How to a Become Web Designer: A Beginner's Guide to Web Design

What Is Web Design?

The meaning of web design is simply the design structure of how a website is displayed on the internet. Web design encompasses the outward facing structure including the appearance, layout, content, and aesthetics of the site. Since websites are consumed on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, web designs need to be responsive and compatible with all of these different platforms.


These factors add to the intricacies of designing websites. It’s important to note these differences because a design that works and is aesthetically pleasing on a large computer screen may be challenging to use while navigating it on a small handheld device. The web design process is all about creating a site that works well regardless of where or how it is being accessed. A web designer's focus is predominantly concentrated on how to display information in a way that is easy to digest. This includes the way it is formatted and structured — for example, think about the different headers on a website you are visiting that allow you to navigate through or find the particular information you are on there to find. Oftentimes, the content collection will be part of the job of a web designer because once you have all the information that is needed for the website, it becomes easier to plan and develop.

Aesthetically pleasing and on-brand are two other really important aspects when it comes to identifying some of the web design building blocks. A website should be easy on the eyes — the attraction will help grab visitors attention and keep it. It also needs to both match and enhance the brand that it is built for, taking into account the logo, brand colors, typography, graphics, etc. Think about the difference in a website you would expect from a spa and a motorbike company, that’s what brand alignment in a site means.

webdesign hands typing laptop

If you are creative, tech savvy, and interested in helping businesses reach their full potential by maximizing an online presence, web design may be perfect for you. Web design is all about building websites from the ground up or maybe taking an old website and completely revamping it to a structure that is suited for a better user experience. Websites are about creativity, about creating something that is aesthetically pleasing, while also working within the realm of the brand that you are working with. To get you started with web design, we’ve compiled a list of must-have knowledge, including what web design is, the types of web design, some great examples, and a starting block on how to price your web design services. And, if you want to do a deeper dive, we’ve also got a full guide on how to become a beginner web designer.

What Is Web Design?

By definition, web design is the creation of the website from the ground up. You are building the backend to create an eye-appealing front end. This focus is on all things related to what the actual website looks like, as opposed to the software development. Web designers rely heavily on back end software programs — such as WordPress, InVision Studio, Dreamweaver, Google Web Designer or another CMS (content management system) — to create their final product, so you will have to have a strong understanding of these programs to excel in the field of web design. Web design requires a lot of creativity and the ability to create various high-quality graphics to be used on the site as a way to display information.  

Web design involves understanding some foundational principles, which include user experience, site structure, as well as color theory. In terms of user experience, a web designer needs to be able to practically put themselves in the shoes of a user and focus on creating a “sticky” website. This refers to the ability a website has to retain its audience and increase the amount of time they are spending on the site. The fluidity and simplicity of the site will be factors that help improve the user experience. This works into the structure of the site — how it is organized and laid out will affect a user’s enjoyment. A web designer should consider what information needs to be conveyed, the most important information that needs to be shown, and then how to structure it in a way that is effective, and communicates the information or brand story. You should think about how to get someone’s attention in, what their eyes will be drawn to, and how they will interact with elements on a page. Finally, it’s important for web designers to understanding color theory, meaning the rules to communicate using color schemes for visual interfaces. The impact and psychology of the different colors that will be used on a website are things that web designers need to consider.

What Does A Web Designer Do?

Web designers create the visual aesthetics of a webpage, which may combine text with sounds, photos, videos, and graphics. Website designers are trained in visual arts with every design choice grounded in user experience. 

Within the realm of web design, you can find more specific areas of expertise, including:

Interaction design (IDX): Create digital products and services. Their main focus is to improve the interactive experience between the product or system and the user. 

Mobile design: Designing websites with mobile devices and tablets in mind. 

User interface design (UI): User interface design focuses on market research to understand user behavior to improve the experience with digital products.

How To Get Started In Web Design

To get started in web design you’ll need to get some web design training, gain experience, develop a portfolio, and then enter the workforce or start to secure clients. These four steps will be detailed for you below:


Web Design Training

To become a web designer, you will need to partake in either formal or informal training. This could be in the form of a post secondary degree or diploma where you specialise in web design over a period of a couple of years. These degrees could include a bachelor's degree in web design and development, computer programming or computer science. Various creative design or graphic design post secondary avenues could also lead into formal web design training. 

