Are you eager to become a web designer? Launching a career in web design is a great way to combine your technical skills with your creative talents. It can also be lucrative. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for web developers and digital designers exceeds $77,000 per year.
The average salary for web developers and digital designers exceeds $77,000 per year.
What's even more exciting is that you can land web design jobs without advanced degrees or diplomas. Use this guide to learn what a web designer does and get a list of the best web design courses (free and paid) for getting started or refreshing your skills.
What is a web designer?
In simple terms, a web designer is one of the people responsible for creating the design and layout of a website. Web designers are also involved in the creation of mobile applications.
Although many people use the terms web designer and web developer interchangeably, there are some subtle differences. While web developers focus on writing code, web designers are more concerned with how each site looks. Web design is also different from graphic design, as it focuses more on interactive designs than the static designs found in magazines, books, and other print publications.
"Web designer" is often used as a broad term that includes general web design, UX design, UI design, and Product Design. Explore the different roles that fall under the web designer umbrella below.
💻 General Web Designer
A general web designer usually designs new pages from scratch or refreshes existing pages designed by other people. If you're interested in general web design, you need to understand basic design principles, web design fundamentals, and know how to combine text and graphics in visually appealing ways. As a general web designer, you should also be comfortable editing images, sketching mock-ups, and composing eye-catching layouts.
⚙️ UX Designer
UX design is a bit more advanced than general web design. As a UX designer, you'd be responsible for creating meaningful experiences for website users. According to basic UX principles, every user goes through a journey when interacting with a company's products and services. The UX designer is responsible for creating positive experiences at each stage of this journey.
🎨 UI Designer
UI design is the creation of interactive elements, including widgets, sliders, buttons, and images. A skilled UI designer makes sure that every one of these elements contributes to a positive experience for the user.
An easy way to understand the difference between UX and UI design is to remember that UI designers are responsible for the overall look of the site while UX designers are responsible for how the site "feels" to users. Another major difference is that UX designers are often involved in prototyping. This process helps determine how users will move from one area of a website to another in a logical way.
✏️ Product Designer
Product designers are responsible for designing user-friendly digital experiences like websites, apps, and software through a human-centered design process. As the most in-demand design job of 2022, product designers combine elements of graphic design, UX design, and UI design to ensure that each digital product they create helps users solve their needs.
According to Dribbble's Design Industry Trends Report, the demand for Product Designers will continue to grow quickly:
- 84% of product designers are contacted at least once a month by recruiters.
- The average product designer's salary in the United States is $115,000.
- 70% of product design hiring managers increased the size of their team last year.
"I became a product designer because I loved the idea of building new technology that makes people's lives easier, reduces stress, and enables them to do more things with their time." — Adrianna Leblanc, Senior Product Designer & Dribbble Mentor
Become a Product Designer in only 16 weeks on Dribbble.Launch your career
Web designer skills
The skills needed for this career depend on which type of web design you want to do. Many employers combine web design and web development into a single job, but others have multiple roles for designers and developers. In addition to basic graphic design skills, you may need to know how to do the following:
- Create storyboards or wireframes
- Edit images with Adobe Photoshop or similar software packages
- Collaborate with web developers, graphic designers, and content writers
- Apply the principles of UX or UI design
- Use responsive design principles when designing for multiple screen sizes
How to learn web design online
If you need to upgrade your skills before applying for web design jobs, don't panic. Many organizations offer online web design courses to help students launch their careers in web design, UX design, UI design, and product design. When you don't have to commute to a college campus and spend several hours per week in a classroom, it's much easier to develop the skills you need.
Before signing up for a course, make sure you review the class description and understand the terms of enrollment. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Fee vs paid: Is the course free, or do you have to pay a fee to participate?
- Pricing: If you have to pay a fee, how much is it? Does the organization offer payment plans? What methods of payment are accepted?
- Length of the course: Some courses last a few hours, but others last for several months. Make sure you understand how much time you need to commit to learning new skills.
