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Web Designer Career Guide

What is a web designer?

A web designer is a professional responsible for designing and creating the aesthetics and layout of websites. They use their creative and technical skills to build or redesign websites, focusing on visual aspects such as layout, color, fonts, and imagery. Their goal is to create a website that is visually pleasing and user-friendly, providing an optimal user experience.

The role is crucial in the digital world, as websites are a vital touchpoint for businesses and organizations. They create the visual language and interactive landscape that shape a user’s experience when visiting a site. Their work significantly influences a website’s usability, accessibility, and how effectively it communicates the brand message, products, or services to the site’s visitors.

Duties and responsibilities

The duties of a web designer span various aspects of website creation and design. They start by understanding the client’s requirements and the website’s target audience. Based on this understanding, they create wireframes, design elements, and layouts, focusing on the look and feel of the website.

These designers use various design software and technologies to create and manipulate images, design interactive elements, and select fonts and color palettes that align with the brand’s identity. They also focus on usability and user experience, ensuring the site is intuitive and easy to navigate.

In addition, they often work closely with web developers to implement their designs and might have a role in the maintenance and updates of a website. Their responsibilities may also include conducting usability testing and addressing user feedback to continuously improve the website design.

Work environment

Web designers work in a range of environments. Many work for design agencies or as part of in-house design teams in various industries. These professionals are increasingly finding work opportunities as freelancers or remote workers, catering to clients worldwide.

Their work is highly computer-centric, requiring specialized software for graphic design, image editing, and prototyping. While it often involves solitary focus and attention to detail, web design also requires collaboration with other professionals, such as web developers, content creators, and marketing teams.

Typical work hours

The work hours for a web designer can vary greatly depending on the work setting. Those working in a traditional office environment typically adhere to a standard 9-to-5 workday. However, extra hours may be required to meet project deadlines or address urgent issues.

For freelance designers, the work hours can be quite flexible, but they must also adjust their schedules according to client needs and project timelines. Regardless of the work environment, these professionals often need to keep up with the latest design trends and technologies, which can involve learning and development outside regular work hours.

How to become a web designer

Becoming a web designer involves building a solid foundation in design principles, user experience, and technical skills. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal: 

Step 1: Acquire foundational design skills

To become a web designer, start by learning basic design principles, such as color theory, typography, and layout. Understanding the foundational design principles will enable you to create visually appealing and functional websites.

You can study these concepts through online courses, books, or by enrolling in a design school or program.

Step 2: Learn web design software and coding languages

Familiarize yourself with popular web design software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch. In addition, learn essential coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These skills will allow you to create and modify web designs and implement interactive elements on websites. 

You can learn these skills through online tutorials, classes, or coding boot camps. Consider looking into these popular online courses:

Step 3: Develop your knowledge of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design

UX and UI design are crucial aspects of web design, as they focus on creating user-friendly and accessible websites. Study concepts like information architecture, wireframing, and prototyping. 

You can learn these concepts through online courses or workshops and conferences in the field. One way to set yourself apart from the competition is by earning a Google UX Design Professional Certificate

Step 4: Gain practical experience

Build your web design skills by working on real projects for personal use, freelance clients, or internships. Practical experience will help you refine your design and technical skills, learn how to work with clients, and understand the web design process from concept to completion.

Step 5: Create a strong portfolio

Develop a professional portfolio showcasing your best web design projects. A well-curated portfolio demonstrates your design style, technical abilities, and problem-solving skills to potential employers or clients. Include a variety of projects, such as websites, mobile apps, and responsive designs, to highlight your versatility.

Step 6: Stay updated with industry trends and tools

Web design is a constantly evolving field. Keep up with the latest design trends, tools, and technologies by reading industry blogs, attending conferences, and participating in online forums. Staying informed will help you remain competitive in the job market and adapt to new challenges in the field.

How much do web designers make?

