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Thread: Web Designers, I need your help! Looking for advice,input, insight :)

  1. #1
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    Web Designers, I need your help! Looking for advice,input, insight :)

    Hello everyone

    I am new to these forums, so excuse me if this should be posted in another thread. I have recently decided that I would like to pursue a career in web design. There's been a lot of struggles in my life when it comes to choosing a career path. Just recently it clicked, and considering I am very unhappy with what I'm currently doing.. I chose to pursue this with all of my heart. I've always enjoyed being on the computer. Whenever I am not working, I am constantly browsing websites and looking to further increase my knowledge in all of my interests. When I was younger, I used HTML to create websites for friends and I really enjoyed it. Oddly enough, it never crossed my mind to make it a career. Anyways, fast forward 13 years. I am now 30 years old, miserable, and working a job in which I have no passion doing. I've decided that it's now or never. So I'm going for it. I shared all of this with my current employer and told him that I was going to quit in a few months, he wasn't happy.. but in the end, he was supportive because of our great relationship. Some people have told me this was a mistake, and that I should've thought it through a little more before making such a drastic move. Are they right? Perhaps. But I could no longer continue doing something that is slowly sapping my happiness. I wanted to pursue this 100% and put everything I have into it. So now I am here.. and I would really appreciate any advice, past experiences, or information that will point me in the right direction. Here are a few questions for you guys;

    1) How should I get started? School? (full time of course) Since I have basically forgot all of the HTML I previously knew, I thought it might be a good idea so I can develop a base in which I can use as a building block.

    2) Internship? Would I be able to get a job as an intern collecting 0 to very low pay to learn from someone who can teach me the newest trends? Is this realistic? And if so, how long would it take?

    3) Trade school or Community College? I have asked around and been told some of the school nowadays are outdated and teach you things that no longer apply. I realize the Web Design industry is constantly evolving with new methods and tricks, would this be a good idea? If so, which schools are good from your past experience? Remember, if I can afford going heavily into debt I'd like to. But at the same time, I realize education is not cheap and if I have to.. I have no problem investing in my future.

    4) If you could go back in time, would you have done something differently?

    5) Last but not least.. Did I miss anything? I'm trying to look at this from all angles so I can go about this the right way. If there's something I forgot to ask, I would really appreciate some further insight.

    Well, I guess that's it! Hopefully I haven't bored you all to death. This is something that I am very serious about and I'd really love/appreciate it if you guys can shed some light on the subject for me. And please, don't hold back.. I'd love to hear anybody's stories, growing pains, or any other information in which you'd like to share. Thanks for listening and hopefully I will be hearing from you guys.

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  3. #2
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    Dude, I'm going to tell you something you probably don't want to hear, but it's also what you probably need to hear...the people who told you it's a big mistake are absolutely right. You obviously want to do something else, but it's not clear whether you're passionate about web design or just passionate about getting the hell out of the job you're in.

    With that aside, here's the other reason I said this...you're looking at design. Web design itself is an industry with low barriers to entry and one in which it takes years to master from an HTML / CSS point of view. If/when you do that, you're now one of a million as opposed to being one in a million. HTML/CSS and even graphic design are full of starving artists looking for work. Most of them approached it exactly as you are right now; "I'll go to school or maybe do a few courses online, learn some stuff, get hired on as an intern or as an entry-level person, learn trends and get better as I go." The reason that approach fails is rather simple...it utilizes the conventional "I'll go to school, learn what I need to in order to get hired, and I'll get hired and learn the rest of what I need to in order to keep the job." Employers generally don't want that. They don't mind teaching you skills along the way if they can, but you need to know how to apply knowledge, and the approach that you're suggesting shows that you don't really know how to do that. You have to be able to say "okay, I need to learn A, B, and C to solve this problem, and D, E, and F to solve this problem. Now that I've solved these two problems, I can use A, C, E, and F to solve this third problem." No school will ever teach you that...mostly because schools fail miserably at this themselves. You have to have critical thinking and applied knowledge skills going in, or employers generally won't be interested in you...and with good reason.

    Now, if you want, you can go into development rather than design. Design is what shows up on the surface...development is where the actual work is done. Connecting to databases. Retrieving information. Interactive forms. E-commerce. Things like that. The good news? There tends to be quite a bit of demand for skilled developers. The better news? There aren't very many skilled developers. The bad news? That's because learning to develop is hard. As in...takes a couple of years to become good at it, a few more to become great at it, and to fully master it pretty much requires you to be an anti-social overweight reclusive troll creature whose skin burns in about 8 seconds when exposed to sunlight. In other words, it's brutal. But if you can pull it off, finding jobs and clients is about as difficult as changing your underwear. That's why I'm a developer first and a designer second.

