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How to Become a Web Designer in 2021: A Beginners Guide
These days, every business has an online presence: from your local florist and bakery to your favourite barbers and hairdressers.
With more business owners looking to start an online store to grow their company, the demand for web designers is increasing each and every day.
If you want to help businesses improve their online presence but you don't know where to begin, we're here to help you understand the basics of web design.
In this comprehensive guide, we have included the top tips, tricks and skills that every web designer should know and have in 2021. As there is so much information on the internet on how to become a web designer, we have collected only the best advice on how to become a successful and in-demand designer.
But before we get to the good stuff, let's quickly make sure you understand what a web designer is and what they are responsible for.
10 Steps to Becoming a Successful Web Designer in 2021:
- What Is a Web Designer?
- What Is a Web Designer Responsible For?
- How Do You Become a Web Designer?
- Is Web Design a Good Career Choice in 2021?
- What Are the Cons of Becoming a Web Designer?
- How Much Does a Web Designer Earn in Australia?
- Top 6 Web Designer Tools and Skills You Must Have in 2021
- Top 3 Tools and Skills Every Freelance Web Designer Should Have
- Next Steps to Becoming a Web Designer
- Final Thoughts: Never Stop Learning
What Is a Web Designer?
As the name implies, a web designer is responsible for the overall design of a website (or pages of a site), including the layout, appearance and usability. While designing a website may sound like a simple process on paper, in reality, there's a lot that goes into making a site that you may not even be aware of.
When beginning a new project, every web designer must ask themselves the following five crucial questions:
- ☑️ Who is the target audience for the website?
- ☑️ What attracts the target audience?
- ☑️ What will the overall website (or pages) look like?
- ☑️ How will the website reflect the client's brand identity(Take a look at our Color Scheme Guide)?
- ☑️ What are the client's business goals and how can I help the client reach them?
What Is a Web Designer Responsible For?
A web designer is responsible for a wide range of things including the layout, fonts, colours, buttons and icons on a site. Although many people believe that a web designer is only responsible for making a website look aesthetically pleasing, web designers are also in charge of the functionality and usability of a site.
As this is the case, web designers require both creative, technical and critical thinking in order to succeed in their career and become an in-demand web designer.
Here are just some of the things web designers are responsible for:
- Designing an entire website or individual pages of a site.
- Creating website mockups.
- Coding parts of a website using basic coding languages such as HTML and CSS.
- Managing projects and clients.
It must be noted that the responsibilities of a web designer will change depending on whether they are a freelance web designer or an employee working for a web design agency.
As with any freelance worker, freelance web designers are responsible for the overall success of their business and often have the freedom of choosing the projects they work on.
On the other hand, web designers working for an agency don't have to think about running their own business, though they generally have less freedom when choosing what projects to work on.
Is Web Design a Good Career Choice in 2021?
The great thing about web design is that compared with other creative careers in the design field, it's still fairly new and evolving every single day.
As time goes by, more and more businesses depend on the internet for their survival, forcing people to rely on the web for shopping, entertainment and online socialising.
As a result, the demand for skilled web designers is on the rise, so if you're wondering whether or not it's worth becoming a web designer in 2021, the answer is a big fat yes!
You Don't Need a Degree to Become a Web Designer: Web Design Certifications
While having a college degree will likely land you an interview faster than if you didn't have one, in many cases, you don't require a formal degree to become a successful web designer.
Instead, you can learn web design yourself by taking advantage of the range of free online courses available for web designers. If you don't know what to look for, we have listed below the top web design courses and certifications to increase your chances of becoming a web designer in 2021.
What Are the Cons of Becoming a Web Designer?
With more people learning how to build and design sites each and every day, becoming a web designer can seem like an almost impossible task. Though we did mention that web design is still fairly recent, it's a competitive and crowded market, meaning it's fairly hard to stand out from the crowd as a designer.
If you want to make it as a web designer, you'll have to keep up to date with the latest web design trends, pick up new skills and learn new tools on a regular basis. While that may sound overwhelming, don’t be alarmed; in this guide, we will explain everything you need to know about becoming a web designer in 2021.
How Much Does a Web Designer Earn in Australia?
Successful web designers in Australia can make anywhere from AU$42,000 to a whopping AU$90,000 per year depending on their skills, education, years of experience and where they are located.
Although most newbies will most likely make less than AU$40,000 per year, there’s nothing stopping you from earning more if you manage to learn the relevant skills and tools necessary to becoming an in-demand web designer.
How Do You Become a Web Designer?
