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What does a Web Designer do?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A web designer may or may not be a computer programmer, but most have at least some programming skills. Many web designers are also web programmers, which means they not only are the architect of how a page will appear on the Internet but also implement their own designs through programming. They can thus be called part artist, part writer, and part computer expert.

One of the most important tasks of the web designer is the creative design of web pages, usually by working with a client who articulates certain needs or functions that the web page must fulfill. Designers tend to be excellent in working with graphics software, like Photoshop®, and many are also very good with languages like Javascript®, which can animate graphics. They frequently have experience working with a variety of media programs to add sound or film clips to web pages. Overall, the goal is to create pages with a specific design, a uniform graphic set, and eye grabbing details. Depending upon the needs of the client, a web designer may also write content for pages, though sometimes they merely edit and program content that clients provide.

There doesn't have to be a great difference between a web designer and a web programmer. Programmers may only implement designs by programming in HTML, XTML, and various other Internet languages. They may set up special functions like shopping cart software, and they may be responsible for maintenance of existing web pages and introduction of new data. A web designer, especially one with lots of programming talent may also do this. In fact many designers offer both design and programming services. At other times, designers are the graphic specialists, integrating the client’s requirements into artistically rendered pages that are easy to use for visitors.

Web designers must keep abreast of current trends in the Internet industry. They must figure out what services are expected, what graphics are most likely to be received well and enjoyed, and how a page will rank high in search engines. By working with clients they get a sense of what basic functions the web page (or multiple ones) must serve, but they may also help clients formulate plans on how to keep web pages most approachable, and graphically interesting. Many are terrific artists who may have worked in other fields of graphic design prior to becoming web designers.

There's a lot of debate about the the qualifications needed to become a web designer. Some people are not college educated but have been navigating and programming pages for so long it doesn’t matter. A number of freelance web designers have at the least taken classes in art and design, and may have taken a few programming classes specific to different programs that can help them best create pages. Others have extensive programming or design background and hold undergraduate degrees.

Degrees tend to be less important than demonstrated ability when choosing a web designer. Instead of viewing credentials, evaluate the pages a person has constructed to see if the aesthetic value is close to what you want. Check pages to be sure all aspects are functioning appropriately and to determine if the web designer/programmer is equally skilled at implementing functions needed on your site.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon337265 — On Jun 04, 2013

What is the basic equipment needed by web designers?

By MrsPramm — On Mar 07, 2013

@Fa5t3r - On the other hand, there are a flood of really terrible job offers, which is why often freelancers don't earn very much when they are starting out. On some of those bidding sites, it's a crime how much people are offering. They think they can get someone to work for much less than minimum wage. In some cases I can't even see how it would be worth the amount of money it would take to keep the internet going so that you could work on the site!

But, some people are desperate, or maybe in countries where the exchange makes it worth the bad pay. And so the prices keep get driven down for web site design.

By Fa5t3r — On Mar 06, 2013

@anon297312 - It used to be a really sure-fire way of making a lot of money, but not so much anymore, now that there are so many tools online that people can use for themselves.

Unfortunately, there are also an awful lot of web designer jobs being taken by people who claim to know what they are doing, but really don't have the first clue. You can't just stick up a Wordpress blog and call yourself a web designer. You really have to know all the nuts and bolts and it's not something you can learn overnight.

By lluviaporos — On Mar 06, 2013

@anon11769 - If they don't take some kind of formal course, mostly they just train by doing. There are plenty of free resources online to learn how to make your own websites. You can practice with almost all the bells and whistles for practically nothing.

I know I've only ever mucked around online with blogs and things, but I still have a pretty good knowledge of html by now and could probably whip up a fairly good website if I had to.

In saying that, I have total respect for people who do it for a living and I know I don't have nearly the ability of a true web site designer. I could manage simple. Spectacular is quite out of my reach.

By anon297312 — On Oct 15, 2012

Some designers earn $35,000 to $75,000 a year, while it's $15,000 to $100,000 a year for freelancers. Earnings depend on experience, location, employer and technical knowledge.

By anon112023 — On Sep 18, 2010

what do web designers make yearly and hourly?

By anon11769 — On Apr 22, 2008

how do web designers train?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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