The top 10 skills every web designer should have

10 Skills Every Web Designer Needs

Looking to get started in web design? Every web designer is unique; not only do web designers usually specialise in a particular area, but they can also work as freelancers, remotely, in a web design company, or run their own agency. 

The skills each web designer depends on in their day-to-day job, or even just occasionally, therefore also vary. Still, there are some skills no web designer can do without — and here’s a list of 10 of them. Having all of them doesn’t mean you’ll never need to pursue additional training or expand your knowledge, but it does give you a rock-solid start!

1. Visual Design

Web design is, at its very core, visual design — and to become a great web designer, you will need to immerse yourself in the principles of visual design. Before you can start your career as a web designer, you will need to understand colour theory, typography, grid system design, and proportions. These are the elements that ultimately determine the look of a website, and therewith also the feel that visitors get from it. 

How do you master these skills? A combination of theory and practice — or learning through trial and error, if you want to put it that way — will help you get there!

2. UX

As a web designer, you’ll want the websites you craft to be intuitive and user-friendly. UX, or user experience, is the portion of web design that deals with making that goal a reality. By immersing yourself in core UX principles, you’ll learn how visitors use websites. That, in turn, teaches you how to create websites that are easy to navigate, whilst avoiding mazes that make visitors run away.

UX designers work with wireframes (also called mockups) to show the development team what the user experience should be like.

3. Design Trends

Web design is a dynamic, ever-evolving field. While universal design principles always remain relevant, websites that were cutting-edge in 2016 are already horribly outdated in 2022. To succeed as a web designer, you’ll always need to stay current on the latest web design trends — something that will make your clients happy, because it’ll draw traffic to their websites.

4. Design Software

Web designers also need to be proficient users of the latest web design software. Although the most popular programmes do change over time, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, XD and Sketch are some of the key pieces of software you need to be intimately familiar with as a web designer. Other programmes you may want to get to know are Affinity Designer, Figma, and even InDesign can still be extremely useful.

5. HTML and CSS

True — laypeople confuse web designers and web developers all the time, but you know better than that. Web designers don’t have to be into Python, JavaScript, or PHP to have successful careers. They should, however, be familiar with basic HTML and CSS. Not only will becoming acquainted with HTML and CSS make your job of designing websites a lot easier, most web design companies also require that applicants have these skills.

6. Responsive Web Design

In 2022, almost every internet user uses a smartphone to browse the web on a daily basis — but today’s netizens also still rely on their desktop PCs, laptops, and tablets. With so many different screen sizes in use, it’s no wonder that almost every professional website has adopted responsive web design. Responsive design uses HTML and CSS (See? You need them!) to resize websites to fit any screen. 

You won’t have to design separate websites to cater to different platforms once you learn how to do it! Responsive web design is one of the most crucial skills web designers depend on now, so the faster you can master it, the better.

7. Content Management Systems

Yes, all web designers need to have WordPress skills, but let’s not forget about the almost countless other CMRs out there. Microsoft Dynamics, HubSpot, ZoHo, Freshworks, Pipedrive, Salesflare… take your pick! Aspiring web designers can, of course, never be skilled at using every single CRM on the market, but they should absolutely take the time to become familiar with a few of them to increase their employability.

8. Online Marketing

Online marketing is the key to running a successful website that gets traffic that converts. You would be absolutely right in thinking that online marketing and SEO are their own special niches, and that web designers don’t bear the full responsibility for covering the marketing angles. 

They can contribute, however, as they design websites, and online marketing skills become particularly important for freelance web designers or those working with small web design companies. As an aspiring web designer, you don’t need to be a marketing expert, but it is becoming increasingly important to have a good understanding of basic marketing and SEO principles.

9. Time Management Skills

Web design is creative work — and creatives often have a hard time managing their time. That’s especially true for people new to the field, who may wait to be struck by inspiration before getting to work (only to find that that takes much longer than they were hoping for). 

Web designers may have flexible working hours, and that wiggle room can quickly become the enemy of productivity. The message here is simple. Know yourself, and know your responsibilities. Work when you’re most productive and creative, but also establish a regular schedule, during which you work whether you’re “feeling it” or not. It’s key to be able to work on your own, as well as in a team, and being able to get work done on time is a critical part of that.

10. Communication Skills

Actually, we might as well have said “people skills”. 

Web designers don’t work in a vacuum. Every web designer strives to create beautiful and beautifully-functional websites that meet their clients’ needs — which, in turn, also means that the end users should be happy. Making end users happy is easier with a basic understanding of psychology, which is ultimately the field of studying people and human behavior (including as it pertains to web-browing habits).

Web designers don’t just need to communicate with clients, but also with developers, other web designers, graphic designers, and marketing professionals. 

Your ability to communicate effectively, and build rapport in the process, will make or break your career — because even if you’re an excellent designer, you won’t be able to translate a client’s vision into a finished website if you struggle in this area. 

A Final Word

Do you already have all these skills? Are you able to create amazing websites that consistently convey clients’ business visions and values through visual design, and are simultaneously a dream to use and navigate? You’re probably already working in the field — but if not, you’re ready for a career in web design!

There are, of course, plenty of other skills that web designers could benefit from, like JavaScript, project management skills, and business skills (if you’re going the freelance route). In addition, the field of web design never stops evolving, and that’s why you’ll always have new software tools, new content management systems, and new design trends to learn about. 

That brings us to the final point — all web designers should be able to embrace change, and be excited about a career in which they’ll never fear intellectual stagnation.