What does 'Professional' Web Designer Mean these days

Hey everybody,

I don’t mean to open up a crazy debate over this, but this is truly a question that I am seeking an answer for. You see, I do freelance graphic and web design on the side, and I am considering officially registering an LLC with New York State (where I live) to make the business official. To make a long story short, I was thinking about how other job markets run; engineers need to pass a final exam to be considered ‘professional’ as do teachers, lawyers etc. Is there a similar qualification to be considered professional to design and build websites? Or is it just a matter of having a registered business and having the ablility to do the work?

Looking back, the demands of web design has greatly changed in the past years. Most websites ten years ago were static html with some javascript and maybe CSS. Nowadays it appears that most clients want a CMS with custom features so that they can update the content themselves. This obviously goes to the server-side back-end which used to be for web developers. At the same time the web keeps expanding; a single person can’t be expected to master every possible aspect of the web experience, especially with newer technologies constantly being rolled out. Just because I know the front end design the best (photoshop, html, css) and know enough to run a decent backend, does that make me any less ‘professional’ than someone that has a proficiency in both? Or is the everyday web designer’s job description keep expanding as these new technologies roll out?

I’m just curious to where people draw the lines and such, and what other companies look for when hiring a person to design their corporate website.

Thanks in advance,

What I consider a professional designer is one who can regularly do what I want or need. If they can’t their not good enough so their not professionals. That simple for me.

Hi Rick. Welcome to the forums. :slight_smile:

The web design industry is basically unregulated, meaning that there isn’t much way to distinguish between someone who’s competent and someone who’s a hack—apart from viewing their work. That’s bad in some ways, but good in others.

a single person can’t be expected to master every possible aspect of the web experience, especially with newer technologies constantly being rolled out.

Indeed. You can’t be all things to all people. It’s often recommended that you specialize in something you’re good at. It’s perfectly viable to be a front end designer who uses jQuery and a CMS to deliver what clients need. Then, of course, you can always team up with other people (like developers) on individual projects where needed. It’s good to know people in a range of areas like this so that you can liaise with them when required.

I suppose it does boil down to being able to do what the client wants – end of story. But for me something seems missing out of this equation. Obviously there are best web practices that professionals should know, but even that’s not standardized by the people building web technologies! Can anyone say HTML5 and CSS3?

As Ralph said, focusing in one area doesn’t make you less professional than the next.
You only need to be able to provide a service to people that they’re willing to pay for to be a professional.

That being said, if you are always learning and keeping on top of new technologies you’ll be able to offer your clients a better service.
You should know what HTML5 and CSS3 offer because they can save you time and the client money.

I think that web designer is the one who understands the audience and translates the usability in the design.

Html and CSS are the basics which every web designer needs to be aware of.A professional web designer is one who keeps his targeted audience in mind while designing .After all you are not designing for yourself.A webdesigner is aware of the latest technologies and tools available to design. Nowdays many designers make use of CMS.But how to optimize content is another major concern For designers.A professional webdesigner has a lot of expertize in his field.Starting From Design layout,Look,Content and what will appeal the users a webdesigner has to see a lot of factors so that his design stands out among others.

Being a “professional” web designer only has a proportional amount to do with the ability to code or produce nice designs (I’d say around 50%). I think the mainstay is the way the professional deals with challenges, clients and opportunities. Someone who is unprofessional will promise more than they can give, thus creating “shoddy work” and also make silly mistakes which can prove costly to a client.

A professional however knows exactly what all their strengths and weaknesses are, and plays to their strengths whilst their weaknesses are covered by either other people helping them, or by using tools which help them achieve it. A professional is always honest and straight down the line and communicates issues early.

Obviously being a kick ass coder and an awesome designer can help too! :wink:

I suppose it does boil down to being able to do what the client wants

this is a dangerous and exploitative way of thinking. It also leads to some serious cases of “project scope creep”

Professional simply means you “make a living” at it. As sad as that seems I have seen people ( in any filed) with amazing skills who just can’t land $$$ and people who will even ADMIT they have little or no knowledge of stuff and still have a steady income from the respective field which requires said sills.

Sometimes its also better for everyone, that you to specialize at what you are good at. As you said you can’t be top notch at everything. If you do GRAPHIC DESIGN for the then specialize GRAPHIC DESIGN so that becomes the PREMIUM service you offer. Keep in mind there is also a market of mediocrity. That is a client that wants to paya certain amount and that’s it! In which case eign a jack of all trades may get you more work but not more acclaim or money.

I find it an odd pattern that it is (visual) designers who most often suffer from this lack of “professional confidence”. A guy who learns PHP and CODES forms all day for a living has no issue telling a client he’s a PHP and (maybe) security guy and that he is not expert at Photoshop or, more importantly, aesthetics ‘so the site might look a little plain and w/o frills’ and charging premium rates for his knowledge and expertise. But even the most advanced graphic designers who are new to code ( but can code functionally) feel totally ashamed that they can do a DESIGN for a page but are not “Eric Meyer” when it come code. Why is this?