Today, every business, product and venue needs to have a website to be searchable(identified as relevant to someone’s search query) and discoverable (found when someone searches specifically) to grow their business. (You’ll learn more about these terms as you delve deeper into the world of web design.)
When someone chooses where to eat, they ask Google. When someone is looking for a service, they ask Google. When someone needs an answer to a question, they ask Google. When someone wants to do a course, naturally they ask Google!
So, here’s the question of the day…
If Google can't find you, do you exist?
The short answer is... NO, if you're not online you don't exist in today's technologically driven world!
This is EXCELLENT news for you if you are considering a career in web design. Most people want someone else to do the technical work for them. They want YOU!
Becoming a web designer is not difficult, all you need is an artistic eye and a solid foundation in design principles. Throw in some technical know-how and you’re ready to rock the online world with your artistic brilliance.
Of course, you can become a self-taught, web designer through trial and error if you have lots of time on your hands. But if you take the time at the start of your learning to pack away the basics quickly with the SAE short course, for instance, you can drastically shorten your learning curve and focus your energy on becoming the best.
What is the difference between a Web Designer and a Web Developer?
A Web Designer focuses on what a website LOOKS like to its readers and the usability of the site. The designer is responsible for the colors, the layouts and the formatting of text. Preparing the graphics and constructing the page using HTML and CSS and pre-built java script. Some of the software they will use include Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver and WordPress. Graphic designers can make great web designers, because their skill set is transferable, however, web design is a little more technical than stand-alone graphic design.
IMAGE: An illustration of the web designer’s work (left) vs. the web developer’s work (right) Both are essential in creating aesthetically pleasing and equally functional websites that offer a positive ROI for clients.
A closer look at the web design process
Building a great website starts with understanding what the client wants and needs from the website e.g. is it informational; do they need lead generation; does he/she want to establish themselves as an authority in their industry; will it be a shopping site or will it primarily be a blog.
Once you know what the client wants you can start planning the hierarchy of the site, this is referred to as creating a wireframe. The wireframe is a visual representation of which tabs and subtabs are needed and helps inform the development team what functionality needs to be included. It also helps to visualize the user experience and ensure the content is placed logically on the site. A good rule of thumb is to always ask yourself the question ‘What is the next step I want the reader to take?’
Once the wireframes are ready and the user journey is mapped out, the web designer can start looking at the actual design – the colors, the graphics and the layouts.
Introduction to Core Design Principles:
When followed, these core design principles ensure a site is aesthetically pleasing to its visitors.
Balance: Using the correct proportion of light and dark colors across the site.
Contrast: Using contrasting sizes, textures and shapes to highlight or emphasis various sections on the site. For instance, the Opt-in box, will be put in a contrasting color in a prominent part of the page to encourage as many readers as possible to leave their email address for future communication. Essential for a lead generating site. Or an orange button to depict a buy button, much like Amazon.
Emphasis: It is important to emphasize key points or sections. This is like contrast, but can also refer to BOLD text or emphasizing a special offer for instance. The role of the web designer is to understand what the most crucial point is to emphasize and is guided by the first step in the process – What is the goal of the website.
Consistency: Throughout the website consistency is a critical element of web design, every page needs to have the same look and feel, needs to have the same navigation elements. Consistency is a subtle way to build trust with the site’s visitors.
Unity: Is how the web designer brings unity across all the design elements, to produce a visually engaging site that delivers on the client’s objectives.
Want to sharpen your design skills? Take a look at these 80 Creative challenges to help you hone the depth, breadth and speed of your design skills.
Exploring the tools of the trade for web design
Every website needs visual engagement to keep the visitor interested and engaged in the content, and moving along the customer journey with the intention of getting the visitor to act. That action might be to sign-up, to buy a product or service, or to request more information.
PROTIP Remember to always ask yourself: ‘What is the next step I want the reader to take?’
One of the most effective ways to grab the reader’s attention is with images and graphics.
