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Top 10 Web Design Skills You WILL Need

Here are my top 10 web design skills that you WILL need to master to become an effective web designer.

If you’re serious about mastering web design and marketing, check out the Pro Web Design Alliance. See how Jordan benefited from the course forum and Google hangout sessions to make his and his clients’ sites better. Look at Jordan’s site and the testimonials from his clients here.  The personal interaction with Ben and fellow students while  working on live sites makes the learn by doing course philosophy start generating money for you while you are still in the course.

Your priorities may be different (and my priorities may be different a few months down the line).

And I’d add that you don’t need all these skills in any particular measure to make it in web design. But to be a fully rounded web professional, this is my take on the ideal make-up.

  1. Writing & editorial
  2. Holistic circumspection
  3. Graphic design theory
  4. Listening & discernment
  5. Self-learning
  6. SEO
  7. Graphic design: original/creative graphics
  8. Web page production in HTML/CSS
  9. Business sense
  10. Typing

#1. Writing & Editorial Skills

I’m convinced the #1 most important skill for a web designer is the ability to use words effectively. A truly effective web designer is more highly skilled with writing and editing copy than with producing graphics in Photoshop.

If you can craft a series of web pages into a conversation that communicates what you need to communicate, informs, and calls your visitors to take the actions you want, your web site can be a great success, even if it’s graphically plain – hey, even if it’s ugly!

Effective wording is of singular importance in several highly important factors in the success of web pages:

  • Effective wording is key to brand communication. Effective branding on a web site is about ‘getability’ – how efficiently you can communicate what the site is, what it does, and for whom. It’s unusual to be able to do this without using words. The more effective your wording, the more getable your page, and the more people will believe your proposition is for them and choose to stick around to find what they want.
  • It’s also vital for usability. Words are often the most effective labels to identify forward steps (links etc.); usually far more efficient than icons or other images. Words in navigation can tell you unequivocally where you are, where you can go, and what you can do. Well-crafted navigation makes a critical difference to any web site’s effectiveness, keeping visitors on board longer.
  • SEO: Search engines look for meaning, which you communicate through content, which generally means writing. And people want to link to good content. The better your writing, the better your site will perform.

#2. Holistic Circumspection

What I mean by this is the ability to look at a problem from multiple angles at the same time, so that you can come up with a solution that balances appropriate all the various requirements, goal, and risk factors.

Web design isn’t a simplistic publishing exercise (what is?!): it requires an appreciation of who your target visitor is, what she wants to achieve when visiting a web site, what the competition is like and how to differentiate your site from them, the initial brand impression, choice of wording to communicate effectively, choice of imagery to create the right tone, how search engines work and how to take maximum advantage of that, difficulties and cost of getting a design to display correctly on very different browsers, accessibility to everyone regardless of disability, ease-of-use, technical integration issues, maintenance issues, brand constraints, etc. etc.

On top of all this, a really good web designer has the ability to step away from the design they’re working on, almost to pretend to be someone else and think like someone who’s never seen the site before.

How can you develop this ability? I honestly don’t know for sure, but experience helps, as does the opportunity to observe people using web sites (yours or others’).

#3. Graphic Design Theory

The discipline of graphic design works at many levels, from the surface effect to the core basics of layout and spacing.

I really believe that the core basics are far more important than the “higher” aspects.

The core basics include:

  • Spacing
  • Proportion and Balance
  • Grouping
  • Contrast and Colour
  • Flow, and managing the Eye

These basics make a design basically work. Get them right, and your design will be effective, irrespective of the finish.

At the higher end, you’ve got the actual surface layer, which sits on top of the basic structure. These skills include:

  • Typography
  • 3D effects
  • Custom imagery
  • Plus all the basic factors – applied together and to a finer degree
  • and all the stylistic web design tricks we know and love.

Get both right, and you can have a compelling web page design that works on every level. Get the basics right, and your page will be fundamentally effective. Get just the surface finish, and you could end up with no result at all, other than the accolades of design tossers, which really is the wooden spoon.

#4. Listening & Discernment

To be a great web designer, you need to appreciate the whole environment. The most fundamental, radical requirement is: What does the client need?

To get to the bottom of what will actually constitute success for your client, you need to apply both good listening (which is pro-active and may be challenging) and discernment – good judgement, based on experience and common sense, which will help you and the site owner refine what the site needs to achieve.

Without good listening & discernment, you’ll end up with a web site whose purpose is just to be a web site up there. That’s no good to anyone. Great designers create web sites that are consciously, deliberately, boldly focused on achieving specific goals for the client (through delivering specific benefits to visitors with consistently satisfying experiences).

