If you are curious about how to be a web designer, there are a few things you need to know. This post will shed some light on the difficulties that come with the job and offer some perspective on over whether becoming a web designer is the right profession for you to pursue.
What is a Web Designer?
A web designer is someone who posses both creative, technical, and code-based skills. Web designers have the ability to take all the functional aspects of a website and communicate them to the public through design.
Design, in this case, does not necessarily mean “pretty.” In web design, design refers more to usability, easy navigation and consistency. Aesthetic appeal is just a product of these things, and comes more naturally to a seasoned web designer.
How to Be a Web Designer, Not an Artist
Before we discuss how to be a web designer, it is important for web designers to realize they are not artists. Artists have their own style and vision. A good web designer adapts their “style” to the project in front of them, even if it means sacrificing their own preferences.
What I mean by this is, while both are considered creative professions, web designers aren’t just working for themselves. As a web designer, you usually work for others.
Listen to clients and discern what it is they want from their website. The tricky part is, they often don’t know how to tell you what they want.
Translating a client’s ambiguous description of a website is a skill you develop with experience and practice. Over time you will recognize the difference between what clients say vs. what they actually mean.
Essential Web Design Industry Skills
At the very least, a web designer should know HTML, CSS and basic design principles.
While there is a lot of debate over whether designers should know coding languages, knowing HTML and CSS will offer better design solutions. When you understand how a design is implemented, you are able to produce solutions reflective not only of aesthetic appeal, but also solid usability and efficiency.
Codeacademy is a free education platform available to anyone who wishes to learn code.
In addition to learning different coding languages, a web designer should, obviously, understand what good design is comprised of.
Every designer, regardless of their industry, should know basic design principles.
5 Basic Design Principles:
- Proximity – Proximity is a way to guide the viewer to specific parts of a message. Grouping related elements together makes a message clearer.
- Alignment & Spacing – These two elements can make an average design look polished, professional and complete.
- Consistency – Consistency plays a major role in usability. If a user learns from the home page that a link turns red when hovered over, that should remain a constant through the rest of the site so the user doesn’t have to learn it again.
- Contrast – Contrast makes certain elements stand out. It provides a tone through color and visual elements. That said, a color combination is only as strong as the readability it offers in text form.
- White Space – White space is your friend. Allow your design room to breath. Users will also be able to absorb the content better and recognize a clear message if it is broken into comprehensive chunks.
Take Advantage of Web Design Tools
There are multiple web design resources to take advantage of.
WordPress is a free content management system and offers access to an enormous community of developers and designers. You are in good company when you join WordPress.
Every web designer needs a form a design software in their arsenal to create design mock ups. My favorites are Sketch and Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Experience Design.
6 Resources for Web Designers
- Webdesigner Depot
- 10 Websites for Free High-Quality Images
- Google Material Design
Web Design Skills Essential for Success
While HTML, CSS and knowledge of basic design create a foundation for how to be a web designer, you need more than that to be a success.
Good communication is vital.
Good communication is the first step in creating a successful website design. Websites that are visually stunning but fail to communicate a clear message fall flat.
If you work in the web industry for very long at all, you will find the people in it to be notoriously introverted. This can often lend itself to blurry spoken communication, but what introverts tend to excel at is listening.
Know what questions need to be answered in order for you to create a successful website for someone. The questions are similar for every project, so this will become second nature the more projects you begin to do.
Good communication doesn’t end with the client. Once information is collected for a project, it is time to create a clear message and implement it into a website design.
Content: it’s what the people come to see.
Spend time developing content for your website projects. Understand the overall message and create the flow you want to represent to users.
Design should accommodate the content. All too often content accommodates design instead, and content ends up receiving very little attention as the last step of the web design process. Content is the number one thing you want viewers to pay attention to.
Speaking of content, typography is your friend. Use it wisely.
Typography is so powerful, yet, often overlooked as something small and insignificant. Typography influences tone, controls the flow and hierarchy of a message, and represents the attitude of the design.
It adds an additional layer of communication to design.
People underestimate the difficulty behind successful typographical decisions and combinations.
Let’s say you look at a clear, vibrant picture, but there is a big bold word on it. The eye tends to be drawn to the big bold word. This is because it is a form of language, that communicates a clear message.
It will take time to hone your typography skills. Below are a few resources to learn and develop an eye for typography.
Small details are what take a good website and make it great. Below are things to pay attention to in your design.
- Vertical rhythm refers to a repeated pattern of alignment and spacing. When the layout is balanced and consistent, it increases readability and harmony.
- Intentionality gives a design a leg to stand on. Good web designers have intention behind every design decision. Consequently, designs often display better design solutions and user experience.
- Learn ways to decrease loading time. Sometimes this gets overlooked and designs cause pages to load slowly, which causes reduced page views and frustration. Practice writing clean CSS and optimize images before using them in your web designs.
- All web design must be responsive. It is important that a design transitions seamlessly across all platforms.
Never Stop Learning
It’s a big mistake to ever think you know all you need to know. That’s a great way to become irrelevant.
It is important to constantly look at good design and have an open mind to new design trends. While many are often fleeting ideas, some become timeless.
Find inspiration from other designers and welcome feedback from everyone.
Saylor writes blog posts and designs/develops various projects for iThemes. Saylor loves gardening and is currently at war with all squirrels (if anyone has tips on how to get rid of squirrels, she’s all ears). If she’s not traveling or hanging out in OKC, there’s a good chance she’s in southwest Oklahoma doing manual labor, including roofing, or as her father likes to call it – “building character.”