Mini Poll: Whats Skills Do You Need For Your First Web Design Job?


This is a real quick post as I am very interested in hearning from other Sitepoint members on their views.
I am an up and coming web designer, I have a nice looking portfolio built on wordpress albeit no client sites yet…working on it.

I have no problem getting interviews with what I currently have however when it comes down to it. I get asked the following:

Do you know php?
Do you know mysql?
Do you know
Do you know Javascript?
Do you know Jquery?

Now I can understand where they are coming from and what all these languages do and how they can improve my chances of a job and give me a payrise.

However: I get two hours a day study time and I work as a chef, when I was younger we never had web design courses and had they been available I would have jumped on it.

I like to work in photoshop, slice up pretty images and turn my designs into websites and wordpress themes. I know enough about wordpress to make that happen…

Isn’t this enough anymore or should I be learning other languages in the meantime

I wrote a post on my blog, see sig link to view it on my site related to this subject.

What do you think? What should I be learning and if I should be learning anything what is its priority?
Any course that will give us sitepointers a boost up? Recommendations?

Thanks a bunch!:cool:

Web design or web development?

IMO development should know at least two (one of PHP/ASP.NET and MySQL), possibly four (all except one of PHP/ASP.NET), maybe all five of that list.

Design, maybe the last two, but quite possibly none.

I’d say it’s better to be proficient/skillful in one language than mediocre at many.

For design work, again it’s a totally different skillset. Being able to design a good looking site is different again to being able to design a functional/accessible site, none of which have anything really to do with the technical ability to build such a site.

I’d say it’s better to be proficient/skillful in one language than mediocre at many.

For design work, again it’s a totally different skillset. Being able to design a good looking site is different again to being able to design a functional/accessible site, none of which have anything really to do with the technical ability to build such a site.

Rarely does being a web designer exist only within the boundaries of Photoshop and Illustrator. A competent web designer must also know html/css in order to be able to translate their design into a functional prototype, and for any freelance web designer, it’s a requirement. It’s also important when working with a team. I am the UID/UXD/ID/graphics/html/css guy for my website, but knowing javascript, php, and sql has helped me make design decisions that I know will improve overall application performance. Doing this instead of that, might mean a simpler app architecture, thus saving your scripting team time and money.

With the modern trends of website usage patterns, and conventions, I would argue now that jquery/javascript is almost as necessary a skill as html/css (jquery, more so than knowing pure javascript).

Requiring a designer to know php/asp/mysql I think is a bit of a stretch from the employer’s position, as unless they are looking for a swiss army knife employee, they should have a dedicated server side scripting specialist.

So that said, a designer MUST have some modern front-end development skills, and those skills are html/css AND jquery. Having back-end development experience may help you plan out the design and functionality of your website in a more realistic and performance-friendly way, which is why many employers list it as a bonus.

To be of value to an employer, you should focus on becoming a “T-shaped employee”, which is someone who has experience in every facet of design and development, but specializes in one thing in particular.

See the image I’ve attached.

No-one said anything about mediocre. As a developer myself, I’d consider myself proficient with four of that list (I don’t know anything about ASP.NET).

Thanks for that. I guess I was probably applying for the wrong jobs. Most were seeking a designer/developer and it seemed they really did want a swiss army knife type of person.

I am not skilled enough to be a developer and in fact would much prefer staying in design. Qjuery/Javascript does indeed look like fun and from whjat I have read it is the third layer of site design “quoted from simply javascript”
I guess you could consider it T shaped, but going in the way of graphic design rather than php/mysql? Which I would much prefer to learn than php,mysql.

And I think it is to be great at one thing than not so great at two. :shifty:

Thanks for that. I guess I was probably applying for the wrong jobs

Not necessarily, but the job market for designers is WAY smaller than the job market for developers. Generally you really only need 1 well-rounded designer, but you need several developers to bring the designer’s or vision holder’s plans into fruition.

Most companies already have enough designers, which is why it’s hard finding a “pure” design job.

To be perfectly honest, I think the phrase “web designer” is far too vague. Here is what I’ve seen in terms of roles/responsibilities. Some companies want you to have a mix, some want people who are highly specialized:

1. Vision Holder
Vision holder is a position within a project, not a trade or skill. The vision holder is just that: the guy who knows what the product should look, feel, and behave like. They also know how it should integrate into the other systems on the site, and how it relates to the company’s overall strategy. Generally this person is also the project manager and makes the final decisions on everything. The vision holder/project manager can be 100% hands-on and micromanage every facet of the design/functionality, or he/she can have just a couple of overarching goals and defers to the expertise of his designers to handle the details. So assuming the vision holder isn’t someone like me (the guy who does everything…), then below are the kinds of roles you can expect a big, well organized project or company to have.


