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Web Design: Job Description & Career Outlook

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Web designing is a broad term that is used to describe the way that web content is presented to people on the Internet. By manipulating text, images, audio, and video, web designers look to continuously improve how content is delivered to its audience.

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What do web designers do?

Web designers combine the artistic skills of graphic designers and technical skills of programmers to create innovative solutions to content-delivery challenges. They are required to produce effective ways of reaching out to different audiences by creating the design (text, color, layout, animation, you name it) of a website. Since this is a very broad description of a web designer’s tasks, let’s take a deeper look at what it means to be a web designer.


Web designers are required to feel comfortable using code. While there are a plethora of codes for a web designer to use, the most common ones today include HTML, XHTML, PHP, and XML.

Graphic Design

The artistic side of being a web designer is what sets apart websites visually. Web designers create visually pleasing, user-friendly pages to help people access information.

Be Flexible

The Internet is constantly changing to meet the demands of its users. Knowing this, web designers must be able to adapt to different companies and different audiences. For example, a web designer must know that working with the New York Times might involve more text-based design than working on a site for the Nickelodeon cable channel.

Constantly Innovate

Working in the technology field, web designers should expect to be self-motivated in order to keep up with the latest innovations. A web designer who learned programming tools in 2001 will probably have a lot to learn about programming languages today. Therefore, it is crucial for a web designer to be dedicated to the field and constantly learn new skills.

What kind of education do I need?

A bachelor’s degree is usually required for many web design jobs. Bachelor’s degrees are offered by many accredited colleges, universitie,s and private design schools across the country. These degrees, usually denominated through fine arts, graphic design or computer science, include course curricula in studio art, design theory, computerized design, commercial graphics production, website design and many more. By completing a bachelor’s degree, web designers signal to potential employers that they have had rigorous training in interdisciplinary web design.

Associate degrees are also widely accepted in the field of web design. Since associate degrees usually take only two to three years to complete, their course curricula are usually geared toward teaching technical skills over artistic skills. With that in mind, many graduates of these programs enter the field as an assistant to a web designer by helping code specific aspects of a website.

What Skills Do Web Designers Need?

Requiring both technical and artistic skills, becoming a web designer can seem like a daunting task. Let’s simplify things and take a look at what it takes for someone to be successful in the field of web design:

Be technologically savvy

Knowledge of computer programming is what sets web designers apart from graphic designers. Staying at the forefront of new design programs and coding through both formal and informal means is imperative for a web designer to remain relevant.

Have artistic sense

It’s very easy to get lost in all of the technical aspects of web design and to forget that having the ability to express ideas artistically is equally important. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) includes a list of about 300 design schools which it accredits through a rigorous list of criteria. If you are worried about your artistic abilities, take a look at any of the schools on the NASAD’s list for a great place to start.

Current job outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment of graphic designers to grow as much as 13 percent annually, due to the increased emphasis on online advertising and technology firms. Furthermore, with the expansion of mobile Internet and increased adoption of broadband Internet, employers are looking every day for innovative web designers who are able to take advantage of these technological advances.

While the boom in Internet activity has allowed the creation of many new jobs in new industries, it must also be viewed as a detractor from other industries. Since many print magazines and newspapers have noticed declining revenues due to the accessibility of online news, many have tried to evolve into online news sources. Though some magazines and newspapers, such as The Economist or The New York Times have successfully created websites, many newspapers have failed during the transition. This competition has led to the closure of many newspapers, which has eliminated some potential employment opportunities.

Average expected salary

Due to the level of expertise demanded by different companies, salaries of web designers are highly dependent on the skills they have. According to ONet, an online database with information on many different occupations, the median annual salary of web designers was $43,180 in 2009. Due to the disparity in skills demanded, these wages span anywhere from $26,000 for an entry-level assistant job to over $75,000 for an experienced web designer.

Once again, it is important to stress the importance of learning specific skills that employers demand from web designers. As seen above, knowledge of several important skills might be the difference of several thousands of dollars in annual salary. As a growing industry, web design is expected to grow even as other sectors of the economy remain stagnant.

Further Reading:

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