In the digital age, every company and organization has its own website. It has become the main platform for communicating with customers and making the brand more accessible to consumers.
According to research, 42% of respondents said they would leave a website that has poor functionality. This not only proves the necessity of having a website but also of having a well-designed website. This is where web designers come in.
A good web designer is invaluable to businesses both big and small as they can help create a website that will properly present the company to the intended audience. If you are interested in pursuing a career in web design, read on to find out how to become a successful web designer in 2023.
A web designer’s job involves building and designing websites. It goes without saying that technical skills are essential for a web designer, but creativity and critical thinking are necessary too. A web designer is responsible for making the website function properly while also being visually appealing which is precisely why all of these skills are needed for becoming a successful web designer.
Because you will first need to learn different technical skills (such as coding), you may think that becoming a web designer requires formal education. However, this is not always the case. Many web designers are self-taught and build their careers using their portfolios. In this regard, experience rather than education may be more important for you as a web designer.
Another aspect of web design is the focus on users. A well-designed website works properly, looks good, and serves the needs of those using it. This is why web designers will often have to work with customer service and analytics teams to better understand the perspective of the end users. If you know what users need, you can design a better website and provide a more engaging and positive user experience.
Web designers can progress in their careers fairly quickly if they are actively growing their client base and networking. In case you decide to branch out, you have the option to use your skills and experience for app design. In fact, a company can hire a developer or designer to create an app based on the website. You may even have to design a website first and an app based on it after that.
Salaries for web designers usually depend on experience and expertise, so your portfolio can be perfect for showcasing what you can do and why you should be paid well. If you decide to work on a project-by-project basis with different clients rather than working for a web design company as a full-time employee, your pay can depend on the size and complexity of the project.
There are two main roads to becoming a web designer. One is through formal education and the other is through self-studying. If you decide to take the first route, then a Bachelor’s degree in Web Design or a related field will likely be enough to get you your first job. Some web designers only have high-school diplomas or Associate’s degrees while others go on to pursue a Master’s degree.
But if you decide to take the second route, then you will first need to learn web design theory. You can start learning that either during high school or once you graduate. Alternatively, if you are pursuing an undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate degree in another field or working in a different job already, then you can start learning web design theory as soon as you wish.
There are many resources (both free and paid) available online that you can make use of. As long as you have a schedule to keep you on track, you can master theory at a fairly brisk pace. Here are some online courses you can try for learning web design theory:
In addition to taking courses, you can also check out some of these web design books:
Though some of these books were written and published in the 2000s, they are considered some of the best works in the field and have been used by many beginner web designers over the years. They provide the foundational knowledge in web design theory that every professional should possess to be able to do their job well and build their expertise.
As you learn web design theory, you will need to start developing specific technical skills. These hard skills are essential for your job as a web designer because you simply can’t build a website without them. You’ve probably heard of platforms like Wix or Squarespace that offer drag-and-drop website builders, but these are provided for people who don’t know coding and want to create a website of their own.
As a web designer, you will be creating websites from scratch, so using such platforms is not an option for you. Some of the essential technical skills you need to develop include:
A lot of web designers have a good theoretical knowledge foundation as well as a good level of proficiency in all the skills listed above. However, not many delve into seemingly unrelated niches that are nevertheless quite relevant for high-quality web design. More specifically, learning search engine optimization or SEO will be useful for you as a web designer.
But why exactly is it so valuable for web designers to learn how SEO works? You won’t be creating content for the website, so your knowledge of keyword research and usage won’t be needed, right? Well, not exactly. The reality is that SEO involves a very wide variety of practices that are used together to make the website have higher search rankings as a result. As a web designer, you are in control of some of these practices.
For instance, a well-designed website is one that has intuitive navigation. When it is easy to browse the website and each page links to other relevant pages, users tend to remain on the website longer and get a more positive overall experience. Longer average session time positively affects search rankings while a good experience encourages users to keep coming back to the website.
As a web designer, you are also responsible for optimizing the website for mobile devices which is also a part of SEO. Using lightweight visual elements on the website will improve its loading speed while using keywords for action buttons or links could also contribute to the website’s search engine optimization. In other words, there are quite a few things you can do with your knowledge of SEO as a web designer.
As mentioned earlier, there are specific tools you will need to learn how to use because they will be crucial for your web design work. You can find free and paid online resources for learning them, so you can definitely master them on your own if you decide to do so. Here are the most important tools for web designers:
In addition to mastering a variety of coding, web design, and graphic design tools, you may also want to learn how to use additional tools that will help you during your work process, including:
While practicing your technical skills and mastering different tools is essential for being a successful web designer, you will also need to learn or develop a number of soft skills. These are necessary for you as a professional and as someone who works in web design. Here are some valuable soft skills you will need:
Speaking of testing, doing it regularly will be a good habit for you as a web designer. When you make sure to test your creation continuously, you can find bugs and errors that you may have overlooked otherwise. Other habits you should aim to develop as a web designer include:
Once you enter the field of web design and start working, you will want to stay connected within your industry. If you work for a web design company, you will already have your co-workers to discuss everything web design-related with. But if you become a freelance web designer, you will likely also need to put in the extra effort and go to industry events, join online communities and forums, and find other ways to network.
In addition to all of this, you will also need to keep up with the industry news. Some of these may be specific to web design while others could be in fields related to it such as app and software development, graphic design, search engine optimization, e-commerce, customer service and management, and so on. In other words, it’s worth diversifying the kinds of news you follow because they could be relevant to your work.
But how do you do this? How do you make sure that you don’t miss anything important? Well, there are different methods you can use:
Because web designers are involved in creative work, they need portfolios to show off their creativity. While your degree can prove that you have the technical knowledge required to design websites, your portfolio can demonstrate that you are able to take artistic leadership in any given project as well. And if you are self-taught, a portfolio will help you prove both your technical and creative skills.
The main problem with having a portfolio is that it requires you to have experience with different projects in the first place. But if you are just starting out, you don’t have any projects you could add to your portfolio simply because you haven’t worked anywhere yet. To put together a portfolio at the beginning of your career, create some samples of the kind of work you imagine yourself doing in the future.
An interesting idea would be to look at existing websites and create prototypes of similar websites that you could then add to your portfolio (e.g. an online store, a one-page website for a local café, etc.) And once you start getting your first gigs, you will then be able to add actual works to your portfolio.
Last but not least, you may be wondering how you can find your first job as a web designer with a limited portfolio and no connections. You can start by applying to job listings on online job boards, but there are also some other things you can do:
All in all, to become a successful web designer, you will first need to learn a variety of hard and soft skills and maybe even receive formal education. As you get more practice and grow your portfolio, you will start getting better jobs that pay well. Eventually, you can start earning a very good salary and continue ascending the career ladder.