As more businesses are launching their services online, web designers are very sought-after these days. Having the technical expertise and the graphic vision to deliver a compelling look for a product or service, web designers work to deliver the optimal user experience on desktop and mobile platforms.
A career in web design builds into a quite rewarding and very well-paid profession, with continuous opportunities to specialise in new services or web products. If you feel you have what it takes to start a career in web design here are some of the aspects that you need to consider:
Start with the Basics
The goods news about joining this industry is that you do not usually need a high level degree in order to work as a web designer, especially if you plan to become a freelancer. Nonetheless, you do need to have some experience in the field of design along with some practical, hands-on experience in web design, and you will also have to demonstrate your creative and your technical skills.
Most web designers already have basic knowledge of HTML (the basic programming language for the main content of any webpage), as well as some experience of writing combinations of codes or web pages. However, if you do not, then it is highly recommended to become familiar with the most commonly used programming languages and software at the moment, such as:
- CSS for the page style,
- Adobe Products: from Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver to Flash and Fireworks,
- PJP for server side scripting,
- SQL for database management
You can either opt for one of the numerous computer science courses as part of a degree programme that include the programs mentioned above, or you can opt for specialised training courses that guide you step-by-step through every single one aspect of web design thus helping you get a deeper insight into each programme.
Although the entry requirements for a web designer do vary greatly depending on the expectations and the career goals of every future designer, most of them opt for various qualifications that offer them a good basic training in information technology and web services, such as the BTEC qualifications focusing on interactive media use, OCR ITQ or OCR Creative iMedia, all of which will be very useful for the designer in the long haul.
As popular as this industry may be at the moment, it is important to say that not everybody can make a career in web design, and there are several distinct interests, skills and qualities every future designer must possess.
10 Must-Have Skills for a Web Designer
If you're ready for a web design career, here are the must-have skills to keep you competitive in this field.
1. Programming Skills
Every good web designer must have a deep understanding of internet scripting and programming languages. For this, keeping yourself informed about the latest technologies and web services is key. The mobile revolution and the demand for mobile device adapted websites presents new opportunities for future designers, but also new challenges. Competitive web designers need to keep themselves on top of these changes and master new designs in new web environments.
The web designer must be creative and imaginative, as he will often need to design complex websites that require an artistic touch. A sharp aesthetic sense and graphic vision are a must-have in this industry. Like in any creative industry, designers can stand out through originality and unique designs that are also functional and deliver the best UX.
3. Critical Thinking Skills
Every good designer must also possess good problem solving abilities, as well as logical thinking skills in order to succeed in the field. Matching the technical knowledge with the platform requirements and the graphic vision requires the critical thinking and problem solving abilities to balance all these aspects, for the benefit of the commissioning firm or individual. A competitive web designer can put himself/herself in the shoes the site visitor, CMS editor and the business owner and meet their expectations.
4. SEO Skills
They must be familiar with concepts of Search Engine Optimisation, user-centric design, responsive design as well as user experience principles, all of which make a site competitive in terms of the organic traffic it receives from search engines. All design elements should support a site's SEO vision in a way that meets both the visitors' expectations and the search bots requirements. Besides being beautiful, a successful website needs to stand out in the list of search results.
The designer must also be willing to keep up to date with the technology and software that are always changing and evolving. Design 'waves'and graphic trends change rapidly, according to what new technologies bring in and what tech-savvy visitors expect. A commissioning firm can have its own expectations regarding what they pay for in terms of web design and they want the final product to be as flexible to use by editors and advertisers at different levels of experience. It takes a versatile web designer to accommodate all these needs and produce a web site that can be adapted to tomorrow's trends.
6. Wireframes & CSS Skills
Designing wireframes boils down to preparing your workspace and deciding on the key content components for the site, that delimit information in the most effective way. It's all about structure. CSS skills are imperative to web designers, otherwise they would be unable to design cutting-edge websites. Knowing how to create effective cascade style sheets, which are versatile and match the requirements of each platform and SEO guidelines for the site, is something that a good web designer should be able extremely confident doing.