    Someone will come along and argue that "you can become a front-end developer." That's like a unicorn...it doesn't exist. It was made up by people who lack skills in an effort to impress corporate sheeple.

    Your job sucks and probably will lead nowhere. I get it. That's the way most jobs are. But this is an industry that chews up about 90% of prospective designers and spits them out in about 3 months. These are the people who turn around and say "there are no JOBS in design! No one's HIRING!" These are also the people who lack critical thinking skills. You're better off staying in the job and seeing if you can make it work for yourself.
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  4. #3
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    You're probably right, I did need to hear that. Not because it's the sad truth in which I'm about to face. But because you've just added more fuel to the fire. What makes you think I don't know how to apply knowledge? Did something in my post reveal that trait? If so, please point it out.. because I don't mind. If something I've written has highlighted one of my flaws, please let me know.. So I can address it.. fix it.. and become better than I was previously. I've never been happy with just being average and never will be. This is exactly why I'm doing this, because I don't want to be average. What makes you think that once I get a job, I'll be content with doing enough just to "keep the job"?. I don't want to keep the job, I want to excel at it and be a big asset. And as far as critical thinking and applied knowledge goes, I think this is one of my strengths and something I've been good at my entire life. Also, I know about web development. I have a friend who's in that field, and it is not of my interest. I want to work on the front end of the website, be part of it's design and creativity, while also making sure that the website is clear and the information is easy to process and navigate through. I don't want this to seem like I'm mad at you, because I'm not. In fact, I want to thank you. It's clear you took time out of your day to provide me with this information and I appreciate that. Also, by your number of posts, join date, and that little "staff icon" that appears next to your name.. It's clear that you're someone who actually knows what he might be talking about. So I do factor in everything you've said. But I've also noticed something else, you didn't even answer any of my questions. You were so quick to shoot me down that it probably never crossed your mind that " Hey, there's a slight chance this guy might actually have the qualities to become a great web designer". It's interesting to me how you can come to such a conclusion from 1 post. You don't even know what kind of person I am. I asked 5 questions, and you didn't even answer one of them. Actually, maybe you answered #5. Like I said, thanks for taking the time to kick me down with some knowledge, but I'm hoping the next person actually tries to enlighten me with information I need to get to where I'm going, rather than try to deter me from getting there.
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  5. #4
    WDF Staff mlseim's Avatar
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    Here's my thoughts on this ...

    I happen to be interested in programming (development, not design). I have no graphic art skills, nor do I have any software for designing graphic arts.
    It sounds like you like the design process, but not so much the development, so our passions and interests are opposite.

    If you are really good at graphic arts (example, photoshop), are creative, and have a good eye for design, you should find a partner, like your developer friend, and do website applications as a team.

    I say web applications because less businesses are actually using web pages. Many are creating online "information applications", not necessarily "web pages" like you are talking about.

    So the world is changing. It's more about user interfaces than web pages. That might sound strange, but other than blogs, galleries, or personal websites, I don't think you'll find enough business to make any money making web pages that don't do anything.

    What businesses really crave are online applications that meld their information (data, products, number crunching) with social media and services that connect their information to other people and other applications. Once again, it's about client and server side scripting.

    Companies and people that want "web pages" are usually satisfied with 'canned' sites that use templates, WordPress, Weebly, or some other application that stamps-out a website for them. Those sites offer content management so they can add text and photos. But, that's about all they do.

    I suppose you could customize WordPress sites, using your passion for "design", but you would need to know scripting as well, even for that.

    I'm out of touch with "web design" schools. I have no idea what they teach, but I suppose it's a lot of installing WordPress, using templates and techniques for "responsive" page design, and things like that. I doubt they teach how to make a "killer" application to give a business the opportunity to gather data from many online databases and present graphic displays of product comparisons, price comparisons ... things like that. They teach web page design, like they existed in 2009.

    Here's an example that I recently encountered for real ....

    A client that runs a gun training business wanted to put up a class schedule on his basic website (static web pages). A schedule that he could update using a PHP script. So, right away, it steps into the "development", scripting area.

    Anyhow, after some discussion, I mentioned to the client that he could have an admin login section where he creates classes and students can register for them, all using his website. Then, it escalated into using a credit card merchant so the students have to also pay when they register. And it further escalated into a script that automatically prints-out the PDF forms that need to be sent to the State for concealed handguns. Now it has class locations, Google maps, multiple instructors, etc.

    His site is no longer a "static" website. No amount of "design" experience would be of assistance to him ... he needed development, not design.

    If I hired you to redesign his website, you would have made his static site look really nice, but then what? It doesn't do anything.

    That's why I'm saying you should focus on what you love (design), and find someone to partner with for development. You don't really need to go to school for website design, if you know a lot about graphic design. The developer will request from you, the graphics they need for the online application.