While direct prior experience is a clear advantage, you can get around lack of experience in any particular industry. The way to do that is to use facilitation skills: to keep asking probing questions, and working hard to stretch your understanding to accommodate what you’re learning, and helping to simplify the client’s purpose and any concepts to the point where you get it. If you can refine any proposition to one sentence, which your client can agree is true and accurate, you’ve done a good job.

#5. Self-learning

Web design is one of the richest, most diverse domains you can choose. It’s a giant pile-on of visual design, technology, psychology, coding, human factors, all that jazz. And the technology doesn’t stand still from one day so the next. That’s what makes it so frustrating – and so fun! One thing’s for sure. If you want to perform well in this mental soup, you’ve got to be capable of learning on a daily basis. You need to pick up new styles, new techniques, and new constraints every time you sit down to work.

And because it moves so quickly, there’s no one who can teach you everything. The best designers, SEO guys, CSS geeks, hackers, copywriters, businesspeople, etc. they’re all learning every day, trying out new stuff, learning what works and what doesn’t. There’s not one of them who knows it all. In this industry, the moment you think you may know enough is the moment you drop off the pace. Just like the rest of life, I guess!

That doesn’t mean you have to Can you develop this skill? Well, you have to do it constantly, really; that’s the whole point. Here are some pointers:

  • Research and bookmark trustworthy web sites as starting points.
  • Subscribe to a few high-quality newsfeeds, or visit sites that focus on the latest news.
  • Also build a network of other skilled people you can turn to to share questions and knowledge. Forums are also good for this, if the content-noise ratio works for you.
  • Learn how to refine Google search results to focus on the information you really need in less time.
  • Always remember you can’t know it all, that there are more answers out there, and get comfortable with the chaos. Be open to un-learning what you thought you knew about what works, about the best way to do stuff.
  • Make it fun. Make regular time to read stuff that interests you.
  • Take short cuts by going direct to the source of success. If someone’s getting it right, look at why, and look for ways you can apply similar techniques to achieve the same.

#6. SEO

Optimising your pages for search engines is a vital element in web design!

Why? Because web design is the discipline of crafting effective communication. That means the whole process, end to end. And if no-one ever visits your web page, or the only people who do aren’t the ones who should, you ain’t communicating!

The first step in usability, in branding, in design – is search results. Your visitor’s experience of your site/brand begins with typing in a search term, and scanning the list of results to pick out the thing they believe is most likely to give them what they want.

If you want to be an excellent designer, you can’t ignore web page optimisation. The more I’ve learnt about this area, the more I’m thinking from the search engine’s perspective as I design a site’s information architecture, and even lay out my page designs.

What’s the sound of one hand clapping? If a tree falls in the forest with no one to hear it, does it make a sound? If no one visits your web page, is it design?

See my introduction to SEO for a starting point…

#7. Creative graphics

I’ve put original, creative graphics down the list from the theory of graphic design principles/basics, because I really believe you can make an effective web page without them! Not always, clearly. Some goals depend on getting a really tight, shiny, quality look. But that’s not the majority of sites, really.

There are lots of ugly sites out there that really work:

And there are lots more very simple or plain designs that deliver massive results day-in, day-out. Take ebay, Google, Wikipedia, and Craigslist for starters.

I know you’ll often get clients who are only happy when they get snazzy graphics. So you do often need to be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat, which is why this skill is in my top 10. However, it’s not entirely a necessity. As long as you’ve got enough clear vision, you can always brief someone else to do the graphics production for you, which you can’t say for all the items on this list.

I like to think that if I lost all my Photoshop skills in a bizarre drinking game, I’d still be able to turn out great web sites that transform people’s businesses.

#8. Page production using HTML & CSS

You can clearly outsource your web page production. There’s a growing niche of companies who can do this cost-effectively. So why’s it in this list?

The reason is that designing web pages with a working knowledge of what’s possible and what’s easy using xHTML & CSS is many times more efficient than to do designs out of ignorance to the constraints of the technology through which your vision will eventually be delivered.

I’ve worked with some really good designers who come from a print background, and who create visually appealing web pages that just don’t work very well. That’s simply due to not being intimate enough with the production methods to be able to wave the mouse with markup and stylesheets already in mind.

Aside from that, understanding what’s possible and doable in HTML & CSS is vital for SEO, usability, and accessibility.