1. Preparing Images for Web with Photoshop:
Photoshop is essential for creating stunning images, videos and graphics for your websites. For instance, you may need to enhance some photos a client has sent through, or you may need to resize them, the image might need to be cropped or a text overlay added. Photoshop helps you to quickly turn your ideas into incredible work with easy access to templates, tools and stock images. Photoshop is a great program to use, but it is complex to master. To get the most out of Photoshop it is recommended that whichever web design course you choose, make sure it includes training in Photoshop too. This will equip you with the skills you need to deliver the highest quality websites.
2. Describing web- pages with text using HTML:
HTML is a programming language used by website designers to create web pages, it is how they describe the web-pages using ordinary text in a way that a web browser can understand how the page should be displayed. For example, <p align=”center”> … </p> means center all the text that appears between < and >. In a nutshell, HTML is what makes a web page look pretty. Without HTML, the world wide web would not exist as we know it…and it most definitely wouldn’t be as enticing as it is.
When you first look at an HTML-coded page, it may seem a little daunting, but don’t worry, it is an easy programming language to learn. Platforms such as WordPress also give you the option to use their editor which looks like word. But be warned, if you don’t know how to use HTML, you’ll never be able to design more complex sites or fix any issues that occur. HTML is the most important programming language for any web designer to learn.
3. Controlling the style of the web pages using CSS
CSS means Cascading Style Sheets, as a web designer you will use CSS (a programming language for describing the presentation of Web pages) to control the overall colors, layouts and fonts of your pages. CSS allows you to make one change that deploys across all pages and devices in one action, instead of needing to make the change on each individual page. You can change the whole look and feel of the site, by changing one or two lines of code in the CSS files. CSS is easy to learn and essential to your toolkit.
5. SEO Basics
Every web designer worth their salt knows a bit about SEO, what it is, how to do it and how to drive web traffic to their clients’ websites using it. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and what it means is how easy is it for the search engines to find the site and establish its relevance to a particular search query. There is a lot of free training available on the internet and is one of the areas you can really develop to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
WordPress is one of the most used platforms and you will do well to know as much about how it works and what plugins are available to achieve your client’s goals. Although WordPress is the platform of choice for many businesses, it takes a fair bit of skill to set it up properly as each WordPress template is different.
Last thoughts on how to become an in-demand web designer and build a lucrative career…
Start Building a Portfolio – your own website or purposely built portal
The only way to really show 'You're open for business' is to showcase your work. Building your own website with links to other sites you have built. The best place to start is to offer to build sites for friends either free of charge or at a nominal fee. If people can't see what you can do, they won't hire you... but your friends or family are different, they'll be only too happy to help you out and in the process to get a shiny new website of their own.
PROTIP Done is better than perfect! You want to do your best, but if you get stuck in a loop of constantly tweaking your site and never launching, you’ll never build a business or make any money. Do your best, but remember, DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT! You can always make changes and improvements as you go.
Build your Network
The stronger your network, the more successful your web design business will be. Whether you follow the route of employee, freelancer or business owner, you need a strong network. Some of the most beneficial people you should actively build relationships with include: Web developers; Copywriters; Marketing Consultants; Marketing Agencies and Business/Executive Coaches. Together you are able to build a very symbiotic relationship, feeding business to each other. When a golden opportunity comes along, your network should immediately think of you.
Things are always changing in the online world, the best web designers are always learning, always growing their skill set. It's important to keep an eye on new trends - what looked good in 2008, looks dated now, and likewise what looks good now, will look dated in a mere 2 years. Keep learning, keep developing your skill set.
But the most important piece of advice... is to always be passionate about your work and it will shine through.
Web design gives you the most amazing opportunity to grow and develop. The only person standing in your way is YOU! So don't!
Keep learning, and developing your craft, choose a niche and always put 100% effort into your projects. Let your work speak for itself, but be confident enough to sell yourself too and take on new challenges. No-one becomes a master overnight... but everyone with the first step.
Now it's your turn to learn...
In only 36 hours learn our Web Design Short Course!
- 13 Sep 17
- SAE Creative Media
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