If you want a career creating stand-out websites from the ground up, there are several important skills you’ll need to learn. Top tech companies prioritize candidates that possess these core skills. They’re even starting to value on-trend knowledge and experience over formal education like college degrees.
In this post we’ll look at the fundamental skills you’ll need to make it as a professional web designer. We’ll also discuss online web design bootcamps. These intensive education programs teach you career-ready design skills that can help you stand out from the crowd and get hired as a well-paid designer.
Let’s start by understanding the role of a web designer and listing some of the day-to-day tasks that come with the position.
What Does a Web Designer Do?
A web designer uses technical and creative skills, tools, and techniques to build or redesign websites. The job of a web designer is to make a website functional and aesthetically pleasing. User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design play an important role in the process. The main objective is to create an on-brand, easy-to-use site that provides a positive user experience.
A web designer is responsible for the following tasks:
- Conceptualize website design ideas.
- Build prototype and test sites.
- Use feedback to iterate on designs.
- Perform A/B split testing to optimize site designs.
- Edit and retouch images.
- Understand and report site analytics.
- Use UX/UI design techniques to improve the user experience.
- Ensure site designs are on-brand.
- Present designs to clients and company stakeholders.
- Ensure navigation elements and site menus are clean and simple.
- Create wireframes, layouts, user flows, storyboards, and site maps.
- Implement responsive design so sites work across different devices.
- Perform on-page search engine optimization (SEO).
- Ensure sites comply with all legal requirements.
- Leverage Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to create consistent site themes.
The above list should give you a good overview of what’s required. Bear in mind the actual responsibilities may vary depending on the size of the company and the specific industry you’re working in.
Web Designers vs Web Developers
The terms web designer and web developer are often used interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences between the two roles. To understand these differences we first need to understand the terms front-end, back-end, and full-stack.
- The front-end (or client-side) is concerned with anything the user can see or interact with. It includes site branding, colors, fonts, images, site layout, responsive design, site structure, interactive elements, site navigation, menus, and search bars. Front-end developers usually have a graphic design or UX/UI design background.
- The back-end (or server-side) is all about the core functionality of the site and how it works under the hood. It consists of data handling, database set up, server configuration, coding required features, integrating 3rd-party applications, the use of application programming interfaces (APIs), and optimizing site performance with server hardware. Back-end developers come from a more technical background and are coding experts.
- Full-stack developers combine front-end and back-end responsibilities and can work on all aspects of creating websites.
The term web designer is usually associated with a professional that focuses on the front-end. Whereas a web developer is a more general role and often used to describe a full-stack developer.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at the differences between these two roles, check out our post on web designers vs web developers.
Essential Tech Skills for Web Designers
Hard skills are the specific technical skills required to work as a professional web designer. Firms look for the following hard skills when hiring for the role:
- Hypertext Markup Language: HTML is the most basic building block of a website. Web designers use HTML to add content and structure to a page. Web browsers read HTML documents and display formatted content to the user. You can add headings, text, images, tables, forms, and links to a site using HTML code.
- Cascading Style Sheets: CSS works alongside HTML and allows web designers to create consistent styles and formatting across a site. In theory, CSS is optional and all styling can be defined in raw HTML code. However, if you have a 100-page website and decide you want to change the font color, you’ll have to edit 100 HTML documents manually.
By using CSS you only need to make the change once. This saves a considerable amount of time and allows web designers to quickly tweak design ideas.
- Design Tools: To make it in the web design field you’ll need a good understanding of popular design tools. Photoshop is perfect for image processing, Adobe Illustrator is useful for graphic design, Adobe After Effects works well for video processing, and MockPlus is a great tool for creating prototypes and wireframes.
- UX Design: In today’s customer-oriented world, user experience is the most important aspect of any site, web app, or product. As a web designer, you need to cater to the needs and wants of the users. You can use tools like color psychology, type hierarchy, and grid systems to make your designs visually appealing.
- Responsive Design: As mobile web browsing is trending up, web designers need to understand responsive design more than ever. You’ll need to create stunning sites that work on all screen sizes. Page elements like navigation buttons and drop-down menus should be usable on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. They should also be optimized for desktop monitors.
