Web Designer

What Is Web Design?

First things first… a website is a compilation of web pages that are accessed on the Internet.  It is what is seen on a computer screen when a user types in a web address, puts a query into a search engine or clicks on a link.  A website designer designs websites. The design aspect takes not only creative and artistic talent, but also entails making sure the site is easy to use and the information is easy to access for all users. 

The overall look of a website – colors, easy-to-read fonts, and layout are all important aspects of a website as these elements create the site’s personality. For example, a site that is designed with bright colors, large fun illustrations or pictures, and an oversized typeface may appeal to a younger audience, while a site with bold fonts and muted colors, like greys and blacks, may have a more corporate feel and appeal to professional businesses.  But, beyond the look of a site is how well the site functions and how easy or difficult it is for a user to find information quickly.  This is the behind-the-scenes aspect of website design, but it is just as important as the overall look, as they each work hand-in-hand to translate the client’s needs, as well as any visitors to the site. It’s the job of a website designer to understand what a client or business is expecting prior to creating the site and ensure their needs are met. 

A designer is innovative and artistic, but also understands how a website is to function. They stay up-to-date with design technology and software, and leverage their client’s communication requirements and brand identity, while keeping in mind the site’s audience.   Designers shape identities, organize information, and create unforgettable experiences that satisfy and fulfill a requisite, but also entertain and make a lasting impression.

What Does a Website Designer Do?

People who are not immediately involved in the world of website design or development often use the two terms interchangeably. While some people do choose a career that enables them to both design and develop a website, it’s more common to specialize in one of these two areas. A broad overview of the differences is that website designers create the artistic aspects of a website while developers write and troubleshoot the technical aspects. That said, most website design careers do incorporate some development work as well.

Website designers meet with clients, their superiors, or a creative team to create the look and feel of multiple pages on a website. They work with computer graphics software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to create these designs. Web designers may also use programs such as JavaScript to animate the graphics. People in this role are also expected to have experience working with a variety of media programs to add film clips or sound to a website.

The ultimate goal of web design is to create pages that grab the attention of website visitors to convert them into paying customers or provide specific information about a product, company, or organization. Websites can entertain, may contain “how to’s” or instructions, guidance, and support.  There are also social media websites and blogs that entertain and allow users to build a network of connections. While each page has a unique purpose, the overall website should have a uniform message and design. Website designers may provide written content to their clients as well. They may outsource this work to professional copywriters or simply edit and format the work provided to them by a client.

For web designers who specialize in a certain niche, researching and keeping up-to-date on the industry on an ongoing basis is critically important. They need to know the types of designs and multimedia that will be well-received by a website audience, as well as help their client rank high in search engine results. On occasion, clients also rely on web designers to update their company website with a fresh look. An outdated website will quickly lose visitors and ranking, something all parties definitely want to avoid.

Some web design professionals worked in graphic design before deciding to specialize in designing only websites. Creativity, technical ability, and professional communication skills are all necessary to succeed at this career. The ability to adapt to changing trends and work with strict deadlines is also essential. The ability to compromise and to not becoming too emotionally invested in using certain or personally preferred designs for the website are key elements to success in this creative and interesting career field.

What Are Education Requirements for Web Designer?

Employers and clients who hire web designers typically require they have at least earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science, communications or business. Students can also earn a BA in graphic arts, with a concentration in web design. Some schools allow students the additional option of a specialty certification within the field of website design. Website programming and Internet marketing are two prime examples of this. 

Both online and traditional colleges offer certificate and degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree level. Most colleges require applicants to submit a basic portfolio as part of the screening process. This could include drawings, photography, and anything else that highlights the student’s artistic abilities.

A typical bachelor’s degree program in web design requires students to complete core curriculum like math and English, as well as several courses in their intended major. Some of the specific coursework at this level may include:

  • Digital Image Design for Websites
  • Basic HTML
  • Web Writing
  • Computer Systems Introduction
  • Digital and Strategic Marketing
  • Online Retailing
  • Fundamentals of Networking
  • Cybersecurity
  • Internet and Website Architecture
  • Graphic Design
  • Drawing
  • Animation

Additionally, many employers prefer someone who has a professional portfolio that shows the design process in creating other websites, whether as a student, intern, part-time employee at another company, or as a volunteer. High school students who know they want to go into web design should take graphic arts and computer programming in addition to learning as many web design software programs as possible. 

