Web Design and Web Development Career Information
T he Web is the ultimate playground for those with the skills and passion to shape it. Engaging and functional websites, mobile apps, and other online projects don't just build themselves. It takes professionals who know how to get the job done now while always keeping an eye on what's ahead. But web design and web development careers involve much more than you may currently realize. To some people, "WWW" could just as easily stand for "Wild Wild West" as for "World Wide Web." So it pays to know what you could be getting yourself into before making the leap. Still, there's no doubt about it: a career in web design or web development is rarely boring.
What is Web Design?
Despite some people's misconceptions, a web designer's job is not merely to make websites look good or well decorated. It goes much further than that. So, what is web design?
Good web design requires a combination of creative intuition with a sense for what is practical and technically feasible. Web design is built upon the fundamentals of traditional graphic design (e.g., form, composition, color, and typography), but its biggest purpose lies in crafting great online interactions and user experiences.
Whereas many graphic designers develop end solutions that are static (such as for print media), web designers must create solutions that account for the dynamic, ever-changing nature of the Web.
Like graphic designers, web designers must combine images and type into a coherent package that produces the intended results of a planned branding or communications strategy. Often, however, they must also design web pages in a way that encourages visitors of those pages to take specific actions. For this reason, many web designs are tested and retested to arrive at what works best at generating the desired outcomes.
In short, web design is about more than aesthetics. Carried out to its full potential, it can rightfully be called user experience (UX) design.
What is Web Development?
The stuff you see on screen represents only part of what makes up a website. It is the stuff you can't see—the code—that makes it all work (and which makes it possible for you to see anything on your screen in the first place). So, what is web development?
In its simplest form, web development is the practical implementation of web design. Without skilled web developers, even the most beautifully designed website layouts would fail to become functional reality. It would be like designing a sleek sports car without a muscular engine to power it. There wouldn't be any point.
Web development is all about the hidden details "under the hood." Good web programmers and developers craft and refine code to make the websites they build perform as efficiently as possible. In addition, they must ensure that the end results work well in all web browsers and on all targeted devices.
Why are Web Design and Web Development Important?
Technology is constantly evolving, and social norms are evolving with it. The online world is incredibly fluid. What is popular today might be forgotten about tomorrow. The behaviors and expectations of Internet users change. This means that the work of web designers and developers is never done.
Web design is important because Internet users judge a website's look and usefulness in only a few seconds. If a website isn't attractive, engaging, and easy to use, then visitors will move on—no matter how efficient the underlying code might be.
Web development, on the other hand, is important because great web design means nothing if a website takes a long time to load, features don't work, search engines can't find it, or if any number of other problems prevent visitors from using it as intended. Without web development, websites would lack interesting (and useful) features and functions.
Great online user experiences stem from the fusion of thoughtful web design with smart web development.
What is the Difference Between a Web Designer and a Web Developer?
Many people have the mistaken belief that web designers and web developers are the same thing. They use the terms interchangeably without realizing that there are important distinctions. And although the skill sets of these two occupations often do partially overlap each other, they nevertheless represent profoundly different talents and mindsets. It is extremely rare for someone to have mastered both web design and web development equally well.
So, what is the difference between a web designer and a web developer?
In general, the primary difference can be thought of this way: web designers deal with the parts of a website you can see, whereas web developers handle the stuff you can't see.
- Are concerned with how a website looks as well as how visitors interact with it
- Utilize graphic design skills to make a website attractive and easy to navigate
- Tend to be big-picture thinkers and possess some artistic talent
- Often have an understanding of branding and marketing
- Know how to work with typography, images, color, and layout to produce websites that visitors want to use
- Work primarily with creative software tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and Fireworks
- Usually have at least a working knowledge of HTML and CSS
- Sometimes have trouble understanding programming languages
- Write the underlying code that turns a website design into an efficient, functional reality
- Tend to be detail-minded
- Program the user interfaces
- Create scripts that allow special functions to be carried out by website users
- Are able to utilize a range of programming tools to achieve the desired functionalities of a given website
- Generally have expert knowledge of HTML and a strong understanding of CSS and how to use it efficiently
- Sometimes have trouble understanding design concepts and choices
Even though designers and developers are different, they still have to work together. It takes open collaboration between them to produce quality websites that generate the results that a client or employer needs. Web designers and developers are often both involved in planning user interfaces and experiences. And both are equally important. They need each other.
