Every business needs a website. Nope, a Facebook page or a directory listing won't do it! Luckily these days it's easy and affordable to build one with one of the various CMS's (Content Management Systems) available. However, for businesses looking to compete online, it's essential to have a website that is technically foolproof, easy to navigate, fast and conversion-optimised. That's why many businesses still seek the services of a professional web designer. In this article, we'll go over how to become a web designer and how Gordon Digital's in-house web designer Rhianna ended up on this career path. We'll also walk you through a typical day at the office with Rhianna.
The Key Skills a Web Designer Needs
First up, lets look at some key skills needed to become a great web designer. If you're considering a career in web design, these are some of the skills you should be working on.
- Good visual eye
- Attention to detail
- Communication and customer service skills
- IT skills
- Ability to follow briefs and take feedback
- Graphic design
Does that sound like you? Great! With 17% of Australian businesses saying that they don't have a website because they don't have the time to build one, there's plenty of work in the field. Keep on reading to find out how our Web Designer Rhianna got started as a web designer.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you and what is your role at Gordon Digital?
Hello, my name is Rhianna and I’m an OG Gordon Digital employee, just hit 2 years. I don’t think I can fit my role into a specific job title. I mean, I'm a web developer, web designer, office graphic designer, landing page builder, Facebook Ads designer, SEO helper, DJ, sometimes office comedian, doodler… it’s a lot, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What did you study at university?
Last year I graduated from university after 5 years of study (about time). I am now the proud owner of two Bachelor’s degrees. I studied a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Marketing and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specifically Interactive and Visual Design – pretty much Graphic Design.
How did you end up a web designer?
This is a funny story actually. At university I studied two web development units, the first was ‘Intro to Web’. In this unit we learnt the basics of HTML and CSS and had to code and build a fake superannuation and recipe type website as part of assessment – they were very very basic. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the subject and got good grades. A year and a half later I had to tackle the second web unit ‘Advanced Web Design.’ Probably one of my least favourite subjects. It was horrible and I struggled quite a bit, everything just seemed to fly over my head. Thankfully I passed the subject but told myself I would never want to do web work again.
During my 4th year of study, I started looking for work experience opportunities in marketing. After a phone call and an interview with Jess, I was lucky enough to score a part time marketing assistant role. Jess taught me all things Google Ads and I worked as a Google Ads manager for about a year, building campaigns and creating landing pages. Building landing pages was the next taste of web design and development that I encountered, surprisingly it was much easier and more enjoyable than I expected. We started getting enquiries about website builds, which we didn’t offer at the time. Eventually I moved away from Google Ads, being replaced by superstar Ngawai, and moved into a web role.
After graduating in November 2019, I became a full-time web gal. Since moving into this new role I have built close to 25 websites, with plenty more in development, and over 50 landing pages for our Google Ads clients.
What does a day in your life look like?
6:30am – 7:30am: Hit snooze 2 - 3 times. Eventually wake up to the bird screaming outside my window. Scroll on phone for 10-15min. Go downstairs, make daily delicious banana and blueberry smoothie – DM for recipe.
7:30am – 7:40am: Find my dog Dante. Tell him he is a handsome boy and give him a belly rub.
7:40am – 8:30am: Get ready for work. Pack bag. Worry about what I’ll have for lunch if I haven’t meal prepped. Get in car, wait 1 minute before phone connects to Bluetooth and turn on some tunes.
8:30 – 8:50am: Get stuck behind the same rubbish truck every Tuesday. Get every red light. Arrive at work and wait in car until Liv pulls up. Walk across the road with Liv, complain about cold weather that really isn’t that cold.
9:00am – 9:45am: Get the office tunes going. Get anxiety that everyone will hate my music but they’re too nice to say anything. Check emails, Slack, calendar and ClickUp (our project management system). Reply to urgent emails and add any new tasks to todays list. Make / buy coffee. I’m settling for Nescafe coffee sachets at the moment while our machine is being serviced. Trick body into thinking its consuming real coffee.
9:45am – 11:07am: Tackle the smaller and urgent tasks first. These can consist of building a landing page for a Google Ads client, uploading SEO content or even designing online materials for Facebook or Google Ads.
11:07am – 11:10am: Think about lunch. Doodle in book. Sometimes we have clients call in the morning with an urgent request, for example that their website has broken - today a client called in to say that all the formatting on their website had disappeared, so all that appears was hundreds of lines of text. It was a simple fix that took about 2 minutes and was due to a vital plugin being deactivated.
11:10am – 1:00pm: Work on more tasks, big or small, depending what’s on todays list. Get annoyed at computer when something breaks or doesn’t work on a website. Eat lunch.
1:00pm – 4:30pm: Check emails. Put on headphones. I like to work on web builds in big chunks of time, I get more done when I'm not working between multiple tasks. In our web builds we have 4 ‘stages’ – these are design, development, pre-launch testing and finally the website launch. The design and development stages take the longest as its about building the strong foundations.
4:30pm – 5:00pm: By this point in the day my brain is fried. I spend this time replying to outstanding emails and organising my day for tomorrow. Can also include watering our office plants.
5:00 – 5:30pm: Walk across the road with Liv, complain some more about cold not cold weather. Drive home. Get stuck at all red lights. Find Dante. Tell myself I will get up at 6am and go for a walk in the morning.
What are some of the essential skills that make a good web designer?
Having a flair for creativity is one of the most important skills to succeed in a role like mine. You need to be able to think outside the box and adapt your creations to suit your clients needs and goals. For myself, I don’t always get it right the first time. It can take multiple goes at a design before I am happy with it. Therefore, perseverance and problem-solving skills I would say are also essential.
Lastly you need to be resilient. There have been times I have designed and built something I like and believe it fits the brief well; so I get excited and send it to the client for them to turn around and say they don’t like it. It sucks… but it’s all about not letting it get to you and communicating with them why they don’t like it and how it can be improved. Sometimes these type of situations can actually lead to a better end result than you first thought.
How does one become a web designer? What are your tips for people aspiring to enter the industry?
This is a tough one for me to answer because I didn’t aspire to be a web designer when I was younger, it sort of just happened? Probably one thing I wish someone told me was that you don’t need to know code to design or build a website. Although its good to know, don’t get put off by it. Technology is so advanced these days and lots of platforms are moving to fully customisable themes and user-friendly builders.
Stay up to date with industry trends, subscribe to web newsletters, jump on Pinterest, I follow a lot of web design accounts on Instagram for inspiration. Lastly, YouTube is a great resource. There are full beginning to end web build tutorials on their. Watch them and take them in!
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