Building an outstanding portfolio while still a student is a crucial component of success when trying to land an entry-level job as a website designer. When considering college degree programs, students should make sure that they have significant instruction in this area. A portfolio in web design is different than other majors because the bulk of the work will be online. After all, perspective employers and clients must be able to see that the applicant can produce quality work, and what better way to show off a web designer’s body of work than online.

Along with a link to one or more websites, the student portfolio should include in-depth descriptions of the sites along with the steps he or she used in creating the sites. Those looking to hire web designers need a way to evaluate the applicant’s problem-solving abilities and thought process in addition to the quality of their online work.

Along with a professional portfolio, satisfactory completion of an internship is essential to get noticed in this competitive field. Many colleges have counselors that can put students in touch with local companies that routinely work with interns. Others have career centers and online resources where students can gather the information they need to start applying for internship positions. Since most companies prefer to work with experienced website designers, students should plan to devote much time and effort into securing an internship or apprenticeship.

The benefits of completing an industry internship are numerous, even if the student does not receive financial compensation for his or her time. It gives would-be web designers the opportunity to receive personal coaching from someone who knows the realistic demands of the industry. Students learn artistic and technical skills as well as how to work effectively as part of a creative team. Colleges that require completion of an internship assign a certain number of credits to the off-site experience in addition to any stipend the student may receive. Students should also expect to prepare a written or oral report on what they learned from the experience.

Volunteering is yet another ideal way to gain valuable experience as a web designer. Large corporations may not have the time or the need to take on a volunteer, but non-profits and charities are normally receptive to it. Students looking to volunteer should contact a program administrator by phone or email with the offer and a few samples of his or her work. They should agree on the specifics of the project and how long it should take at the outset. The student also needs to make it clear that he or she would appreciate a professional reference in exchange for the free work.

Obtaining a post-graduate degree or completing a specialty certification are both popular ways to advance as a website designer. It takes most people two years of full-time study after earning their bachelor degree to complete the requirements for a master’s degree. At this level, courses are more in-depth, with emphasis on graphic design, flash animation, and sound, as well as the technical aspects of website development. Master-level courses may include online data structures and algorithms, software development, and human-computer interaction. Certificate programs concentrate on mastery of a specific area within the field, such as HTML or front-end web design.

Where Does a Website Designer Work?

Most web designers work full-time, with a high percentage of them being self-employed. Someone who works as a self-employed web designer advertises for their own clients and decides which projects they want to take on. They may have a dedicated home office or rent office space away from home. At a minimum, they need to invest in a computer with high-speed Internet access, several computer software programs, and a desk that provides a large enough work space to spread papers out for drawing and sketching designs.

Website designers who work for a company, non-profit, advertising agency, in the publishing sector, or any other industry that relies on a website typically work in an open-plan office environment. That means their desks are situated close to other members of their creative team. This allows for frequent and easy collaboration as well as the sharing of ideas and techniques. Whether working directly for clients or through an employer, those who pursue this career should expect to work overtime as business needs dictate.

What Is the Average Salary of a Web Designer?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS) does not have information specific to website design.  However, information for graphic designers shows an average annual wage of about $48,700 in 2017.  The average annual wage for website developers is about $65,000. This represents the average annual salary for designers and developers ranging from entry-level to those with several years of experience. It means that 50 percent of workers earn more than this and 50 percent earn less.  Of course, years’ experience, education, geographic location and industry all play a part in how much a web designer can expect to earn. Learn more about Graphic Design Careers.

What Is the Job Outlook of a Web Designer?

Web design and development as a whole is expected to see a 27 percent increase in demand from 2014 through at least 2022. This is nearly four times as high as the anticipated demand for all types of occupations combined. The biggest factor behind this growth is the increasing use of mobile devices and tablets. With more people accessing websites from their tablet or smartphone, website owners will require the assistance of professional designers to remain competitive.

Additionally, users of these devices expect to experience the same type of quality that they do with their laptop or standard computer. This is true whether they are pulling up their doctor’s website or just looking for something to entertain them. Companies with websites that are not mobile-friendly face fines from the search engines in addition to the loss of customers and revenue.

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