#9. Business Sense

(I was going to put “usability” here, but frankly you can live without the ability to find out what actually works and what actually doesn’t. At least, you don’t have to experiment or learn this formally. You can just watch people using stuff, and learn to watch yourself as you use stuff.)

Frankly, if you’re going to make a go of being a web designer, whether you’re self-employed, freelance, part of a small company or large corporation, you’ll benefit from knowing the basics of how business works, and how to make sensible guesses when faced with business choices. If you’re responsible for creating marketing channels online for clients, however small, you’ve got to know what the purpose is. That’s all business is: common sense.

Can I sum it up in one paragraph?

The core of Business is basically Marketing: working out what people want and how to provide in a way that they choose you rather than something else or nothing.

Beyond that, it’s guesswork. There is no right answer. However, you can inform yourself a lot, by being brutally honest, creating tests & experiments and facing the facts they throw up. Even better, you can learn from other people’s tests and experiments, which is a lot less work, by reading what they’ve written and applying it sensibly to your own situations.

#10. Typing

I’ve written a whole article on this topic. In brief, whatever you do, you’ll spend a lot of time at the keyboard. Most of my designs use more text than graphics, and all our HTML, CSS, PHP etc. are hand coded. The fact is that the faster I can type, the more stuff I get done in an hour.

If you can type fast, you can code fast, you can get your emails out of the way quicker, and you can blog or write books with the time you’ve saved.

The only reason not to learn to touch-type is if you can already type faster than you can think. Take the hit, go through the dip. Learn to type now, and feel the benefits every year to come!

How YOU Can Master Web Design

After 17 years as a web designer, developer, and consultant, I now spend my time coaching and teaching others how to make kick-ass websites (that get seen, get clicked, and get business!)

If you’re ready to raise your skills to professional level – whether you want to be a freelance web pro, or run your own sites for profit – check out:

  • Pro Web Design Course – a comprehensive 6-month program that covers EVERY aspect of successful web design
  • NEW! Pro Web Design Alliance – an exclusive membership organisation for pros committed to making the best websites.. Membership starts at $97/month and includes full access to the Pro Web Design Course.

Have your say

Do you agree with the list above? Let us know what you think the most important skill for a web designer is.

If your answer is other, please specify by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

(The numbers in brackets are Ben’s suggested ranking from this post.)

[poll id=2]

Want To Be a Pro Web Designer? I’ll Help!

 

About the author

Ben Hunt

Ben is the creator of Web Design From Scratch. He started writing articles about web design to kill time on a long train commute, and is now one of the most influential figures on the subject of effective web design. He has written three books and spoken at multiple conferences internationally.

gern - 4 years ago

I’m sorry, but I’m really sick of hearing about the importance of SEO. Good design is much more important in my opinion. If you’ve ever read a site with good SEO you’ll know it reads like a government manual. So, if your business is writing government manuals, then you’re fine. For the rest of us I prefer good usability and attractive design, thank you.

    WDFS - 4 years ago

    Gern, I used to think exactly the same. I have since learned that there are 2 important things in your web site’s success: traffic and conversion. Success = Traffic x Conversion. If you have no traffic, you have no success. If your conversion rate stinks, you have no success. You can’t avoid either. Good SEO is not about making a poor user experience – that’s short-sighted. Great SEO *is* design, and marketing! It’s part of the user experience. It identifies the right target market, provides a compelling promise (in the search engine results), and brings them in to the right page. If it’s done well, it’s integral to the whole design process. Graphic design is another factor. It’s not either/or – it’s both/and. If you really want your design to succeed, get it seen and get it working great too!

    Mike - a couple of years ago

    It’s really quite true. You can have the most beautiful, content-rich, website on the planet, but what good is it if no one ever sees it? SEO is a very important part of the design process.

    I’ve seen sites before that looked terrible, but at times were making millions. I’ve also seen beautiful sites that were lucky to make $100 a year.

      Christian Voigt - a couple of years ago

      The need of SEO really depends on your goals. If you are WalMart you clearly need as many customers as possible and good SEO and whatnot.
      If you are a small company with a handpicked choice of customers, or rather, you want the customers to handpick you, SEO is quite useless and could be even harmful. I’ve created sites in the past that generated traffic costs far beyond it’s benefits.
      If you have supply without limits, SEO is GOOD for you, if you are working on demand and with limiting factors (10 Pieces of exclusive Jewelry per month) you don’t want SEO so much.

      I’d say business sense and listening goes on top. SEO I would not consider important in general, just for certain types of sites. I’d rather have my websites on the front-page of the NY times than #1 in Google. I would aim my marketing money towards awareness outside the net, cause thats where the real money is, in my experience.

