The job outlook for web developers is 27 percent growth by 2024. This is a faster growth rate than many other industries, and with less education required. Designers working for corporations typically earn around $30 per hour. Web design classes are a good place for beginners to start learning the basic elements of how to create a website.
However, there are many other elements to web design you’ll develop over time. You’ll learn some of these tricks on your own, but here are nine you can actively seek out that will help you do the best job possible.
1. You Need Coding Tools
When you’re studying web design in school, you’ll learn a lot about coding and user experience. While you do need to know coding skills to be successful at developing websites, over time, you’ll learn there are many tools that make your work easier and speed up the entire design process.
Notepad is the most common text editor, but it’s far from being your only option. For example, some of the text editors are intuitive and will complete common snippets of code for you, saving you time by having frequently used tags ready to go.
2. Color Is Part of Your Message
In design classes, they’ll teach you certain colors work best together. You’ll learn about using some contrast, which colors complement one another and so on. However, many site visitors have an emotional connection to specific colors.
As you learn more and more about design, you will begin to think through not only how colors work together, but the impact a specific color will have on your audience and whether or not that color sends the message you want it to send.
You’ll also learn to think outside the box when it comes to color. So what if red and green aren’t typically used together? Sometimes the exact right shade of each just works.
3. Speed Beats Everything
In design classes, the focus is often on the aesthetics of a site. Yes, that is important, but when it comes to user experience, speed matters greatly. No matter what type of device they are using, people care about how fast a page loads. For example, pages that loaded at 2.4 seconds or less had the highest mobile conversation rate.
Take a look at Amazon as an example. Amazon discovered if users had to wait just one more second for a page to load, their company would lose a huge $1.6 billion. It’s probably no surprise, then, that Amazon loads at blazing-fast speeds.
4. CTAs Matter
When you start designing for businesses, your focus tends to shift to the goals of business owners. For most websites, the goal is to convert site visitors into either mailing list subscribers or paying customers. This puts the focus on a prominent call to action (CTA) and what it can accomplish for the website owner.
Conversion rates can vary for CTAs in a navigation bar, but there are other elements that can make it more effective, such as using first-person phrasing. Take a look at Foster Fuels’ static bar CTA. Even though buttons and icons are more traditional for CTAs, the navigation bar placement catches the user’s eye and also allows the CTA to move with the audience throughout the site with minimal distraction.
5. Copywriting Skills Are Vital
Another thing you’ll learn as you begin to work on actual websites is that the content on the site makes a huge impact on how the visitor views the site and its reliability. You can design the most beautiful site in the world, but if it doesn’t have any content, visitors will just bounce away from it.
Take a look at Wild About Whales for an example of how to provide amazing content that meshes well with a design. This site has info on when and where to whale watch in the area, where to stay and even whale facts. The focus is on the content, and the design complements the content.
6. Creating User Personas
These days, UX design is an important part of the work web designers do. The user experience can impact how many people bookmark a site and things such as bounce rate. Fifty-two percent of people who had a bad mobile experience on a website said they weren’t likely to engage with the company.
Understanding the typical person who visits a website is important, and one way to do this is to develop user personas based on the site’s target audience.
7. You Need Coding Tools
Knowing how to design is just half of your design business. The other half is knowing how to listen to the client and figure out what he or she wants in the finished product you are developing. Good listening skills may sound like a simple thing, but that isn’t always the case.
Not only do you need to listen to the client and take notes, but repeat what you’ve heard. It’s also a smart idea to create a mockup of your design ideas. This will allow the client to look at your vision and make sure it matches his vision for the concept.
You can use wireframing to create mockups for your client, such as those offered by Moqups. You can make the prototype as simple or as complex as you’d like. Use simple shapes to show the client a layout idea, or use images to give the client a better idea of the concept.
8. Time-Management Abilities Matter
As a designer, you’ll likely be working with more than one client at a time, and all your projects will have different deadlines. You can also be certain that when you’re swamped with work, one of your regular clients will have an emergency job that requires immediate attention.
Learning basic time-management skills can help ensure you deliver to your clients and that you develop a reputation for being reliable. For example, you should have set hours that you work each day, or at least a number of hours you will work. You also should nip any procrastination habits before they develop into lifelong habits.
Use software that helps you manage your projects and your time effectively — such as Toodledo, which offers both free and paid options — so it can grow as your business does. With Toodledo, you can track projects, tasks and time. This can be particularly useful if you are billing by the hour.
9. Working With Image-Manipulation Software
There will be times when you need a specific image or set of images, but you can’t find anything in the royalty-free stock photos that will work. This is where your graphic design skills come into play. You may need to shoot a photo yourself to get what you need, or take an existing stock photo and manipulate it to fit your design.
If you haven’t already learned how to use Photoshop, those photo-editing skills will be an essential part of your tool kit. Don’t rule out other software, though, as each has its own features and abilities.
Part of being a good web designer is continuing to learn over the years and adding to your list of abilities. The designs that worked yesterday will feel dated today. Each year, different trends and tools emerge. It’s important to stay updated on your skills and to continue to develop even after you graduate from school.