Web designer salaries can vary widely depending on several factors. One of the significant determinants is the level of experience. More experienced designers, especially those with a broad range of skills encompassing UI design, UX design, and proficiency in various design software and coding languages, generally earn more than beginners in the field.

The industry in which they work also influences their compensation. Designers working in industries with a high reliance on digital platforms or e-commerce, like technology, retail, or marketing, can often command higher salaries.

Geographic location is another crucial factor. Those in cities with a high cost of living and a strong tech or creative industry, such as San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles, tend to earn more than those in other regions.

Education and certification can also play a role. While many are self-taught, earning a degree in a related field like graphic design or computer science, or having industry-recognized certifications, can potentially increase earning power.

Finally, the size of the company and the scope of its web design needs can impact the salary. Larger companies with more complex needs often pay these professionals more.

Highest paying industries

  • Finance – $80,900
  • Software Publishers – $79,830
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $78,740
  • Other Information Services – $77,620
  • Computer Systems Design – $75,930

Highest paying states

  • Washington – $80,500
  • California – $79,150
  • New York – $76,990
  • Massachusetts – $75,750
  • New Jersey – $74,990

Browse web designer salary data by market

Types of web designers

In this career guide section, we explore the various types and specializations associated with this profession. The specific focus areas can vary significantly, depending on the complexity of the projects, client requirements, and the evolving trends in web design.

User interface (UI) designer

UI designers specialize in designing the visual elements of a website, such as buttons, icons, and menus. They use their understanding of design principles to create a look and feel for a website that aligns with the brand’s identity and provides an intuitive experience for users.

User experience (UX) designer

UX designers focus on a user’s overall experience when navigating a website. These designers conduct user research, develop user personas, create wireframes and prototypes, and test their designs to meet user needs. Their goal is to make the website easy to use, enjoyable, and effective in achieving its purpose.

Responsive web designer

From desktop computers to smartphones, responsive web designers specialize in designing websites that work seamlessly on various devices. They understand the technical and design considerations needed to ensure that a website’s layout, images, and functionalities adjust automatically to the screen size and the device’s orientation.

E-commerce web designer

E-commerce web designers specialize in designing websites for online stores. These designers understand the specific needs of e-commerce sites, such as product listings, shopping carts, and secure payment systems. Their goal is to create a site design that is appealing to shoppers, easy to navigate, and secure.

Graphic web designer

These designers emphasize the visual aspects of a website, including color schemes, images, typography, and layout. They use their creative skills to create visually appealing designs that engage users and align with the brand’s identity.

Interaction web designer

Interaction web designers focus on the interactive elements of a website that respond to a user’s actions, such as buttons, links, forms, and sliders. Designers in this role focus on interactive design principles and technologies to create engaging and intuitive websites.

Top skills for web designers

A talented eye for design is the heart and soul of a web designer’s job. Understanding color theory, typography, layout design, and visual hierarchy is vital. This artistic sensibility, combined with an understanding of current design trends, allows them to create visually appealing and engaging websites that capture the brand’s personality and resonate with the target audience.

Proficiency in design software is a non-negotiable skill for these professionals. Tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch are commonly used to create and edit visual elements. Familiarity with wireframing and prototyping tools, such as Figma or Adobe XD, is also crucial for designing the website layout and navigation before moving into the development phase.

A solid grasp of UX/UI principles helps these designers balance form and function effectively. While aesthetics are important, the ultimate goal of a website is to provide a seamless and intuitive user experience. This involves designing easy-to-navigate interfaces, creating logical flow, and ensuring the website is accessible to all users. 

While not always mandatory, basic coding knowledge is a valuable asset for professionals in this role. Familiarity with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript can help them understand the possibilities and limitations of web development, communicate more effectively with developers, and even make minor changes without developer assistance.

Strong communicators can ensure that the final design not only meets but exceeds client expectations. They often work as part of a larger team and must be able to articulate their ideas and design choices clearly. Additionally, they need to be able to take on board feedback from clients or team members and use it to refine their designs. 

