As a web designer, I’m proud to be a part of an Apple-loving, forward thinking, technologically advanced group of people that devour tutorials and web design blogs, hoping to create a stellar design that that gets posted in every CSS gallery out there. Yep, we’re a group of people that works hard, plays hard and strives to meet our deadlines, while learning something new along the way.
We’re also a misunderstood group of people, viewed as gothic creatures that shun the daylight because we’re just tragic artists.
Well, I’m here to set things straight. Here are some common misconceptions about being a web designer that just aren’t true.
Web designers are a dime a dozen
Yes, your mom’s friend’s brother’s neighbor may know how to use Photoshop, or maybe he even learned HTML and CSS basics from a book, but that doesn’t make him a web designer.
A web designer is someone that designs professionally and knows the reason why you can’t use Zapfino for body copy on the web. They understand why using a red background with green text is a bad idea.
Anyone can learn how to create professional web designs, but not overnight, and certainly not by reading one book. Web designers have skills learned through experience, lots of practice, continual self-education, and working with clients.
It takes time and patience to be a professional web designer, and I’m sorry, but your mom’s friend’s brother’s neighbor is not one of them.
Web designers know nothing about art
Art basics are the foundation of every good design, and are ingrained deep in the heart and soul of every great web designer.
Composition, hierarchy, and color choices are what a design is composed of. Typography also plays a big role in the design. Fonts must be carefully chosen to compliment the style and feel of the site design. Body text itself has several things to think about. It must be legible so a designer has to consider size, color, font choice and style. Every choice affects the design, taking a design from mediocrity to greatness.
Web designers must be living large with how much they charge
I had a friend tell me this after she found out about my rates. I’ve heard the same sentiment from others. It’s a little disconcerting to hear someone say a website should be worth so little money. Your website defines your company and is often the only face people will see. It should certainly put your best foot forward, telling customers what you do in a professional manner, and communicating to them effectively why you deserve their business. These things take time and skills to complete and should cost money, since we do need to make a living. Although it may sound like a lot all at once—at the end of the day—it usually doesn’t amount to being rich.
Web designers make things pretty, not functional
American Designer Charles Eames once said, "Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose." A web designer’s job is to make sure that the design isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, but also usable. Web design is a craft born out of comingling art and science harmoniously.
A good user experience on a website is largely due to the design and how the designer planned the site. It would be silly to create a site without thinking about how it functions. It’s important to prepare by thinking about what users might do and how the design can move them around the site efficiently. The functionality and usability of a site and the design certainly go hand in hand.
Web designers have it easy, HTML and CSS are easy to learn
Learning each one is like learning another language like Spanish, French, or German. You must start with the basics and build upon the foundation, gaining more experience with time, slowly adding more and more command of the language to your repertoire until the day that you speak like a native speaker.
As with many professions today, there is much to learn, and with the ever-changing and evolving world of design, there will always be another skill to acquire or another language to study.
Although it may be more fun than learning French, it’s still something that starts out tough and only gets easier with time.
Web designers sit in a dark basement and hate to socialize
This may still be true for some, but I think it would be tough to gain new clients (and keep existing ones) by being unsociable. Networking is a huge part of collaborating and working well with others, as well as a great way to find potential new clients and spread the word about yourself as a designer.
Being social and getting out into the daylight is a big part of getting yourself out into the workforce and finding jobs. I’ve met tons of fellow designers at social functions, so I know firsthand that most designers may be shy, but certainly not against socializing.
Web designers aren’t progressive
This one is so false I don’t even know where to start. Web design has changed so much over the last year alone! The big push behind these changes and the group responsible for the way the web looks is—you guessed it—web designers.
Society as a whole plays a big part, with fashion trends, social norms and even the economic state playing a hand in where web design goes. But we are the people responsible for creating and maintaining the look, pushing ourselves to design something new and something the world will love.
Web designers work odd hours
I do know some designers that do work at non-standard hours, so I’ll tread lightly here, because for some, this may be their only choice or this is where they’re most productive. Working regular business hours allows me to be available for client phone calls, and gives me the chance to respond to emails in a timely manner. If I slept in until noon, half of the regular business day would be gone, which cuts my chances of networking and finding potential new business in half as well. I prefer to work regular hours and I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but I don’t think our group as a whole should be defined as people that work irregular hours.
Web designers don’t need any kind of training
I know some designers that have natural talent and are self-taught designers. Nevertheless, in a non-traditional way, they still received some training. It may have come from online tutorials, books, magazines, blogs or friendly coworkers, but I don’t think a single one of us can say we opened our eyes one day and knew how to be a great web designer without any kind of training whatsoever.
Formal training in a classroom setting was very helpful for me in my learning process, although it doesn’t fit everyone. As web designers, we have all been trained in different ways across the globe, gathering knowledge from many sources to become the designers we are today.
Web designers don’t work well with web developers
I consider myself a designer and a developer and I use the term web design loosely, combining the trades together. Many designers and developers do this, so it would be wrong to say we don’t get along. Even when designers and developers are separate, we are all after the same purpose. We want a greater web experience that allows users to find the information they are looking for easily and efficiently while feeling satisfied and amazed. At times, there may be disagreements between the two parties but in the end, we are all on the same team.
Web designers have a cushy job
Some people think that all we do is surf the web and making things look pretty all day. I do believe we have landed in a pretty cool field, and I won’t for a minute say I don’t love being a designer. But I also don’t agree that it’s a cushy job. The majority of us are diligently working to provide customers with a website that fits their audience, their needs and their services. We work hard to push our designs to a new level, accepting criticism and feedback to make our work the best it can be for the client.
Web designers can make tons of money right out of school
Now I know some of you may have been lucky enough to land a sweet job right out of school, or maybe even started up your own thing and it took off right away. I’m going to guess and say it didn’t just fall in your lap though, you probably worked hard and had a stellar portfolio.
For most of us, even with a great portfolio, it takes time, experience, and hard work in the real world to land a good design job and awesome high-paying clients. The first couple of years are a bit rough, and are filled with lots of learning, and maybe some coffee runs for the office. Kids right out of school are so hopeful that they will be the next big thing, but it just doesn’t happen like that.
What other misconceptions about web designers have you heard?
Myths about the web design world are all over the place, and I’ve only briefly touched on the misconceptions that I’m sure we’ve all heard. Keep educating your friends, family and coworkers about these things and help us spread the word about our great design community.