Web Designer Profile
A design professional shares his tips for success.
Over 20 years in the business
How did you become a web designer?
What do you most enjoy about the job?
I really enjoy the illustration work. Not so much the programming end, but the actual creative process of coming up with a layout, sketching out ideas. Most people don't know exactly what they want, they know what they want the site to do, but as far as layout goes, I'm free to do anything.
How do you work with clients?
I ask questions about what they want from the site, such as who is their target audience? I try to get an idea about who I'm creating the site for. I work intuitively, because I want the finished project to reflect the person, or the company's personality, their aesthetics. Then I want to find the balance between that and what will look good to everybody else.
When you talk to people you pick up on things about them—how they're dressed, their mannerisms—that give you clues about what they might like. When I work with clients on the phone, I'll say, "Describe yourself to me." This gives me an idea of whether they'll want something that's modern or something that's more Better Homes and Gardens. My clients like the sites when they're done. What I hear the most is, "I don't know how you were able to read my mind."
What's the most challenging part of the job?
It's difficult when the client has a very specific way that they want something to look, but they can't describe it. The most dreaded words a web designer can hear are, "I can't draw, but I have an image in my brain." I'm currently working on a site for a client who wants it to have a Seattle World's Fair, Jetsons, 1950s-1960s look. It requires a lot of research. Actually the more frustrating the job, the happier I am when it's done because I've risen to the challenge.
What does a person coming into the field need to know?
Web designers all work differently. Some use complex scripts and programming languages, but all designers must have knowledge of HTML and graphic design software. Anyone who is interested in becoming a web designer should take a college course in HTML. Web software programs now are as easy as using Word or Powerpoint—it's not about looking at code. I've used Photoshop for years, and I treat it as a piece of paper.