Getting Started in Web Design
Design or develop
Whether your passion is for design, or you prefer working on the functionality of websites, there are a vast number of employment channels available.
Those with a creative streak will probably be more at home designing websites, creating the visual look and feel that will communicate clients’ messages most appropriately. The role will probably involve devising the initial style, selecting and creating images and other elements, and putting the final pages together.
Web developers’ skills generally lie behind the scenes, in building and maintaining websites. The job could involve anything from uploading sites to a client's server to building pages to carry out specific tasks. For example, a hotel might need an online booking system, an estate agent might need a way to upload details of lots of properties, and a retailer might need an online shop. All of these may require specific coding - the core foundations of a site - to meet a specific need.
For suitably qualified candidates, the employment opportunities on offer are diverse: large design consultancies, small digital agencies, internet hosting firms, or a company’s in-house communications or IT department – these are all potential employers for web designers and developers.
And while working in-house or for an agency brings with it the stability of a regular salary and the chance to work within a team environment and on a broad range of projects, another route many web designers and developers opt for is working as an independent contractor, or freelancer.
There are pros and cons to freelancing, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. You may be able to set your own hours, but you’ll also need to sell your time, and develop a range of small business skills. But there are those that swear by it, and would never dream of going back to work for someone else.
The exact role of a web designer or developer is likely to vary from organisation to organisation. Some may want a ‘Jack or Jill of all trades’ and require you to pitch in wherever needed, from selling ideas to clients, to writing website content; other roles may be more focused on a particular task, such as laying out or coding pages to other people’s ideas or specifications, or taking the lead creative role.
The skill sets required vary greatly too: as a web designer you may be able to get by using an application like Adobe Dreamweaver, which allows you to lay out pages knowing little or even no HTML; or you may need to be an HTML hotshot, and know your CSS inside out – and even your FTP, PHP and MySQL too. Learning how to use an industry-standard graphics-editing programme like Adobe PhotoShop is also likely to be high on your list of priorities.
Getting to grips with HTML
But learning HTML – the basic language which enables a website to be created – and CSS – which manages the layout of a page and defines elements like fonts and colours – is probably an essential first step for any would-be web designer or developer.
Whichever path you choose to take, it is clear that there has never been a better time to pursue a career in digital. And as the sector continues to grow, more and more opportunities are being created for qualified web designers and developers to make their mark.