Web designer career path

The career path of a web designer typically starts in a junior web designer role. In this position, you’ll be working under the guidance of a senior designer, assisting in creating website designs, user interfaces, and digital graphics. You’ll also learn to balance aesthetics with functionality, ensuring websites are both visually appealing and user-friendly.

You’ll likely move into a web designer role as you gain experience and develop a robust portfolio. Here, you’ll have more creative control and responsibility, working on more significant projects and potentially collaborating directly with clients. You may also start getting involved in UX/UI decisions, learning about user behavior, and designing with the user’s experience in mind.

With several years of experience and a strong portfolio, you might progress to a senior or lead designer role. In these positions, you’ll oversee the design of entire websites or even a series of sites, making critical decisions about aesthetics and user experience. You might also manage a team of designers, coordinating their work and providing guidance.

Beyond this, many professionals choose to specialize, focusing on areas like UX/UI design, mobile design, or graphic design. Alternatively, you could pursue roles in design management or creative direction, overseeing the entire visual strategy for a company or a range of clients. Another common path is to become a freelance web designer, allowing for more creative control and flexibility.

The field of web design is ever-evolving, shaped by advancements in technology and changes in consumer behavior. One of the significant trends shaping this field is the emphasis on UX design. These professionals do not only craft visually appealing websites; they’re also tasked with creating intuitive, user-friendly interfaces that enhance usability and user engagement.

UI design is also gaining prominence in tandem with UX. The rise of different devices, platforms, and screen sizes demands responsive and adaptive design strategies. Consequently, these designers must master designing for various interfaces, including mobile and tablet devices.

Additionally, there’s a growing trend toward incorporating motion design into websites. Interactive elements, animations, and transitions are becoming common features, making sites more dynamic and engaging.

Lastly, the role increasingly overlaps with other roles, such as web developer and SEO specialist. Modern designers are expected to have a basic understanding of coding and SEO principles to effectively collaborate with other teams involved in building and promoting a website.

Employment projections for web designers

Web designers fall under the “Web Developers and Digital Designers” category, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment in this category is projected to grow 23 percent through 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. The increasing popularity of mobile devices and e-commerce largely drives the growth. 

Given the growing complexity of website design and the need for businesses to stay current with web technology and design trends, professionals with up-to-date programming skills and an understanding of UX and SEO principles will likely have the best job prospects.

Web designer career tips

Keep up with design trends

The field of web design is constantly evolving, with new trends emerging regularly. To stay relevant and competitive, staying informed about the latest design trends and techniques is important. Regularly browse design websites, attend webinars, and follow industry thought leaders to keep your knowledge up-to-date.

Understand user experience principles

UX is a vital aspect of web design. A website should not only look good but also be easy to navigate and interact with. Understanding UX principles will allow you to create websites that meet users’ needs and provide a positive experience.

Master relevant design software

Proficiency in design software is a must. Tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, and prototyping tools like Figma or InVision are commonly used in the industry. Regularly update your skills and stay informed about new tools and software.

Build a professional network

Networking can provide valuable insights, learning opportunities, and potential collaborations. Consider joining professional associations and communities related to web design, such as:

  • American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)
  • Interaction Design Association (IxDA)
  • User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA)

Familiarize yourself with coding basics

While not all designers need to code, having a basic understanding of languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript can give you an edge. This knowledge will allow you to collaborate better with developers and create more realistic designs that consider the limitations and possibilities of the web.

Implement continuous learning

Web design is a field that changes quickly. Continuous learning is key to staying current and expanding your skills. Some areas to focus on could include:

  • Responsive design techniques
  • Accessibility standards
  • New design software or tools
  • UX/UI design principles

Prioritize website accessibility

Designing websites that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, is crucial. Familiarize yourself with web accessibility standards and incorporate these principles into your design process.

