With so many brands launching websites for credibility, efficiency and immediate growth, there’s never been a better time to become a web designer. This high-demand job is projected to grow by 13%, between now and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you’re mulling a career in website design, you’re also wondering what you need to know to start. In our guide, we’ll break down what a web designer is, how to become a web designer and go over what you can expect to earn at different points of your career.
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What does a web designer do?
Web designers create and maintain websites. They are responsible for developing websites and testing them to make sure they are attractive, responsive and have intuitive user interfaces.
That being said, a web designer’s days aren’t strictly filled with designing. If you work as a freelancer, your day may look like this:
Morning: Create new client contracts.
Morning until midday: Develop a sitemap and wireframe for a client as part of making a website.
Afternoon: Run cross-platform tests on different clients’ websites.
On the other hand, if you work at an agency or organization, your day will consist of web design-specific tasks. Whether you want to be 100% design-focused or enjoy dealing with the management side, you’ll want to choose which type of web designer—freelancer or full-time employee—you want to be.
How to become a web designer in 9 steps
The web design field has evolved over the past decades. In the mid-1990s web designers gave us the first chatrooms and the ability to order pizza online. By the 2000s and the birth of Web 2.0, web design became about content and search engine optimization. And today, UX design has become the most important aspect of building a functional website.
In effect, web design is more refined. You’ll need to learn web design theory, understand how the web works today, and find the right design tools to become a successful web designer:
01. Study design theory
A web designer uses design theory to make every one of their decisions. For example, designers use color psychology as a framework to create a mood, influence a user’s emotions or elicit certain actions. Today, you can master web design theory without leaving your home.
You’ll find free courses on YouTube, for instance, doing a site search for “web design theory course” will bring you accessible, in-depth tutorials by well-known course creators and thought leaders. If you want a more comprehensive education, take a course at your local college. Top educational institutions also offer high-quality, self-paced online courses and issue certificates which you can use to bolster your web design portfolio and resume.
Tip: Take free online courses on website design best practices with Wix Learn.
You can also purchase books on web design theory. While the basics are evergreen, sites like Smashing Magazine and A List Apart (A Book Apart) regularly publish books by top designers on the latest topics and technologies. Many designers regularly publish blogs, too, on both evergreen and newsier topics.
02. Get a basic understanding of how web works
While you don’t need to be a skilled coder to build websites today, understanding the technical structure of the web will ensure your designs can be developed into functional web pages. There are three basic languages you should learn:
HTML, which forms the structure of a web page
CSS, which dictates the styling of the web page and all its components
Tip: Get complete design freedom and advanced features like innovative transparent videos, custom animations and vector act without having to know code with Wix. Or make your site even more dynamic with custom interactions and functionality with Velo by Wix, our open dev platform.
You’ll find plentiful resources on website coding on the same platforms that cover web design theory. There are also a number of platforms dedicated strictly to coding and often include playgrounds, projects and quizzes.
03. Hone more skills for becoming a web designer
Generally, a web designer’s skill set falls into two types: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are the skills you learn to design websites. For example:
Web design theory
Visual (UI) design
HTML & CSS
Platform-specific tools, templates, plugins, etc.
Soft skills are professional management skills you learn throughout your career. For example:
Project and time management
Which skills you need depends on the role you’re in. For instance, if you work as a freelance designer, you’ll need client management skills. However, if you work for an employer, you’ll benefit more from active listening and collaboration skills.
You’ll also find that many of the resources you use to study web design also offer training on soft skills with exercises to apply them in your day-to-day work.
04. Create a design toolkit
Adopt a toolkit that enables you to work as efficiently as possible while creating the best results. To find the right web design tools for you, you need to experiment with what’s available.
Tip: Start creating with Editor X’s advanced design features to experience a seamless process from concept to production with responsive CSS powered by smooth drag & drop.
In addition to filling your toolkit with web design tools, you’ll also want to add other tools that help you create websites. Consider your workflow and the tools that’ll streamline those tasks.
Start by trying out the 8 best UI and UX design software adding what you like into your day-to-day toolkit. Don’t forget about tools to enhance your soft skills. For example, business software can streamline both your administrative tasks and client interactions.
