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Web designers

Best Essential Skills for Web Designers

Here is a medley of best skills to help you become a design expert, no matter where you’re at in your career.

Know the principles of design
You don’t need to know music theory to write a song, and if you’ve never taken an art class, you can still draw. Some of us might have an innate artistic ability, but knowing the basic fundamentals can make the difference between recreating what you see and being able to build a design that’s calculated and unique.
These fundamentals are the foundation of web and graphic design and important to know. Whether you’re designing a portfolio or a print ad, these concepts can help guide your work. Let’s do a quick recap.

Optimize Web Graphics for Better Page Load Times
Learn how to optimize your web graphics by selecting the proper format and making sure that it’s as small as it can possibly be. Even though people are advancing to broadband connections, there are still quite a few who use dial-up internet connections. Additionally, with the emergence of mobile device technologies that don’t necessarily have broadband-like speeds, having slow page load times due to image file sizes can turn users off.
Here a general rule of thumb for picking the right file format: images that have solid colors are best saved as PNGs and GIFs, while images with continuous colors (such as photographs) are best saved as JPGs.

Responsive design
Responsive design is a key component of the web development process. The guidelines for responsive design ensure that HTML, CSS (cascading style sheets), and JavaScript elements like menus, text, and buttons are clear and usable everywhere.
Responsive design ensures consistent delivery of your content. It works by having a master layout that adjusts to fit the screen it’s loaded on. Making sure your designs translate to different devices helps them reach more people without sacrificing the user experience. And with tools like Webflow, you don’t need to rely on a web developer to bring responsive designs to life.

Design Software
Like any craftsperson, to do your work you need the right tools. Knowing your way around the industry standards will be helpful in every case and critical in many. While designing a website can be done right in a web browser, tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch are ones that almost all designers use for important parts of their job like creating mockups, designing assets (think logos and images), and of course, modifying and enhancing photos. You should learn how to use them (although, if you’re just getting started, consider trying out a few free photoshop alternatives instead)

HTML
You might not have imagined that a web designer would need to know how to code. But nowadays it’s an expected skill for most design jobs. HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language, which is the coding language used to put content on a web page and give it structure. That means it’s how you turn a bunch of words into headlines, paragraphs, and footers. And it’s also how you get the “cool” content like photos, videos, and graphics on a website.

CSS
And then there’s HTML’s partner, CSS or Cascading Style Sheets. CSS is the code that tells browsers how to format and style HTML for a web page. In other words, it’s what makes all the text and other content look good. With CSS, you can adjust the colors, change the fonts, or add a stunning background—and so much more! This is where your eye for design really shines and how you can put your creative stamp on every site you create.

Bonus! JavaScript
While you can code up your designs using just HTML and CSS, if you can also program using JavaScript, you’ll have a huge leg up against the competition. JavaScript allows you to take static elements on your site and make them interactive—think Twitter feeds that update automatically, websites that look different when you’re logged in, image sliders, and more!

Soft Skills (Or the Secret Weapons Every Web Designer Needs)

Now that you have the design and tech parts down, you only need to add some management to keep yourself organized and effective in your web design work. These are the skills most web designers swear by, so save yourself some time by learning them now rather than later.

Time Management
Whether you’re interested in learning web design to go freelance or to work for a company, you’ll need to stay on top of your schedule and your projects to be a standout web designer. This can mean getting to know productivity apps like task lists or calendars or, especially if you’re in a large organization, learning project tracking tools like Trello or JIRA. Whatever the tools, mastering the art of prioritizing and tracking your work will be essential for your success (and sanity!) in the busy world of web design.

Communication
Staying in touch and getting your point across are also must-have skills for a designer. You can’t make a living from building websites without great communication. You’ll need to keep clients up-to-date on the progress of their projects plus pitch ideas and explain your creations. You might even be called on to do some copywriting or editing for sites, especially if you’re running your own one (wo)man shop. So buckle down on your writing and your presentation skills, and you’ll be sure to get your point across in every situation.

SEO / Digital Marketing / Social Media
The skillset of SEO (search engine optimization), digital marketing, and social media might seem like it’s meant more for a salesperson than a web designer. But, since the Internet is the way so many companies sell today and since you’ll also need to sell your web designer talents (when you’re looking for a job or for freelance clients), you should wrap your head around them, too. Even knowing the basics of each and keeping them in mind for both clients and your own sites will get you a long way in your web designer journey.

Business / Client Management
And, as an employee or as a freelancer, understanding the bottom line will help you make sure you or your company is profitable and sustainable. You don’t have to go back for your MBA, but you should have an idea about the goals and finances of your employer or your own business so you can use them to guide your work. And, if you’re designing directly for clients, you should have a plan for making sure that your cash flow and project backlog are both healthy and doable in the short and long term.

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