which will establish a connection between your computer and the server, allowing you to upload and manage files. There are lots to choose from but Filezilla will do to begin with.

If you’re unsure about any of the software described here, don’t worry. We will cover all the details and will help you install everything during Welcome Week.

You will need a web hosting account to present your project work online. It will be important for you to learn how to manage websites and configure web hosting options.

We know that web hosting can be confusing for those new to web design, so we’ll help you get set up with your own hosting during Welcome Week. If you don’t already have hosting in place and you’d like to have something organised ahead of time, read our notes on our recommended option.

It would be ideal if you had your hosting account sorted, your login details stored somewhere safe and easy to find. We can then go through the setups together during our sessions.

Will I need to reorganise my life?

calendar with pencil
This is a question we get asked a lot — and the short answer is yes, you may.

Our full-time students tell us that they spend between 25 and 50 hours per week on coursework during term time. That is a major commitment and shows how much time this full-time programme requires, despite the fact that attendance is only one day per week.

Our recommendation is that if you work full-time, you should take the programme in part-time mode. With study limited by working hours, you probably won’t have enough time to successfully complete the coursework. Even if you don’t work full-time, you still need to ensure that you can dedicate that many hours to your studies.