Across the globe, the Internet has become an indispensable part of our lives. Computers, laptops, phones, and tablets make it easier than ever before to get information, find businesses, connect with others and make purchases. The average U.S. adult spends an astonishing 3 hours per day on their smart devices, and they generally favor well designed, interactive, and easily accessible sites.
This digital revolution has led to web designers becoming some of the most in-demand professionals in the tech space. A career in web design offers excellent job prospects and attractive compensation packages.
If you’re a creative person and interested in this field, this article aims to help you understand the role a little more. You’ll learn exactly what a web designer does, what responsibilities they have, what tools they use, and how you can kickstart your new career in web design.
What is Web Design?
Web design is the process of planning, designing, building, and maintaining a website. While the emphasis is on the aesthetic (front-end) components of a site, web design also includes some functional (back-end) responsibilities.
The front-end is concerned with anything the user can see or interact with. This includes fonts, colors, styles, layouts, images, icons, navigation menus, and animations.
The back-end is the engine under the hood. It controls the site functionality, along with storing and handling data within database systems.
Skills Required to Become a Web Designer
For a career in web design, the following skills are required:
- Visual Design Concepts
Essential visual design principles are rooted in Gestalt psychology. These fundamentals outline how the human eye perceives visual elements and include similarity, continuation, proximity, and symmetry.
Fonts can have a dramatic effect on the overall look and feel of a site. Understanding what works comes with experience and observation. Modern design trends have favored simple, clean, and minimal typography.
A stand-out design requires visual harmony. Proximity, alignment, consistency, and white space all go towards creating the perfect composition. The design should also have well-balanced contrast, negative space, and proportioned elements. The text, visuals, and other elements of a design must be arranged correctly.
- Color Theory
Colors play an important part of any design. A web designer must understand the concept of combining primary colors and creating new colors to enhance the look and feel of a site. Avoid using colors that clash as this can ruin a well-composed design.
- Graphic Design
You’ll have an advantage if you’re naturally artistic and can create hand-drawn typography, custom illustrations, and other bespoke elements.
- Photo Editing
Photo editing skills such as adjusting color levels, brightness, saturation, and contrast, together with cutting, cropping, and sharpening can prove invaluable in this space.
Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. It’s easy to promise more than you can deliver. Over-promising can lead to client dissatisfaction, which doesn’t bode well for your professional growth as a web designer.
Freelance designers sometimes find it difficult to stay motivated in their work. Discipline increases your productivity and ensures that deadlines are met. Avoid procrastination and set daily goals to stay consistent.
If you want to become a web designer, one of the most important jobs you have is to sell people on your vision. Often, your client will have no design experience of their own. You have to communicate your ideas in a clear and concise manner. Listening is also very important. You must take on board any feedback and update your designs accordingly.
Understanding and being able to identify good copy is key. You must decide on the writing style, tone, and content for each page of the website. The copy can act as the glue which brings the whole project together.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is all about optimizing your website to rank well in search engines. A high ranked site means more visitors and ultimately more profit for the company. SEO involves using certain keywords and phrases that describe your site. It also includes the correct use of title tags, bold text, bread-crumb navigation, friendly URLs, and improving the loading speed of your site.
Common Tools Used in Web Design
There’s a huge number of different applications and tools used by web designers. Here are just some of the most popular packages used today:
- Adobe Dreamweaver
Dreamweaver is great for beginners, but also offers some advanced features for more experienced designers. First launched back in 1997, it’s one of the original packages used to create professional-looking websites. You can build websites using raw HTML code, or make use of the powerful WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) graphical editor.
- Adobe Photoshop
Photoshop is the industry standard when it comes to graphics editing software. It’s available for both Mac and Windows and has all the tools you need to create stunning graphics and artwork. The numerous color options and gradients allow you to create beautiful prints and patterns.
This software is one of the smallest web design tools available. It’s an extremely lightweight tool that’s great for prototyping ideas. It helps you write clean code and includes features like syntax highlighting, a toolbar, and a customizable menu.
- Google Web Designer
When WordPress was released in 2003, it revolutionized the web design industry forever. It’s a free open-source content management system and amazingly, around 30% of all websites on the Internet are built with it. A large part of its success is down to the community, and the thousands of themes, plugins, and extensions you can download.
How to Become a Web Designer
There’s no fixed route to becoming a web designer. However, the following points should act as a solid guide for most people.
- Learn the Basics
It’s important to learn about the field that you are getting into. You can take help from books, blogs, and other online material. If you know somebody in this field, that’s even better. Familiarizing yourself with the role and the process of web design will be helpful.
2. Get a Degree or Study Online
A design-related degree will typically take 3-4 years, and provide you with a broad set of skills to get started in web design. However, a degree isn’t required for most positions and there are alternative routes that could suit you better.
Online courses are a great way to get your foot in the door. They are more specialized than degrees and geared around teaching you core skills to land a highly paid web design job.
3. Get Certified
There are accreditation bodies, like the Certified Internet Webmaster, and the International Webmaster Association-HTML Writers Guild, where you can get certified.
4. Join a Forum or Community
There are online platforms where you can connect with aspiring and established web designers. You can discuss your problems, ideas, and questions. These will also help you stay updated. Some good ones are Designer News, Killersites Community, and Designer Hangout.
5. Gain Experience
Most companies prefer candidates who have prior experience in this field. You can work as an intern for a company to gain experience. You can also work as a freelancer and get paid while you build your portfolio.
Kick off Your Web Design Career
That concludes our beginner’s guide to web design. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what’s required to get started in this industry. But there’s always more to learn. If you’re wondering what it takes to start a career in web design, 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.