What Do Web Designers Do All Day?
A typical workday for web designers depends a lot on their current projects and where they are in the process of carrying them out. But one thing is certain: they aren't just spending all day drawing pretty pictures on computer screens. Professional web designers have a lot to think about (and even more to do).
All possible tasks are too numerous to list; however, a web designer's day will generally involve a mixture of some of the following responsibilities:
- Brainstorming design ideas for whole new websites or specific areas of existing websites that can create better user experiences
- Conducting research about a website's target user base
- Meeting with project managers, clients, art directors, copy writers, or web developers to gather important information, report on a project's status, share ideas, or gain approval on designs
- Sketching out a website's architecture or preliminary site map
- Creating design mockups using creative software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
- Creating functional prototypes of web pages using HTML and CSS or software such as Dreamweaver
- Refining the design of web pages by selecting appropriate layout properties, typefaces, type sizes, colors, images, and interactive elements
- Optimizing images to make them as small in file size as possible while also maintaining their visual quality
- Packaging necessary design mockups and graphic files for use by web developers
- Assisting with the brand strategy of a client's business and website
- Designing logos for new companies or websites (or those that are being re-branded)
- Assisting with the usability testing of websites they work on
What Do Web Developers Do All Day?
Like web designers, web developers also have numerous tasks that vary depending on the projects they're involved with and in what capacity they're working on them. Many websites require a team of web developers to produce and maintain them. And each web developer may bring different skill sets to the table. Still, most web developers share similar responsibilities.
A web developer's day can include a mixture of some of the following tasks:
- Brainstorming implementation strategies based on web designs and required website functionalities with the goal of coming up with the simplest approaches that could possibly work
- Researching the pros and cons of using specific programming languages, web application frameworks, and coding approaches for particular projects
- Consulting with web designers, clients, and project managers to gather information, develop appropriate plans, share concerns, and provide status reports
- Coding server-side scripts
- Creating databases and integrating them into database-driven websites or web applications
- Optimizing a website's code for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes
- Configuring web servers
- Troubleshooting technical problems and finding timely solutions in response to user feedback
- Learning new programming languages and staying abreast of online trends and best practices
How Much Does a Web Designer Make?
There are a number of factors that can determine your earning potential as a web designer. Salary level often depends on things such as the geographic location of your workplace, years of experience, company size, how well you perform, and the industry you work in.
That said, figuring out the going salaries of web designers can be a bit tricky. U.S. government statistics currently do not adequately separate web design from the larger categories of graphic design or web development. However, according to Salary.com's assessment of its own U.S. employer survey data, national web design salary averages break down this way:
- The bottom 10 percent of web designers earn $47,319 or less.
- The median expected salary is $62,361.
- The top 10 percent earn $80,307 or more.
How Much Does a Web Developer Make?
Job titles within the field of web development can vary substantially from employer to employer. So it can be a little difficult to really get a handle on just how much you might expect to make as a "typical" web developer. Salary also depends heavily on factors like your geographic location, level of experience, and the type of industry you're employed in.
According to Salary.com's analysis of national employer survey data, U.S. median salaries for a few of the possible job titles under the umbrella of web development look like this:
- Senior web software developer—$86,053
- Web applications developer—$80,383
- Web software developer—$72,792
What are the Most Important Traits and Skills Needed to Be a Web Designer?
Anyone can buy a computer and load it with creative software. Doing so, however, doesn't make you a web designer any more than purchasing a toilet plunger makes you a plumber. The traits and skills needed for web design are not things you can just buy. Some of them need to be an inherent part of your personality. Others take work and time to develop.