      Know your skills and choose your customers accordingly.

      BTW, you don’t need to be able to code HTML and CSS, you just need to know the design-limits of those and the limits of the currently used browsers.

sir jorge - 4 years ago

after failing at steps 1 and 3 for 5 years now, i’ve given up on tech

LarryDJarvis - 4 years ago

Opps… No. 1 should be: Ability to come up with great ideas. (Writing editing not the same thing).

leo - 3 years ago

that’s what teams are for. different people excel at different things. there shouldn’t be lone people doing it all. there are programmers, there are developers, there are designers, etc. some people just want to stick to their main discipline and maybe branch out to one or two other things, but i don’t think many people want to do all 10 of these things. i believe teams make the best web sites, and if there are any people who have made awesome websites with just themselves (one person) then those projects probably took forever and a day.

    Dan H - a couple of years ago

    I couldn’t agree more!

    The web is getting increasingly complex in all areas of the 10 disciplines listed and cannot be mastered by a single individual in all respects.

    For example, this site certainly isn’t a design showcase. Yet it does have good content – thanks Ben! (Except of course to say a web designer needs to be a “master” of all 10 listed skills – ridiculous… not to mention discouraging for budding web workers who are passionate about a single area)

    To specialize in one or a couple areas with a general/holistic understanding of how to collaborate with other professionals is the now in producing top tier web products.

    It takes much talent, experience, dedication, and often years of study to be great and stay current in a single area.

shapewear - 3 years ago

Most graphic designer nowdays are venturing into SEO to promote things that they do and show off their products. One time, when I tried searching for Iphone, Ive come across a website which sells personalized iphone backgrounds on the front pages of google.

Tagesgeldkonto - 3 years ago

Yeah, this article points at the right things: It is not enough to be a programmer or graphic designer. You have to know basic marketing, search engine optimization and so much more to make a succesful website. When your products are hot enough, you have to work less on marketing as mouth to mouth pushes you to public.

Dario Berardi - 3 years ago

Hi there, I really understand this blog page…
’cause you misc Web Design with Programmer, Web designer don’t need to know how write code in html or css, just need to know what a programmer can do in html and css. This artcile must be split in WEB DESIGNER AND PROGRAMER…

    ben - 3 years ago

    Hi Dario. I disagree. A web designer that doesn’t understand HTML and CSS is like a painter who doesn’t understand paint. A design has to be workable in the real world. It should be compelling, light, fast, flexible, accessible, and easy for search engines to interpret. If you create web page designs that don’t achieve those things, you haven’t really done design, you’ve done art. Now, I love art, I studied art, but it isn’t design. Art is for its own sake, design has a communication goal.

      Savvy Lounge - 11 months ago

      I agree with Ben. After 12 years in the private sector and having created and contributed on more than a 100 websites, all different in size and complexity, I can confirm that coding is extremely important if you want to hang on competition. Projects come in Android, CSharp in DotNet environments, mobile applications, iphone apps just to name a few! How can a designer create good effective and efficient design if he or she cannot understand the limitations and constraints of the language in which the application will be coded ? It’s definitely a plus when the designer blends in with the analyst, the coder/developer and the systems administrator.

      Of course, I could be wrong but after 12 years in the field, there’s little chance that I get mistaken here !!

      Thanks Ben and way to go !

sean - 3 years ago

I’d say SEO is number one actually… If you build a site for a client and they aren’t above their competition in Google, then you’re just making a really nice looking site that your customer gets to look at

RC - 3 years ago

Someone takes themselves *way* too seriously.

Dee Excel - 3 years ago

Success as a freelance web designer has to do with demographics and association. Word of mouth is what sets it off. Now you have to be very good or moderately good at one of the fields; graphics, HTML and CSS or SEO. IF you are not artistic you can buy cool graphics, if you suck at HTML and CSS, you can purchase layouts, if you can’t code you can use a CMS. If you suck at SEO, you can use plugins for your CMS or buy a book or two on it.For every 100 websites that spring up every day, only maybe 3 actually succeed. You need to focus on what you are good at and get better. You also need to learn other aspects of the trade, you don’t have to master every aspect but know enough to use it effectively. Most importantly, you have to get the word out.

