Overall, in our view, the best provider of web design courses is Treehouse. That's because they offer high-quality video training, as well as clever touches to keep you motivated and actually finish your course. And, perhaps most importantly, in a rapidly changing environment, their classes are always kept super up-to-date with the latest techniques and technologies.
But there may be other course providers who may suit your specific needs better, whether that's in terms of your budget, preferred teaching methods or subject areas. So in this post, we’ve brought together the best of the best.
(Note that we're focusing here on services that provide a wide range of web design training; if, however, you just want to learn a specific language, you may prefer our list of online coding courses. )
- PROS: Up-to-the-minute training. Sole focus on web design and development.
- CONS: Subscription may not suit. Videos only downloadable on pricier plans.
Founded in 2011 by well-known web designer Ryan Carson, Treehouse offers more than 300 video-based training courses in web design, web development, mobile development and game development, from beginner to advanced levels. These are professionally shot, the quality of instruction is first-class, and everything is constantly updated to take newly emerging technologies into account (new content is released weekly).
While online training lets you learn at your own pace, that often makes it difficult to motivate yourself to finish the course. Treehouse, however, has found a clever way to square this particular circle.
That’s because after watching its videos, you then take interactive quizzes and challenges to test that you’ve understood it correctly. Once you complete these, you’re awarded badges, which get displayed on your profile.
These ‘rewards’ might sound a little cheesy, but they really do help spur you on to keep going (anyone who’s ever sat up all night playing a game trying to get to the next level, or binge-watching a Netflix show to reach the end of a season, will understand this instinctively). Also note that many companies now actively recruit new employees via Treehouse based on the number of badges they have.
You won't need any special hardware or operating system (other than a Mac if you’re learning iOS), and you can even write code inside the Treehouse App using a feature called Workspaces. Subscriptions, which offer you access to all the training courses on the site, start at £20/month, and there’s a seven-day free trial if you want to check out the training first. Also note that there are special organisation rates for companies, non-profits, schools, organisations and businesses.
02. LinkedIn Learning (previously Lynda.com)
- PROS: High quality training. Videos are downloadable.
- CONS: Categorisation could be better. Not much here for advanced levels.
Lynda.com could be described as the godfather (or perhaps godmother?) of training on the web. Founded in 1995 by Lynda Weinman, it’s been running high quality courses in software, creative, and business skills for decades. And if anything its purchase by, and integration into, LinkedIn in 2015 has made it even more focused on helping you improve your career prospects.
For example, when you're logged into LinkedIn, you’ll find training content that’s relevant to your needs will automatically surface. Plus when you learn new skills, the system makes it super-easy to highlight these on your LinkedIn profile.
There are currently more than 500 courses in web design and web development to choose from, largely focused on beginner to intermediate levels, and taking in everything from PHP and React to more nuanced topics like ‘Moodboards for web designers’. So unless you’re looking for something very niche or advanced, you’re likely to find the exact training you’re looking for.
However, you’ll have to do a bit of searching, as the courses are not particularly well categorised on the website. And there doesn’t seem to be the same concerted effort made by Treehouse to ensure students progress from course to course to slowly but surely build their skills; there’s more of a ‘pick and mix’ feel to this learning environment.
All the courses are available on a subscription, which costs £19.99 per month on an annual plan or £24.98 on a monthly basis. A month-long free trial is also available.
- PROS: Subscription-free. Lots for beginners.
- CONS: Variable quality. Can be costly if you take lots of courses.
If you’re not keen on taking out a subscription, then Udemy might be a better bet for your online web design training, as you only pay per course.
Note, though, that while Treehouse and LinkedIn Learning carefully curate their courses, Udemy is basically a marketplace where anyone can post a course and try their luck at turning a profit. That means that unlike the latter, employers are unlikely to see you completing a course on Udemy as a ‘proper’ qualification.
That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some excellent courses on this site. While Udemy courses are less likely to be as professionally shot as those on Treehouse or Lynda, that can make them more authentic and relatable.