- Graphic Design: Successful web design requires visual creativity and an eye for detail. You need to understand how to arrange elements so they work well together on the page. You should also learn logo design, how to create clean and minimal layouts, and how to use complementary colors.
- Search Engine Optimization: You don’t need to be an expert in SEO, but a basic understanding of on-page SEO principles will help you succeed as a web designer. SEO is used to optimize web pages to rank higher in search results. The higher your site ranks, the more traffic you’ll receive. You should be familiar with breadcrumb navigation, rich snippets, meaningful HTML title and header tags, image alt text, and keyword-friendly URLs.
- Analytics: Google Analytics is a common tool used for gaining insight into user behavior. By studying how users interact with your site, you can iterate the design and improve the user experience. For example, you might find users are canceling the sales process on a particular page. You can then investigate this page for possible causes. Perhaps the navigation button isn’t clear, or the page takes too long to load.
Soft Skills Required to Become a Web Designer
Web designers rarely work in isolation. You’ll need strong interpersonal and social skills to meet with clients and discuss ideas with team members. Here are some other soft skills you’ll need:
- Time Management: Web design often requires you to juggle many different tasks at once. You’ll also be working to project deadlines. This requires excellent time management and prioritization skills.
You need to learn how to identify more important tasks over less essential jobs. You’ll also need to identify risks and potential issues that could result in deadlines being missed. You should always try to mitigate these risks to reduce wasted effort.
- Communication: Both written and verbal communication is key to the role of web design. You’ll need to listen to client requirements, present ideas to them, and write design specification reports. You should be able to convey information clearly at all times to avoid confusion.
- Attention to Detail: You have to pay attention to intricacies in the layout, navigation, color scheme, and other aspects of the design. You need to make sure that everything serves a purpose and appeals to the customer. Small details can make a big difference. If just one heading doesn’t match the site theme, it can look unprofessional and chaotic.
- Open to New Ideas: You should always try to be optimistic and consider every idea that comes your way. Treat colleagues and clients with respect and stay positive. This can-do attitude is essential for progressing up the career ladder as a web designer.
How to Learn Web Design
You should now have a good understanding of the many skills required to make it in this industry. The good news is, with a proactive attitude and some determination there are plenty of ways you can get up to speed. Here’s how you can learn core design skills and kickstart your career as a web designer:
- Get a Degree: A bachelor’s degree is the traditional approach used to learn a broad range of web design skills. You can get a degree in graphic design, communication, computer science, or a related field. Degrees typically take 4 years to complete and you’ll need to pay up to $35,000 per year in tuition fees. This path will certainly give you a solid foundation to become a web designer. However, a degree isn’t actually required for the role and some employers consider them too general.
- Enroll in a Bootcamp: Unlike a degree, bootcamps are laser-focused learning programs designed to teach aspiring web designers the career-ready skills they need to get started. Enroll in our UX/UI design bootcamp to master front-end design skills and launch your web design career. We’ll not only teach you web design, we’ll also support you in your job search and help you land a well-paid position.
- Listen to Feedback: Exchanging feedback can be a good way to learn and improve your skills. You can give feedback on the work of others and receive feedback on your own work. You should be able to handle feedback and criticism positively and work towards improving your weaknesses.
- Stay On-Trend: Web design is a fast-moving industry and is driven by trends. You should try to stay on top of these trends. Don’t just blindly follow the techniques you’ve learned. But keep an open mind and adopt new technologies to improve your work. To stay up-to-date read web design blogs, follow online communities, and discuss approaches with your professional network.
- Join Competitions: This is one of the best ways to test and improve your skills. There are many design competitions like DesignCrowd, DesignContest, and 99 Designs that will take you out of your comfort zone. Even if you don’t win, the experience is invaluable.
- Keep Practicing: There’s no shortcut or easy way to improve your skills. You need to keep practicing to become a better web designer. You can create a localhost on your home computer. This can be used to create new designs and experiment with new concepts in private.
Become A Web Designer
The world will always need web designers. Companies understand the importance of building their digital presence and creating a great user experience. If you’re a problem-solver with a creative and artistic mindset, a future in web design is an excellent choice.
Check out our online UX/UI design bootcamp to fast-track your tech career. You’ll benefit from community support and one-on-one mentoring from a leading web designer. Our expert curriculum will teach you everything you need to go from beginner to hired in less than a year.