2. User Interface Designer
The UI designer specializes in the layout and style of the interface. Should the header be 100px tall instead of 120? Should the background be blue or red? Should the navigation be horizontal or vertical? Generally the UI designer makes full comps in photoshop or illustrator and makes edits based on internal feedback or testing.

Generally speaking, the User Interface designer is the same as a Graphics Designer, but not necessarily the only graphics design working at the company or on the project. Sometimes companies will have dedicated marketing graphics designers as well as an interface graphics designer. Making an advertisement is very different from making an interface/button sprite, for instance.

For MOST companies, the UI Designer assumes all of the roles and responsibilities 3 through 6 listed below, but again, depending on the size and organizational structure of the project, they might not.

3. Accessibility Designer
This person specializes in making sure the site meets accessibility standards, conventions, and best-practices. Font-size, contrast ratios, whether the page can adapt to user’s preferences or not. To do this, the Accessibility Designer generally needs to know CSS unless their job is simply to tell the beautifier / developers to make changes according to their needs.

4. User Experience Designer
This role has gained traction in recent years, and expands beyond web development. In fact, it’s a fairly rapidly growing field in just about any industry from retail, to automotive. User Experience Designer deals with A/B and multivariate testing, collects user feedback, conducts surveys, and makes decisions about the overall customer response to the product. Did users feel compelled to click on the big “Sign Up!” button? How did they feel about the sign up process? Was it easy, hard? Did they have a pleasant shopping experience? What changes could be made to make the experience better (e.g. easier access to shopping cart, more clearly itemized list of purchases etc).

UX Design is arguably going to be one of the most important positions for eCommerce sites in the next few years. So important in fact, that it will be given decision making power over all the other designers, since user experience is the ultimate goal of everyone else’s efforts.

This is also a field you can’t just really have experience in. You need to take college level courses to learn about user experience psychology and other things. No real coding/programming skills are needed.

5. Animation/Interaction Designer
This one is a bit weird, and very highly specialized. Most often employed in projects with extensive flash or javascript animations. The interaction designer specializes in the events & feedback that occurs when a user takes an action on a button or element. While the UI and UX designers might give the A/ID general feedback like “this button needs to do a better job of communicating to the user that it’s been clicked on”, it’s the A/ID that handles the specifics.

For example, when you mouse over a button, what happens? Does it light up or get darker? Does the text color change, but the background stay the same? When you click on it, does it look like it gets pushed in while the mouse button is down, or does it stay the same? Does it open a menu? If so, is the opening of that menu instant or is it animated? If you have a list of items that can be re-ordered by the user, does the user have to press up and down arrows to move it, or can they drag and drop? If they drag and drop, does the dragged item itself shift around or does it have a “ghost” item to show you where it will go when you release the mouse button. Is the drag/reshuffle animation instant, or does it actually animate so the eye can follow it and its effects on the rest of the list etc.

A/I design is an integral part of the user experience in any application that deals with a lot of user input and actions. Most companies don’t give it much thought, but it can mean the difference between a function which behaves intuitively, and one that doesn’t, thus impacting the overall user experience.

Knowledge of CSS, HTML, and Javascript is a must for the A/ID, since the A/ID is a pseudo-developer. It’s too difficult and inefficient to keep asking the developers to make the changes you want them to make (i.e. menu opens in 50ms vs 75ms etc), so you have to make them yourself.

Note that I am not as familiar with the development side of things as I am the design side of things. I’m sure there are tons of specialized development roles that I’m not even aware of.

6. Beautifier
The beautifier is the step between a designer and a programmer. The beautifier specializes in HTML/CSS, and if doubling as the A/ID, javascript/jquery as well. The beautifier steps in after the app is done, takes the UI Designer’s comp, and beautifies it to match the comp and the Accessibility Designer’s, UX Designer’s, and A/I Designer’s requirements.

It’s rare for a company to have a stand-alone beautifier since it’s such a narrow skill set that just about any competent self-sufficient web designer/developer has anyway. This would exist in a company with a bloated and inefficient project staff structure.