Dee Excel - 3 years ago

@Gern
I use to feel the same way and I still do to some extent. Nine out of ten times a random person will not come across your site and want to hire you unless your site goes above and beyond in every category. And, that is still very very rare. However, once a patron passes your name on to another, you will be googled and you need to be indexed properly. Some will check your web ranking, work history and so on. SEO is important in that aspect

Gianni - 3 years ago

Very interesting post, and also the ideas that has started from here, for my personal experience SEO is the 1 point, i’m seeing so ugly sites selling so much and having success, just for a great SEO work behind!

Robert - 3 years ago

Awesome post, good information. I agree with everything you had to say. As for me I also used to be a photoshop based web designer, constructing my sites with all pictures. Now Ive learned CSS and SEO and now my new websites are doing awesome. I still need to master my writing skills

Andrew - 3 years ago

Reading all comments after this story – interesting too. And, SEO – first important thing I think.

Julia - 3 years ago

I love your blog, Ben! I’ve been snooping around with your other articles. ;) Everything I’ve come across has been helpful and informative. Keep writing! Newbies like me think you’re a big help. :)

Ben Hunt - 3 years ago

Thanks Julia :-)

steve - 3 years ago

unless thinking about general web design I would elaborate on the skill of writing to be the skill of writing to sell in the same way that direct response advertising does.

when talking businesses sites where the soul purpose should be for the site to contribute to making money a skill I would rank high is the think and write like a direct response ad – salesmenship on screen

if an ad in a national newspaper can pull a response then so can a website if the same, or at least some of the same skills are used.

Richard - 3 years ago

Great article. I think SEO plays a major role, but you can’t cut the other parts out either. If your content sucks, then no one is going to link to it. Just look at this article. I am reading and interacting with it a year or more after it was written.

I would actually rate the design of a website a little lower depending on it’s purpose as I know some beautiful websites that are to bandwidth heavy. Just look at Facebook, now that’s a bland website, but it’s purpose is not to be beautiful!

Phil - 3 years ago

Absolutely. Fully Understood. I could not agree more. My customers were really, I mean REALLY freaked out by my website design. I lost HEAPS of customers.

Having come close to being bankrupt I have FINALLY pulled myself back from the brink. Thank God.

GwenH - 3 years ago

Ben, I think, (I hope) you nailed it. I’m a writer with years of experience in instructional design, writing/designing marketing materials and business writing. I decided to study web design before continuing my studies in writing for new media. I’m within 3-months of finishing the web design certificate program.

The more I read your blog and take a critical business approach to evaluating sites, the more I understand about the bottom line importance of Internet marketing. Now I’m pulled in two directions. I’ll either continue with writing for new media or switch to Internet marketing. **I welcome any and all feedback.**

    Ben Hunt - 3 years ago

    Hi Gwen. Great feedback, thanks.

    As I’m sure you know, I believe writing is the core skill in any marketing. (And marketing is 99% of business.)

    Technical/ writing, journalistic writing etc. can be very different to persuasive writing, though. The answer to your question will hinge on how effective you can be as a marketing writer. If you can do it, I’d say go for the Internet Marketing. (Even better, join the Pro Web Design Alliance, where we’ll fill in all the skills you’ll need.)

DD - 3 years ago

Good advice. I noticed a lot of the very big technical websites are bland and not so user friendly.

Jakki - 3 years ago

Great writeup – really useful for someone who’s relatively new to the importance of SEO in particular! :)

superflyjesus - 3 years ago

awesome post… only thing i must say is you didnt proof read your #1, which makes me >_< communicatio?

Rikard - 3 years ago

Good post. Definitely agree with graphic design theory although I’d refer to it as basics. And you definitely can’t underestimate the ability to type.

David - a couple of years ago

I fully agree. Without having compiled a list with categorical labels s you have nicely done, I employ each of these from from the beginning of the process when interacting with the client for the first time to the end when the site is ready for launch.

Gary Michael Porter - a couple of years ago

When you talk about graphics and design, I wonder if you’ve explored the differences between web and print design? I was trained, long ago, in design basics as well as newspaper, magazine and print advertising layout. For example, for the front page of a newspaper, always place the most important story at the upper right. For a magazine or catalog cover, keep the image simple and uncluttered.

Obviously, these rules simply don’t apply to web design. Interaction, clicks, “stickiness,” etc, are now all part of the design process. Web typography is a whole new world–what reads well in print usually doesn’t work so well in pixels. Plus, you have to completely re-think the use of color.

On almost all the major retail mega-sites (JCPenney, Target, Home Depot, etc,) the number of clicks required before the customer finally gets to the “buy” button is self-defeating and doomed to fail.

Your thoughts? Thanks.