- Course type: Some courses are asynchronous video courses, which means you can log in and learn at your convenience. Other courses are synchronous, meaning you'll need to sign in at specific times to learn from a live instructor. Each type, of course, has pros and cons, and only you can decide which type of learning is best for your situation.
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💻 10 best online web design courses
For flexible learning options, check out a few of the best paid online web design courses to prepare you for a career as a professional web designer. You'll find a list of the best websites to learn UI/UX, web design, or product design below.
1. Dribbble's 16-Week Certified Product Design Course
Dribbble’s 16-Week Product Design Course is designed to take you from zero to career-ready through flexible, on-demand video learning coupled with weekly live mentorship sessions. Graduate with a whole new skill set, an interview-ready portfolio, and the confidence to design beautiful and functional digital experiences.
In this career-focused course, you'll learn:
- Design thinking: Learn different approaches to design thinking and how to implement it in your work.
- UX and UI research: Conduct and analyze UX and UI research to inform your design decisions.
- Wireframes, flow diagrams & prototypes: Learn processes to bring your product designs to life.
- Designing in Figma: Master Figma’s tools, libraries, systems, and techniques.
- Career prep: Receive expert guidance on your resume, portfolio, and interviews to land your first job in product design.
As part of this course, students are matched with an expert mentor from the Dribbble community. Mentors are hand-picked and have at least 4 years of product design experience in reputable design-forward companies. Learn from the best in the industry, create alongside them, and receive weekly live, asynchronous feedback on your real-world web design and mobile app projects.
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2. LinkedIn Learning: Become a Web Designer Learning Path
LinkedIn Learning has a web design learning path that focuses on giving students opportunities to practice their new skills and learn at their own pace. The online learning path includes 11 courses:
- Introduction to Web Design and Development
- Design Aesthetics for the Web
- User Experience for Web Design
- Mapping the Modern Web Design Process
- HTML Essential Training
- CSS Essential Training
- Illustrator for Web Design
- Photoshop for Web Design
- Learning Responsive Web Design in the Browser
- Responsive Images
- Responsive Typography Techniques
This course includes tutorials that cover the skills you need to design rich, engaging websites and applications that look beautiful on both desktop and mobile devices.
3. Udemy Ultimate Web Designer & Web Developer Course
Taught by Brad Hussey, the Udemy Ultimate Web Designer & Web Developer Course is designed to help students gain the skills they need to develop more than 20 custom design and development projects by hand.
With nearly 34 hours of content, the course provides a comprehensive overview of key web design and development topics, including designing graphic interfaces with Figma, using Photoshop for design, coding with HTML and CSS, and managing SQL databases. Udemy's Ultimate Web Designer & Web Developer course is intended for people with little to no experience in web design and development.
📜 Best Web Design Certificate Programs
You have two options for updating your skills: Sign up for a single course or enroll in a comprehensive certificate program online from an accredited university. A certificate program typically includes several courses, giving you access to specialized training. It takes a little longer to complete a certificate program than it does to finish one class, but getting a certificate takes less time than completing a full degree, which can help you launch your career as a web designer much sooner. These certificate programs contain some of the best online courses for learning web design.
4. Cornell University Web Design & Development Certificate
Cornell University offers a web design and development certificate, giving you an opportunity to learn in-demand design and technical skills. To earn a certificate, you must complete the following courses: Framing Front-End Web Development, Structuring Content with HTML, Styling Web Content with CSS, Composition and Responsive Design, Improving User Experience with Interactivity, and Collecting Data with Forms.
Instructors recommend setting aside seven to 10 hours per week to review the course materials and practice your new skills. Each course lasts for two weeks, meaning you can complete your web design and development certificate within three months. When you finish the program, you'll be able to list a certificate from the Cornell Bowers College of Computing and Information Science on your resume, which may help you attract positive attention from potential employers. If you're already employed in the field, you may also qualify for 60 professional development hours.
5. DeVry University Online Undergraduate Certificate in Web Design
The DeVry University certificate in web design prepares students to take Adobe Certified Associate exams in several areas, including graphic design and illustration, visual communications, web authoring, and interactive media. Although the certificate program includes instruction in basic technical skills, it has more of an emphasis on design than the Cornell program, making it a good fit if you need help learning basic design principles and applying them to real-world projects.