Successful web designers generally possess the following:
- Passion (or strong enthusiasm) for graphic design and the Web
- An artistic bent and understanding of design fundamentals
- A desire to always be learning, exploring new ideas, and seeking inspiration
- A willingness to make mistakes and push boundaries
- The ability to recognize the big picture and separate it from the details
- Exceptional organizational and time-management skills
- A knack for overcoming problems
- Humility and an ability to accept constructive criticism
- Superior listening skills and a knack for asking good questions
- A desire to exceed other people's expectations even when it conflicts with your own personal design preferences
- The ability to openly collaborate with all types of professionals and different personalities
- The confidence and communication skills to sell their ideas and to speak intelligently about the reasons for their design choices
- A knack for teaching themselves new skills
- A solid understanding of HTML, CSS, and open web standards
- Exceptional skills with creative software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and similar programs
- A strong grasp of branding and marketing principles
- Adaptability to change
What are the Most Important Traits and Skills Needed to Be a Web Developer?
Good web developers are special. They often seem able to perform the impossible (probably because they are frequently asked to do so and get plenty of practice). Many of the skills required for web development work can be learned, but not everyone has the innate personality traits for it.
Web developers who find long-term success often possess the following:
- A strong desire to always learn what's just ahead in terms of changes to the Internet as well as the willingness to dig into new tools, technologies, and programming techniques before they become commonplace
- Passion for the Web and for writing code
- An obsession with the details
- Patience and perseverance (since even small coding mistakes can wreak havoc)
- Exceptional problem-solving skills
- The ability to code efficiently, economically, and effectively
- A knack for choosing the most appropriate tools and technologies for each individual project
- An extraordinary work ethic
- The ability to learn new stuff quickly by teaching themselves
- The willingness to see beyond their own existing skills so as not to stifle the creativity of other people working on the same projects
- The ability to thrive on change (since web development is one of today's fastest-evolving fields)
- Good communication and listening skills
- Exceptional time-management and organizational skills
- Deep theoretical and practical knowledge of at least a few commonly used programming languages and techniques, database tools, and web application frameworks (such as PHP, ASP.NET, MySQL, Ajax, jQuery, Python, Ruby on Rails, and others)
- A desire to follow open web standards and to support the development of industry-wide best practices
Can You Tell Me How to Become a Web Designer?
Although you can certainly teach yourself the technical skills that are required to produce websites, many professional web designers have, at minimum, received some kind of formal training in graphic design. In fact, an educational background in graphic design is often what separates the amateurs from the pros.
Good web design is built upon a strong foundation of graphic design fundamentals. Once you understand basic design principles, you are then ready to learn the stuff that is unique to web design. Learning the technical skills (such as how to use particular programs or how to write HTML and CSS) should not take priority over learning how to actually design. The tools of the job are always changing, but basic design fundamentals never do.
If you want to know how to become a web designer, you'd do well to consider these additional points about design education:
- Not every employer requires a web designer to have a college degree, but many do. A design education can open doors that might otherwise be closed to you and give you an edge against equally talented competition.
- A good design school can help you learn why certain approaches work (or don't work) based on design theory, not just how to execute them using the current tools of the trade.
- Even though attending the right school can be very beneficial, doing so isn't absolutely necessary. Successful self-taught web designers do exist.
- Regardless of whether or not you get a post-secondary education, there is no substitute for real-world experience and the ability to acquire new skills on your own.
- The ideal scenario to pursue is a mixture of disciplined self-teaching with some type of schooling that includes design theory as a major component.
- Although school can impart essential foundational knowledge, most web designers tend to learn more of the necessary practical skills outside of school than in school.
- Even good design schools graduate bad designers. The key to becoming a good designer is to go far beyond what you learn in school by finding opportunities to practice your talents with real clients, no matter how small. School can provide you with a solid foundation, but it's up to you to build the house.
- There are plenty of free learning resources online that cover all aspects of web design. For very self-directed learners, these resources may provide everything they need. For others, they provide a great way to supplement a formal education.
