In the words of Drake the artist, in this life “…tables turn, bridges burn…” and “…you live and learn.” You learn to wake up early in the morning and follow that with a shower and perhaps a coffee. You learn to drive, read, sky dive and swim. Everything you know, you learned it, and now you will learn how to become better at what you do best – designing websites.
I don’t doubt you’re a good web designer. In fact, I think you’re the best in your department but don’t we all want to become an itty bitty better at what we do? So, if you are ready to sharpen your web design skills, this article will lead you in the right direction. Enjoy and remember to share your thoughts in the comment section at the end!
Go Back to School
Education is the first step in learning professional skills for any job. You can easily find courses on anything – from history to exotic cuisine to web design and beyond. The best part is you can get courses that are tailored to your exact needs. If you thrive on structured learning, you can join a web design class at the local community college. Apart from acquiring web design skills, you will have the chance to hang out with peers with similar interests.
Nonetheless, on-campus web design classes can be costly, and there is a high probability of learning outdated skills that are obsolete in the fast-paced world that is web design. If you don’t have the funds, lack the time or can’t (or won’t) attend university for one reason or another, you can sign up for online courses and improve your skills at your own pace.
Intern at the Local Web Design Firm
Internships will give you the professional setting you need to test your web design skills once you’re out of class. Interning is a great way of gaining hands-on experience and improving your skills in the field. Additionally, an internship can lead to a lucrative job. Might you be interested in a web design education or internship opportunities? Checkout the following resources:
- Online Web Design Degrees
- Web Design Degree at Full Sail University
- Web Design Schools Directory
- Freelance Jobs at FreelanceSwitch
- Freelance Jobs at Smashing Magazine
- O’Reilly School of Technology
Before we wrap up this education and internship section, I have something extra to add. You need to go beyond books and read an assortment of other web design materials if you are to become a well-rounded web designer. And with the Internet at your disposal, there is no shortage of materials: ebooks, online web design magazines, tutorials, blogs et cetera. Read it all, just don’t overdo it.
Attend Web Design Conferences and Workshops
There are web design conferences and workshops being offered all over the place at all kinds of budgets meaning everyone is covered. But why are these functions even important? They are good places to earn skills, network and even land new clients. You can meet your favorite web designers at any of the conferences and learn lots of cool skills and tricks. If you’re interested in attending web design conferences and workshops, the following resources will be helpful:
- Sitepoint Workshops
- List of Web Design Conferences
- Conference Roundup
- Web Design Workshops at MaxDesign.com.au
Don’t Coast Around, Keep Up With Trends
Learning all there is about web design means nothing if you fail to keep tabs on current web design trends. Unlike our universe which takes millions of years to go through one phase of evolution, the world of web design evolves quickly, thus the need to stay updated on current trends.
Keeping up with trends is a source of inspiration for web designers looking to create their own unique style(s), which is always a good thing in the creative industry. Moreover, you need to stay on top of things if you are to become the best and remain relevant. Learn something new once a while and if something isn’t working, kick it to the curb or you risk losing business.
Embrace The Power of Sketching
As a writer, I start off every article on paper before moving on to the PC where I type the final draft. It gives me clarity to bring out my best work. Or perhaps I just love putting the “actual writing” into my work, you know, pen to paper style. You can hardly read the edited draft on paper thanks to arrows pointing to random sections, asterisks marking areas that I would like to strip out, cancelled out lines, brackets – you get the picture.
But when I punch out the final draft, the flow is unmistakably good. Really, ‘it’s fine like wine’ but I should stop quoting hip hop artists and tooting my own horn. If you want to become a better web designer in 2014, you need to embrace the olden tools of the designer – a pencil and some paper. Old is gold remember?
In other words, sketching should be your thing. You should avoid jumping on your computer immediately an idea materializes. Sketch it out of your mind and express it on paper first. Then work on the design on paper since it gives you a lot of flexibility. When you have the improved design, you can translate it to code and what nots. It’s inspiring and makes your work a lot easier. I think you should give it a try. Sketch, sketch and sketch.
Mentor Someone and Network With Other Designers
Creatives can be lonely. Very lonely. Their tendency here is to shut out other people and turn to work (or alcohol and other drugs), but that’s not the point. The point is you might be the best web designer the world has never known. Yes, even with your Asgardian web design skills, you won’t be hired if people don’t know jack about you. But getting your next project isn’t the only reason why you should network.
Networking will improve your social life and boost your web design knowledge tenfold. The more people there are in your circle, the wider your knowledge pool. You can also choose to mentor others and make true the saying “…the best way to learn is to teach others.”
