As a talented web designer, you could be in demand for as long as you want a career. Recent accounts put the number of active websites at around one billion. That means web designers were called on over one billion times to fire up those pages.
You would think that, after a billion websites, there wouldn’t be much room for anything else. But what about all those websites that are looking for innovative upgrades? Bottom line: You’ve picked a solid career path, but it’s not time to rest on your graphic laurels. There are many aspects of this job that need to come into play in order for you to carve out a slice of the design pie.
Here are some important tips web designers must always remember:
Learn to Communicate
A recent episode of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” had a new website virtually flop because it was designed by engineers, for engineers. The designers forgot entirely about the end user. You can certainly impress a potential client with talk of parallax scrolling and optimum plugin utilization, but all they’ll be hearing is, “Yada, yada, yada.” You need to find a way to make what you’re designing accessible beyond the visuals.
Being a good communicator also means being an active listener. Just because you might know more about web design than your client doesn’t mean you know more about their business. Every job is a great way to learn about interactions between a customer and a business. That’s valuable insight you can take from job to job, but you have to listen for it.
Be Confident in Selling Your Talent
Before you can get down to the fun of designing a new page, you’ve got to land the gig. That means selling yourself. Confidence doesn’t mean being cocky, though! You’ll have plenty of time to “drop the mic” once the website is up and running.
A client should never sense desperation from you. What they should get is a combination of passion for what you do and a passion for wanting to help their business achieve greater success. That’s a very infectious combination.
Plan First, Execute Second
Have you’ve ever watched a movie and wondered, “Where is this thing going?” Then it ends with a thud, and you’re left feeling like your time could have been better used elsewhere. It’s probably because the writer didn’t have a well-thought-out outline before he started writing his script. Likewise, you need to plan out your web design before you ever write one line of code.
This planning has a lot to do with researching your client’s business. Not only should you find out what their goals are for their web business, but you should also check out their competition. What are they doing right? What can you borrow? Everyone does it. In fact, someone might be borrowing from your latest web design as we speak!
ABU (Always Be Updating)
Try an experiment. Count to five very slowly. Done? Good. In that time, someone just created a new design innovation. Do you know where to find it? Are you even looking? Your own education is a lot like driving a new car off the lot. The minute it happens, it has depreciated. You need to always be updating your skills and your knowledge base. Yes, there’s going to be more homework in your future, but that’s a good thing.
When you drill down to the heart of web design, you only have a few milliseconds to capture a visitor’s attention. Even the 18.5% of Americans and Europeans who identify as having internet addiction disorder and who spend way too much time online aren’t going to stick around on your website unless you make it interesting for them. That holds true with the causal “surfer shopper,” too. You’ve got to bring your “A” game to every job, and that means staying ahead of the design curve.
Build an Amazing Portfolio
Your amazing online portfolio is your calling card. Suppose you’re just starting out and don’t have a portfolio? It’s time to hustle for a gig. You probably know someone who owns a business or has a personal blog that could do with some refreshing. Offer to do the job gratis, or at least as a barter.
You only need a handful of decent examples of your work in your portfolio to impress a new client. Remember: This is the thing they’re going to look at long before setting up a meeting with you. Make it count!
Finally, becoming a web designer means you’re entering into a business. You need to treat it as such. That means hiring an accountant, paying your taxes (and taking your deductions!) and following your business plan. Where do you see yourself in one year? Five years? Ten years? The answer to that question will help determine your path.
Lexie Lu is a designer and writer. She loves researching trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.