05. Carve out a specific career path
While you don’t need to set anything in stone right away, it’s much easier to find clients and charge higher rates with a specialization. Here are four common web design career paths:
Graphic designers focus on the branding and marketing side of web design, designing logos, creating marketing materials, and developing style guides or design systems with other design teams across an organization.
UX designers use information gleaned from user research and testing to develop user persona profiles, map out user journeys, wireframe optimized layouts, design visual interfaces, and create working prototypes for websites and apps.
Interaction designers research and learn how users engage with websites to create helpful and pleasing interactive experiences on a website.
Hybrid front-end engineers tend to work on more complex website projects that require custom design and coding. They’re able to take a concept, translate it into a visual design—usually with design software—and then bring it to life through programming.
The other way to specialize is by choosing a niche. For instance, you can narrow down by:
B2B vs. B2C
Enterprise vs. small business
Website type (e.g., business vs. eCommerce)
This is something that will develop over time and it may even change, too. Usually, web designers find their niche at the crossroads between what they’re good at, what they enjoy, and where there’s a lot of demand.
06. Create your portfolio website
When you start applying to jobs, employers and clients want to see your demonstrated capabilities. Because you’re a web designer, your body of work shouldn’t consist of an e-mailed list of links or a third-party where you have to compete for attention. Create a portfolio website to easily allow potential employers to assess your skill level and gauge how well your style and approach aligns with their business needs.
Your own portfolio website will help:
Show off your work in the best light (i.e. not using a predetermined format from another platform.)
Include a broad sampling of your website designs and organize them based on type, industry, etc.
Give prospects an introduction to who you are, your design training and qualifications, as well as how you like to work.
Impress visitors with the design of your own website and give them a preview of the kinds of features you can create for them.
Optimize your site and portfolio for search engines so that people looking to hire a web designer can find you.
07. Apply to web design jobs
Before you start applying, come up with a list of criteria you care about. This will help you choose the right platforms and to narrow down how many gigs or positions you apply to. For example:
Remote or on site
Local company or global
Entry-level, mid-level, or senior role
Contract or permanent employment
Agency or in-house
Part-time or full-time
You may also want to narrow down your search based on the type of design software, work hours, job responsibilities, and so on.
Tip: If you prefer to go the freelance route, try Wix Marketplace, a platform that allows you to show off your best work, set your rates and match with qualified leads looking for a professional designer just like you.
You never know what opportunities you’ll discover when you network. You might meet prospective clients to keep your skills razor-sharp, find creative partners to collaborate with, or simply a group of designers to commiserate with. Look within your local community for groups of designers or find and join web design groups online.
Tip: Host a community meetup or workshop with Wix Partners and share your knowledge and expertise with others around the world.
For instance, you might find a Facebook group dedicated to your favorite website design software. Discussions would focus around troubleshooting errors, improving your process, and learning new strategies. There are also web design industry groups focused on gathering to share stories, communicate about clients, and trade information about open gigs.
If you want to hone your design skills while meeting others, a conference or webinar is another effective way to network. Look for in-person and online events to learn about new design trends, get more from your existing tools, and hone your skills.
09. Create content
Last but not least, you’ll need to do some marketing. Aside from your website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn also offer you a place to:
Comment on the latest web design trends, practices, and news.
Build an audience around your web design “brand” and establish yourself as an authority.
Get in front of prospective clients or employers.
Grow your following and expand your network.
Just a few minutes every day sharing content and lightly engaging with others on social media will inevitably pay off. And you can link all your social media accounts on your website.
The average web designer salary in 2022
Now that you know how to become a web designer, let’s briefly talk about earnings. Similar to how your responsibilities and career path differ depending on a number of factors, the same goes for your salary.
Let’s start with the average annual salary for web designers in 2022 as reported to top job and salary sites:
These are the average annual salaries expected for senior web designers:
This is what UX designers are expected to earn, on average, this year:
Keep in mind that these are not guarantees of earnings. These numbers are based on what existing designers have reported to these websites. That’s why there are such big differences in the salary ranges. Some of these designers could be building and managing enterprise websites for companies while others make their living off designing small business websites. Your level of expertise, niche, location, employment type will impact what you earn.