Becoming a Web Designer
What does a web designer do?
Web designers manage the look and feel of websites – be they large corporate sites consisting of hundreds of pages, or sites for small businesses comprising just a few.
Either way, it’s the web designer’s responsibility to make decisions about every visual aspect of the site – its colour scheme, the fonts and text size, the images, the buttons, menus and other navigation – and so on.
For anyone thinking about a career as a web designer, it’s worth considering that use of the internet has continued to grow: it’s now estimated that there are over 182 million sites online. And good design is one of the main factors dictating which will be read, and which will be ignored after just a few seconds. That’s why forward-thinking organisations realise the value of skilled, suitably qualified web designers – making it a career path offering plenty of promise.
Qualities for a web designer
So what qualities do you need to become a web designer? Well a strong interest in all things web and internet is good for starters: Do you have clear ideas about what does and doesn’t work when you visit web sites? Do you take an interest in how sites look? Are you a creative, artistic person? And do you like working with computers, and perhaps learning new software packages? Would you like to learn professional software like Adobe Dreamweaver or Photoshop? And finally, are you the kind of person who pays attention to detail, and who would be good at interpreting someone else’s brief?
If all of this sounds like you, then it’s certainly worth thinking through some of the other factors involved with becoming a web designer.
People skills count
You may have visions of shutting yourself away all day with your computer and your favourite radio station, and ‘creating in your home office’. While that may well be possible for some of the time, it’s also useful to have or develop another set of skills, around successfully working with other people. You’ll need to listen to what’s required (‘take the brief’), ask pertinent questions, and reach a solid understanding of what will make your client happy. And then ensure that your work delivers – or ‘meets the brief’.
Little or large?
Being a web designer may also involve working as part of a team. If you work in a larger design or advertising agency, your team may be led by an account manager who liaises with the client; you may work under a creative director, and alongside copywriters, photographers, other web designers and web developers – those responsible for programming sites and ensuring any special functionality works as it should.
Equally you may work for a much smaller company where you’re in charge of ‘all things web’; in this case you’ll still need to be team-minded, as it’s in smaller organisations where pitching in to help out is often essential. So one day you may be presenting to a client, and another pricing up a new job.
Or you may choose to work for yourself as a freelance web designer. It’s a path many choose, but you will need to find out about the legal requirements of running a small business, and develop general business skills – from marketing and sales to estimating and bookkeeping – as well as honing your website design abilities.
So where should you begin? Well learning the recognised software packages is probably a must; developing an understanding of HTML and CSS – the basic building blocks of web pages – is going to come in handy sooner or later; you could learn technologies like Flash, or other coding languages such as PHP – useful for sites needing more functionality; and you could even stretch yourself by learning about popular content management systems like Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal.
The bottom line in web design
The bottom line is that the more skills you can develop, the more employable you’re likely to be. But you really don’t need to know everything before you can start designing great looking websites for your clients.