Skills: HTML, CSS, Javascript/Jquery

7. Flash / ActionScript Developer
I’m treating this as a development position, but really, a flash-based application will also require Flash-oriented design equivalents to the web design positions listed above. You’ll need a Flash artist / animator as well as a Flash / ActionScript programmer.

8. Database Engineer
Good database design and query design in whichever language is being used, is VITAL. Any large data-driven website or application needs a carefully planned and normalized database structure. Some applications will have different requirements: speed might be more important than data storage efficiency, while the opposite might be true. a DB engineer knows how to plan out the overall structure to meet the needs of the project.

Generally to be qualified for a position, they have to know many different DB languages.

9. Scripter
Scripter is not an official term, I’m just using it here to be generic. Depending on what the platform is being coded in, will determine what kind of experience you need. ASP, PHP, Java, Python, Ruby, Flash/ActionScript etc. PHP and ASP are the most common languages you should have proficiency with. A web project usually employs multiple scripters, all organized by senior developer or project manager who assigns and distributes tasks to them.

So all of that being said, GENERALLY speaking most companies are looking for an “all-in-one” designer who assumes points #1 through #6. Having development experience outside of HTML/CSS/Javascript is a bonus, but not required. So your t-shaped skill structure will consist of the following:

Interface & Graphics Design (e.g. Photoshop, Illustrator)
HTML/CSS/Javascript (these are lumped together in one skill box)
User Experience Design
Animation/Interaction Design
Accessibility Design

Any one of those can be your specialty, which automatically means the rest of the skills surround it as “supporting skills”. Typically speaking, the Interface & Graphics design will be the main trunk since that’s really where a website is born: in photoshop or illustrator. Knowing HTML/CSS/Javascript lets you translate your comp into reality, and all of the other skills (UXD, A/ID, Accessibility Design ensures that the website is effective.)

A self-sufficient web designer is a well-rounded designer, and they employ most of these skills without even realizing what they are. It helps on a resume to list these as supporting skills, rather than generically calling yourself a “Web Designer”, since web design is actually made up of several components. If you’ve never done A/B or multivariate testing before , I STRONGLY STRONGLY urge you to practice as this will become more and more common in the following years (not to say that it isn’t already common/important!!!). A well-rounded designer will be expected to know how to do all of this as easily as they can translate a design from Photoshop to working html/css.

I completely disagree. This isn’t an easy task (just look through the posts around here), and even though most designers and developers can write HTML and CSS, it’s hard to do it well

In most cases the “Beautifier” or more appropriately: front-end developer is a vital part of the entire process. Most well structured companies have front-end developer that acts as the liaison between the purely creative and technical experts. In most cases the front-end developer is not only well trained in HTML/CSS/JavaScript but confident in the application language being used. Understanding the application language is vitally important because in many cases achieving design goals requires some type of restructuring of the application code. That can range from moving things around in a template to creating a data-source/rest point to return data in order to achieve a specific/design/ux driven AJAX effect. I hate using the term of “Jack of All Trades” so I will say the front-end developer needs to be confident with HTML/CSS/JS and the application language being used.

They also need to have an eye for design consistency considering in many cases one or two mock-ups will be provided and it will be the front-end developers job to make sure all the pages adhere to the the same design consistency. In most cases creative decisions will made for the entire site that are based on the design of a landing page that provides the base look and feel. The highest level of contract between a pure programmer, some-one only working on the back-end and front-end developer is that the front-end developer is not only concerned with what functions but achieving the best user experience inline with the designers vision from look-and-feel to the work-flow of how tasks are done.

The front-end developer is the one who challenges other to think not only about function but providing the function in the most user friendly way to the end-user. Vice-versa the person is also creative enough to look at any design regardless of complexity and either find a creative way to implement it within the limitations of the technology or able to provide feedback to the designers, suggest alternatives and come to good resolution for a design that was outside technical aspects or not the best considering user experience or technology.

In most cases when you see the word “bridge” or “liaison” within a development job description it can be considered primarily a front-end role. The other phrase to look-out for is “translate mock-ups to CSS/HTML with pixel perfect reproduction” – or anything similar.

Lock down your HTML, CSS, JS, and Photoshop skills if you’re primarily a designer. They come first. A lot of people in the field lack advanced skills in any (sometimes all) of these – and sometimes they lack even fundamental skills in some areas. Get these down cold before moving on to something else like PHP.