If you enroll in this program, you'll learn the following:
- Software and programming: The program includes instruction in HTML, CSS and Adobe Creative Cloud.
- Multimedia integration: Experiment with multimedia authoring tools and learn how to integrate animations, audio, and video into a website to make it more interactive.
- Communications and media: You'll find out how to use visual media to inform and entertain audience members.
- Web design: This certificate program covers scripting languages, authoring languages, digital media, and web management tools.
6. University of Michigan Web Design for Everybody
The University of Michigan offers a five-course specialization titled Web Design for Everybody: Basics of Web Development & Coding. The aim of the program is to teach participants how to design and create responsive websites. You'll even have an opportunity to complete portfolio projects using your new skills in HTML and CSS. This specialization includes the following courses:
- Introduction to HTML5
- Introduction to CSS3
- Advanced Styling with Responsive Design
- Web Design for Everybody Capstone
7. University of London Responsive Website Development and Design
University of London's responsive website development and design specialization focuses on full-stack development, multi-user experiences, animation, APIs, and multi-user web applications. Delivered via the Coursera platform, the specialization is entirely online and requires no prior experience. The program has six courses:
- Responsive Web Design
- Introduction to Meteor.js Development
- Responsive Website Tutorial and Examples
- Responsive Website Design and Development Capstone
8. Coursera's UI/UX Design Programs
Coursera is one of the best websites for learning UI and UX design because it offers courses and specializations from some of the top universities and technology companies in the world. For example, Coursera has a specialization in UX design offered by Google. The certificate program is designed to prepare students for careers in UX design even if they don't have any prior experience. If you enroll in this specialization, you'll take seven courses:
- Foundations of User Experience (UX) Design
- Start the UX Design Process: Empathize, Define, and Ideate
- Build Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes
- Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts
- Create High-Fidelity Designs and Prototypes in Figma
- Responsive Web Design in Adobe XD
- Design a User Experience for Social Good & Prepare for Jobs
The course includes more than 200 hours of instruction and practical assignments, giving you the skills and confidence you need to start applying for UX design jobs when you finish.
Coursera also has a UI/UX design specialization offered by California Institute of the Arts. The program emphasizes the application of design principles to online user experiences, giving participants the opportunity to stretch their creative muscles as they develop in-demand technical skills. If you decide to complete this specialization instead of the UX-only specialization offered by Google, you'll complete the following courses:
- Visual Elements of User Interface Design
- UX Design Fundamentals
- Web Design: Strategy and Information Architecture
- Web Design: Wireframes to Prototypes
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💸 Best Free Web Design Courses Online
If you're on a tight budget, that doesn't mean you have to give up your dream of becoming a web designer. Many organizations offer free courses to help participants learn basic web design skills and decide if they want to pursue a career in the field. Here are some of the best web design courses available online.
9. Webflow University Ultimate Web Design Course
Webflow University offers the Ultimate Web Design Course to help students develop critical design and development skills. The course includes more than 100 videos on topics such as containers, button styling, images, forms, display settings, and absolute positioning. Students also have access to several videos on search engine optimization, which helps website owners improve their page rankings.
10. W3C HTML5 and CSS Fundamentals
Delivered via the EdX platform, W3C's HTML5 and CSS Fundamentals course teaches students how to create web pages according to the most common standards. Although paid upgrades are available, basic enrollment is free. You should plan to spend four to six hours per week reviewing the course materials and applying what you've learned, but because it's a self-paced course, you can move faster or slower as needed.
Launch your web design career
As you can see, there are many paid and free online learning options available to help you learn the skills you need to excel as a web designer. Once you have a portfolio of sample projects, don't let those skills go to waste. Create a professional resume, add those samples to your design portfolio, and start applying for jobs.
After you're hired, you can continue using these resources to refresh your skills and learn new skills as technology advances and changes the way web designers, UX/UI designers, and product designers do their jobs. With a commitment to continuous learning, you can set yourself apart from other designers and build a rewarding web and UX design career.
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