While it may sound like fun and games, pursuing a career in web design isn’t something that can be done overnight. Web design takes dedication and extensive knowledge of design, programming and online technical skills that many upcoming web designers may be unaware of.
When faced with a problem, a successful web designer will understand how to quickly solve the issue in order to meet client deadlines in a timely manner.
For this exact reason, time management and project management skills are essential, regardless of whether you decide to become a freelance worker or an employee working for an agency.
The thing is, even if you graduated with a degree in web design, you won't automatically become a well-known web designer who is in high demand. To become an in-demand web designer, you will have to master your web design skills and learn the most recent design tools to build your business or career.
Top 6 Web Designer Tools and Skills You Must Have in 2021
If you don't know where to begin as a web designer, we have you covered; in this section of the guide, we have listed the top web designer tools you must know and skills you must have to become successful in 2021 and beyond.
Web Design Theory and Visual Design
The first and most important thing that you must learn as a web designer are the principles of web design theory and visual design.
Sites designed by professional web designers typically follow User Experience (UX) design rules to increase traffic and conversions, including colour theory, layout and typography.
As you would expect, a well-designed website will make users want to stay on the site for long periods and will often make them want to come back for more.
If you want to start learning how to become a web designer, here are some web design theory principles and visual design principles that every web designer should know:
- Visual Hierarchy: Arranging or presenting elements to show their importance.
- Principles of Visual Hierarchy: F-Patterns, Z-Patterns, Space, Texture, Direction, Colour, Tint...
- The Golden Ratio: A mathematical ratio (equal to 1.618) used in design theory
- Colour Theory: A set of guidelines and rules used by designers to understand what colours work together
- Responsive Design: An approach that changes the size and appearance of a site depending on the device
- Layout: The framework or pattern of text, images and graphics on a website.
- Typography: The technique of arranging type to make text readable and appealing to the user. Typography deals with typefaces, type size, line lengths, letter-spacing and line-spacing.
User Experience Design
Think about every great website you visited in the last few months and reflect on what made you want to revisit the site. While you may initially think about the products, services or the overall design of the website, in reality, functionality is one of the main reasons you keep going back for more.
User experience is something that every web designer must take into account when designing a website that gives users the best experience possible. If you don't know what this means, UX design is a term used to describe how visitors will feel as they navigate a website and how they experience the site.
To achieve this, web designers must research their users and create personas based on their target audience and their personal requirements.
Tool Suggestion: When it comes to user research, it's always a good idea to create and analyze heatmaps in order to improve your UX approach. If you've never heard of a heatmap in web design, they are essentially used to understand what your users do on the site by displaying what they pay attention to the most.
One tool we highly recommend is Hotjar: a tool that allows you to set up heatmaps by adding a tracking code to your site.
Even though web design and graphic design are two completely separate design fields, web designers will often need to understand the basics of graphic design in order to solve design problems and create stunning websites.
Web designers may also need to learn how to use Adobe Animate, though they will generally spend most of their time prototyping, resizing and cropping images to fit on the site, rather than animating.
Web Development: Learn How to Code
You're probably already aware that web developers are responsible for coding the entire site, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't at least know the basics of code.
If you're having trouble learning programming, you could certainly get away with using site builders like Squarespace and Wix, but your opportunities will be limited when looking for work. However, this route will increase your website development costs.
- HTML: Allows the designer or developer to create and structure pages on a site
- CSS: With an emphasis on style, CSS allows you to change the layout, fonts and colours on a site.
Best Online Coding Courses
If you're looking to learn code at home rather than in a classroom, there are plenty of free and affordable online courses that we have conveniently listed below.
Search Engine Optimisation: The Basics
If you want to land a high paying web design job, you'll have to be able to do much more than just design websites. After you learn the basics of code, you will need to learn how to structure your sites so that they are search engine friendly by studying SEO.
In a nutshell, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your site to increase traffic (visits) by improving the search visibility of either the entire site or individual pages on the site.
If you're unsure where to begin, check out Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO.
Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing
Considering web designers generally work with or alongside the marketing team in an agency, it only makes sense to learn the basics of digital marketing and social media marketing.
Even the most basic knowledge of digital marketing can be extremely valuable as it will help you generate more leads for your client or online business. Another way to attract potential clients is through social media marketing. This is especially important if you intend to promote your web design on social media.
Top 3 Tools and Skills Every Freelance Web Designer Should Have
No matter what type of freelance job you land, project management is a skill that every freelance worker should have. When starting a new web design project, you should always have a plan of what you intend to do in order to reduce stress and simplify your workflow.