Maintain a strong online portfolio

A well-curated portfolio can showcase your skills, creativity, and growth as a designer. Regularly update your portfolio with your best work, and ensure it’s easily accessible to potential clients or employers.

Where the web designer jobs are

Top companies

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Amazon
  • Adobe
  • Various Digital Agencies

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • Behance
  • Upwork


What are some common mistakes web designers should avoid?

Some common mistakes they should avoid include neglecting mobile and responsive design, using excessive or unnecessary animations, and overloading pages with too much information or visual clutter. 

Additionally, they should avoid using inaccessible designs or ignoring usability principles, as these can create barriers for users with disabilities. To prevent these issues, professionals in this role should follow best practices for usability, accessibility, and responsive design, and test their work across various devices and platforms.

What skills are necessary for a web designer?

Designers should understand design principles, including layout, color theory, typography, and user interface design. Proficiency in design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator is often required. 

They should also have knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and responsive design principles to ensure websites look good on various devices. Familiarity with content management systems like WordPress can also be helpful. 

Finally, good communication skills and understanding UX and UI principles are also crucial.

What are the typical duties of a web designer?

Their duties typically include creating website designs, producing sample sites, and demonstrating and receiving feedback about draft sites. They also keep up-to-date with recent technological and software developments, develop skills and expertise in appropriate software or programming languages such as HTML and JavaScript, and create user-friendly, effective, and appealing products.

What does a web designer need to consider when designing for mobile devices?

When designing for mobile devices, they must consider factors like screen size, touch controls, and data usage. Websites should be responsive, meaning they automatically adjust to fit the screen they’re viewed on. Touch controls mean interfaces must be designed with larger, finger-friendly buttons. 

Designers should also optimize images and other elements to load quickly and consume less data. Additionally, mobile designs might prioritize different content or functionality because mobile users often have different goals than desktop users.

How does a web designer ensure that a website is accessible?

To ensure a website is accessible, they should follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which provide a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. 

This can include providing alt text for images, ensuring sufficient color contrast, using clear and straightforward language, and designing navigable and predictable layouts. Designers can use various tools to test and improve accessibility.

What is the role of a web designer in SEO?

Although SEO is often associated more with content, these professionals also play a significant role in optimizing a website for search engines. This can include designing an easy-to-navigate structure, ensuring the website loads quickly, making the site mobile-friendly, and incorporating SEO-friendly meta tags. 

They can also collaborate with content creators to ensure content is presented in a SEO-friendly way, such as by optimizing headings and images.

What challenges might a web designer face?

They can face challenges such as keeping up with rapidly changing technology and design trends, ensuring websites are compatible with various browsers and devices, and balancing aesthetic appeal with functionality, user-friendliness, and performance. 

They may also need to navigate differing opinions and feedback from stakeholders while staying true to the user’s needs and the project’s goals.

How does a web designer work with other team members on a web development project?

In a web development project, designers often collaborate closely with various team members. They might work with UX researchers to understand users’ needs, with web developers to implement their designs, with content creators to integrate text and multimedia content, and with SEO specialists to optimize the site for search engines. They also communicate with project managers and stakeholders to understand the project’s goals and receive feedback.

What is the difference between a web designer and a web developer?

A web designer focuses primarily on the visual aspects of a website, including layout, color schemes, and overall aesthetic. On the other hand, web developers are responsible for the coding and technical aspects of the website, such as functionality, performance, and integration with other systems. While there can be some overlap in responsibilities, web designers and developers typically specialize in their respective areas.

How do I build a web design portfolio?

A strong web design portfolio showcases your skills and expertise in the field. To build a portfolio:

  1. Consider including a variety of projects that demonstrate your proficiency in different aspects of web design, such as responsive design, user experience, and visual aesthetics
  2. Include personal projects, freelance work, or any relevant academic projects
  3. Provide a brief description of each project, along with images or live links, and explain your role in the project’s development