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Thread: How to Develop a Career in Web Design

  1. #1
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    How to Develop a Career in Web Design

    Hi everyone,

    I am currently seeking an Associate in Web Design and Development at a community college. So far, I have taken C++, Intro to Essential Computer Concepts (which essentially deals with Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office applications), Visual Basic, and Web Site Development.

    The main reason I decided to pursue a career in web design, was because I love to design web pages. Writing is one of my favorite hobbies, and I have designed a variety of blogs, using Blogger, in order to practice my hobbies.

    So far, I find that I have struggled mightily with programming classes, although I have made A's in both of them. Part of the reason why I was able to succeed in both of them, might be because I have quite a bit of free time. On the other hand, the Web Site Development class, was for me much easier, and I also made an A in it.

    My objective for the current summer, is to develop the fundamentals of web design. I am practicing, and learning how to use WYSIWIG editors, like Adobe Dreamweaver CS6.

    The reason I am posting this thread is because I would like to know, what are some recommendations on how to achieve the following:

    - Have a sound and an excellent grasp of HTML5, and CSS.
    - What programs, softwares, and applications can be used to make web designing more efficient. I am thinking mostly of applications similar to Adobe Dreamweaver.
    - How to build up my own portfolio.
    - How to market myself as a web designer.

    I recognize that most web designers also work as web developers. Does anyone think that working solely as a web designer, is a viable way to support one's self?

    Also, how do I go about working as a freelance?

    Finally, can someone make a distinction between web design, and web development?

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  3. #2
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    Web design is the design of the pages themselves. The graphics, the HTML, the CSS, possibly the Javascript.
    Web development, on the other hand, is the server-side programming that may or may not go into the page that is displayed. Data retrieval and updating, e-commerce, and form interaction are examples of web development. AJAX can be as well, since there's usually a server-side page that the AJAX script interacts with.

    If you want an excellent grasp of HTML5 and CSS3, you will need to avoid WYSIWYG editors at any and all costs. WYSIWYG editors are notorious for producing bloated and inefficient code, and Dr*amw*av*r is among the worst of the bunch. Hand coding will generally be a better alternative, if you learn to do it well. CKEditor would be the lone exception, as their editor generates fairly clean code.

    The answer as far as software to make your life more efficient depends on you and how you operate. I personally find Microsoft Visual Web Developer Express the best tool for maximizing my efficiency, although it's not a very good PHP editor (fortunately, I do very little PHP work). Others prefer Notepad++ or some other text editor. For image editing, I like Photoshop, and others may prefer different tools. Again, this is up to you.

    As far as building your portfolio is concerned, you've got a few ways to go about this. You can volunteer to help not-for-profit sites by building sites for them; build a few sites for things you're interested in; you can work on some small projects for local businesses at a low rate to establish yourself; and whatever else you can think of. Your path is individual as well.

    That pretty much answers the "how do I go about working as a freelancer" question.
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  4. #3
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    Yes, you can make a living as a designer only, but keep in mind that you will not get paid as much. Now a days, you will also have to get a handle on usability and user experience. A lot of people interchange the roles, especially when dealing with small businesses as a freelancer. You will however, need to know CSS and HTML5 and other front side coding which also means you will have to become adept at photoshop and other tools to cut up PSDs and build out pages.

    Look into prototyping as well. With agile project management, many companies and teams mix the design in with the prototypes to not only show look and feel, but also demo how the site will work, on a basic user level.

    I would also say if you go the freelance route and want to stay focused on design, then get to know some programmers. Last thing you want is to lose potential clients because you can't program or completely build what they want.

    It's all tricky, and you will make mistakes, but who doesn't? Just keep doing what you can.

    Hope this helps

    Sidney Lisojo
    TheGAME1264 likes this.

  5. #4
    Senior Member Webzarus's Avatar
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    I think your questions have been answered, but to stress a MAJOR POINT.

