What is it that makes your favorite website so appealing? The visual aesthetics—things like images, colors and font styles—probably have a lot to do with it. Each of these elements is the result of the talent and hard work of a creative web designer.
The main role of a web designer is to capture and retain the user’s attention. They achieve this by presenting website content in visually appealing ways, with infographics, images, product descriptions, and user-friendly features. Web designers help to promote brands with a unique visual strategy. The role is situated at the nexus of technology and creativity, making it one of the most sought-after careers in the tech industry.
As more and more businesses build their online presence and rely on the internet for sales, demand for web designers is set to climb. This article looks at pathways to learning web design. You’ll learn exactly what a web designer does, as well as the essential skills, tools, and industry-specific terms to get your head around if you’re keen to kickstart a career in web design.
Web Designer Skills and Attributes
Web design as a field is defined by creativity. Web designers need to understand the brands they work with and use their creative skills to design dynamic websites to help meet brand objectives. If understanding brands is one end of the role, understanding users is the other. After all, the sole reason that a brand creates a website is to appeal to consumers. Web designers need an understanding of end-user psychology in order to connect with consumer behavior. This helps them to create layouts and content that users can relate to in meaningful ways.
Web design is a user-centric role. Web designers bring together color, design, and content to convey a story to a brand’s audience. In order to reach this goal, a lot of communication needs to take place to ensure the web designer is meeting the brief. They need to build an understanding of the brand and its unique selling proposition (USP) through consultation with the client and review of any previous design work they’ve used. A web designer should also take advice from research teams to understand the brand’s users. This will help to inform the design strategy.
To make sure all of the above happens, a web designer should be able to communicate well. Ideas have to be pitched to the stakeholders, which requires persuasive presentation skills. Written communication is just as important, with email being the most common mode of business communication in the corporate setting. So a web designer has to have excellent communication skills—both verbal and written.
If your website design is unique and attractive, users will spend more time on your site. Word of mouth can even help to popularize a site. But what happens when you come across two websites with similar layout and design? It’s likely that you’ll start questioning the credibility of a brand that appears to have a plagiarized design. Duplication tarnishes a brand. And your online reputation is crucial to building your customer base. That’s why it’s considered a cardinal sin of web design to copy someone else’s work. That said, there’s no harm in drawing inspiration from existing designs and layouts. If you can weave an entirely different visual story onto a design that draws inspiration from elsewhere—that’s entirely acceptable.
An eye for detail
What makes your design stand out from the rest? It’s in the details of your brand interpretation and portfolio. Your ability to empathize with consumers’ emotions will come through in the details of your design. This in turn generates visual appeal. By the same token, a lack of attention to detail will be evident to the brand’s customers, even those with a passing interest in their product. This has the potential to seriously damage the brand’s power in the marketplace and turn customers away. So a web designer plays a significant role in preserving the brand’s influence. Maintain an eye for detail and you’ll ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
Most designers will encounter a creative block at some point. You’re busy with different projects and need to come up with original ideas—but for whatever reason, the ideas aren’t flowing. Don’t panic. Take a break, step away from the work, and give yourself time. It can take immense patience but it’s important to persist with each project. Otherwise, you’ll damage your reputation and generate negative reviews. Hang in there, keep believing in yourself, and you’ll get it right.
Common Web Design Terms
Before getting to know more about web design, let’s first take a look at some of the common terms you’re likely to come across as you navigate the field. After all, it’s impossible to build your technical knowledge without understanding the key terms being used. Even if you have a great mentor, it’ll save you both time if you understand the basics first.
CMS stands for Content Management System. This is a system used in creating digital content. Its ease of use lies in its pre-programmed structure. Web designers don’t need to learn code if they’re working using a CMS. It has templates and plugins to help web designers create the website.
WordPress and Drupal are two most commonly used CMS’s in the market. The only problem with using a CMS is that it doesn’t allow you to create original designs. You’re essentially retrofitting existing designs. But a CMS comes in handy if the project is relatively small. You can create a fully functioning website much quicker than building one from scratch.
A web designer should understand color theory and how to utilize color effectively. If used properly, colors can manipulate and evoke emotions. Different combinations of color can be visually appealing, while others will clash and create a negative impression. It’s an important topic in the web design space, because icons, layouts, images, and backgrounds all draw from the principles of color theory. These principles are one of the first areas any web designer should master.
Successful websites aren’t just about aesthetics—overall usability also plays a huge role in contributing to a website’s popularity. User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are defined by how we relate to and interact with a site’s functions and features. It’s part of what makes platforms like social media so addictive.
UX and UI design focus on the usability of websites. They impact everything we see on the screen and interact with. If a user accesses a particular menu, for example, this is an opportunity for a compelling human-machine interaction to take place. It needs to be captivating enough to retain the user and make them want to look further. Web designers should know the basics of UI and UX design to be competitive in the field.
Desktop computers and laptops were once the only way to access the internet. Then smartphones and tablets came into the picture. We began carrying the internet with us wherever we went. Suddenly, handheld devices overtook computers for the most popular means through which people browsed websites and used applications for day-to-day activities and transactions.
Responsive design refers to the ease with which a website is viewable on screens of different sizes and resolutions. The website should essentially adapt to whatever device the user is accessing it through. Web designers have to keep this in mind and create designs that accommodate the different platforms for viewing the site. Responsive design is an important aspect of web design as it helps increase the reach of a website and ensure brand visibility.
Popular Web Design Tools
Web designers make use of a broad range of tools in their work. A lot of the popular tools used by web designers have common functionalities within them, which thankfully makes learning them less daunting. Below is a list of some of the most popular tools used by web designers:
PhotoShop is a pixel-based software used to edit high-resolution images. It’s a professional design tool with plenty of options to tweak images according to your website’s requirements. It’s great for creating background layouts for websites.
Illustrator is a software used to produce high-resolution graphics and fonts from scratch. It’s not image editing software like PhotoShop. It’s a vector-based tool that can be used to project images in 3D.
Design needs to be coded if it’s going to be used on a website. Dreamweaver is a tool used to code the design pattern so it can be used online. You can build websites using raw HTML code, or make use of the powerful WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) graphical editor.
Invision Studio is a tool that allows web designers to create website and application prototypes for testing. It’s great for hashing out any issues that need to be reworked before sending the final version for development. Prototyping is an important step in web design that allows stakeholders to get a feel for the look and interface of the final version.
Can You Teach Yourself Web Design?
With the availability of online tools and free resources like YouTube tutorials, self-learning is a real possibility for aspiring web designers. It can offer a convenient way to learn at your own pace. But if you’re like most people, finding the self-discipline to build your own curriculum and stick to a schedule will be a challenge. You’ll also struggle to find an employer that will have faith in your self-taught skill base.
Want more inspiration? Browse our UX design blog for career tips and first-hand stories from web designers. If you’re ready to take the plunge and start your new career today, enroll in our Web Design Bootcamp. This online program has been put together by experts and will teach you how to create stunning websites from scratch. You’ll be provided with mentoring and support every step of the way, with the ultimate goal of getting you working in a top tech firm.