    Can you tell us what you're currently doing?
    Maybe there's a niche somewhere that might cross your current job with your passion for design ... something your current employer might want.


  6. #5
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    Let me add to Max's example with another example of my own.

    A client of mine has an Amazon store where he sells niche jewelry (specifically, low-end Christian jewelry). He wanted to rebuild his site using the data from the Amazon store rather than reentering it manually. He also wanted to take that data and then export it to his new eBay store and his new Rakuten (formerly buy.com and formerly the owners of New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka) store. For an added degree of difficulty, there is no way to instantly export product inventory from Amazon even if you're a merchant. You have to submit a request for a report and wait a minimum of 10 minutes for that report to be generated. My job was to automate that process entirely. Not only are HTML/CSS/web design not sufficient to do this, they're not even used at all for the most part. There's one spot where my client uses an admin section to login and generate the Amazon import and eBay/Rakuten exports, but that's it.

    You asked what made you sound like every other designer and the reason why I don't see you as a critical thinker. The answer to that question is in the questions you asked. They're not bad questions in and of themselves, but I've seen them asked at least once a week for at least the last 10 years. Students in schools will often post here with a link to a survey with similar sorts of questions as part of a school assignment...which to me is catastrophically stupid because at that point students have already paid the tuition fees for the web design course, so these are questions either the students or the school should have already answered. But they're the same sorts of questions...how do I get started? How do I get hired? What school should I go to? Should I look for work at an agency or freelance? How do I find niches in the web design industry? Should I do a co-op/internship? These sorts of things. They're not questions along the lines of "if I learn PHP, can I build an e-commerce website with a custom addon calculator?" Or "Can ASP.net interact with IIS to be able to block users by IP address from accessing the server?" (The answer to this question is "yes", by the way) Those are applied knowledge kinds of questions.

    I also want to show you something you may not be aware of.

    https://99designs.ca/pricing/web-design

    For $599, I can get 15 different people to create a web design for me. Only one of those people actually gets paid...so if you're a designer, you have to come up with a better design than 14 other people to get a few hundred bucks. It's great if you win, but you have to figure that you're going to lose 4-5 times for every time you win just based on the competition...and that's giving you 5:1 odds as opposed to 15:1 odds. The commission 99designs charges is 40% last I checked, so of that $599, the winner gets $360.

    So do the math...to do a good design, you'll probably have to spend 4-8 hours. Let's split it down the middle and say 6.
    6 x 4 losses + 6 x 1 win = 30 hours per win.
    $360 / 30 hours = $12/hour.

    Is that really worth it to you? Probably not.

    Now, you don't have to go the 99designs route to find work. You can go to sites such as oDesk, Fiverr, Craigslist, Kijiji, etc. Or you can use word of mouth. But it's not a high-paying position just because of the competition. There are lots and lots and lots of good designers, and what website owners want goes well beyond design these days. That's what Max is trying to tell you, and that's what I'm trying to tell you.

    Now, if you can come up with a hook, or an angle, or something unique you can offer that no one else can...by all means, enter the industry. If you do that, you'll be able to answer questions 1-3 yourself. If not, there really isn't an answer anyone can give you because it will ultimately depend on you and your situation....not just what you've described here, but where you're from, who your competition is, are you mobile, are you willing to work remotely, etc.

    As far as #4 goes...I have one regret, and that's that I attempted to hire people to help me for a brief period. My clients wanted me and they didn't want someone else working on their stuff.

    But here's the path I took...I started by messing around with a humor site in 1999. It led to my first client, who I had also happened to work for when I was in my teens. A few years later, I picked up my second client. After a few more, I quit my job, although I had already scaled it back to 2 days a week as my business had grown. I didn't quit the job until I had a client base, and I'm really glad I didn't. If I had to enter the industry full-time from nothing, I probably would have failed. So I don't regret that at all.

    Ultimately, what this comes down to is "you need to find your path". It's not going to be someone else's. Those answers have to come from within. They can't come from a forum or anywhere else. I like that you want to excel and not be ordinary, and no one understands how it feels to be held back more than I do. But again, web design as an industry...not web development, web design...is arguably oversaturated with a whole lot of creative people. Without a hook or a niche, you'll probably get eaten alive. That's the nature of the industry, and it's not a knock on you specifically.

    Thanks for at least understanding that I'm coming at this from the standpoint of a mod and not explicitly trying to be negative. I approach things as realistically as I can. I like the fact that you came at me the way you did, too.
    If I've helped you out in any way, please pay it forward. My wife and I are walking for Autism Speaks. Please donate, and thanks.

    If someone helped you out, be sure to "Like" their post and/or help them in kind. The "Like" link is on the bottom right of each post, beside the "Share" link.

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