What's it really like?
Elin Ritter, 37, works at Cnet as a freelance Web Designer. She has been working in the Internet industry for eight years, and you can see a selection of her work at her Freelance Web Designer blog site.Elin, what did you do before this job?
I was a fashion stylist. As a freelancer I worked in lots of different film and advertising production companies in the UK. I mainly worked on commercials and advertising, but I also did a few music videos.
What do you do in a typical day at work?
My usual day consists of trying to finish off lots of different things and trying to stick to deadlines, which usually means juggling a lot of different projects. In my current job I don't really deal with clients, but rather with web project managers who brief me. At the moment I work mainly on Photoshop and Flash to make animations. I use Flash for advertising and Photoshop for page layout.
I can do coding but in this job they have a team of coders especially for that so I'm purely working on design. Currently I'm making lots of skins, adverts, icons and other visual elements. These go to the web developer who then uploads and inserts them into the page.
What do you like about being a web designer?
I think the company around you is very important. The work can be fairly tedious once you're at my stage and really know what you're doing, so if you're working with good people then it makes a world of difference. That's why I like to stay freelance, so I can change jobs every few months. The most exciting part of the job is when you work with lots of different brands, especially interesting ones like Jaguar and I-phone.
What do you dislike about being a web designer?
It can be monotonous. Sitting in front of a computer is really bad for your body, so from a purely physical side it's quite bad and very sedentary.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a web designer?
If you want to be a designer, go for an artistic education rather than a technical one because in the UK that's a separate role now.
What do you think you might do next, in terms of career progression?
I'd like to retire to Brazil. I'd like to have my own company and concentrate on that rather than hiring myself out continually.
What other inside information can you give to help people considering a career in web design?
I think it involves a lot of self-education. You need to be constantly on the Internet looking at the latest technologies and the new gadgets, and keeping up-to-date with the latest stuff.
Do you mind us publishing your salary?
My hourly rate is £31.25 per hour, but it's about to go up very soon!
A web designer creates the visual elements that make up a web page, deciding on layout, colour schemes and text formatting.
A web designer works with a variety of programming languages to create web pages and Internet sites. Web designers are responsible for the visual look of a page, and in larger organisations they usually only work in the design field. In smaller operations they may be responsible for the efficient functioning of the entire site.
Web designers must therefore have a good grasp of traditional design fundamentals, as well as an advanced knowledge of the current and emerging Internet technologies that will allow them to make their ideas a reality on the Internet. A web designer will spend most of their working day on a computer with an Internet connection. This allows a certain freedom to the job and many web designers work from home. In some cases, web design work is outsourced outside of the UK.
The wage earned by a web designer depends upon their experience, abilities and portfolio of past work.
- A junior web designer can expect a starting salary ranging from £17,00 - £22,000 per annum.
- A middle-weight web designer may earn between £22,000 - £28,000.
- A senior web designer with a good portfolio and some specialist programming or exceptional design abilities can earn in excess of £40,000.
Many web designers opt to work freelance in which case they may charge an hourly rate ranging between £15.00 and £40.00 depending on their experience and reputation.
It is the web designer's responsibility to create web pages that reflect the client's wishes and their brand identity, whilst paying attention to attractive and functional design.
Colour schemes, text styles and pictures are all issues that a web designer may be either consulted on or simply asked to recreate. The level of creative input required from the web designer will depend on the job in question. In many cases it is the web designer's job to create something visually attractive from a series of client consultations. Once the website is created it may be the web designer's responsibility to upload the site to a server, then test and refine it for optimum functionality. Changes may be made and additional elements may be added or changed on a page. Generally speaking, websites change or are updated regularly, and it is up to the web designer to see that any new elements conform to the original design, layout and feel of the website.
In the past, many web designers were self taught. As the role itself is open to some interpretation and different clients require different solutions, some web designers may lean more towards either the technical or design side of the role. A great web designer will be skilled in both. Employers will either be looking for experience or qualifications with proof of some experience.
There are now a number of web design courses available in the UK which offer official accreditation, and you could consider the following options:
- UCAS lists a number of degree courses related to web design
- City & Guilds IT Users Awards: Levels 2 & 3
- BTEC Interactive Use of Media: Levels 1 - 3
Alternatively, a good place to start learning about web design is the Internet itself. Here you can find literally hundreds of free tutorials from beginner to fairly advanced on all Internet programming languages.
As a web designer you will need to have a good grasp of the following:
- Experience working with basic word processor and database packages.
- A reasonable understanding of up-to-date HTML coding.
- Experience with HTML editors such as Dreamweaver.
- Very good knowledge of image manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop.
- A keen eye for design, colour matching and detail.
- A genuine passion for finding out about and using the latest Internet technologies to make exciting, interactive web pages.
Web designers generally work from an office or a home office. Regular business hours of 9am-5pm or 9am-6pm are common, though tight deadlines could mean overtime just like in any part of the design industry. As a sedentary occupation, the role is not a hazardous one. The main dangers associated with being a full-time web designer stem from overuse of computer peripherals, including repetitive strain injury (RSI) from mouse or keyboard use, or eye strain from monitors. This can be mostly negated by paying attention to correct posture, taking regular breaks and modifying your work area to suit your height and limb length.
To become a web designer you will need to have some experience within the design field. If your skills and experience are not up to scratch you may be able to do work experience. Additionally, you will be expected to be conversant in the most popular computer packages and have a keen eye for design. Any experience in other fields of design, such as print or fashion, will make you more attractive to potential employers.
These days, virtually every UK company or organisation dealing with the general public in any number has a website. Larger companies will employ permanent staff to take care of their website, and this is one route into the business. Alternatively, you may work for a specialist website company, making one-off websites on a contract basis for smaller companies.
Some web designers come from a design background and are thus experienced in traditional print, or interior design. They then learn the programming necessary to convert to an online format. It is more common for people to begin as junior or assistant web designers and work up to the full web designer role. Web designers typically progress to managerial roles such as web editor or web project manager where they will be in control of a large website and perhaps a number of staff. The more technically skilled can work with web architecture where they oversee the layout and programming of a large and complex website.