Web design has come a long way from the early days of the internet. While the first Websites were text-heavy, today's designs feature expansive photographs, videos and interactive elements. Advances in technology have made improvements possible, but it's up to Web designers to put together pages that are engaging and informative. They do that by incorporating the following tasks into their work:
- Meeting with clients or supervisors to discuss Website goals, style and content.
- Writing code to incorporate desired design elements.
- Coordinating with graphic designers, content writers and other project team members.
- Integrating audio, video and graphics into a Website design.
- Monitoring a Website's performance and making changes as needed.
Web Design Specializations
Web design programs teach students a range of skills related to design and development, but some professionals prefer to specialize their services. In particular, they may work as one of the following:
- Front-end Web developers have the job many people most associate with Web design. They are responsible for the look and feel of a Website. They may create the layout, insert graphics and integrate tools, such as shopping carts, that are used by site visitors.
- Back-end Web developers work behind the scenes. They create the technical framework that supports a Website's elements and ensures the page is stable and secure.
- Webmasters are in charge of a site once it has been designed and launched. They keep a Website updated, fix broken links and monitor for security issues or other problems.
How to Become a Web Designer
Some Web design professionals are self-taught, but it may be easier to attend a Web design school. In general, you can expect to take the following steps to become a Web designer:
- Earn a high school diploma or GED.
- Complete a postsecondary education program. A Web design associate degree is the most common level of education found in the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, Web designers may have anything from a short-term certificate to a four-year bachelor's degree.
- Earn a certification. Not all employers require certification, but earning a professional credential can demonstrate you have expertise in a Web design, development or coding specialty.
- Keep your skills updated. Technology is constantly evolving, and you'll want to stay current with industry trends to remain competitive in the job market.
As you prepare to become a Web designer, you may take classes in these topics:
- HTML programming
- Computer science
- Graphic design
- Programming languages
Web Design Certificates and Degrees
The level of education you pursue may depend upon the type of design and development work you plan to do. Many of the best Web design schools offer the following:
- Certificate: A certificate in Web design may be completed in as little as one semester. The curriculum generally covers an introduction to fundamentals such as visual design and responsive Web design. Some schools may also prepare students for professional certifications from tech companies such as Adobe. There are a number of online Web design certificate programs available, making it possible to complete your education at home.
- Associate Degree: A Web design associate degree is the standard level of education for many professionals in the field. It takes an average of two years to earn this degree although some Web design schools may offer accelerated programs. Degree programs delve into more advanced topics such as Web architecture and networking. As with certificates, you can find a number of online Web design associate degrees.
- Bachelor's Degree: Most Web design jobs don't require a four-year degree. However, you may want to consider this level of education if you would like to do more complex back-end work.
Web Design Schools
You have plenty of options when it comes to selecting a school. Web design programs are offered by community colleges, technical schools and private and public colleges and universities. You can even attend Web design school online. Distance learners often follow the same curriculum as on-campus students but use digital tools such as multi-media presentations, e-textbooks and discussion boards to study and interact with classmates and instructors.
Web Design Certification
Employers or clients may be looking for Web designers and developers who have experience with a particular software application or programming language. Professionals can demonstrate their expertise in these areas by earning a voluntary certification. These credentialing programs are offered by both manufacturers and industry organizations.
Here are some examples of available certifications:
- Certified Professional Web Designer
- Adobe Certified Expert
- CIW Web Design Professional
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate
- AWS Certified Developer
- Zend Certified PHP Engineer
Each certification program has its own eligibility requirements. Many require designers to take an exam and pay a fee. Some may only be available to those with a specific level of prior experience.
Career Advancement in Web Design
Everyone's career path is different. Some Web designers may start out as Webmasters or front-end developers before moving to back-end work. Others may go back to school to earn a bachelor's degree and become project managers.
Skills and Qualities for Web Designers
Successful Web designers and developers need to have the following skills and abilities, many of which are taught at the best Web design schools.
- Programming: Websites have to be properly programmed to run correctly, and a good Web designer will have knowledge of popular programming languages.
- Operations Analysis: Web designers must be able to determine what programming and tools are needed to make a Website look and run as intended.
- Systems Evaluation: Once a Website prototype has been created, it needs to be evaluated by the designer and developer so improvements can be made.
- Fluency of Ideas: Fluency of ideas refers to a designer's ability to present multiple, unique design layouts for a client or manager's consideration.
- Problem Sensitivity: As a Website is being designed, the designer and developer need to be able to anticipate any potential problems that could occur.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Web Designers
Tech professionals have specialized skills that can command higher than average incomes. You'll find Web designer salary data below but keep in mind that wages can vary significantly. Back-end developers, for instance, may command more money because their work tends to be more complex. Job opportunities for Web designers and developers can also depend on various factors. Those with certain professional certifications may be more in demand than those who don't have credentials.
Projected Job Growth
Professional Resources for Web Designers
Your education doesn't end after you graduate from Web design school. Technology moves fast, and you'll want to stay on top of design trends, programming languages and industry news. The following three organizations can help you do just that.
- WebProfessionals.org - Also known as the World Association of Webmasters, WebProfessionals.org has been advocating for Web designers since 1997. It offers professional certification, a jobs board and networking resources among other things.
- American Webmasters Association - Founded in 2003, AWA promotes excellence in Web design and management and offers a number of educational resources on its Website.
- International Web Association - This global group has more than 300,000 members located in 106 countries. It was founded in 1996 and was first to create ethical standards for Web professionals.