    Ben Hunt - a couple of years ago

    Hi Gary. I’m interested in print design, and I can tell it works differently, but I wouldn’t say I’ve analysed screen versus print in detail.

    One significant difference used to be that serif fonts didn’t work so well on screen. Today, as screens are getting larger and finer, serif text is more viable.

    Many factors are common. Line length, white space and tonal contrast all matter. Reversed text works poorly on screen as well as in print.

    In the case of the large e-commerce stores you mention, I doubt many people come through the home page. Most visits certainly come via deep links from search.

Stuart Atkinson - a couple of years ago

I’m actually quite surprised at the current poll standings (I won’t give them away ;-)

I’ve often thought that perhaps one skill of a web designer that most people (or rather, business people per se, that is) lack is the ability to get clients to remain realistic and true to themselves, and sell the benefits of doing just that. Brands are only driven by the characteristics of the people behind them, after all.

I was wittering on about my idea of what *brand* means to me personally on another post of yours. And I truly think that helping (particularly) smaller clients to show their true personas and strengths will simply make them more likeable to their target audience (i.e. those they’ll do business with, get along with, and do business with again).

There seems to be a fear of being “oneself” (in a business sense) on the internet that is rampant amongst anyone outside Fortune 500. Ironically, it’s the offline world that we often need to look to for inspiration sometimes. It’s more or less the exact same values that work well for a website as do for a small friendly newsagents that looks like a small friendly newsagents, a small friendly florist that looks like a small friendly florist, a swish hotel that looks like a swish hotel, etc.

Bullshitters usually get found out and their businesses don’t grow online because of it. It’s what I call Derek Trotter Syndrome.

This is why I put listening and discernment up near the top. It takes a brave soul to ask the same question twice, but often, we’ll get a completely different answer the second time round, once we’ve secured the client’s confidence and shown we’re out to help them achieve their immediate goals (I’ve never done client-facing work in web design, and haven’t even done that much web design — but this sort of a mentality transcends sectors, I think).

The number one goal of any web designer / consultant (in my opinion, at least) is to build a sturdy bridge between the client and their current and prospective customers. Everything else comes below that (again, this is only my opinion), after speaking at length with clients, investigating their target client-base, and looking into their current client-base.

Once all the above is down (on paper, at least), time to hit the SEO, I reckon :-D

    Niall - a couple of years ago

    Unfortunately, in Africa, the bullshitters are the ones with all the work. Generally People here don’t understand a thing from design or development so it’s hard to find a decent website and/or developer.

Niall - a couple of years ago

I would say a combination of all these is more than adequate for you to be a good designer. I do think self-learning is the most important as it will keep you up to date with new technologies, developments, plugins etc. Our university over here teaches web design but still teaches design in tables, HTML and CSS versions I don’t know what.

How many people would know about HTML5 and CSS3 if they didn’t try learn more about web design?

Misha - a couple of years ago

awesome work—really useful for someone who’s relatively new to the importance of SEO

Sue - a couple of years ago

Thank you for the great article. I found it to be very helpful and I definitely agree with Numbers 1, 6, and 8.

Jennison - a couple of years ago

Ben,

Thanks for including reference to accessibility for users with disabilities under #3, #8 and #9. In case it is helpful, two places to start, for those interested in this subject area are WebAIM http://www.webaim.org and Web Axe http://webaxe.blogspot.com. Hope these help.

Tom - a couple of years ago

Ben,
I have one suggestion…..let the designer put their coding and graphic design skills to work, but it is easy to outsource the writing to companies like Outsourced Writing Solutions or ACME Writing. So much depends on quality written content anymore that it is good to leave the writing to a skilled writer. (especially when it doesn’t have to be expensive)
Other than that suggestion, great list with some unique items.

    Ben Hunt - a couple of years ago

    Great suggestion Tom. Would you agree that the writing part should happen before the graphics & production?

How long does it take to learn web design - a couple of years ago

I think only best of the best have all of these skills, they are way out of something that “web designer” really should do.

Fredy - a couple of years ago

Nice article!! I’m actually doing a research on web design and this was a nice help!! Thanks!! :-)

Dmitry Robertson - a couple of years ago

hello

i represent several paper help services
i`d like to ask if it is possible to advertise on your website
ideally we`d like to know if it is possible to place a text link:
1) on a home page of the website
2) a site wide link
3) inside a text on any education topic relevant topic page
Please let me know if you are interested
Please enclose the prices if possible

thank you

    Ben Hunt - a couple of years ago

    Sorry, we don’t accept paid links.

