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Before deciding to become a web designer it is important to understand what a web designer is and what clients will expect from you if you do in fact decide to become one. For that reason it is important to define not just what web design is but define what web development and graphic design are as well. After explaining what the three are we can then establish what exactly it is to work as a web designer as the simple definition while informative does not translate so easily into the real world as clients do not necessarily understand nor care about the distinction. 

Web design in so many words is the process of creating websites. It is the process of using various tools and software to create aesthetically appealing, eye catching websites for any and all types of individuals and businesses. Its vague on purpose. As a web designer you are expected to know a little about a lot of things, know how to solve a large variety of problems that you may be new to, and have an eye for what looks good.

 The big distinction that needs to be made is it’s difference to web development. Web development when done as a freelancer is very similar to web design. The big difference is that web development involves writing code. This can be front end (HTML, CSS, JavaSCript etc.) or backend (PHP, Java, Python, etc.). Web developers have a much more technical background and focus more on building tools and applications for websites rather than the website as a whole. They can build web APIs, WordPress themes, and anything else on the web you can think of. As a web designer the tools you’ll be using were created by web developers.

Now this doesn’t technically mean that it is better to be a web developer than a web designer. It ultimately depends on what you are looking for. Web development is great when it comes to working for a company, something that web design doesn’t translate to very well as the skills are not specialized enough. However, when it comes to working for yourself as a freelancer I have found that, while I will not discredit the benefit of knowing how to develop, for most businesses they do not have the budget for a web developer, and for 90% of projects they don’t need one. The only times I have worked as a freelance developer is to build isolated web applications, and while they were cool projects they were honestly not the most lucrative. For this reason I believe it is actually better to be a web designer as there are more clients to be found, and using things like WordPress, various web builders, and plugins you can create everything they need without writing any code. From the client’s perspective this is noting but a good thing. It allows for their project to get done quicker and for a lower budget. They don’t care one bit if you wrote any code or not. They want their website to look good, they want it to work, and don’t want to spend a fortune. 

So Where does graphic design come into the equation. Graphic design ultimately is the process of creating digital visuals. This can be a mockup of what a website should look like, creating logos, altering images, etc. which is all done using photoshop and adobe illustrator. In fact some graphic designers even know how to use some adobe tools to create logo animations. If you ever look at a website and think ‘wow that’s a awesome picture’, then it was probably created by a graphic designer. As a web designer you use the images and mockups created by graphic designers to then create the website. That is why web design doesn’t translate that well to a corporate environment as the graphic designers build the mockups and they get passed to the web developer. There is no need for a web designer. So what does that mean for freelance web designers. Some web designers will learn the skills needed for graphic design and then do both the web and graphic design needed for their project. However, personally I found that graphic design is very time consuming and ultimately isn’t worth the time when you could alternatively spend your time designing websites. What I found to be the best solution is to find a graphic designer who you trust and outsource the work to them. They will charge less than you do, so you still offer the services to the client because again they don’t care as long as their expectations are met, charge them your normal rate and outsource the graphic design aspect of the project.

Now the big question, what is web design. Taking all the information above it is clear it is more than just creating websites but at the same time it is nothing more than creating websites. Ultimately you are someone working for a client. They have a project they want accomplished which usually involves creating a website and some sort of digital marketing. It is your job as a designer to find out exactly what it is they need, what their budget is, and help them bring that project to life. They don’t know exactly what it is they need and that is why they are coming to you. That is why as a web designer you will come to find you know a little bit about a whole lot of things. You are a problem solver at the end of the day. A client will come to you with a problem and it is your job to find the best solution for their needs and then implement it. It’s a fulfilling and exciting job, but not for the faint of heart.