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Web design can be very difficult and lonely road to go and especially for beginners. Today, I want to share with you eleven tips and advice I wish I knew in the beginning. These tips will range across various categories. However, they are not put in any specific order. It is more or less random order, so feel free to focus only on those important and useful for you.
1. It takes time
The first tip is more a wisdom tested and validated through time. As with everything in life that involves learning, web design or design requires long-term investment of time and effort from your side. This can be discouraging for some people especially in time when we are used to get most of the things almost immediately. However, if you are willing to put in the hours and sweat a bit more than usual, you will see the result very soon.
2. Be willing to learn
In design industry you should never rest on laurels. Everything moves pretty fast and things that were cutting-edge today will be obsolete tomorrow. Successful web designer must always be hungry to learn more. It doesn’t matter if it is a technology, trend or different programming language. You should never stay on one place. Follow the news from your industry, listen to people around you, watch online courses and read forums.
I will include some resources where you can stretch your skills or learn tap into something completely unknown.
3. Ask for advice
Whenever you will find yourself walking blind or in doubt, one of the best things to do is asking for help or advice. I ignored this one for a long time and I regret it now. Talking with other people in web design industry with better skills than you can only help you grow faster. What’s more, most of the people will be happy to share their tips and tricks with you because they too were where you are right now. They now very well how do you feel and how hard it can be. So, don’t keep your mouth shut just ask.
4. Practice daily
In order to get better in design, you will have to practice as much and often as you can. There is no other way around. You can watch as many courses and read as many articles as you want, but only through forcing yourself into real practice and getting your hands dirty your skills will grow. So, pick your pen and paper, open your Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator or whatever you use and create something. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just create it.
5. Develop a design process
Every designer is different, but they all have one thing in common. They have established a design process. This process starts, in most cases, with simple idea sketching on paper. Pen and paper are my favorite tools to begin the design process with. Then, you move to simple wireframes. You can use software like Balsamiq Mockups, Photoshop, Illustrator, Gimp, Inkscape or just plain MS Paint. It depends only on you what will you choose.
When you will be done with wireframes, you are about to fire up your favorite graphic editor or IDE (if you like to design in browser) and create the mockup. Unlike wireframes, this will be much more detailed. It will include graphics, text … In short, it will look like a final product (design of website, etc.).For those of you working only with graphic software and not code, this will be the end of your process (if client or boss is satisfied). Otherwise, the next step is to turn the mockup into code and create a website.
6. Drop your ego in the door
One thing that can lower your chances to get good is your ego. I know from my own experience how ego can interfere with your learning ability. I had to fall flat on my mouth in order to understand that “dropping your ego at the door” is almost essential for you to grow. If you don’t have your ego in check, you are high likely skip or disobey any advice because you are too good to follow the guidelines. This approach leads to nowhere. Keep your head low, listen and learn.
7. Be disciplined
You can do every necessary step it takes, but if you are not disciplined and consistent, you will get nowhere. Becoming good at design requires mix of learning and practice on consistent continuous basis. This can be achieved only through discipline. If you have troubles with discipline, train yourself or don’t start at design at all. By going only half of the distance you will waste your time.
8. Choose the RIGHT tools
Understand, there is no perfect or the best tool, so stop searching for it. Instead, search for the right tool for you and you only. How? Through trial and error. By trying various different tools you find out which one suits your needs the best. It can be like a love on the first sight. For example, my favorite are Sublime Text 3 for coding and Photoshop (sometimes Illustrator) for design. Just follow your instincts and listen to what they say. You will use that chosen tool on a daily basis so you had better be comfortable with it.
9. Master your tools
Next step after finding the one tool you will spend your career with (don’t make your spouse jealous) is to master it. Learn everything about it. Remember every shortcut you are going to use in your work. Feel free to customize the interface and functions as you want. Your goal is to work smart and fast without making any unnecessary steps. So, watch courses and read articles about that tool to know it through and through.
10. Learn to sell
Believe it or not we all are selling something. Whether it is some food for dinner to your kids, movie to your spouse or design to your client, selling is important skill to know. So, get rid of the idea that selling is bad and forget about the car salesman metaphor. This is not what selling is about. Selling is about helping other people to get what they want, not forcing them to buy what you want. Remember the dinner or movie example.
11. Schedule time to relax
Working hard is necessary for you to succeed in anything, from test in school (forget cheating) to career or your own business. However, if you don’t want to kill yourself ahead of time or experience burnout, schedule some time to relax and fun. Read a book (history, biography, business, fiction, etc.), watch a good movie, listen to music, play some game, hangout with friends or just unplug for a minute. Remember, your brain need time to rest in order to function properly. Work hard, play hard.
Web design is not just a job, it is a craft and as every craft it requires time and effort from you to become so good people can’t ignore you. You have to be willing to learn on and practice on a daily basis. For this reason, developing a discipline is crucial. Choose your tools wisely. You are the one who will work with them every day. Don’t just learn them, master them. Selling is important part of your job, whether you work for yourself or not. However, in the end remember to take some time to relax and have fun.
I hope these eleven tips will help you stay on track and also make the whole journey easier because this is what craft is all about – the journey. So, be patient, persevere and never never never give up. What are your tips for anyone who just decided to jump into web design?
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