Panchita - a couple of years ago

Greetings;
I am a 71 year old visual artist and retired educator who is very interested in becoming a web page designer and obtaining an income designing web pages.
I have had an experience of web page design with the design of “Come Art With Me” (no longer web active) and I am working on a web design using “iWeb.app”. Are these apps a start in the right direction?
Thank you, Panchita

    Ben Hunt - a couple of years ago

    Hi Panchita.

    I’m not aware of iWeb.app, but I can tell you with confidence that the best way to get into web design is http://www.prowebdesigncourse.com/.

jewel wan - a couple of years ago

I would say a combination of all these is more than adequate for you to be a good designer. I do think self-learning is the most important as it will keep you up to date with new technologies, developments, plugins etc. Our university over here teaches web design but still teaches design in tables, HTML and CSS versions I don’t know what.

How many people would know about HTML5 and CSS3 if they didn’t try learn more about web design?

Jason Pelker - a couple of years ago

This comment thread is filled with designers fighting for their status quo. It just seems like some of these folks don’t fully understand the terms you listed in the article.

For instance, keyword research (and large component of SEO), allows a business owner to understand his competition and pivot accordingly. Additionally, this research is the basis for any content strategy that goes into building an awareness ladder that ultimately leads to longtail conversions.

My thought is that just because you don’t understand a subject, or that you’ve spent numerous hours of your career mastering one aspect of your craft, doesn’t make other aspects incorrect.

You’re absolutely welcome to sell your services any way you see fit, but if your goal is to maximize the effectiveness and conversion rates of your clients’ websites, than you absolutely need a holistic design, development and marketing approach.

Finally, as my own two cents, I believe that graphic design (and general but obviously on the web, as well) is done more for the enjoyment of the designer (or sometimes the client) than for the customer–who I believe is the only decision maker that matters.

Remember, websites are not works of art–they’re marketing tools and marketing tools have one ultimate goal: to sell. All other tasks either lead up to this goal or otherwise, should be categorized as masterbation.

    Jason Pelker - a couple of years ago

    P.S. If you thought the designer skillset above was a lot to ask, you’ll soil yourself when you read all the prerequisites required of a competent, modern web developer: http://rmurphey.com/blog/2012/04/12/a-baseline-for-front-end-developers/ .

    Remember, there’s always more skills to master. To argue against that means that you’re a) probably overcharging your clients, b) you’re not good enough at your job, and c) you’re scared someone is going to find out and fire you…Which they probably would if most people weren’t so bad at identifying talent and when someone is overcompensating for the lack of it.

kabeer khan - a couple of years ago

very informative article ! Thanx for sharing

Walter - a couple of years ago

All the things you mention are obviously correct, but I’ve been doing a few sites for years now, and what Google tells us about making great content and the readers will come… and the search engines… is not true. I’ve made a couple of wonderful in depth sites with all the beauty and attention down to exact pixels for design and attention to detail with images, layouts, fonts, and it still all comes down to one thing… links. Over time of course, the strength on content is vital, but we can never forget the importance of popularity of content and understanding how the intricacies of Google work for website success.

    Ben Hunt - a couple of years ago

    Hi Walter. Yes, you need links, and I don’t think Google ever tells us “Build it and they will come”.

    As I explain in my G-force SEO article, you need two things: Great content, and a Push.

    You need promotion, to generate links.

    (However, here’s a helpful tip for you. Before you invest time commenting on blogs for the purposes of building links to a lawn care business, first make sure that the blog in question actually displays backlinks on commenters’ names.)

Kendra - last year

Maybe this counts as business sense— but I say the #1 most important skill is SALES. If you are a slick sales man or woman you can sell a website for high and have someone else do all the stuff you can’t do. I think another really important skill is SELF AWARENESS…. I CAN NOT TELL YOU how many so called ‘artists’ and ‘web designers’ I have met that art schools pump out with 50k in debt and the only thing they know is how to WYSIWYG a brochure website that the highest level of knowledge they have is basic links. They don’t know social media. They don’t know SEO. Forget about basics in how to pitch a client. Self awareness is a major key. This goes beyond JUST webdesign. Before I went solo I worked for 2 restaurants in which I ended up being the resident artist and both businesses tanked and the problem both times was their business models were half baked and they couldn’t ADMIT when they sucked. You are not Super Business person, you can’t do everything, you don’t KNOW everything, there’s always someone smarter than you, admit it already and don’t lie to yourself! I know I have my weak points, but I am covering it! Self awareness is huge!

