As a lecturer of several new-media subjects including web design and development, many of my students ask me “What do I need to do to become a professional web designer?”. As you can imagine, it is not an easy question to answer. There are all sorts of approaches and none of them are particularly easy if you wish to beat the competition and offer a truly valuable service.
Gaining the knowledge of good web design practice will take time. My advice is always this. Before you start approaching companies and providing substantial quotes, make sure you have built a few good websites first. This will provide you with a point of reference with which to demonstrate your skills. It will also improve your understanding of the ‘tricks of the trade’ and possible pitfalls of building an on-line presence.
Any exposure to the industry will strengthen your sales pitch. I would suggest that you approach a few charities to begin with and offer work on a voluntary basis. Alternatively, build an on-line portfolio for yourself or a friend. Charging your clients at this stage will only store up trouble for yourself. Good web design is not something we are born with.
Essential Web Design Skills
For simple sites:
- Understand HTML.
- Follow good coding practices (W3 standards).
- Learn how to optimise a website for better search engine listings.
- Understand image file formats and compression techniques.
- Understand what FTP is about.
For ‘Dynamic sites’:
- All of the above.
- Develop a good knowledge of PHP, Jquery, AJAX.
- Understand how to generate on-line third party transactions via, PayPal, etc.
- Get involved in social media groups and forums on this subject.