What is a Web Designer?

What is a web designer team portrait

In this article, we explain all you need to know about a web designer.

A web designer is responsible for designing the visual appearance, layout and usability of a website. They work to ensure that a website is not only appealing to the website visitor, but also easy to use. That is to say, they understand the fine balance between website aesthetics and functionality. The work they do is often described as web design or website design. 

Good web designers have both technical and creative skills. They are able to visualize what the website will look like and have the ability to convert the visual design into a working website.

A professional website designer mixes their traditional design skills like styling and layout design with technologies like HTML and CSS to create visually appealing website pages that display on the web. They create all the visual elements on a web page such as page layout, colour schemes, text and content formatting. They must have a good grasp of traditional design fundamentals, as well as an advanced knowledge of emerging technologies to keep abreast of the latest technology advances.

Web design skills are in demand because of the growth in online digital media consumption by users. Web users rely on the internet for purchases, social interactions, news and the latest trends. This need opens up work opportunities as new websites need to be created in order to satisfy the demand.

What does a web designer do?

Web designer looking at website on phone

Web designers focus on the visual design features of a website. They need to meet and interact with clients in order to get a better understanding of the purpose of the clients website. Once clear objectives are listed and the scope has been finalised, they focus on creating the visual design, layouts and functionality that best represent the clients products and services. More importantly, they need to appeal to the website visitor who must interact and engage with the website in a manner that aligns with the goals of the website. The level of creativity required will vary and depends largely on the type of job at hand. They are responsible for the visual look of a page, but may also take on other roles within a web design project.

They need to carefully combine the colours, font, images and layout so that the website not only attracts visitors, but also converts them into clients. Therefore, usability is also important and web pages need to be easy to use by the target audience.

For example, a website that sells art work needs to incorporate a clean and simple design where more emphasis is placed on the art work (the product). It would be clumsy to incorporate bold and vibrant colours on such a website as this would distract the user from making a product purchase.

Web designers either work independently as contractors, or are employed by a web design company.

These professionals will make changes to HTML source code. HTML is the code used to display web pages. More advanced coding languages such as Javascript allow for more advanced functionality within a web page. Web coding languages can be either client-side or server-side and allow the web designer to automatically produce HTML code for web page display. They can also use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to enhance the style of a web page. CSS also allows the website designer to create re-usable styling that can be used to ensure consistent styling across web pages. They normally ensure their content designs display on a wide range of devices and web browsers.

In a large team of web professionals, website designers generally focus on front end components while web developers focus on back end components. In smaller teams however, web designers and developers may perform multiple roles that involve the front and back end sections of a website.

In conclusion, all websites created must be easy to use and navigate. Emphasis on the correct mixture of usability and visual design should be incorporated into the final product.

What are the most important web designer skills?

Conceptual web designer skills

Web design is a skill that can be self taught (by doing online courses) or can be learnt by going on formal training courses through a college.

Website designers also need a good understanding of how detailed web page elements such as spacing, colors, layout, images, buttons, icons and text work together to create web page designs that are both attractive and functional. Once a web designer has achieved a balance between these web page elements, an effective website design can be created. They also need to link various pages on a website using href links. These links allow web page visitors to navigate between pages on the website.

Web designers use a variety of different web tools depending on what part of the web design process they are involved in. Technologies used to create websites include W3C standards like HTML and CSS, which can be hand-coded or generated by WYSIWYG software. Other tools designers might use include mark up validators and other testing tools for usability and accessibility to ensure their websites meet web accessibility guidelines.

Here's a list of the most important skills:

  • Know how to use Adobe Dreamweaver and Photoshop
  • Familiar with content management systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal
  • Working knowledge of HTML, XHTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP
  • Ability to work with tight deadlines
  • Knowledge of search engine optimisation
  • Strong creative skills
  • UX Design (User experience design) skills are an advantage
  •  Work within a team or as an individual
  • Hold meetings with clients to understand their needs
  • Understand and implement search engine optimisation techniques

Web designer and web developer - Are these different?

Web designer vs web developer

In the past, web developers used to work more closely with programming languages while web designers were concerned about aesthetics, layout and the usability of a website. However, this has all changed in recent times. The distinction between the two has become difficult as modern web designers are now expected to know how to code with programming languages. As a result, they have had to broaden their skills by learning languages such as Java so that they can implement not only the design, but also the functionality of a website. Likewise, web developers have had to broaden their skills by learning visual design techniques.

In conclusion, the divide between a web designer and developer has narrowed and the skills between the two roles overlap.

What type of web designers are there?

Types of web designers

There are many different types of website designers who have various different specialities and skills. This makes the selection very difficult as you need to match the designers skills to your project.

Freelance web designers prefer working independently and are normally not affiliated with any web design company. The risk in using a single freelancer is that you have no recourse in the event you have a disagreement. These types of designers are normally better suited for small businesses as their prices are very competitive. We must however stress that cheap websites will not necessarily perform well on search engines so be careful when deciding which designer to use based on their pricing.

There are also WordPress designers who specialise in creating websites on the popular WordPress content management system (CMS). These types of websites are generally easier to maintain as they come with a number of plugins that are easy to use and support. They also use pre-designed website design templates that can reduce the cost of your website. There are many freelance wordpress designers that offer various services such as website design, website maintenance and content management services. We strongly recommend using a content management system as these websites give you more options when upgrading your website. It is also easier to find a designer that is familiar with the WordPress CMS than one who needs to understand the code of your custom made website. 

eCommerce designers are normally more skilled in creating online shopping carts that integrate into banks via payment gateways. They generally use popular eCommerce carts such as WooCommerce to create very capable online stores. These web designers typically focus their designs around the products themselves in order to increase conversions by selling more products.

A responsive website designer is someone who prefers their website designs to resize on different screen sizes and devices. Google favours websites that are responsive as more and more customers use their mobile phones and tablets to locate online businesses. Your website ranking is also impacted if your website is not mobile friendly.

About the author Jason

"I care about creating great websites that not only look good, but also serve a purpose"

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