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How To Become A Web Designer

The role of the web designer
A web designer can take on various roles...

What is the job?

The role of the web designer, is to create the 'look and feel' of a website. What this actually involves can vary, depending on the size of team the designer is part of, or the type of company they are working for or where the designer is working alone or in a very small team. In smaller web design teams or when working as a freelance web designer, a web designer may need to take on additional roles such as programming and content writing, which are the work of the web developer and the content writer in larger web teams.

A web designer produces visuals of user interfaces, using software such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. They usually follow a design brief that may be given as verbal instructions, a written specification or 'wire-frame' diagrams.

The designer will normally produce a separate visual for each type of screen within the product, for example the home page, first-level and lower-level pages of the website. As a minimum, these visuals must show the sites' layout, colour scheme, typography and any images or other features. However, they usually also specify, either through annotations or additional visuals, how interface elements should respond to interaction by visitors to the website. For example, this might include specifying colour or style changes for links that are clicked or rolled over, or designing animated buttons or menus.

Web Designers must prepare designs in a way that allows them to be easily implemented by developers programmers. This means designs must be appropriate for their intended purpose and visuals must be provided in the right format and at the correct size and resolution. Sometimes the roles are combined, with the designer-developer or designer-programmer being responsible for implementing their own designs, especially where the entire interface is animated or where a HTML and CSS based web design approach is being used.

Web Designers may be employed in permanent positions within a company, or may work on a freelance basis. Among freelancers, there tends to be most demand for those who are both good designers and have good all round technical expertise.

Info About Web Designers
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Skills Needed:

If you want to become a web design the key skills that you will need include...

  • Good drawing and diagramming ability.
  • Knowledge of relevant design, image manipulation, and asset optimisation software.
  • Good interpersonal communication skills, especially when dealing with specialists in other disciplines.
  • Ability to manage time, prioritise tasks and work under pressure.
  • Knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.


Typical career routes

The job tends to be divided into various levels of seniority, based mostly on experience. As a general rule, the greater the seniority, the more responsibility the designer will have for the overall user experience, including the design of navigation, features and functionality. At junior levels, Designers tend to be tasked with only some aspects, typically the visual styling, of the interface.

There are no typical career routes, but many web designers come from a traditional design background, such as graphic, print or information design. Sometimes they combine this with experience or study in a more technical subject, such as computer science, engineering, mathematics or psychology. It is this combination of creative and technical disciplines that tends to set the best web designers apart and enables them to progress into more senior positions.

Essential knowledge and skills

Simply put a web designer must know how to create a website, but this of course involves multiple parameters and requires a range of skills. Web designers need creativity and artistic flair but also a certain amount of technical understanding. The nature of web design means that they must often design within many unknown or variable parameters, for example, the user's screen size, or the amount of content to be included on a web page.

The web designer must therefore be able to identify these factors and think laterally so as to produce flexible designs that work correctly in a range of circumstances. They need to understand usability issues, the principles of interaction design, and any user-interface standards that are relevant to the website.

Training and qualifications

Although there are now various specialist web design courses available, many web designers' qualifications are in more traditional art-related subjects. Architecture and product design are particularly useful backgrounds, as they tend to encourage the combinations of creative and technical thinking that web design requires, design in its broadest sense. Experience is generally valued most, however, and a good portfolio of web design work is essential.

*If you enjoyed this article you may also find our Web Design Process and How To Create a Website articles useful.