As with any developing technology, the field of Web design is not the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago. In the mid-’90s – when the general public first started seeing Web sites on the Internet – large, flashy graphics were popular. Now, most professional Web sites have a cleaner look, and many have interactive features such as blogs or forums.
Large companies typically employ several types of Web experts to create their sites: designer, content writer, developer, programmer, and information architect. Small firms might only employ one or two specialists. But the one position that is consistent between all of them is the designer.
If you’re creative, have a knack for technology, and are looking for job security, Web design may be the perfect career field for you. But you need to be willing to get the proper training. Fortunately, courses in Web design are taught in most colleges and universities today – many of which are available online.
Graphic Design for the Web vs. Print
Web graphic design jobs are different than print graphic design jobs in several ways. That’s because designers who create for the Internet need to think about a lot more than how a layout looks aesthetically. In your position as a Web designer, you also need to consider:
• Content – Someone else will probably be creating the words on the page, but you as the designer must coordinate with that person to make sure the two go together. Knowing who the target audience is for a site will help you decide what types of graphics, fonts, and the overall “look and feel” you should create.
• Usability – Make the site user-friendly with understandable navigation (consistent buttons and interface).
• Appearance – Maintain a professional appearance through use of tasteful and appropriate graphics, colors, and easy-to-read fonts.
• Visibility – Creating Web pages that are easy for Web surfers to find is extremely important. You as a designer should be familiar with techniques that can get Web sites more traffic. For instance, don’t place keywords or other important text inside of frames or graphics, since search engines can’t “see” those.
Junior Web Designers
Those who start their career in Web design at large companies are usually known as junior Web designers. They assist the senior level Web designers with coding, testing, project development . . . and design. Look for Junior Web design jobs online, either on job boards or under the employment section of company Web sites.
Contract or Staff?
Working as a contractor for a company means you don’t have the health benefits a staff Web designer would, but you do have the assurance of a regular income for the duration of the contract. Contractors typically make more per hour than a staff person would, to compensate them for paying their own health insurance costs. Look for contract Web design jobs at company Web sites. These positions are typically not found at online job boards.
Should You Go Freelance?
After getting some experience in this field, some Web designers decide to go freelance. That is, they work from either their home or an office, and take on work from a variety of employers. As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to going freelance. Here are a few:
• VARIETY. Being exposed to several different types of employers will help keep you fresh, which can help feed your creativity.
• MORE CONTROL OF YOUR TIME. If necessary, you can cut back on how many new jobs you take, depending on other demands on your life at any given time.
• MORE CONTROL OF YOUR BUSINESS. If you begin having problems with a particular client, you can choose not to deal with that person or company any more – something you definitely don’t have control over as an employee of a company.
• INCOME FLUCTUATES. In the beginning, your business will probably not generate a steady stream of income. Learning how to adjust to that is crucial for your long-term success.
• LONGER HOURS. Fortunately, if you enjoy what you do, you probably won’t mind this part as much. But eventually, working long hours and weekends will burn you out.
• BRAND YOURSELF. Figure out what it is that makes you different from other Web designers, and emphasize that in your marketing. Maybe it’s the industry you focus on, such as dentists or real estate agents. Or maybe you’re an expert in Flash, Fireworks, or Cascading Style Sheets.
• START OUT SLOW. If possible, start taking on some freelance work “on the side,” while you’re still employed full-time. That will give you a taste of what working for yourself can be like.
• POST PROFILE AT ONLINE JOB SITES. Most freelancers looking for online Web design jobs make it a daily habit to check online job boards. To find work this way, most job boards require you to post a profile of your abilities and samples of your work. This makes it easier for potential employers to find you. It also makes it easier for you to find them, since these same job boards also allow potential clients to list their requirements for jobs. Once you find a job offer you’re interested in, you simply put in a bid and wait. Hopefully, you’ll be the one they call!
Some sites, such as DesigningCrossing (www.designingcrossing.com), allow you to search for jobs without having to post a profile. Searches can be done by city and for specific types of design, if desired.