Web designers must be constant learners

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A blossoming career in design requires gaining experience, as well as regularly and actively seeking new ways to learn and grow.

8 min read

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Here’s the number one thing I have learned as a website designer: You have to keep reinventing yourself every day to make it in this fast-moving world.

My journey and evolution as a designer started with designing printed products on a computer almost right out of college. Over the last 20 years, that’s changed quite a bit, and now I do most of my work in the responsive web space.

None of it would have been possible without a thirst for constant learning.

And while that’s part of my DNA–in multiple iterations of taking the CliftonStrengths assessment, my top strength is “learner”–you can teach yourself to continuously improve.

Web designers need a mix of experience, self-training, and formal learning to find continued success. While there’s no secret ingredient, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career.

They include a combination of online learning, networking and professional groups, going to grad school, and staying current with certifications. And you can find time for it all.

Online learning

The online learning space is full of resources for upping your web design skills. Just the fact that you are reading this blog proves that you have an interest in the field, its trends, and how to be a better designer.

Online learning comes in a few different forms and formats:

  • Reading blogs and information

  • Taking classes

  • Working on personal portfolio pieces

  • Engaging with the design community on networks such as Github or Dribbble

Online learning for me is a journey between places and platforms. Reading and looking at great design can be the inspiration to learn new concepts and techniques. One of the best places to browse new projects is Awwwards.

Once you see a technique or trend that you like, start doing some research into how to do it on your own.

Designer learning online on laptop

For most web designers and developers, there is a definite strong side to their skillset: visual design or technical coding. If you are looking to up your game, seek out learning opportunities in the area where you are least comfortable.

For me, that started with learning HTML, CSS, and later some programming languages. It was not a comfortable experience at all. All of my design experience was visual, dealing with aesthetic theory and rules of typography and space. This new stuff seemed like gobbledygook to me.

While there are many platforms available, Codeacademy was my savior in terms of online learning. The online tools are pretty amazing if you are just getting your feet wet in the technical parts of website design.

There are also plenty of 30-day design challenges circulating on Instagram and Twitter; big companies such as Adobe offer them as well. Pick a challenge and go for it!

If you don’t know where to start, the best action you can take to facilitate more learning is to read relevant, web design-related content online. There are plenty of great blogs and resources, and even writers on Medium, sharing their knowledge about website design. Give yourself 30 minutes each day–pencil it in your calendar for accountability–and read something new.

Professional development and networking

Your professional network can be a top source of information and web design inspiration.

While current events aren't allowing us to congregate in person as much as we might like, professional memberships and organizations are a solid place for expanding your thought process. The same is true for industry conferences.

As a freelance designer, a lot of my work is done in isolation, but there are some problems that require extra brain power. That’s where my professional network comes in.

People I have met locally at networking events, nationally at design conferences, and internationally through social networking seldom say no when I ask to brainstorm ideas for a project. These sessions are often short and almost always result in helping me think about a design dilemma in a new way.

Audience at a design conference