    A big part of this industry is "fixing" what sloppy, lazy, designers have left ... For every 1 good designer that's in this industry, there are at least 50 that came into it with dreams of making big money fast, using slice & dice or WYSIWYG editors, only to find that they were limited in what you can do with them, the headaches and time invested wasn't what they thought, so thy moved on to the "next money making plan"...

    that being said, a lot of what a good designer can and will do is take someone else's code, and fix it or add to it to make it do what the client wants and needs it to do. You CANNOT eexpect to learn how to do that from a WYSIWYG program that generates the code. My personal opinion, those code generators are good for 1 thing, understanding what THEY do, and how to fix the problems they create. Sure, you can use them to mke some "pretty pages"... But as I've said on this forum alone, web design is more than just making pretty pages.

    If you make pretty pages, will the search engines index them ? Maybe, maybe not. If the search engines can't /won't index them... How will people find the site ? Maybe they will, more than likely they won't.

    besides the obvious of what you're asking, I interview and hire designers for my company and clients I consult with... Most people that list on their résumé that they DESIGN with certain tools, never even make it to the interview room. Those that do, have either said they "hand code" or have knowledge and experience "hand coding"... And part of my interview process is to ask the person to "fix" some intermediate design issues ..

    now maybe you have no intention of ever working for someone ... But if you have and can demonstrate basic design skills, using a text editor, if the need arises to find some supplemental income, you'll stand a much better chance ...

    I recently was tasked with hiring a part-time designer for a client, they advertised the job and arranged the interviews ... They sent me the resumes to review before the interview... Out of 10, only 1 person said they had experience "hand coding"... Some of the others inferred it. To make a long story short, none of the 10 got hired... Because none of the 10 knew anything about CSS ... And couldn't spot much less fix 3 simple issues I presented them. 2 of them were shown the door after the first question "what tools do you use for design".... Their answer : frontpage and Adobe CS5 .... I even have them an out and ask ? Any other tools ? Nope... "Have a nice day"...

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    I see. Thanks for all the input. Can anyone recommend any textbook concerning the principles of web design, more specifically: HTML, CSS, JavaScript?

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorrinRadd View Post
    I see. Thanks for all the input. Can anyone recommend any textbook concerning the principles of web design, more specifically: HTML, CSS, JavaScript?
    Hi, you can check "The Principles of Beautiful Web Design" i have this book and the author elaborated use of HTML, CSS and java in easy manner. You can try this out.

  8. #7
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    - Have a sound and an excellent grasp of HTML5, and CSS.
    Firstly I highly recommend learning the single bit of the programming languages, in order to be able to use them in the real world. There are various books that help you to efficiently learn the languages, if the documentations are too long or too boring. Tutsplus also made an outstanding video tutorial, that is worthy to check out: 30 Days to Learn HTML & CSS - Free Tuts+ Premium Course . Afterwards the best activity in order to fully understand the languages is by practicing. Give yourself tasks, such as to design a blog to show off on Dribbble.

    - What programs, softwares, and applications can be used to make web designing more efficient. I am thinking mostly of applications similar to Adobe Dreamweaver.
    Get Sublime Text! It is the best code editor in my opinion and you can install packages, such as emmet.io, in order to make coding easier and fun. Concerning CSS you can give LESS or SASS a visit. They make it a lot easier to program with CSS by giving you variables, allowing you to nest and giving you other additional features.
    I usually wireframe with either Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Fireworks, which I also use to create the finished template.

    - How to build up my own portfolio.
    If you start off with web design in general, then you might need to do some designing work for free, in order to build up your portfolio. Ask in local shops, if they need a new website or ask people online.
    Another method I have found to be worthy for building a portfolio is Fiverr. Firstly people can find your gigs as well as order your services and secondly you can even earn yourself a bit of extra cash on the side.

    - How to market myself as a web designer.
    You definitely need to create your own website that includes your portfolio and a contact form. A blog is not essential, but definitely worth creating. Write a post every few days about web design or about a certain conference you attended and your presence on the web will increase, thus increasing the amount of potential clients. Be active on social media as well, join communities and give your business card to people whenever you have the chance to do so, or when the situation allows it.