Of course, your education is only the beginning. The more challenging work in becoming a successful web designer happens in the so-called real world. Make sure you keep the following in mind:
- Most employers care more about a web designer's portfolio and proven skills than his or her education. Your portfolio should clearly showcase your abilities with typography, color, composing engaging layouts, managing a diversity of content, and solving design challenges. You should also update your portfolio regularly. People want to see what you've done recently.
- When you're looking for work, be aware that many employers and potential clients confuse web design with web development (and vice versa) or lump them together believing they are the same thing. Make sure you're clear about what a potential client or employer really expects.
- In the beginning of your career, it can help to focus more on gathering useful contacts and diverse experience than on trying to make a bunch of money. Even if you aren't getting paid for a project, you should carry it out as if you were. Give yourself deadlines and work to a schedule.
- No matter how gifted you think you are at web design, it's smart to exude a humble attitude and a willingness to learn from designers with more experience.
- Having a strong grasp of SEO (search engine optimization), branding, and Internet marketing can give you a competitive edge in the job market.
- If you are going to perform freelance design work, then it's a good idea to acquire some basic business knowledge.
- Details always matter. Be sure every resume or piece of self-promotional material you send out is free of typos and other embarrassing errors. After all, if you can't even get your own stuff right, how are employers or clients supposed to trust that you'll get their stuff right?
Can You Tell Me How to Become a Web Developer?
There isn't just one right way to go about establishing a career in web development. Successful web developers have often taken very different paths to get where they are. Many have gone to college. Some haven't. A few are purely self-taught.
If you want to know how to become a web developer, then consider these points:
- When it comes to hiring programmers and web developers, many employers care far more about the web development work that potential hires have actually done, not about what they may have studied. (They tend to hire people based on the skills they can demonstrate rather than their educational backgrounds.) Having said that, there are also many web development jobs for which a college degree (usually a bachelor's) is still a requirement.
- Even those employers that do post a college degree as a requirement in their job ads don't always hold to that when they do the actual hiring.
- Although it might not be necessary for employment, a formal post-secondary education in an area like computer science can still provide a number of important benefits. It may give you more direct access to possible mentors. And it can provide you with a solid understanding of the concepts behind why projects are planned, coded, and implemented in a certain way, rather than just how. This can go a long way toward making you a better problem solver. Plus, a college degree can separate you from competition that may be equally skilled and open the door to opportunities that might be closed to you otherwise.
- Voluntary credentials (such as technical certifications that come from passing the exams of industry organizations) are usually unnecessary. They cannot trump or replace the combined value of providing good references and a strong portfolio of your recent work.
- Regardless of whether you choose a formal education, self-teaching, or both, you'll need to begin with web development basics before gradually moving on to learning the more complicated stuff.
- In order to provide the best value to clients or employers, you'll need to learn multiple programming languages. The more of them you master, the easier it becomes to learn new ones. This is especially true if you've acquired a solid foundational knowledge in computer science theory.
- The best way to learn web development is by doing real projects, even if they are only for yourself. One way to get some good practical experience (and, sometimes, find a mentor) is by participating in an open source project.
- The Internet is loaded with comprehensive (and free) online resources, including tutorials, which can assist you in learning why and how to write code in the most widely used programming languages. There are also plenty of great books on every programming language and web development concept. Plus, don't overlook trade magazines and conferences. The key is to utilize a good combination of resources, mentors, and opportunities for real-world practice.
- The web development concepts you need to understand won't really sink in until you are practicing your skills every day through lots of trial and error. You will likely learn more from your failures than from your successes.
- Learning all you can about SEO (search engine optimization) as it relates to developing websites and online marketing can give you a great way to provide extra value to clients and employers who lack such expertise.
- Just like web designers, web developers often perform their work on a freelance basis, so understanding business basics is important.
- Web development is all about the details. Therefore, make sure your resumes don't contain any errors such as typos, misspellings, or poor grammar.
Are There Any Downsides to Being a Web Designer?
