Web Development Faculty Spotlight: Alex Cortes


Meet Alex Cortes, Graphic Design and Web Development instructor at F.I.R.S.T. Institute. His background in the industry started at a very young age. He used to play with computers, take them apart, put them together and play video games.

All of this led him to go out and pick up some programming skills. From there, he says it “escalated” to building websites, teaching himself quite a few things along the way. Eventually, he went on to learn web development, and started creating web applications.

After high school, Cortes attended the University of Central Florida. That’s where he learned, and mastered, different languages, such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. He became certified in web development there at UCF.

Making the Shift from Amateur to Professional Web Designer

Throughout the beginning, he was able to put together a decent professional portfolio. But, he believes you need a good education behind you to take your career to the next level. There are only so many websites you can visit for DIY learning. So, the best way to expand your knowledge is to find a good web development school.

Going to school opened up many more doors for Alex. He was able to learn new technologies he would have never been able to learn on his own.

Right now, the F.I.R.S.T. Institute teacher is working on websites for some schools. They already have operational sites, but he’s in the process of revamping them. His goal is to take them to the next level. One of the most important tasks for this project is introducing responsive designs to the sites.

These days, says Cortes, being able to access a website on a computer is not enough. People need to be able to access it on a phone, as well as other mobile devices, and on different screen sizes. The process of designing a site to be viewed on a phone is different from that of one to be viewed on a computer.

So, a site needs to be responsive, so that it can be viewed on any device, still make sense, and not look convoluted. That way, the designer doesn’t have to build one site for computers and another for mobile devices. Many people still have old websites that need to be updated, so they keep up with the modern-day internet, the teacher notes.

The Benefits of Learning Web Design at F.I.R.S.T. Institute

F.I.R.S.T. Institute has an advantage, according to Alex. The school bridges together two industries: graphic design and web development. So, students begin by learning the basics and getting hands-on experience making icons and graphics.

In time, students get advanced knowledge on the complete design process. That way, when the website design aspect of the program is introduced, they already have design backgrounds. This gives them the skills they need to really customize the sites and make them updated and responsive. Then, they implement all those skillsets to becoming professional graphic designers and web developers.

Learning Program Languages

Two of the languages the Graphic Design & Web Development program at F.I.R.S.T. Institute focuses on are HTML and CSS. These are the basic backbones to any website, no matter what language you plan to use. Students are also introduced to JavaScript. This language allows a website to do things. The design aspect is introduced, and everything is brought together in the end.

Cortez explains these three different languages like this. Let’s say HTML is your skeleton. CSS would provide your colors and ways to make the site look good. JavaScript is what actually makes your website do something. Once a solid foundation has been built around HTML, CSS and JavaScript, he introduces his students to content management systems as well.

Completing a Professional Design Portfolio

Each student at F.I.R.S.T. Institute must put together a design portfolio. They take icons, business cards, posters or other projects they’ve completed in graphic design. And, they take projects they’ve complete in web development, such as a blog or simple JavaScript app, like a game. Then, they combine them all together to create their online portfolios.

Alex says these days, employers want a professional portfolio submitted along with your resume. So, this portfolio is very important to getting a job nowadays. That means, your portfolio needs to look good, and stand out above those of other applicants.

About the Web Program at F.I.R.S.T. Institute

The F.I.R.S.T. Institute Graphic Design & Web Development program is a strong one. It provides the right amount of classroom time, which takes place inside a lab at all times. There are lectures here and there. But, students spend most of their time in front of computers, taking part in hands-on learning.

There are so many technologies they must focus on, so this helps the students get a good grasp on the various technologies they have to learn, like JavaScript and WordPress. So, instead of spending all their class time listening to lectures, they spend it constantly coding.

Advice from Alex Cortes About a Career in Web Design

Alex shares his advice for students and graduates of F.I.R.S.T. Institute. He says to “start looking for work immediately.” Even if you’ve only been in class for just a week and just learned what HTML stands for, look for internships and openings for people with limited experience.

Cortes says to go out and talk to employers. You’ll find that they are willing to teach you as you’re going along. Many employers will be more than happy to show you the ropes of their business if they know that you’re already in a design program where you’re learning something valuable to them.

Alex notes that every employer out there is very hungry, and there’s a lot of work available in this industry. All you have to do is start asking questions.

Also, start calling yourself a web designer and a web developer right away. Put the title you choose on your resume and your business cards. And, most importantly, says Alex Cortes, “take pride in what you do.”