The website handily includes customer reviews so you can see which ones are hitting the right notes with students. And with courses starting at £11.99, you could save a fair amount of money as a result.
You can download Udemy's videos for offline viewing via the mobile app, and there are a large range of web design topics covered, with a particularly strong emphasis on WordPress, HTML, CSS and Photoshop. Note, though, that most of these courses are beginner level.
- PROS: Career-focused. Help from mentors.
- CONS: Expensive. Serious time commitment.
Launched in 2012, Bloc describes itself as an “online coding bootcamp” that aims to take you from being a beginner to job-ready web developer. Learning materials are a combination of written and video lessons, but Bloc’s special sauce is an apprenticeship model that pairs you with an experienced mentor, who provides support and guidance throughout the course via 14 hours of live Q&A per day. There are also weekly group discussions and daily group critiques.
They don’t sugar-coat it: in their view “learning to code requires a lot of hard work. You can’t learn by osmosis, you have to build. You have to bang your head against problems and work your way out.” In other words, these structured learning programs are not for the faint-hearted, but aimed squarely at highly-motivated students who are determined to carve out a career in web design and development. Courses are full time and start at $7,500 for eight months’ instruction.
You’ll need a webcam because with each module you’ll face an assessment by a person who’s not your mentor; this will be similar to a real-world technical interview. You’ll find a great personal account by Kasey Markham of his experiences taking a Bloc course here.
- PROS: Cutting-edge training. Tech industry involvement.
- CONS: Expensive. No use for beginners.
Founded in 2011, Udacity was originally focused on offering university style courses, but now focuses more on vocational courses for professionals, which it calls 'Nano Degrees'. These courses typically walk you through building a project, and then you apply what you’ve learned to a project of your own.
These are long-term courses and there are set times for lessons. To give you a flavour of how that works in practice, Bilal Tahir has written an excellent account of the React Nano Degree he took here.
Aimed at “lifelong learners” rather than beginners, Udacity is firmly focused on teaching specialised skills to help people in the tech industry get to the next level of their career. Courses are focused on high-end topics such as autonomous systems, AI, machine learning and full-stack web development, and are built in partnership with Google, AT&T, and Facebook.
You pay per course and as you might expect, it’s not cheap; this September’s Blockchain Fundamentals course, for example, costs £799.
06. Launch School
- PROS: Based on fundamentals, not software. Follow at your own pace.
- CONS: Expensive. Huge time commitment.
If the full-on, intensive pace of a bootcamp scares the pants of you, then Launch School offers the very opposite: in its words, “The Slow Path for Studious Beginners to a Career in Software Development”.
There are two main courses: Core Curriculum and Capstone. The first teaches you the fundamentals of software development; so it’s not about learning how to use a specific language, such as React or Rails, but about slowly building up your understanding of basic principles, so you get how higher level abstractions work from the bottom up. It takes approximately 1,200-1,800 hours (8-16+ months) to complete and costs $199 a month.
After that, there’s an admissions-based course focused on helping students acquire career-launching opportunities. This involves a three months’ full-time study and, intriguingly, an Income Sharing Agreement where you only pay after you get a job offer.
- PROS: Huge number of courses. IQ test helps you choose the right one.
- CONS: Subscription model may not suit. Not specifically focused on web design and development.
Most notably, Pluralsight has an innovative way to check that the course is right for you: the ‘Pluralsight IQ’ test, which promises to test your skill level in just five minutes. The service also offers 24/7 support, you can download courses for offline viewing, and subscriptions start at $35 per month or $229 per year.
- PROS: Cheap. Wide range of topics.
- CONS: Quality of training varies. Videos can be quite short.
Like Udemy, Skillshare is an online marketplace for video-based courses of all kinds, including web design courses, mainly for beginner and intermediate levels. While the quality may vary, it’s all cheap and cheerful, although it may be stretching things a little to call them ‘courses’ when some videos are less than an hour long.