Most web designers love what they do. They have a passion for web design and wouldn't trade their career for any other. But like any occupation, there are downsides. The cons of being a web designer can include:
- Criticism—Design is subjective. There is never just one right solution to a design challenge. And different people have different preferences. Therefore, receiving criticism (not always constructive) is part of the job. There's no avoiding it. Plus, no matter how professional you might normally be at handling it, you will inevitably have moments when you take the criticism of your designs personally.
- Frustration—Designing for the Web is much less predictable than designing for print. A common set of standards has not yet been widely adopted. Different web browsers often render websites a little differently from each other. And different people use different web browsers, user settings, and devices when they surf. So web designers have a ton of variables to think about as they try to control what their website visitors see and experience. At times, this challenge can be absolutely maddening. (Microsoft's Internet Explorer is well-known as a long-time nemesis among many web designers and developers due to its peculiarities in handling certain HTML and CSS elements.)
- Other people's misconceptions—Clients and employers sometimes have an unrealistic perception of the amount of work involved in designing custom solutions for the Web. This can lead to having unreasonable deadlines and budgets imposed, working with too few resources, little respect for your expertise, and expectations that are practically impossible to live up to.
- Intense competition—More and more web design amateurs are flooding the job market, adding to an already competitive situation among professional designers. In addition, more and more online providers are offering free or inexpensive website builders based upon pre-designed templates, which allows anyone in need of a basic website to put one together without having to know how to design or code.
What are the Upsides of Choosing a Web Design Career?
For those who love the field of web design, the pros of working as a web designer tend to far outweigh the cons. The positive aspects of this occupation can include:
- Creative fulfillment—Web design gives you a chance to utilize some of your artistic talents in a practical way that can benefit numerous different people. The tangible results of your work can be seen (and used) far and wide.
- A low barrier to entry—Although design school is advisable for many would-be web designers, it isn't an absolute must for everyone. If you've got the drive and discipline to learn things on your own in an in-depth way, then you can get up to speed by utilizing the many free resources that are available online. In this scenario, the only costs involved are the money for purchasing computer equipment (and software) and the time and commitment it takes to acquire the right knowledge, develop your skills, and find clients.
- The thrill of technological evolution—The rapid pace of change on the Web could be considered a drawback if you're not the type that enjoys adapting, but it can actually provide a lot of excitement for curious web designers who see it as an opportunity to try new things and expand upon their creative prowess.
- Flexibility—Web design is a field that allows one to choose the stability and predictable schedule that comes from working for an employer or the freedom and variety that comes from being your own boss as a freelancer with different clients. Many web designers even do a mix of both.
Are There Any Downsides to Being a Web Developer?
Web developers do not all share the same experiences. While most of them do enjoy their work (and would choose nothing else), many would also say that there are some drawbacks to choosing a career in web development. The downsides can sometimes include:
- Work/life imbalance—Many web developers work very long hours in socially isolating workspaces under high-pressure deadlines. And because of their importance in delivering functional and stable websites, they sometimes get asked to be available on-call at all hours for any problems that may arise. For some, this can lead to troubles at home and in the rest of their personal lives.
- Frustration—Complex web development projects often bring many problems to troubleshoot and overcome, but solutions to those problems aren't always easy to find in a timely manner. Annoyances can also come in the form of colleagues who have negative attitudes or unreasonable biases against particular coding languages and techniques. In addition, web developers sometimes don't get the chance to participate in the idea and planning phases of a website. Instead, they might be told just to execute what they are given. This can lead to trying to meet unrealistic deadlines (and expectations), implementing ill-advised technologies, and making up for wasted time.
- A shortage of proper recognition—Clients and employers often misunderstand the work of web developers. Many people simply don't realize just how much goes into developing efficient websites and online applications. In fact, numerous companies have no ability to distinguish between a good programmer and a bad one. Some people also do not understand that implementing a website plan first requires creative interpretation by a web developer in order to figure out the best way to do it. Web development isn't just a simple process of translating a plan into code.
- Trivial projects—Some web developers are perfectly content to work on any kind of web project. But many others want to feel like they are contributing their talents to something truly important. They want their work to, in some way, have a meaningful impact on the world. Some web development projects, however, are technically challenging but offer nothing very interesting or personally rewarding in their larger purpose.
