Web design is an ever-evolving field. Those of us at Linkeo Ltd. that have been in the industry a long time have seen the launch of more products, the establishment of more ideas, and the promise of more growth than most industries see over a whole career.
While the tools we use, the terminology we employ, and the goalposts we shoot for are constantly changing, core skills are transferable and long-lasting and will ensure you not only survive in the industry but thrive in it.
Let’s look at some of the skills and characteristics that will help you thrive as a web designer for many years to come:
1. Decision Making
Each of us has a finite amount of decision-making fuel in the day — the more decisions you make, the sooner you reach decision fatigue. The ability to make a decision, and stick to it, separates those people who still have the fuel to make strategic decisions after close of business and those people who can’t decide what to have for dinner.
2. Clarity of Purpose
It’s never a bad idea to brush up on design fundamentals. From color theory to typography to UI and layout, these core skills are not only beneficial to your design practice, but they help you think about design on a higher level. Too often, designers fail to see the wood for the trees, focusing on the project at hand instead of a wider picture. The wider picture doesn’t mean your portfolio; it means the whole history, culture, and design context.
Despite the term, design fundamentals aren’t universal; they’re personal to you. Design fundamentals can be limiting, but by providing default answers to common questions, they also free you to consider larger questions about what you’re doing and why, which leads to clarity of purpose.
3. The Holy Trinity
I’m not talking about frameworks, libraries, or the latest build tools. Those things are just macros for coders. I’m talking about understanding the building blocks of a site, so if someone asks you whether you really need the company logo in the site footer, you can answer, and back your answer up with facts.
4. Simple Presentation
No matter what field of design you’re in, you’re going to need to present your ideas to someone who doesn’t share your knowledge. Whether you’re explaining the basics to a client or explaining your decision-making to a colleague, presenting your ideas simply is the best way to be heard.
Often, a persuasive presentation utilizes the less-is-more approach. Just as a design is finished when you’ve removed everything unnecessary, so too a pitch is most effective when you exclude extraneous detail. Often you’ll find metaphor useful, especially if you have a passing knowledge of the person’s own area of expertise because it translates a concept into a format the person understands and is comfortable with.
5. Strategic SEO
There are various branches of SEO that a site needs to consider. Technical SEO is the stuff that coders do; if you’re not a coder, you can ignore that. Content SEO is the stuff that marketers do; if you’re not a marketer, you can ignore that. Strategic SEO is a macro-view of a site’s plans; everyone on every project should understand strategic SEO.
Strategic SEO covers topics like landing pages, single-page sites, whether a blog is necessary, how, if at all, social media is employed. Strategic SEO feeds all other branches of SEO. It is so fundamental that it informs the earliest decisions about a site. If you want to do more than make things look pretty, learn more about strategic SEO.
6. Saying “No.”
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a freelancer sofa-diving for spare pennies to meet the rent or a seasoned in-house designer with targets to meet; everyone struggles to say, “no.” The fear is that if we decline a project, or a feature request, that we won’t be asked next time; eventually, we’ll be passed over for all projects until we have no career left.
The problem is that we only have so many hours in a day. If we do too much, we end up doing it badly, so there have to be limits. Every time you say “yes,” you’re increasing the chances that you will have to say “no,” to a future opportunity that’s great for you. By all means, decline gracefully. Do it politely. Be kind. Offer to refer the client elsewhere. But it’s better to say “no” than to have to say “no” to the perfect project because you’re over-stretched.
Those are the top 6 tips I can think of that can help you thrive as a web designer in today’s landscape. Can you think of any others? Be sure to share them in the comments below.