If you’re not a big fan of hanging out with other people (oh yeah, many people don’t find crowds particularly comforting), you can still network from the comfort of your home. That’s what social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all about. It’s that simple, and yeah you can take that to Twitter 🙂
Take Up Some Web Design Side Projects
Becoming a web designer is all about practice and more practice. Your clients’ projects are good practice, and you can learn a few cool tricks while on the job. The only problem is your hands are tied by rules.
However, things are a bit different with a side project. To begin with, if the side project is a personal project, you have more room to try new things. If you work on a side project pro bono (for a friend or as charity), you still have a lot of control over the project since – let’s face it – you’re probably doing them a big favor.
That aside, each side project gives you the chance to try out new tricks, which you can’t try on someone else’s dollar. Ceteris paribus, a side project is good practice ground and a great way of populating your portfolio in case you’re starting out.
Learn From Criticism and Get A Second Opinion
But if it’s negative criticism, you probably shouldn’t listen to that person. On the other hand, if someone offers constructive criticism, give them your full attention.You can learn a lot from constructive criticism, but you will only get a heavy heart from negative peeps. Shun them, disallow them from your head and take the high road.
Then ask for second opinion from other web designers. Talk to other web designers, especially those who are more talented than you. Run your designs by them and pay attention because if you’re to become better at web design, you need to learn from the best. Get constructive criticism and second opinion from people who matter.
Understand The Target Audience
If you don’t understand the target audience, how do you expect to create designs that resonate best with them? You will be shooting out of the blue, and you will miss everything else but your foot.
To be the best doesn’t necessarily mean having all the skills in the world. You just need to give the client exactly what they are looking for – a solution that will work for them in respect to their target audience. To be able to provide this solution, you need to have a crystal clear understanding of their target audience.
Speaking of target audiences, how about you define a target audience of your own as well. As opposed to “jacking all trades”, specialize in a particular niche. Work with a particular type of client(s) (or a specific technology) only. Since you will be working with a small and well-defined audience, it is simpler to become the best than if you were at the beck and call of the entire universe. Help doctors or lawyers or anyone else in a specialized discipline to get on the web and let the government worry about the entire world. You won’t starve I promise.
Study the Competition
I’m sorry to burst your bubble but you’re not the only web designer out there. Everyone wants a piece of the same pie, and your competitors want a larger chunk than you. They don’t give a care if you starve. No they don’t.
In fact, they would like to see you disappear into oblivion never to return, but don’t give them the chance. Study their game instead, and see what they are doing. You can even “borrow” some of their designs and build your own around their techniques. Don’t copy-paste source code since you will be breaking the law and tarnishing your own brand.
Think of it as researching and when it helps you to develop your own unique designs, it’s not copying, it’s inspiration. So, learn how they keep ahead of the pack and beat them at their own game. Then endeavor to challenge and beat yourself. Only then will you become better than them. Only then will you become a better web designer. Are you following?
Keep it Short and Sweet
Or short and simple. It doesn’t matter, just remember the motto is “Keep it simple, stupid”. In other words, minimalism is taking over the future, and complexity is being shown the door – at least in the design world. Therefore, with every design you create, ease (of both content delivery and navigation) should be your first priority.
Don’t complicate your designs. The rule of thumb in this regard is to solve your client’s problems as easily as you can. Say a big no to clutter and design elements that add little or no value in favor of clean and refined code that actually works. If you can achieve the result with ten lines of code, leave it at that – don’t try too hard or you will crash hard. After all, the client isn’t bothered by the code, they are more concerned with utility, aesthetics and busy schedules. Keep it short and sweet.
Learn New Skills and Pick Up a Hobby
By acquiring a new skill, your value on the team increases exponentially making you indispensable. It means you can handle more responsibility and you can be trusted since you take time to improve yourself.
Once you start adding new skills to your resume, don’t stop at that. Pick up a hobby. It could painting, writing, photography, cooking – anything! The goal here is to improve yourself as a person and your work will benefit immensely. Don’t spend all your time at work. Take a rest, spend time with family and friends, travel, fall in love (with a person or a pet) – just live and learn.
I will go a step further and make your work even easier. If you would like to learn more about becoming a better web designer, I collected a few gems all over the Internet for your pleasure:
- Becoming a Better Web Designer – Six Revisions
- Designing for the Web eBook
- A List Apart: For People Who Make Websites
- UX Magazine
- 10 Things You Can Do Today to Become a Better Designer
- 10 Easy Steps to Become a Better Web Designer
Believe in yourself because you’re better than most people out there and your skills are very much in demand. You just need to get a little better and your biscuit will turn into a loaf. There is money to be made, so don’t just read this post and forget about it. Instead, take action now and become the superstar web designer you were destined to be. See you around.