What are the Upsides of Choosing a Web Development Career?
Web development careers can have numerous built-in rewards. In fact, many web developers find that the positives of the occupation override any negative aspects. A few of the upsides include:
- A sense of accomplishment—Web development can be highly satisfying since it often involves solving complex problems and witnessing the effects of your code almost immediately as you build something that will be used by many people.
- The excitement of continuous change—Although what is considered best practice today can quickly become obsolete, web developers tend to relish the ongoing evolution of the Web and the impact it has on their work. They look forward with curiosity and anticipation to the changes that result from innovation. They can't wait to dig into new technologies, to find ways to apply them to their own projects (where appropriate), and to contribute to their further development. There is always something new to learn, which makes this field anything but stale.
- Camaraderie—Those within the web development community are generally very helpful and supportive of each other. Most web developers aren't afraid to share what they've learned. They are often open to providing tips, ideas, and links to good resources to other programmers and developers who need it. This is especially true of those who contribute to projects in the open source community.
- A variety of good opportunities—Truly smart and talented web developers are always in high demand. In fact, there is a shortage of good programmers and developers. Whether they want to make good money as on-demand freelancers or steady employees, want to start their own revenue-generating online projects, or simply want to help change the world for the better by volunteering their talents, good web developers are never short on chances to make their mark.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Web Design or Web Development?
First, consider this: Even professional web designers and developers never have the luxury to stop learning. It's an inherent part of the job because nothing changes faster than the Web. In this respect, the learning can last a lifetime. The amount of time it takes to learn basic web design or web development, however, depends on several factors such as:
- Whether or not you plan to pursue a post-secondary education
- The type of certificate or degree you hope to earn if you do go to school
- How quickly you learn new things on your own
- How passionate you are about the field
- How much of your "free time" you can spend learning and practicing
Certificate and diploma programs often last only a few weeks or months, but they frequently cover just the surface of what you need to know. Undergraduate degree programs in design or computer science are usually more in-depth and typically take from two to four years to complete. Some people, however, need more time to finish a degree. Then, it often takes a good year or two of working for real clients or employers before feeling totally confident in your abilities.
Of course, everybody is different. If you've got the drive and the talent, then there is no reason you can't be doing professional-level web design or web development in less time than it would take other people to develop their skills in these fields.
What Can I Expect to Learn in Web Design School?
While it is true that school is not absolutely necessary to become a web designer, education requirements do sometimes exist in the form of employers who demand that job candidates possess a college degree. Plus, school can be a great way to learn the basic principles and skills needed for web design in a structured and supportive environment. The key to getting the most out of such an experience, however, is to first make sure you choose a good program.
Currently, there are no consistent standards for formal web design programs. Many schools focus too much on teaching students how to use the tools and technologies of the trade at the expense of first teaching them how to actually design. In addition, the tools and techniques that some web design schools teach can be outdated, leading to frustration for their students.
When picking a web design school, it's a good idea to make sure that any program you enroll in will include graphic design fundamentals in addition to coding and creative software basics. A good web design program will often include training in areas such as:
- Color theory
- Form, layout, and composition
- Digital image manipulation
- Digital illustration
- Principles of information architecture
- Branding and marketing basics
- Website types (e.g., static vs. dynamic)
- Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, and Dreamweaver
- Portfolio development
Some web design programs also include courses in subjects such as:
- Communication (e.g., writing and public speaking)
- Business basics
- Art history
What Can I Expect to Learn in Web Development School?
Even though formal schooling isn't mandatory to become a web developer, education requirements are, nevertheless, imposed on job seekers by some employers. A college degree (often a bachelor's) is a prerequisite for many web development positions. But knowing what kind of post-secondary program to enroll in can be a little tricky since there are still relatively few programs dedicated specifically to web development. (And some schools promote programs that are more focused on web design than on programming and development.)
In general, though, you should look for a program with a solid emphasis on computer science and computer information systems theory. The most successful web developers have a strong understanding of the concepts behind the programming languages and coding techniques they use. They understand the why, not just the how. This is critical.