If you have decided to get into web design but simply aren’t interested in the college or university path, there are a number of different boot camps or online courses that you can enroll in to learn the technical aspects of web design. These bootcamps are often short, but very intensive and immersive where you’ll learn both the tech and design side by the end of it. 

What is most important is that you come away with foundational principles of how to create a good website, what is needed from a creative side — i.e. color theory, understanding the psychology behind layouts — as well as a strong grasp on how to use the back end of a website. You’ll need to be well versed in softwares such as WordPress, InVision Studio, Dreamweaver, Google Web Designer, and other CMS platforms. You should also be able to use programs like Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator to be able to work with different pictures or do some graphic creation.

Gain Experience

Once you have the background and the foundations of how a website is built from the back end, it is time to hone your skills and start gaining some experience. At this stage it is important to start transitioning the foundations you learned into practice and you will really start to be able to pick up the web design skills. There’s a difference between leaning about it and actually doing it, so this stage will be where you learn new things, come into unexpected challenges, and begin to navigate how to get through those through creative troubleshooting.If you are doing web design via formal schooling, you may have opportunities to do internships where you’ll be able to work with different agencies that allow you to get experience on the website building side. Learning how to update a website from the backend is one way to familiarize yourself with the software that is being used and an easier start over building a website from scratch. There are other ways to gain experience beyond an internship or a student placement — for example, you can also build a website for a friend, small business, or charity to get yourself some experience. At this stage, you should also think about compiling some good examples that you can use in your online portfolio.

Build Your Online Portfolio

Creating an online portfolio is an integral part of building up your own brand and being able to land a full-time job in the field or be able to secure freelance work. Your online portfolio should be aesthetically pleasing and professional, seeing as you are showcasing your website skills to people who want to hire you to build their own website. While you are building your portfolio, remember to think about showcasing a diverse set of work. You’ll want people to see a wide range of your strengths, so potential employers can see that you are versatile. Remember — quality over quantity. You want to be sure what you choose to put into your portfolio is high quality and impressive, as opposed to fitting as many items inside as possible. 

Format has a number of different online portfolio templates to choose from to help you get started in building your own site and a specific how-to on web design online portfolio website. These templates are easy to use and offer a variety of different possibilities to showcase your talent and skill set in web design.

Your online portfolio website should not stop at examples of your best work. It should also include contact information, as well as your biography and information about who you are. 

Enter The Workforce 

Now it is time to enter the workforce — finally! The training, experience, and online portfolio will help you with this next step. If you are looking to secure a full-time job with a business or company, you may be looking at applying to jobs as a web designer, mobile developer, visual designer, or as a front-end developer/designer. Any of these jobs would be in the realm of web design. If you are more interested in freelance work, you can start to develop your own client base. Networking and getting your name out there are two good ways to get a client base if freelance web design is your main focus.

What Is The Difference Between A Web Designer And A Web Developer?

Web designers and web developers are both technically website builders who can create beautiful, functional websites from scratch on their own, but they often work together on projects. 

A web designer focuses on the appearance and user experience to establish the look and feel of a website, while a web developer’s scope revolves around the site architecture using various programming languages to implement the concepts created by the designers for full functionality. A developer may also be involved in the site's overall maintenance and web development.

webdesign macbook desk

What Are The Different Types Of Web Design?

Web designs come in all shapes and sizes, including all different types. Our main focus is on showcasing six of the most popular types of web design which include single page, static websites, dynamic web pages, responsive designs, liquid designs, as well as fixed designs. By the end of this, you’ll be a professional in understanding these six types of web design and you’ll be able to easily explain them to clients:

Single Page

A single page web design is exactly how it sounds — all of the information you need to convey can be found on the one page. There is no limit to what the length of the page is, but oftentimes you are going to want to create some sort of narrative or flow to the page so that it makes sense to the user. With a single page design you can also have a structure where clicking on a header can bring you down the page — there is still lots of opportunity to structure single page sites in a way that works well for the client and is functional for users.