To do this, you will also require time management skills to stay on top of your work schedule, allowing you to manage and meet client deadlines. If you're having trouble managing time, you can track your tasks and organise your projects using collaboration tools like Trello, or my personal favourite tool, Notion.
If you become a well-known freelance web designer with multiple clients, it is important that you know how to effectively manage them all at once.
If you want to make a decent living as a web designer, it is crucial that you make sure you meet the expectations of your client and communicate with them constantly.
When it comes to running your own business, communication is key, which is why we suggest using tools like Slack and Zoom to chat with clients in real-time.
Another thing that should always be on your mind when running your own business is finances. As a freelance web designer, you should always keep on top of your finances and make sure that your clients are paying for you either before or after you complete a project.
If you're having trouble, tools such as Freshbooks and Bonsai were created with freelancers in mind and will allow you to send invoices, get paid on time and organise your expenses all in one place.
Customer Relationship Management
Regardless of how many clients you have as a web designer, it is essential that you have access to a quality customer relationship management (CRM) system to maintain a healthy relationship with your customers.
By using a CRM system such as Zoho or HubSpot, you will be able to store customer information and track interactions to help you keep on top of your clients.
This is especially important if you want clients to view you as a web designer they can rely on.
Next Steps to Becoming a Web Designer
Now that you finally understand all of the relevant tools and skills you must have to become a web designer in 2021, you’re probably wondering what you should be doing next.
Although some people may jump straight into creating their own portfolio site after learning the basics of web design, others will benefit from joining communities, looking for inspiration or watching some YouTube tutorials to refine their skills.
In this section of the guide, we will be discussing the next steps to becoming a web designer so that you know exactly how to become successful and in-demand.
Join a Community
If you plan on flourishing as a web designer, we highly recommend joining a community where you can discuss web design in more detail with designers from around the world.
This way, you'll be able to speak about anything from the most common web design mistakes to the latest design trends in order to improve as a web designer. Some of our favourite web design communities and forums include:
- Reddit (r/web_design)
- Designer Hangout
- Coffee Cup
- Digital Point
Creative block is a feeling that most designers will face, and in many cases, it can become your greatest enemy. One of the main ways to overcome creative block is to look for ways to spark motivation and become inspired.
If you don’t know where to look for web design inspo, we highly recommend sites such as Dribbble, Behance and Awwwards. All of these sites can be used to look for anything from mobile site concepts to page designs from creators across the globe.
Watch Some YouTube Videos: Best YouTube Channels for Web Designers
If you're still struggling to find inspiration online and you want to learn from the pros, we highly recommend watching some YouTube videos made specifically for web designers and web developers alike.
Considering YouTube is full of content that can be both useful and admittedly useless, we have listed our top 5 favourite web designers on the platform to save you some time.
- Dev Ed: Learn web design, web development and 3D modelling.
- CharliMarieTV: Web and graphic designer from New Zealand with videos
- LivingWithPixels: Web design tutorials using WordPress and Adobe XD.
- Flux: Web design tutorials including information on freelancing.
- DesignCourse: Hundreds of courses covering web design and graphic design.
Create an Online Portfolio
The next and most important step to becoming a web designer is to create an online portfolio displaying your best work.
This way, you'll be able to prove your design skills to clients and employers looking for a web designer with your range of abilities.
If you currently don't have any examples of work real clients, we recommend creating your own website that shows off your level of expertise.
Site Design Tools:
Related: How to Customize WordPress
Pitch!: Market Yourself
Once your online portfolio is up and running, it’s time to pitch like crazy! When looking to market yourself, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and explain your skills, what makes you stand out from the crowd, and how you can solve client or company problems.
Before you aim big, it's best to begin pitching to businesses who need help in your local area. You can do this by simply searching for a site owned by a local business and evaluating what needs changing.
Once you find a potential client, find their contact details displayed on the site or Google and email them explaining how you could improve their site for the better.
Final Thoughts: Never Stop Learning
Web design is a competitive market that’s constantly evolving, and with more and more people looking to start a career in the industry, it is important that you never stop learning new skills and essential tools.
When it comes to web design trends, it should be noted that what’s currently trending may not be trending in the next few months or even the next few weeks.
On top of that, client demands are constantly changing, so if you wish to become a successful web designer, it is crucial that you keep up to date with the latest developments in the fast changing industry. While it may sound daunting, continuous learning keeps things fresh and is required for web designers in 2021 and beyond.
As you continue to keep up to date with the latest trends and learn new web design skills, we have no doubt that your future clients will be blown away by the sites you have created just for them.