How can one become a web designer?

This was an interesting question I had always wanted to answer. Finally did just that on Quora… Here was my reply. Hope this helps others here.

Let me start with an analogy, designing a website is akin to designing a car. In the case of car design, you will need to equip yourself with knowledge of Design (Of course!), Human Ergonomics (in case of Web Design, it’s Usability) and lastly have a good technical understanding of how the car actually works (in case of Web Design, it would be a general understanding the working of the web). So here you go:

Design:

Familiarize yourself with basic principal of design. There are plenty of resources online for you to start with Smashing Magazine: Design Principles: Visual Perception

Follow and study the works of designers from all field and not just web designers. Here is a good list to start with – Announcing The Winner Of Co.Design Bracket Madness!

If it’s not too late, get a formal degree in design.

And yes last but not the least, practice, practice, practice. If not anything else, recreate designs you like. You will end up learning a lot from it when you get into the mind of the designer.

Theory:

Since Web Design is not only about design and not art, your work has to be understood and usable. Get yourself acquainted with theories of Usability and User Experience. You can start from here Usability.gov, Human-Centered Design: an Introduction or perhaps get a copy of Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter): Steve Krug

Tools of the Trade:

  • Software
    Using Photoshop should become second nature. It should become so effortless that you are not even aware you are using it and you are just focused on your design, that requires constant practice. Supplement your Photoshop skill with a Vector Editing tool, like Illustrator or CorelDraw. There is just something that a vector editing tool does better.
  • Coding
    This area is one which is a weak point for most people from pure Art or Design Background, but then if you want to design a better car it sure helps to know how the engine works. Some of the best web designers code themselves as well. Grab books on HTML, CSS and Javascript. These are the building blocks of Front-End Design. I have always advised others, who wanted to learn a new language, to learn from books rather than just grabbing bits and pieces from the net. Books are written for the purpose of walking the learner end to end. So by the time you are through with it, you would have an overall knowledge of the language. HTML & CSS are not programming languages, it’s easy and fun to learn as well. Nothing delight a designer better than to build their creation on their own and see it come to life.

You will always have a more liking for one the three area, you can then focus on that and spend more time studying and practising that.

Author: Robert Hsu aka Hsu Ka An

I am Hsu Ka An a.k.a Robert. I am a third generation Indian Chinese and an HFI - Certified Usability Analyst . I have been in the UX Role since the last 6 years. I am currently working as a Sr. UX Designer in Quantum Inventions, a company that deal with Digital Mobility Solutions like GPS and Logistics Tracking. Prior to that I worked in Web Spiders Pvt. Ltd. Beside work: I am an avid hoarder of visual ideas I do write some time at my Blog site I help my fellow Uxer’s to find their way in the UX Industry. I am also an active member of the Indian Chinese Association and lead the team in organising various cultural events.

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