Static Website

A static website is one with no interaction. It is a fixed width and design that does not change as you switch between different platforms. Static websites are generally easy to create and require easier coding to create. Your website can still feature a number of different pages with a static design. One of the benefits to the static site is that since there is less coding on the back end it is usually easier to load or faster to move between pages. The model, however, is simpler and can sometimes lack creativity and the ability to interact with users. This website type is generally better to relay information rather than sell goods or services.

Dynamic Website

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have a dynamic website that allows consumers to interact with the site. These sites can be more exciting to look at, but they are more challenging to build. Oftentimes you will need to code a dynamic website using JavaScript, .net, .php, or .asp. Since the coding on these can be a bit more intricate than a static design, often these will cost more money to build for a client. They also can require a longer load time in comparison to a simpler static design, however, they can be quite aesthetically pleasing and great to engage audiences visiting the website. These are great for highlighting products and services.

Responsive Design

A responsive website design is one that can respond and adjust to the platforms you are viewing the website on. This means the layout and the display of the information will fit to the size of the screen that is being used. A responsive design is often something that will be of importance to different clients as this means that the website will be able to manipulate itself to any size screen, meaning wrapping text, sizing photos, and scaling in a way that is readable on any device — whether it is expanded or shrunk. While this can sometimes be a bit challenging, with how prevalent mobile devices and tablets are, recommending responsive designs will often be worth the investment — time and money alike. Especially mobile became mor popular for web browsing, its important that your sites are optimized for mobile, tablet and desktop formats.  

Fixed Design

Subsequently, the opposite of responsive design is fixed design. With this, the layout of the website will not morph to fit the screen that it is being displayed on. This could mean that if the website is viewed on a mobile device, pictures may fall off the screen and not all information may be readable. You can probably think of a few times this has happened to you when visiting someone’s website on your mobile device. You probably had to scroll from side to side to find bits of information. For designers, the strict dimensions can help with some of the creativity in vision of creating the look of a specific design, yet there is no way to be sure that people won’t view the site on a different device or screen size.

Liquid Design

A liquid design is also sometimes referred to as fluid design. This operates very similarly to a responsive design, with the difference being that with a liquid design it spreads itself out or shrinks to a screen, depending on the size. For example, on a larger screen the font would be bigger and the whole website would look enlarged, whereas, if it was on a small device the font would simply look smaller. A liquid design can sometimes make a website look warped. These designs can also help websites work fine on different width screens. For this design type think of water and how it would take the shape of whatever you put it inside — big or small.

Can I Learn Web Design On My Own?

While college campuses offer tons of great web design programs for those who enjoy learning in a structured environment, there are many online resources for learning web design at your own pace.

Let's talk about some of the tech skills you'll need to learn and continue to sharpen to become a successful website designer. 

Visual Design 

Visual design is the skill used to present information in the best way possible. A strong application of visual design concepts on a website attracts attention, conveys information concisely, and establishes the look and feel of the brand in a matter of seconds. 

People from a graphic design background tend to make excellent website builders because the creative skill sets tend to overlap, especially when it comes down to arranging web design elements like typography and images. 

Design Softwares And Content Management Systems

To apply your visual design principles and create workable assets for your websites, you'll need to work in designer-specific software. Some of the most common programs for web design include Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, Figma, and Webflow.

You don't always have to build a site from scratch. 

Another way to design websites is through a content management system, like Format that provides template structure and pre-set elements to your design. Format has an intuitive drag and drop interface but allows you to add further customization using standard design coding languages. 

UX Design

UX stands for "User Experience." A huge component of good web design is how the visitors of the website interact with it. Understanding user experience will help you create websites from a user perspective, which requires real market research to understand the behaviors of certain audiences when interacting with certain pages or physical products. 

UI Design

UI design stands for "User Interface." This design scope can extend to graphic designers, branding design, and frontend developers. While UX can be applied to physical and digital products UI is strictly for digital. Its focus is on creating a seamless and intuitive experience on digital platforms.  

