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Career Guide

How to Become a Web Designer

BrainStation’s Web Designer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in Web Design The guide provides an in-depth overview of the web design skills you should learn, the best training options, career paths in web design, how to become a Web Designer, and more.

How to Become a Web Designer
Ready to start your career in Design? Find out more about BrainStation's User Experience Design Bootcamp

To become a Web Designer, you must have both the technical prowess needed to make functional websites as well as the artistic ability and design sensibility to create an experience that users will love.

If you have both a creative and a technical side, the field of web design might be for you.

How to become a Web Designer in five steps:

  1. Learn web design theory
  2. Learn key web design tools
  3. Work on your own projects to develop your web design skills
  4. Develop a portfolio to showcase your web design work
  5. Apply to relevant web design jobs

1.Learn Web Design Theory

The first step to becoming a Web Designer is learning web design theory. There are foundational principles for creating good websites, including user experience, structure, and color theory.

There are many different ways to learn web design theory. One increasingly popular method is to attend a web design course or bootcamp (or a related UX design or web development bootcamp). Web design bootcamps are short, intensive and immersive educational programs that can take total newcomers to tech and design and turn them into job-ready Web Designers in around 12 weeks of full-time study (most bootcamps offer part-time courses too, but they will take longer to complete.)

There are also a huge number of interesting tutorials about web design theory available on YouTube. And, if you want to make sure web design is for you before committing to a longer course, you could enroll in free courses on platforms like Coursera or DesignContest.

Learning web design theory is different from studying other forms of theoretical learning because the field of web design is constantly changing. That’s why a good Web Designer will commit to continuous learning and upskilling.

2.Learn Key Web Design Tools

Before you can get up and running as a Web Designer, you’ll need to learn an array of web design tools. Over time, better and more powerful web design software and tools have been developed and released, and as a result Web Designers have never been in a better position to create beautiful and functional websites.

If you want to be a Web Designer, we recommend you learn the following tools:

WordPress

The longtime leader of all web design skills hasn’t lost any of its popularity. WordPress powers 27 percent of all the Internet’s websites, and owns a stunning 76 percent market share around the world in CMS. WordPress boasts over 1,000 built-in themes and plugins that will allow you to easily build, edit, customize, enhance and optimize websites.

InVision Studio

Even though WordPress is still overall most popular, InVision Studio is considered by many Web Designers to be the best overall tool for designing a website thanks to its array of features and rapid prototyping. With gestures and interactions like clicking, swiping and hovering, you can also create custom transitions and animation.

Photoshop

Web Designers need to be able to make eye-catching and creative images -- that’s why Photoshop is without a doubt the most crucial Adobe suite for Web Designers. Its limitless array of color options and different gradients give you everything you’ll need to put together dazzling patterns and prints.

Dreamweaver

Another part of the Adobe suite that Web Designers should get familiar with, Dreamweaver allows you to directly code your website design even if you’re not a programming pro. Ready-made design templates and other tools are especially helpful for newcomers who still want to put together an attractive, responsive design.

Sketch

Typically used mainly for user interface designs, Sketch is an essential tool for creating interfaces and prototyping. When you’re working with vector drawings and graphics, Sketch can make life a lot easier.

Google Web Designer

Google Web Designer will empower you to make compelling, visually stunning HTML5 content. To give your creative vision life, Google Web Designer allows you to use animation and interactive elements and integrates seamlessly with other Google products, including Google Ads and Google Drive.

3. Work on Your Own Projects to Develop Your Web Design Skills

Now that you’ve stocked your web design tool belt, you’re ready to begin building websites. As you go, you’ll likely pick up a lot of skills you might not have expected. Some of these are technical skills, or “hard” skills, like programming in HTML, CSS, or even JavaScript. The best way to sharpen these skills is just to get started – the more sites you build, the better you’ll be.

There are also a number of user experience design skills that are useful for Web Designers to consider. Web Designers program the screens that users interact with – and they can be far more successful with a good grasp of user-centered design and responsive design.

As you build sites, try to interact with them the way a user might. Where are the pain points or navigational issues? How could the site be improved? Now you’re in the mindset of a UX Designer, and that’s going to be key to designing really solid web products.

4.Develop a Portfolio to Showcase Your Web Design Work

An excellent portfolio that showcases your flair for web design is your best tool when applying for a job as a Web Designer.

It’s important that your portfolio is diverse. It should also be concise – only the designs you’re proudest of, and not padded with websites that don’t live up to the same standard. Still, you do need to show that you’ve designed different types of sites with drastically different esthetics. When you’re interviewing, customize your portfolio to showcase work that fits the company’s look and feel.

To have a good portfolio, you have to know what makes you special as a Web Designer. Choose work that emphasizes those strengths. Also, consider the presentation of the portfolio itself. Its UI and UX should both be perfect.

Finally, employers like to see how you put together these beautiful websites. Many Web Designers like to actually use text to show the thought process and the problem you were trying to solve with the project. This also shows that you know how to communicate – a great soft skill for a Web Designer to have.

