General Question

rollid's avatar

How do you become a Web Designer?

Asked by rollid (98points) December 12th, 2008

My boyfriend wants to break into the world of web design. He has a four year degree in Fine Art (painting) from a private college and he can’t see himself going back to school full time, but he is willing to do a certificate course or community college classes, etc. Any advice? He has done some work on a few of our friends’ web pages and they look good, but he worries that they lack that truly professional edge. Anyone been here before? How did you go from wannabe to professional?

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17 Answers

livejamie's avatar

As a professional designer for coming on 10 years now, your portfolio is the only thing that matters when getting a job. Although it’s great that your boyfriend has an art degree, it’s better for his future that he already has some web pages under his belt.

He should ask his clients (friends) if he can have permission to display those pieces in a portfolio and then start working on his own site, buy a domain, get a good looking portfolio up and then start working!

Hop on your local craigslist and start marketing yourself, start looking for jobs.. and it’s pretty simple from there, it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

There have been some good answers here previously:

The economy sucks now, and it’s been really hard to find work, so don’t be discouraged.

If he has any specific questions, he can ask here. :)

fuzzyjay's avatar

Make sure to learn how to use CSS and html properly would be my advice. Lots of the skills can be learned online by looking at the source code of other people’s websites that you like.

Your boyfriend sounds like he’s got a strong design background, which is an excellent start. A good site to learn about how to use html is link

It will take time to get the skills to be developed but as others have said make sure you put everything into an online portfolio and go from there.

dynamicduo's avatar

Web design really relies on one’s skills. School is nice, and always opens more doors, but overall talent and ability generally supersedes formal education. One gets more skills by building more sites, reading design books and trying things out, taking small classes such as in community college. Getting that professional edge will indeed open more doors. Look into a community college program in your area. Of course if one wants to freelance, it doesn’t really matter if you have that professional edge so long as the site looks good and works right in different browsers, and the client is happy. Once people know you can build websites, you’ll have to tell people “no” more than “yes” due to not having enough time to build them all.

The best situation is to get working for a design company, and use it to learn and increase one’s skills while freelancing on the site (provided it’s fine with the employer), best of both worlds. Freelancing requires business knowledge since you need to pay taxes as regular income etc, so a community college course on indie business 101 might be a good idea, or look around for entrepreneur centres that can give you info and help.

jw's avatar

Master html and css and learn as much Javascript as you can. User friendly is the key in any programming project so make sure you satisy him(her) – not with software and technique but with results.

Higher level languages like Dreamweaver are fine but you should learn the html, css and some Javascript first. I created the site at with notepad editor and those three essential and basic languages.

It’s very important that each page is full of “keywords” that tell what the site is designed to accomplish for the end user. Investigate what I mean about keywords.

Well that’s enough for now. Oh, a good guide for charging you services is to charge a certain amount for each picture depending on how it was acquired and so much for each page.

Good luck,

damien's avatar

“Higher level languages like Dreamweaver”…. Errrm. Yeah.

cwilbur's avatar

Bad advice usually costs less than good advice. This does not make it a bargain.

irondavy's avatar

@livejamie and @dynamicduo give the best advice here. It really is your portfolio above all. Degrees and certificates are near meaningless in most cases. A degree is usually only required for a job at a large company that has college requirements for all their jobs (Google, etc.).

Photoshop, HTML and CSS. That’s all you need. Photoshop is used to create graphics for the web and to create “mockups” of websites—that is, preliminary versions of websites before they see production.

JavaScript is nice but its a distant fourth and you don’t need it for a few years into your career, generally. It depends on what you’d rather do. The title of “web designer” refers to a varied collection of jobs. Doing all of them early in your career lets you figure out which one you’d actually like to do. Of course, it could be that you want to do them all, as I generally do. The various occupations include:

* Visual Designer
* User Experience Designer
* User Interface Designer
* Web Developer
* Graphic Designer
* Web Producer
* Information Architect
* Usability Expert
* Webmaster

You could also work in the medium of Flash which is used for complex applications or sites that require dense multimedia like animation or video.

And lastly, I can’t disagree more with @jw. Dreamweaver is not a language, it’s an application. You use it when you don’t know HTML and CSS, it automates the languages for you. I would recommend skipping Dreamweaver and applications like it (called WYSIWYG editors) completely. They produce terrible code, among other problems.

I’m not sure what is meant by the point about keywords. Considerations like writing for the web, usability and search engine optimization (which all have to do with word choice) are all more complex than has been touched on here.

How much you should charge is a another completely new topic altogether and essentially comes down to how much you’d like to make vs. how much others are making for what you do. This requires research and reflection and has very little to do with the content of the website.

osullivanbr's avatar

I agree. livejamie and dynamicduo are right on the money.

I’ve been away for a while and boy I’m glad I came back today to see the fantastic css treat that was waiting me over at

jw's avatar

Thanks very much for your kind words about my rcaworks site osulivanbr. I would like to repeat the importance of Javascript as an essential skill for any serious web applications. Photoshop, however, is not essential. Any good photo editing program is fine. Photoshop Elements is probably best for beginners. I like Corel’s Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 and used it for all my pics on the rcaworks site.

damien's avatar

Javascript is not an essential skill, jw. It’s useful, no doubt, but essential? No. Also, it’s not a language I’d say you should start learning web design with. You need to learn to walk before you run.

Not all websites need javascript ( doesn’t need javascript at all. In fact, your javascript is part of the reason why it’s broken).

Not that I’m disagreeing that other programs than Photoshop can be used, when people are speaking about using photoshop, they’re not just talking about resizing images. They’re talking about creating designs (again, something does not have).

jw's avatar

Of course you are full of it damien. Let’s see one of your great creations.

dynamicduo's avatar

jw, I wouldn’t be touting that site as quality. It absolutely breaks in Firefox. It’s completely unnavigable and not visually appealing, and if that were my company’s web presence I would be ashamed and humiliated.

Javascript is not an essential skill. It is when you want to get into AJAX, but even then you can get the core module pre-built. It’s also handy to create rollover images, but again many software will build this code for you – I don’t see it as being worth my time to manually code image rollovers. Not to mention, there will always be people who do not have Javascript enabled, so focusing on a Javascript design will alienate a certain percentage of users.

Photoshop or a similar image editor is much more essential than Javascript, people want websites that look good, and Photoshop helps to create this. You can use other image editors, I currently use Paint Shop Pro at work and Photoshop at home. I find Photoshop to be well worth its cost, although for web design you really don’t need all the features it offers, I’m sure Elements would suffice.

And yes, not only is Dreamweaver not a language, but relying on it without knowing the code behind the site will lead you to many many problems and no solutions. Dreamweaver is handy when you have a solid grasp on HTML and CSS. I used to use it much more than I do nowadays, but it still has its purposes.

jw's avatar

You might be right about Foxfire, haven’t checked that one. But I didn’t join to argue. Good luck to you all, and Merry Christmas.

richardhenry's avatar

RCA Works absolutely obliterates itself in Safari, I’m afraid. And every other standards based browser.

jw's avatar

I haven’t checked Safari or any Mac/Apple stuff, but thanks for the info. I only target the PC user in Metro Atlanta.

If you would check the source code you would see that it is almost all calls to external Javascript. I use Javascript to display different size pictures depending on the resolution of the user’s monitor. I also use Javascript for any recurring code like my request for a purchase on each page.

I did not recommend Dreamweaver, on the contrary I only showed my web site to indicate that it is NOT NECESSARY! I don’t think my site is better than the average beginner.

The site does rank on the top ten of any Google search for anyone requesting the services advertised.

Thanks again for all the helpful and friendly advice.

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