Web Coding 

While there are many excellent templates and tools that help make the web designer's job much easier and they often work with web developers, web designers are still expected to know web coding languages like HTML and CSS to add customization to a site. 

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. It's what's used to structure content on a website from headings, paragraphs, links, and certain design elements. 

CSS or Cascading Style Sheets is the language that compliments HTML code. It describes the presentation of the web pages to adapt to the relevant screen sizes. 

Learning JavaScript is a bonus for web design. It's a programming language that allows you to achieve more complex features, including interactive maps, animation, and scrolling video. While it's not a required skill for the job, understanding JavaScript can make you a more versatile web designer, which means you can charge more for your services.

Showcase your web design projects

Put your web design work in the spotlight with Format's Online Portfolio

Is Web Design a Good Career?

Website design is a great career option for visual learners and creative types who love coming up with big ideas and apply them in a digital landscape. You can make a great living with many opportunities for career advancement as you develop your skills and specialize in design areas. 

Many companies look to hire an in-house web designer, but you can also launch your career as a freelancer if you have a more entrepreneurial inclination, allowing you to build and design websites from anywhere in the world.

Are Web Designers In High Demand

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, web designer and developer roles are looking to grow by an average of 13,400 job openings each year over the next decade. 

Even though websites can be built anywhere globally, which means many web design jobs are hired in lower-waged countries, there is still a priority in hiring American website designers as cultural nuances are an important component of design and visitor experience. 

With more businesses expanding online, especially in retail, you can expect to see more jobs opening up in web design.

How Much Does A Web Designer Charge?

A web designer's earnings will depend on various factors, including their skill set in programming and software design tools and experience. 

Freshbooks estimates that website designers charge $75 per hour on average. A single website project can cost between $5,000 –$10,000. In 2020, the median pay for a web designer roe was $77,200, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How Do I Make A Good Web Design Portfolio?

Whether you've just started on your web design career or are well established, you'll need a professional website portfolio to show off your work. 

If you're just getting started in your career and don't have paid experience, we recommend displaying your best project work. Commission yourself to redesign popular a site or mock-up brand for a website. 

Either way, a portfolio site is critical to landing a job. While other platforms allow you to present your portfolio, such as Behance by Adobe, a website gives you more control as to how your viewer interacts with your work. 

You can easily build a beautifully designed, functional portfolio website using Format's templates designed specifically for creative professionals. 

You may be wondering, do web designers use templates? 

Absolutely! 

Not every website needs to start from scratch. 

Website designers can use templates and tools to make their lives easier. Almost any website builder today offers templates that help give you the structure to start your project, making your workflow more efficient. It's up to you to customize the template and make it truly your own. 

Format members have access to over 70 template designs to showcase their best work and attract clients. You can even take advantage of the integrated sales tools and SEO features that transform your digital portfolio into a marketing tool and income stream.

webdesign format laptop


What To Include In A Web Design Portfolio

  • Showcase Your Best Work: Your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest project. Display projects that you'd like to do more work on as it will help give prospecting clients a better idea of the projects you can accomplish. 

  • List Your Skillset And Services: Make it easy and quick for visitors to understand what you can offer. List out your experience in coding languages, software, and other programs. 

  • 'About Me' Page: An "About Me" page gives your prospecting client an idea of what it would be like to work with you and whether you'd make a great fit for their project. Keep it concise but be sure to include your experience working in web design and what type of projects you're looking to work on in the future. 

  • Contact Page: Don't forget to include how a visitor can contact you to inquire about work opportunities. Simplify this process by adding an embedded form on the page. 

What Next?

For many of you who are just looking into the world of web design and feeling overwhelmed on where to start, we recommend browsing through Codecademy for a free introduction to self-guided tutorials on learning code. 

You can also find excellent online courses via Udemy or Coursera for more in-depth tutorials on design principles and software you'll need for website design. 

If you're ready to find clients, what does your portfolio look like? 

Build a portfolio today that you're proud to show off using one of Format's intuitive templates. 

For more resources on how to make the most out of your creative portfolio, like how to sell some of your creative assets to earn income or understanding SEO to boost your website's marketing power, be sure to check out our digital magazine catalog.