5. Apply to Relevant Web Design Jobs

There are many roles within the web design field. Someone with web design skills and the right mix of education and experience could ultimately be qualified for any of the following jobs:

  • Web Designer
  • Front-End Developer
  • Front-End Designer
  • UX/UI Designer
  • Product Manager
  • Visual Designer
  • Interaction Designer
  • Mobile Developer

If you’re fresh out of a bootcamp or other educational program, you would probably look into entry-level jobs in these fields. However, if you have previous experience in tech – even if it wasn’t in web design – you actually might be qualified for higher-paying positions. And be sure to look beyond Silicon Valley: cities like Boston, Chicago, and New York are experiencing a scarcity of technical talent, so opportunity is everywhere.

You could also consider trying to get your resume and portfolio into the hands of a recruiter. If you did decide to attend a bootcamp, most offer career services like interview prep and resume/portfolio assistance, resources you should definitely take advantage of if you’re on the job hunt.

What Are Different Types of Web Designers?

There are three different types of Web Designers with three very different work arrangements: freelance Web Designers, agency Web Designers, and in-house Web Designers.

Freelance Web Designers

Freelance Web Designers are essentially self-employed, meaning they must balance both managing and marketing their business while actually completing the design work they’re being commissioned to create.

So you must consider whether the freedom of choosing your own projects is worth the time and effort required to run your business and find clients.

Agency Web Designers

Working for an agency gives you security and some certainty around your salary, but you then surrender most or even all control you used to have over which projects and clients to take on.

Firms might specialize in certain industries or niches, which may also affect how much you like working at one.

In-house Web Designers

In-house Web Designers usually would work on one website or a few websites for a company. In-house Web Designers might also be responsible for a specific feature or a specific section of a larger website – as one example, one might work exclusively on a company’s mobile offerings.

In-house Web Designers are the only type who don’t have to worry about pleasing clients, though of course their sites will have many stakeholders nevertheless. On the downside, they don’t get the same variety enjoyed by other types of designers.

How do I Become a Freelance Web Designer?

To become a freelance Web Designer, you must attain the necessary skills, put together a portfolio, and begin building your client base.

There are many perks of being a freelance Web Designer: creative control, a flexible schedule, and a salary that doesn’t have an upper limit. That said, it’s not easy: working as a freelancer requires discipline, dedication and hard work. But with the right training, a career in freelance Web Design can be reached quite quickly.

Many Web Designers have some kind of formal education in the field, whether it’s a college or university degree or diploma in fine arts or graphic design, or if they instead choose to attend a bootcamp or certificate course. Typically, that training will cover design theory, website design, responsive design, and user research, as well as the technical side of a Web Designer’s job, including the specific programs, tools and other competencies a modern Web Designer needs to thrive.

Some Web Designers choose to first work in-house for a company or at an agency and build up their portfolios and contact networks before giving self-employment a try. It does give you a leg up if you do have a few years to build clientele, improve your skills with design software, and put money aside to eventually launch your own business. By taking on side projects from those main jobs, they become freelance Web Designers almost gradually until they feel they have a significant enough client base to go off on their own.

It is never too early to begin business planning. Freelancers should have their own company websites that are responsive, esthetically pleasing, professional and free of code or copy errors. Think of the website existing both for marketing purposes and so that current clients can find how to contact you. Consider posting your resume and portfolio there as well.

If you’re just starting out, many Web Designers offer their services to volunteer groups or charities for free. During this time, it is unlikely that your first freelance jobs will provide a big payday. Build up a few years of experience and a reputation for quality and you can charge a lot more.

Are Web Designers in Demand?

As it’s become more and more clear that the design and useability of a company’s web offerings are absolutely crucial to its bottom line, the demand for talented Web Designers has continued to rise at a feverish pace across every industry.

As a result, there’s no shortage of jobs available for skilled Web Designers — according to the BLS, employment of Web Developers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster outpacing the five percent average for all jobs.

Web Designers who can code are in a separate class – especially if they also have a bit of knowledge around the back end. A Web Designer who knows his or her way around programming languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, and Python will really stand out from the pack and also command a much higher salary. That’s why many working Web Designers wind up attending web development bootcamps to round out their skill sets.

UX (User Experience) skills are also extremely valuable for a Web Designer to acquire. Mastering UX design fundamentals, design research and strategy, responsive design, user research, UI design, and how to provide visualizations would make you the total package as a Web Designer and a very valuable addition to any company.

What is the Salary for a Web Designer?

The average salary for a Web Designer is $50,632 plus around $5,000 of other bonuses and perks, according to PayScale.

That number rises with experience. The average Senior Web Designer takes home $71,201 plus nearly $10,000 in bonuses, and salaries range up to $100,000.

How do I Become a Web Designer with no Experience?

FIrst off, yes, you can become a Web Designer without any previous work experience. Our Digital Skills Survey found that only 54 percent of Web Designers began their careers in the design field. So while experience or education in a design-related field is certainly an excellent step toward becoming a Web Designer, it isn’t an absolute necessity.

Some Web Designers come from completely different industries. Some might build a website on WordPress or with Dreamweaver as a hobby or for a side business and discover that they have an appreciation for the work.

There are also many transferable skills that you might not realize will help you as a Web Designer. Empathy, for example, is critical to understanding how the users of your product or service think and act in a given situation. Collaboration, too, is key in many roles, but especially for Web Designers. The job requires interaction with various teams, actively listening, accepting feedback, brainstorming, and more. All require a positive personality and a willingness to work well in a team setting.

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