The Path to Becoming a Good Web Designer

web designer
Web |   May 20, 2022 by  Alekh Verma

What is design?

“It is about creating solutions for people, physical items or more abstract systems to address a need or a problem”, says Strate School of Design.

AIGA, the Professional Association for Design, writes:

“Designers distinguish businesses from their competitors in the marketplace through innovative approaches to branding.”

Designers solve problems. Just like engineers do, just like businessmen do. And to solve a problem you have to develop a skillset to properly identify it, to study it and to apply it. Our focus is mostly on Web Designers, but a big portion of the tips below would apply to almost any form of the term.

Let’s break it down in a potential timeline, from the first steps to later stages in your career and a few potential branches along the way.

Your First Web Designs

We all start somewhere. All the great designers have probably been worse than you at some point of their lives. It’s all a path one must walk and it’s still ahead of us. Some signs that this would be a good job for you would be the following:

  • You really want to create something with your hands.
  • You often observe and admire art, forms, shapes and colours.
  • You like to solve problems.
  • You can feel empathy for others.

If none fit, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a designer, it just means that there would be more to change and might take a bit longer to get where you envision compared to others.

How to Become a Good Web Designer?

At the start, a good way to approach things is to copy. Sounds counterintuitive but it is a good method to notice things that would otherwise be hidden from the untrained eye. Find a design you like, any website, any shot from sites like Dribbble.

Take a good look at it and then close the view. Open your program of choice and start working. Try to go by memory most of the time, give it an occasional look to remind yourself. By copying, the idea is to recreate what you’ve seen as close as you can.

What this teaches you is:

  • To observe details. Fonts, colours, spacings, elements, shadows, shapes. All the little elements.
  • To apply fundamentals. You can’t remember all the spacings by pixels from looking at it, so you have to apply design fundamentals to “get it right” on your own. Often, it would be the same as the designer of the original.
  • To have more put to practice. That way you won’t end up blocked by the lack of ideas.
  • You aren’t overwhelmed by all other decisions a designer has to make.

All is great above except for fundamentals. At the very start, most likely you are lacking that knowledge. But don’t worry! There is time for everything. As soon as something piques your interest, google it. The best way to remember and understand is when you practice it. Then apply it. Way better than simply reading a book. That has its benefits, but we’ll talk about that for another time.

This process can continue for a long time. At least until you feel comfortable in recreating. It can continue throughout other steps of the journey too! You can just pick more complex designs and graphics and focus on other points that you haven’t seen before.

Learn the Design Fundamentals

We’ve mentioned fundamentals a few times now. Let’s give them a whole section as it’s as important as it sounds. Design fundamentals, art fundamentals, they all intertwine. You have to have a solid understanding, in order to put them into practice. This is where a book would help as it can guide you through the basics and then build on top in a structured way.

There are plenty of books to read, plenty of lists rating them from good to bad, but most likely you won’t get it wrong to check out some of the following:

  • Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design
  • Visual Grammar (Design Briefs)
  • Design Elements, Colour Fundamentals: A Graphic Style Manual for Understanding How Colour Affects Design

What are fundamentals though? It’s about balance, white space, typography properties, colours and everything that defines some sort of rules and best practices to achieve a good visual result. Proper contrast, proper space for content to breathe, good colour combinations to build a strong brand are just a few of the topics to learn.

When you’ve copied designs from the previous steps, you didn’t have to pick colours on your own too much, the colour palette was already there, decided by the original author. At this point, you will have to pick a palette on your own.

Once you start to figure out some of the best practices and general rules, you will have a way easier time when replicating a design by just looking at it once. Don’t be fooled by the word “fundamentals” though. The topic is broad, there are countless books, millions of words written about it over the centuries. There is definitely enough to learn for a lifetime.

But design is more than just how we lay things out on a canvas. It’s about solving a problem, and that is the next step of the journey.

Design to Solve Problems

Painters often represent an emotion, idea or sometimes pure craftsmanship. Industrial designers focus on the form and function of an object. Web designers focus on information. It’s called the “information age” for a reason.

What tools do we have to present information to the people? We have typography, we have media (images, videos, icons), we have sound and we have interactivity. Combining all of them into one coherent product that is easily usable and nice on the eyes is the main purpose of a web designer.

When you build websites, you must consider the following top goals:

  • Strong visual presence. Follow proper brand guidelines, make the product recognizable, keep it consistent across the board. Often these guidelines are transferred to print as well.
  • This is the big User Experience field of design. How easy is it for people to use the site on all possible devices out there?
  • Visual appeal. As simple as we can put it – is it pretty? Of course, it will never be the same for all visitors, but there are common best practices that can ensure that most people can find it appealing. This is probably the first thing people think of when you say web design.
  • A sub-branch of usability. The idea is that every piece of information should be available to all people and devices.
  • Design to sell. A goal that requires a lot more reading and study. If you created two different designs for the same content (text), which of the two would sell a product better?
  • Business needs. To properly understand the business and represent it visually. It’s closely related to the visual presence point. As a designer you will also often have to make compromises due to budgeting.
  • Technical compatibility. As much as we would’ve loved to, we can’t design anything and expect it to work. While the technical progress allows us to do almost anything, the budget of a project and people involved might not. And as designers, we have to acknowledge that.

By now, you should have levelled up a lot and started producing visuals that would fit most websites perfectly. And you should have the skills to land a proper job.

During your professional life, you will both read a lot and learn through practice the above points. The first designs and fundamentals chapters of the journey most often start at home as a hobby. And it could take months, but they would help you build up a portfolio.

Most likely, solving problems would be a yearlong quest in which you will keep mastering various forms of design one by one. Work with a team, understand the technology, solve business problems, build brands and design to better sell the products or information.

