Today, no business can hope to stay afloat for very long without a web presence of some description. When pretty much anyone wants to find some kind of product or service, the first thing they do is search for them on Google or whatever their choice of search engine is. With digital marketing being so important, having the skills necessary to call yourself a web designer or developer is a pretty desirable position to be in. If you’re thinking of pursuing this career, or setting yourself up as a freelance web designer, here are some of the essential skills you should have under your belt.
HTML, which stands for hypertext markup language if you weren’t aware, is the basic foundation of how web pages are built, and therefore one of the first things that any aspiring web designer needs to learn. Even if you assumed you’d be leaning on a CMS or WYSIWYG editors for the whole of your career, knowing the fundamental principles of HTML will give you a great platform on which to build more advanced skills, and much more control over your work in the future. Besides, if you ever have to work outside of these editing interfaces, I’m sure you don’t want to be hopelessly stuck!
While the HTML language is used to control the structure of a website, CSS is what’s used to control the visual appearance. The aesthetic value of a site has been proven to have a big impact on the kinds of conversions it can reap in, making this a hugely important skill for modern web designers and developers to possess. Again, with the range of user-friendly design platforms that are available to us today, learning CSS isn’t strictly essential for the modern web designer or developer. However, understanding some of the founding principles will make it much easier to ensure widgets, applications and so on are meshing effectively with the design.
As I’m sure you’re aware by now, mobile internet use is absolutely huge these days. There’s now a truly staggering variety of devices which can be used for internet browsing these days. There’s a fair chance that you’re using a smartphone or tablet to view this page right now! This means that a big part of a website’s success is going to be dictated to how responsive it is across different devices. Learning about the conventions of responsive design will make you able to design sites that will look great no matter what device you’re using to view them, and also write media queries to build responsive sites, which is important for pretty much any web professional.
You probably know a bit about SEO already, seen as it’s among the most relevant schools of digital marketing at the minute. However, if you want to pursue a future in web design or development, it’s probably a good idea to brush up on your skills, and ensure that they’re as refined as possible. A website’s capacity for natural, key-word rich content and inbound links, as well as more technical things like the download speed and mobile responsiveness are all factors which can affect a site’s SEO friendliness. To be the best web designer or developer you possibly can, you need to have a keen understanding of how all these factors affect one another, and impact the site’s SERP rankings.
Again, this is something that’s not strictly essential with all the handy web-building platforms and other resources that we have access to these days. Still, having some basic knowledge about the kind of web server your site is running can help you with getting past various technical obstacles and assuring that the sites you build will run smoothly. Web design and development is possible while completely ignoring the server. Having said that, knowing how the server will respond to various little changes will help you to build a more attractive, high-performing site. If you’re working as part of a larger development team, and finding it difficult to communicate with the server admins, then your work is always going to take far longer than it should.
Communication and Customer Service
This obviously isn’t a technical skill, and won’t make a huge amount of difference to the end result of your actual work. However, being a web designer for any serious firm is a customer-facing role. If you want to be truly professional about it, then you need to have a certain degree of customer service skill under your belt. Whether you get your work as a freelancer, through an agency, or in-house, being able to present your ideas, communicate with decision makers clearly, and manage healthy working relationships are all going to come in handy.
This is another more general skill, but one that web designers should make sure they have nonetheless. Building a professional-standard website from nothing isn’t something you can do overnight. It’s a long and potentially complex project, and needs to be managed as such. Improving your general project management skills will ensure that you can get it off to a good start, hit all the milestones on time, and make sure the site is a success by the end of it all. Good project management skills will solidify your professional reputation, and make your clients love you!