Therefore, in selecting a school for your web development education, it's important to make sure that any program you enroll in can give you a firm grounding in fundamental principles. As a would-be web developer, any formal education you pursue should teach you how to:
- Learn on your own (continuously)
- Analyze problems using sound logic
- Perform relevant research
- Brainstorm creative solutions (not just how to follow specific guidelines)
In terms of curriculum, good web development programs will usually cover subject areas such as:
- Computer science theory (e.g., logic, algorithms, and discreet mathematics)
- Programming concepts
- User interface design
- Information architecture
- Database design and development
- Project planning and management
- Content management systems
- Quality assurance testing
- Online security
- Accessibility standards
- Mobile development
- Business concepts
- SEO and Internet marketing basics
- Adobe Photoshop fundamentals
- HTML and CSS
Another thing to keep in mind is that formal courses are sometimes outdated in the tools and techniques they teach. In some cases, they can be years behind current convention and best practices. So it's a good idea to supplement any formal training you receive with information from well-updated and reputable online sources and outside mentors whenever possible.
How Much Does It Cost to Attend Web Design or Web Development School?
Web design and web development programs are still relatively new to post-secondary education. Therefore, many universities and other colleges have not yet introduced programs focused specifically on these career fields. And the schools that do already have programs in place sometimes vary significantly in what they teach, the types of certificates or degrees they award, and how much they cost.
In general, tuition for web design and web development programs range from as little as about $2,500 to $50,000 or more. You can expect to pay the least amount of money for a certificate or diploma. And you'll pay less for a two-year associate's degree than for a four-year bachelor's. Cost also depends on the type of school you attend and where it is located.
What is the Outlook for Web Design and Web Development Jobs?
The future outlook for web designers and web developers is a little tricky to get a handle on. This is in large part because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, normally a clear and reliable source for such information, still lumps web professionals in with other more general, but related, occupations.
Web designers, for instance, are mentioned only in a roundabout way within the broad context of graphic design or, in a completely different context, as a particular type of web developer. And web developers are described, at least partially, as web designers while also being lumped together with information security analysts and computer network architects. It all gets a bit confusing and contributes to the misunderstandings people already have about the differences between web designers and web developers.
Nevertheless, the Bureau's employment projections are currently the best we have to go on.
As a broad field, employment in graphic design is expected to grow 13 percent between 2010 and 2020. However, when you single out the category of "computer systems design and related services," employment is expected to increase by 61% in that same period. * Presumably, web designers would fall into such a category.
On the other hand, employment of workers in the category that includes web developers, information security analysts, and computer network architects is expected to grow 22 percent between 2010 and 2020. *
So the official projections seem to paint a strong outlook for both web designers and developers, regardless of how they are defined. The reasons are pretty obvious. As more and more of our lives are conducted online, more and more web services are being launched and maintained. This requires more and more people with the knowledge and skills to design and develop those websites and applications.
And technology will keep changing. So as you look toward your possible future as a web designer or web developer, you need to be aware of the rapid online evolutions that could take place.
Mobile applications, for instance, are playing a greater and greater role in how people spend their time online. And the wider adoption of open web standards will also continue, along with design and development using HTML 5 and CSS 3. It will pay to know how to work with these technological advances.
How Can I Get Started?
If formal training is the route you'd like to take, then the best way to begin is by exploring some of the options available to you in your area. These lists of web design schools and web development schools offer a good starting point. Armed with the information above, be sure to ask good questions when you contact the schools that interest you most. You could soon be making your own inspired contributions to one of the most exciting and fastest-changing sectors around—the Web.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, website last visited on June 5, 2012.
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), website last visited on June 5, 2012.
WaSP InterACT, website last visited on June 5, 2012.
Opera: Web Standards Curriculum, website last visited on June 5, 2012.
AIGA, the professional association for design, website last accessed on May 11, 2012.
Usability Professionals' Association, website last visited on June 5, 2012.
Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS), website last visited on May 11, 2012.