Web Designers: which skills should you hone?

Web designers need to be equipped with comprehensive foundational skills to be able to deliver visually appealing websites. Web designers are required to create user personas, layout pages and content using a site map and figure out the path users take on your site in user flows. You need to understand what users are looking in your website and ensure you build wireframes to sketch out the critical parts of the webpage. To achieve this, there are skills needed, and web designers should work to be proficient in them.

Visual design

Visual design focus on digital products that determine how a website looks and feels. The design principles ranging from typography, web fonts and colour palettes applied also play a role.

Using Design software

Every web designer needs to know how to use the right tool in their work. They need to be familiar with the different design software such as Adobe Photoshop, Sketch and Illustrator. Having skills in the design software will help you design a site that meets the industry standard and satisfy the needs of the user. They assist in helping you create mockups, design logos and images and modify images. Some design directly in a web browser but being able to use these tools helps you to be miles ahead in the quality of your design.

HTML

A web designer is also supposed to know how to code. He must be proficient with HyperText Markup Language to be able to put content on a web page and give it a structure. As a web designer, you should be able to put headlines, footers, paragraphs and graphics in a website. Therefore, having skills in HTML will go a long way in helping you complete your projects.

CSS

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is the code that informs browsers how to style or format HTML for a web page. CSS enhances the look of the website and help you adjust colours, change fonts and background of the web page. It enables you to implement the creativity you have into the site you are designing.

JavaScript

Although web designers should not be pros in programming languages like JavaScript, being able to use such a program can help you create an interactive site. It also gives you a huge leg up against the competition. With a programming language like JavaScript, you can create a website that has very many unique features.

Soft Skills for web designers

In a developer career, web designers need the following soft skills to excel in their work.

Time management skills

Web developers are required to have excellent time management skills and be able to meet deadlines. Web designers work in a fast-paced environment, and they need to schedule their work well to meet the objectives of their clients. Besides, having excellent time management skills enables you to stay on top of your schedule and complete your projects on time. You also need to have a production schedule and have tools that help you in prioritising and tracking your work to succeed.

Communication skills

Being able to communicate clearly and get in touch with others is essential. You should be able to keep others updated on the progress of what is ongoing and clarify any issues that may arise. Communicating helps you to convey any information, whether technical or not in a way that is easily understood. Being able to communicate helps your design to be recognised by other team members who are a significant boost to your work.

Problem-solving skills

Web designers should possess functional problem-solving skills to enable them to create flawless sites.

Teamwork and research skills

Web designers work collaboratively as a team to accomplish their tasks. Web designers looking to advance in the developer career should be able to work in a team to complete projects successfully. They should also be skilled in carrying out research and coming up with useful findings.

Attention to detail

Web designers should have a keen eye on details and be able to offer solutions to clients’ challenges.

Also, a career in web design requires you to be skilled in technical expertise such as

  • Programming
  • Digital marketing
  • Graphics and design
  • Coding and Scripting
  • Multimedia production
  • Web application
  • User experience design
  • Basic designing tools

As a designer, you need to be conversant with necessary tools such as Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop to help you navigate through the designing canvas.

UX/UI and visual design

To be a good web designer, you need to master the craft of enhancing user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). You need to learn how to use colour psychology, grid systems, and web fonts to design websites that are visually appealing, and which are responsive to all kinds of devices.

Web server management

It is a critical web designer skill, and it helps you to solve problems effectively. Also, it helps you to understand web server functions.

What web designer careers are there?

There is a variety of careers in the web design industry, which include:

  • UX designer
  • Applications developer
  • Multimedia programmer
  • Web content manager
  • Multimedia specialist
  • SEO specialist
  • UX researcher
  • Web designer
  • Web developer

Teach Others

The time to give back. All the books written by other designers were written with this final point in mind. Once they’ve accumulated knowledge, formatted it in an easy-to-understand way, they’ve contributed to the community.

A common problem in almost any field – whether it be drawing, music, writing, designing, coding, or anything creative, is that people hit a plateau. A point where it’s hard to get better. There are still many masters above you in skill level, so there still is a way to go progress wise, but it feels like all you’ve read, you’ve already read.

One very good way to get out of it and push forward in your personal development is to teach others. Have new designers come to the team, help them learn, explain, show their mistakes, build a learning plan. Respond to both smart and naive questions in a way that motivates. Find challenges and let them challenge you.

This process of teaching requires that you dive even deeper into everything you’ve learned so far in order to present it in the best and most digestible way. Not everyone can become a teacher, a mentor, and if you are certain, it’s not for you, that is fine. But it’s always worthwhile to give it a try anyways!

In the End

As many have said, it’s not about reaching the end, it’s about the journey. And fortunately for us, there is plenty to discover, plenty to see and experience and a ton of problems to solve. The more you learn, the more you find.

Keep learning, keep designing. Advice for beginners would be to focus on practice. Design daily, read when you need to or when you need to solve problems. Or when you need to rest. For many advanced designers – advice would be to study more about the business, about the psychology of the users, read case studies and follow other great designers. Teach others!

About the author

Alekh Verma

A Search Engine Optimization specialist known for his bold and insightful approach to every web industry trend, Alekh Verma is a proud Founder and CEO of a successful Digital Marketing, Mobile App, and Web Development firm, eSearch Logix Technologies. His practical and inventive ideology has helped to shape the success story of his firm, which has now grown into a thriving, leading digital marketing company based in NCR, India. He brings a global perspective to the industry and has helped multitudes of businesses across the globe from all sectors create an impactful presence in the virtual world.


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web designers, Web designing agency, web designing services, web designing skills


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