How to Become a Web Designer
If ever there were an ultimate left brain, right brain career, Web Designer may be that career. Web designers must merge two career fields into one that works seamlessly and beautifully. Web designers are responsible for the graphic layout and design of web pages and sites.
This includes all graphics, colors, fonts, animation, basically anything and everything a user sees or clicks on from a website. This aspect requires a graphics design background and a proficiency in all the same design elements, this is the right brain.
The two most common paths to a career in Web Design are through a major college or university or through a trade or technical institute. Most employment sites and forums for the industry do agree though that a degree is needed.
On the college or university route, most Web Design degrees are a specialty under the Graphic Designer field. These can be either Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degrees. If a choice is offered, the Bachelor of Science may be the better path as it will have a base curriculum in the sciences such as mathematics and computers. These types of courses will better fulfill the left brain needs of this career. The coursework for a degree in Web Design will cover the areas needed for the graphic design side such as art, design, computer design, print techniques, and commercial graphics production. It will cover the practical aspect of the career, such as writing, marketing, and business. And then finally it will cover the technical aspects such computer coding, web publishing, animation, web security, and e-commerce.
The technical or trade school route is a little more direct since it tends to focus on the skills directly related to the career field. So the coursework will be predominantly in the art and design areas and the computer skills arena. The trade school route can potentially get a new Web Designer into the field and earning income quicker though often at lower salary starting points than with a four-year degree. However, once working, the Web Designer who takes the trade school path still has the option to round out their education and cover more of the business and industry aspects that will allow continued advancement.
The one software program that seems to be fairly common across this field is Adobe Dreamweaver. Adobe offers a certification program for their products and many accredited schools are partners with Adobe, so look for a program that also offers the Adobe Certification Exam so it doesn’t have to be paid for and taken separately. However, though Dreamweaver is the most common, there are a host of other software the Web Designer will need to be proficient in such as Contribute, Flash, Fireworks, After Effects, Bare Bones BBedit, Microsoft FrontPage, Adobe Master Collection, and Apple Final Cut Studio, just to name a few. Any additional courses that can be taken in these applications will assist the Web Designer when it comes time to venture into the working world.
Since Web Design can potentially cross with any other business, product, service or another offering on the web, it also offers the opportunity to specialize. If a designer has an interest in any particular industries or careers, additional studies could be undertaken. For example, media or advertising specialties could be achieved through communications and media courses or if travel and services are of interest there are courses in hospitality that will give a Web Designer a much better understanding of the needs of that industry.
Retail and e-commerce are two of the areas of Web Design that are also growing and offer additional opportunities. This area is rapidly expanding into mobile commerce as well through smartphones and tablets. This is adding a whole new dimension to the Web Designer field as well. For as most online retailers now know, a website designed for a large computer monitor can’t simply be loaded on a mobile phone. Specific platforms and applications must be developed and designed and they differ by platform and device.
This emerging mobile area requires yet another level of creativity and technical ability by the designers that are ushering in this era. When looking at degrees or programs for Web Design, ones that have coursework specifically geared toward the mobile age will give the new Web Designer more to offer potential employers.
Since a Web Designer is ultimately responsible for the public face of a company or service offered on the internet, the more the Web Designer can become educated in multiple fields, the better and ultimately more valuable it will make them in the workforce.