If you’re thinking about becoming a web designer, it can be challenging to figure out whether you even have what it takes. Life offers so many options in terms of careers, so it is natural to worry about not making the right choice.
We’re not going to lie — becoming a web designer requires a lot of commitment and dedication. If you have an innate design sensibility and artistic skill, you’re halfway there, so we would definitely recommend giving it a shot.
But even if you’ve never been particularly artistic, there may yet be a future for you in web design; you’ll just need to work that little bit harder.
Technical prowess also plays a significant role in web design, so you’ll need both your creative and your technical side working in unison to build functional yet enjoyable web experiences. We have talked to our friends from a web design agency in Chicago to see what it takes to be a successful web designer.
What Does It Take to Be a Web Designer?
If you feel like you might have a future in web design, you probably want to know the skills you’ll need to learn. We have outlined the essential ones below. Take a look!
As we touched upon briefly in the intro, you will need design knowledge to have any hope of becoming a web designer. Web design is a subset of the larger sphere of visual design, a skill required for success in any design career. Graphic design teaches you the fundamental principles needed to become a good web designer.
These design principles determine not only the look but also the feel of a website. They are arguably the most important concepts for you to master as a web designer.
We won’t get into the details of visual design principles here, as it far outweighs the scope of this guide, but we will give you a brief outline of what they entail. Critical visual design concepts include things like:
- Color theory
- Grid systems
Learning the theory behind these concepts is obviously not going to cut it. To truly master visual design, you’ll need to “get your hands dirty” and experiment, building up your own style and portfolio.
User Experience Design
User experience (UX) is all about, you guessed it, the users’ experience of a website. UX design, therefore, requires thinking about your designs from a consumer perspective. It is about asking yourself how you can produce a website that helps the user get precisely what they’re looking for.
Before you can even begin to do this, you’ll need to know your users. This means you’ll need to do some research and create profiles of your would-be ideal audience members. You’ll create a site map and lay out the content and the pages accordingly, thinking about the path each user will have to take on your site for the best flow.
For example, if you’re creating a business website, you’ll likely want to funnel the users to the business’s contact information quickly and effortlessly.
You’ll also be thinking about the different screen sizes, and devices people will use to access the site and attempt to make the experience functional, if not stellar, regardless of the device in question.
In short, UX design involves a lot of prototyping, building wireframes and sketching out templates of the critical parts of a website, mainly focusing on the user interface.
Web Design and Graphic Design Software
No matter what you’re creating, you need the right tools to do your job right. This is just as true for web designers as it is for musicians or carpenters. Knowing your way around graphic and web design software will be critical.
Sure, nowadays, you can design a basic website in a web browser by using one of the many drag-and-drop website builders. Still, tools like Sketch, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop will be essential when designing various types of assets, such as images and logos, creating mockups, and enhancing and modifying photos.
At this point, you might be thinking, “OK, Photoshop I get, but why do I need to learn to code? I want to be a designer, not a programmer.”
We understand where you’re coming from, and if we’re perfectly honest, you don’t technically need to know how to code to be a web designer, but it would be hugely beneficial. You will need some technical skills, including at least a basic familiarity with HTML and CSS.
These two are technically not programming languages, although they may look that way from the outside. HTML is a markup language (that’s what the M stands for) and is used for providing structure and attributes to web content. CSS, on the other hand, is a style language whose purpose is to, well, style the content.
In simpler terms, HTML is how you turn a bunch of words into paragraphs, headlines, headers, footers, etc. It is also how you get browsers to “understand” where an image or video should show up on a website.
HTML’s best friend, CSS, tells the browser how to style and format the HTML-tagged text on a web page. It makes all the content “look good,” as it allows you to add backgrounds, change typefaces, adjust colors, and much, much more.
SEO and Digital Marketing
You could argue that these are not core web design skills, but having a clear understanding of search engine optimization and digital marketing will give you a leg up and allow you to wrap your head around the entire process of building, maintaining, and marketing a website.
We’re not saying you need to become an SEO specialist or a digital marketing expert, but having the basics of each of these skills in your arsenal will give you a massive boost towards making your potential clients happy.
How Can You Learn All These Skills?
Despite the way it might look at the moment, there’s nothing mind-blowing or particularly mysterious about the skills necessary to be a web designer. However, there is still the question of how and where to learn these skills.
You likely want to start with a bit of a foundation on the technology side of things. It will certainly help to have some soft skills, including time management and communication, as you will most likely not end up building entire websites on your own.
Aside from this, you can learn all the skills we mentioned here through various online courses designed to take you through the whole process in a matter of months or even weeks. If you’re looking for a fast track into your dream career, this is the way to go, and once you have the core skills, we recommend picking a niche that resonates with you and forging your path.
Ellie Northcott is a long-time marketer, currently working as a freelancer in Miami, Florida.
Editor at Digital Strategy One.
She is also a passionate writer and loves to explore new, innovative and digital news.
In her spare time, she is an eco-activist.