    For in depth information I suggest reading a few books concerning this matter, hence I have posted a few below:
    http://www.abookapart.com/
    https://shop.smashingmagazine.com

    Also check out some web design related podcasts on the go:
    Boagworld - Web & Digital Advice | Advice on web design and digital strategy from Paul Boag
    5by5 | The Big Web Show
    Graphic Design Podcast :: The Deeply Graphic DesignCast
    99% Invisible

    I hope I helped
    Last edited by KotaroDesign; Jul 03rd, 2013 at 03:53 PM.

  9. #8
    WDF Staff AlphaMare's Avatar
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    You can get the same syntax highlighting in notepad++ and it lets you define your own colours. Notepad++ also lets the user define how they want their code "folded" notepad--folding.jpg
    Good design should never say "Look at me!"
    It should say "Look at this." ~ David Craib


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  10. #9
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    Honestly, it isn't very difficult to freelance as a website designer. I began teaching myself how to design websites in 2005, studying html, css, javascript, and php. I have never been to college or even trade school for website design, but today I have a decent job as Ecommerce Coordinator and Website Developer/Administrator for a large corporation in the Los Angeles area. I also do freelance work and even started my own business designing html/css websites and setting up and configuring WordPress sites.

    The easiest way to get into freelancing, I believe, is to simply start out doing FREE sites for churches, small new businesses, and local charities. That was how I began. I was driving home from work one day and saw a husband and wife team selling coffee cakes out of their house. They had taken most of their savings and bought everything to make their coffee cakes and were hoping to turn it into a successful business. After buying some of their coffee cakes and realizing they had no website, I decided to design them one for free. I even bought them a domain name and hosting. It only really costed me about $40 and the time to build the site, but shortly after it went up, people started asking them who developed their site and the next thing I knew, I had several paid freelance jobs lined up.

    As for my current job, I began working in the warehouse at $10/hour. After observing how everything operated, I began looking for ways to improve the cost effectiveness in the warehouse department. I spent 3 months putting together a 10 page, typed report on how things could be improved in the warehouse, which I gave to my supervisor. He was so impressed with my report, he gave it to the company president, who was also very impressed, not so much with my ideas, but with my ability to effectively communicate. when he learned that I designed websites as a hobby, he offered me a job in an office at a 60% pay increase. Not bad...

    So you see, for me, obtaining a career in web design, both professionally and as a freelancer, was the result of sacrifice, taking risks, and a lot of plain dumb luck. If you want it and are willing to do what it takes to get it, you'll have it... Best of luck to you.

  11. #10
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    LCWS, what you said is something that every one of us should remember. A lot of people complicate web design a lot more than it needs to be, when in reality the only way to do it is to just...do it. Thankfully for us web designers, we're using the Web right now....and the Web just happens to be chock full of amazing information that we need to learn how to design.

    A short biography of myself. Not long after that World Wide Web hit the shelves, I got one for myself and I taught myself how to make websites (They were...different then.) and I paid my way through high school (you know...bought myself some shoes, some sodas, that sort of thing.) For some unknown reason I quit selling my services, and over the next few years things changed...and I forgot a lot. When I finally remembered that I loved Web Design, I enrolled back into college and...I racked up a lot of debt....and I learned a good bit...but after school was over, I started digging a little deeper into resources actually on the Web, and I've learned more from forums, tutorials, and websites than I learned in college.

    At any rate, what I'm getting at is this... I don't have a company job; I freelance - (that's the way I like it) but in order to really get started I had to do some old fashioned leg work and find some small businesses/organizations that needed a website. Offer to do some websites for super cheap - if that doesn't work, just do them for free....Let them know there's no catch, put it out there on the table - you're new to the game, you're no pro, but you have to start with them...build the site for free so you've got real world practice under your belt, and something to add to your portfolio...and before long, you'll be a professional designer without realizing it.

    What I'm getting at is this: Just do it, jump head first, expect mistakes to happen but just roll with them.


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