What Are Some Web Design Examples?

Starting with the right template is a good baseline to the start of any good website design. Templates are just a guideline and offer a lot of flexibility in creating a website that matches the creative vision you are looking to create. Format offers templates that are professional, but very customizable. They give you lots of room to make them your own. By building your own website or online portfolio, you will begin to gain the necessary knowledge and skills of how to work on the backend of a website. You will need to have your own online portfolio site to build your own brand — and we’ll get into that later — but until then, we will provide with you some top line template examples for web design. 


Surface

Format’s surface template offers a unique, professional design, and dynamic full-width view that will put all eyes on your work. This template features a vertical scroll for your images, which allows you to arrange your photos and designs in a single column and scroll up and down through the gallery. This is best for landscape images. While the Surface template focuses on full-page vertical images, it also combines an editorial experience and a menu that scrolls with the page. Find out more details here.


Sharp

The sharp template is a tiled website template format, which is best for displaying a number of images at one time. It is reminiscent of Tumblr and can be used to create a controlled, easy to navigate industrial design website that offers a great overview of your work. Tiled gallery pages can be set into up to four columns with a pop-out gallery view. See here for more on this very sharp-looking template.


Sierra

Sierra is another template that focuses on a vertical tiled layout, which is best for highlighting a few of the very best images you want to showcase. Sierra’s vertical tiled layout adds a sense of fun professionalism to your design website. The template features a good balance of visual intrigue and simple design, attractive collections pages with multiple image sizes are balanced with full-size, vertically scrolling galleries. Learn more about the sierra template.

But don’t just stop at these three options — there are a number of stunning templates available on Format. Scroll through and have a look for yourself.

How To Price Your Web Design

Whether you are doing web design as a full-time gig or freelancing for some extra side projects, it is important to set a competitive price for your services — one that is in line with competitors, does not undersell your skills, charges for your valuable time, as well as meets both of you and your client’s goals. If your goal is to gain some practice or to help a friend with a charity project, you may adjust your price a bit differently. One of the most important things you can do for yourself, is to not set low prices just to obtain clients, these are not the clients for you. By budgeting yourself as a “bargain option” you will devalue your work and put yourself in situations where clients may have high demands for little payoff. They are not only purchasing a website from you, but they are also getting your expertise and a skill set that they do not have, so follow the golden rule: do not undervalue yourself. 

To set yourself up for success and to make sure the price is right, follow these important steps: 


Know Your Competitors

Your very first step in setting your rate needs to be research. Make a list of some web designers in the area and get a range of pricing on what they charge for their services. Get an idea of what that dollar amount means to them — what do they include in that base rate? It’s important to be in line with your competitors and to also understand the differences between what they are charging and what they are offering. Web designers in your area will be your direct competitors, so knowing what they charge is a great starting point for you as you look to set your own prices.


Don’t Set An Hourly Rate

One of the main drawbacks in setting an hourly rate is that it constrains your web design process. When a client knows that they will be charged by the hour, they may become impatient or question what is taking so long, since they know that they are getting charged for each passing second — or something like that… To allow yourself the creativity and flexibility of time to work within make sure to create a rate per project or lump sum amount of how much the website will cost and base your pricing around that. It might benefit you to set up some sort of a pay scale later that allows you to go back and make changes to their website when they need it, which at that time might be an hourly rate. To figure out the pricing for a web design, work backwards. Figure out what you want your hourly rate to be for your services, which could hover somewhere around $75 or beyond. Once you know how much you expect per hour, then comes the tricky part — you will have to estimate how many hours the web design will take and base your pricing off of that number. When you’re starting out there may be times that you are largely inaccurate with your estimate, but as you do it more you will find your groove.


Talk To Your Client

Talking to clients is your lifeline in creating that estimate in the amount of time that you’ll need to create the website. Spend time with your client, ask them lots of questions to find out exactly what they are looking for, what they need from you, what their timeline is, and how much they already have for their website. Do they have their logos, pictures, graphics, pricing, bio information, etc. or are they starting from scratch? This step in the pricing process will be the most integral part in ensuring that you price your web design accordingly.

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