5 Survival Tips For Web Designers

Categories Trend Hunting, Web Design

This is a guest post from Kai Gittens – a web designer at Revlon Cosmetics. Kai discusses web design and development on his personal blog.

Cameron Chapman caused a bit of an uproar last fall with her Smashing Magazine article Does The Future Of The Internet Have Room For Web Designers? Her general position was that the current crop of mobile devices and their accompanying applications are robust enough to the point that they may eventually replace the need for desktop and laptop computers. Add that to the fact that it’s much easier to purchase pre-built website templates, and it appears as if web designers are going the way of the dodo bird and headed for extinction.

In all fairness, her point was well argued. It’s also important to note that Chapman was questioning the need for web designers, not the need for design in the digital space.

In case there are issues in the future, here are 5 survival tips:

1. Remember that “design” is not going anywhere

Clients will always want their brand and products represented in a graphically appealing way that stands apart from their competitors. There will always be a need for design.

2. Remember that technology changes rapidly, and that’s in your favor

Mobile device development did not stop with the iPhone or the Android or the Blackberry Curve. Along came the iPad, which allowed for more design space and gave us the digital magazine format. Creating Wired Magazine’s beautiful iPad app required some programming skills, but a significant amount of work was first done in Adobe InDesign.

The point is, technology doesn’t stay stagnant and will always provide new design opportunities.

3. Learn some web development

Web design may or may not disappear but web development is staying right where it is. Chapman ends her article stating that, while the backend for mobile programming and templates will be “pretty standardized, the manner in which [they are] displayed will become a battleground of creativity.” This is a win-win situation for developers.

My suggestion is to study a website-friendly object oriented programming language that you can use right away. Right now, that means either JavaScript or ActionScript 3.0 for Flash.

4. Strive to become a “jack of all trades,” not a “master of one” in the digital space

If you know how to use WordPress, you can learn the basics of Microsoft SharePoint in about a week. If you prefer ActionScript 2.0 to the more difficult ActionScript 3.0, you’re ready to use HTML5’s Canvas function. You’d be amazed at other areas of web development to which you can apply your current skillet. DON’T SELL YOURSELF SHORT!!!!!

5. Search the job boards to see what skillsets are in demand

Regardless of theories by bloggers and pundits (me included), it’s potential employers that will decide whether or not web designers are needed. Regularly review the job sites to see what skillsets they’re looking for. Also, go on a few interviews, even if you already have a job. You’ll get a great feel for the current marketplace.

Do you think that Chapman is right? If so, are you doing any extra work to keep yourself relevant? Let me know!

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Kai Gittens
Kai Gittens is a web designer at Revlon Cosmetics. His current obsessions are HTML5, CSS3 and the Real Madrid and Chelsea Football Clubs. The first two subjects are discussed in depth on his blog.
  • I like this post, it makes me feel better….

  • Your post is quick and to the point which I like. I also like that it can be applied to other professions as well. I am a marketing professional and work with designers all the time, so its good to know this information and understand things on their end as well.

  • kai

    @Daniel: you and me both!!!!!!!!!! I just had a kid so I HAVE to stay employed!

    @Ryan: yes it can be applied in other spots. We are moving to a knowledge-based society more and more everyday, which demands that we learn something new (almost) everyday.

  • What about learning PHP etc?

  • kai

    @dukan: learning PHP can DEFINITELY help a web designer stay constant and could be listed in point #3 above. The little PHP that I know has helped me tremendously for things like hacking WordPress. My suggestion would be for a web designer to learn either ActionScript 3 or JavaScript prior to learning something like PHP. My gut tells me that a graphically-inclined web designer would enjoy working with a language that can help them create some nice graphical effects before dealing with strict back-end languages. That’s just my two cents though.

  • Not sure I completely agree with the “Jack of all trades” statement. It can be useful to have dabbled in other areas of design/technology/whatever but in some cases the individuals that make the most money/ are the most successfull/ are the happiest are the people that have absolutely mastered one niche. All depends on what way you look at it but either way this is a great little post! :D

  • Learning almost all programming language could be a mess for some people, I think that we must focus and being an expert on one thing?

    Even I also think that it will be great to master them all, but how if we fail on all?

  • kai

    @Nick and @Tiyo: there are lots of good reasons to master one aspect of web design/development, and you each respectively bring one up. I truly hope that the web design/dev field doesn’t change to the point that people don’t have the option of focusing on one thing within this field. Particularly, if they want to focus on the one thing that they truly love. 

    I do see the possibility of this change coming. And I do think that a web designer that possess some web dev skills will be the more employable candidate, even if they only understand the basics.  jQuery may be a good alternative to the web languages already mentioned. 

    @Nick: thank you for complementing me on my post!!!!

  • I agree with the points you made and your suggestions for how web designers can stay relevant. I don’t see design in general going away online, just that the market for website design specifically is going to shrink. Sure, there will always be companies who want custom websites, but I see the value clients place on those sites falling. Designers need to branch out and focus on more than just designing websites if they want to stay successful.

  • kai

    @Cameron: thanks for responding!!! Great article!!!

  • Daniel you took the words our my mouth ;)

  • Tyas

    Thanks Kai, your post describes, additionally what we can learn to survive in the field as a designer.

  • kai

    @Tyas: thanks for your kind words…I hope we all survive!!!!

  • Great post. I’m still a college student hoping to someday make a name for myself in a certain part of the field, but I definitely agree that knowing more definitely opens more doors.

    Also, it’s just fun and motivating to learn new languages and techniques and definitely adds to a sense of accomplishment.

  • @Julia: Great news!!! Good for you and I wish you luck!

    If you can, take an introductory course on a programming language that will allow you to cross both the design and development worlds. I say JavaScript.

    And, or course, jQuery is wonderful!! All of us at work have kind of a man-crush on it right now.

  • These are really helpful tips. Thank you for the useful information.