Coder - last year

I also think you should add to the list some server side knowledge(like,asp.net,MVC/Razor)

Because sometime a web designer must work/maintain an existing website which of course contains mixed html/server side code

    Ben Hunt - last year

    I disagree. Designers don’t need any coding knowledge to be great at their job.

KuChip - last year

In my country, English is not a primary language. So i think english is most important in IT and web design. It’s the first thing i learned when I want to web designer. Thank’s for share :)

//I read and translate this post in 1 hour ^^

Ron C. - last year

If there is something that is utmost important, that would be programming knowledge and business sense. If you have these two things, you are going to make a killing online.

ron - last year

I want to become a web programmer using java but What i heard is java is not predominant now(not sure completely) I just want to continue with java and I want to do MCA and I’ve completed my BCA Now! and I want to practice full 3years java(In MCA) and I want to become a core programmer and i want to do something in life with java…. i need info about….
* what kind of information i need to keep updated
* Any other programming languages do i need to learn with?
* getting confused with what to choose server-side or client side or to go for security field! and on what base I should choose these things!!!
* do i need to do any side courses(I can handle if i need to) with MCA………
———–Please Help Me I don’t have any one So that i can ask and learn—Me and My Internet That’s it———And suggest me some best books——This is my life’s big question—————

    Ben Hunt - last year

    Hi Ron.

    This blog is about web design and marketing, which has nothing to do with Java development.

    If you’re interested in the security field, Java is a good language to learn. There’s plenty of work around.

    But otherwise, there are just too many possibilities to be able to give you any guidance.

    Do you want to do web development for websites? If so, PHP and MySQL, or Ruby on Rails would be my suggestion.

    If you want to code clever user interfaces, you’ll need JavaScript / JQuery. (Note, JavaScript has NOTHING to do with the Java language whatsoever!)

Adeniji adedeji - last year

Am really interested in all this package cos am a new student of web design

suyoj Tamang - last year

Thank you, its really good to read those articles.

Taylor Dean - last year

i learn a lot from your site. it’s a big help because i’m starting to make my website. thanks a lot.

Matthew Fairtlough - 10 months ago

#5 Self-learning

“That doesn’t mean you have to Can you develop this skill? Well, you have to do it constantly, really; that’s the whole point. ”

#5a proofreading!

Corrections aside, a really interesting and inspiring post, thank you (delivered to me by StumbleUpon). I’m a web designer by default (have my own pages to develop but no cash to pay anyone else) and designing for “yourself” is more difficult in some ways than designing for a client. I will make sure I pay attention to all these issues as I develop my site at Fairflow.co.uk

Abdel Irada - 10 months ago

Pardon my heresy, but I abhor SEO.

Perhaps this is partly because I’m not designing for-profit sites, so I have the luxury of focusing intently on content, but I’ve always found that the “SEO specialist”-type web designers are irritatingly glib and self-promoting. They annoy the daylights out of me by trying to get me to visit and “sell” their sites for them.

And then when I do visit, I find that the reading experience suggests a vat of saccharine solution saturated with FD&C Red #2. The designer has attended with such single-minded devotion to keywords and the search engines’ viewpoint that all the text is artificial and makes me want to click away as fast as I can reach my trackpad. And there’s so much repetition (gotta bear down on those keywords, you know!) that I think I could boil away 90 percent of the verbiage and lose nothing.

However, I’m not sure this is all the designers’ fault. (Okay, the relentless self-promotion probably is.) For so long now, we’ve read about how essential it is to be near the top in page rank that I can easily see how a designer might be frightened away from writing anything worth reading (to human eyes) for fear that no one will see it.

If there’s a fix, I think it will have to come from one of two things: Either search engines will have to be radically redesigned (as to its credit Google has tried to be) to emphasize writing for readers over writing for ‘bots, or designers will simply have to resolve themselves to sacrifice a bit of traffic for quality. Otherwise, the web will remain crowded with sites that aren’t worth reading, advertising products no one wants or needs, which nonetheless dominate search results to the detriment of superior competitors.

    Ben Hunt - 10 months ago

    I agree with you, for the most part.

    I’m seeing a reconvergence of SEO, design, conversion, and content creation (i.e. Marketing!). It has become clear that going all-out to get organic traffic is pointless unless you can convert that traffic, and we’re pretty much waking up to the fact that the ideal solution is to create great content that people want to share, thereby creating real human capital as well as SEO capital.

kk parashar - 9 months ago

That‘s so good for a web designer to get advanced and latest skills CSS and SEO to get forward in to it.

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