7. Graphic Skills
This is yet another important skill set, as every designer must know how to match the colours and the visual elements of design, for the best result. Finding the right colour scheme, the logotype and content layout goes beyond the technical CSS expertise. It requires an eye for details, balance, good transition elements and a lot of consideration for how a user unfamiliar with the site would respond to its key visual elements. Graphic designers need to think outside the box, yet meet basic web conventions that would make the website easy to navigate for everyone with an interest in the product/service it presents.
8. Flash Skills
Every good designer, developer and programmer must possess Flash skills in order to bring vector graphics and animations to Web pages and to create interactive sites. Adobe Flash is world's leading platform for animation design, preferred for its intuitive and easy to use tools and flexible implementation possibilities. Being a master of Flash opens up numerous opportunities for a career in web design. You can exit the area of business platform or e-commerce design and launch more complex animation projects for entertainment websites.
9. Web Server Administration Skills
It is of utmost importance for every web designer to possess good web server administration skills, especially those who work as freelancers. Hosting a website on a given server and monitoring its performance and database capabilities are essential to ensuring that the website is up and running across all devices, compatible and easy to navigate from all browsers.
10. Project Management Skills
Every designer must be able to meet guidelines that will be commonly set throughout their career. Completing a design assignment within the given deadline, presenting work results in front of those commissioning the work and monitoring its performance in the long run requires excellent organisational skills and project management expertise. Professional web designers who want to work on their own will also have to learn how to run their own business, in addition to mastering the most popular and demanded graphic design concepts, from logotypes and wireframes to conceptual design.
Training, Development And Qualifications
A web designer never stops learning. It's important for these professionals to continue developing their knowledge and their creative skills throughout their career, given the fact that the standards that apply to the technology industry are constantly changing. Many web designers choose to pursue a certification like the CIW (Certified Internet Web Professional) Master Designer certification, or a qualification that encompasses the key technical requirements and graphic abilities required in the field.
Most of these professionals begin with studying the basics of the HTML language, as this is how they start building a web page. HTML and HTML 5 language will serve as the basis for their career, and there are numerous online tutorials or live classes that they can attend in order to learn how to create a basic web page using basic software. On the other hand, those who are already familiar with the basic principles of HTML can take their training a mile further by moving down the path for Advanced HTML, which in addition to the basic notions also includes CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) as well as DHTML. Those who choose to get a deeper insight into HTML will also learn how to use the most advanced scripting tools available, and they will get all the skills they need in order to pursue a career in programming, design or even both.
University Education & Professional Training in Web Design
Web designers who hold a Bachelor's Degree in Web Design have gathered all the necessary skills and background theoretical knowledge related to multimedia production, digital arts, visual designs, usability testing, programming and publishing as well as web application. All of these fields are being of utmost importance in the career of every designer or programmer. Those who want to build a strong resume and increase their chances of getting employed can also opt for additional certifications, provided that they have very strong graphic design skills.
Professional Development Plans in Web Design
The career goals of each designer dictate their career path to some extent: for instance, some designers choose to develop websites and to use their graphic and design skills only for the Internet, while others are more versatile and choose to use their skills for printed media as well.
Regardless of their choice, all designers must be proficient in using all the Web design software mentioned above, including Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop. In addition to this, there are numerous classes and seminars for those who want to create animated pages (for business applications, for instance), where designers learn how to use the Flash software and how to adhere to the requirements of the World Wide Web Association.
On Findcourses.co.uk you can find an extensive selection of professional web design courses. The job outlook in the field of web design is very encouraging, as this career can be very rewarding both from a financial and from a professional standpoint. You can reach your career goals as a web designer with the right education and professional training, assisted by trusted course organisers in the UK and abroad.