While as described in ‘What Is Web Design‘ we explained that ultimately your job is to be a problem solver for your clients, there are still a few key skills that are common among most project and essential to know for those who want to become a web designer.
1) How to set up a domain and hosting
Before you can build a website for your clients you will need a domain to build it on. Sometimes they will already have a domain and maybe even a website (if they are looking to upgrade), and sometimes they won’t and will need you to get it for them. Knowing how to purchase domains and set them up on the clients hosting plan are simple yet essential skills. Furthermore, sometimes the domain will be purchased on a separate service than the hosting plan. For example a client may have purchased a domain from Godaddy but purchased hosting from Siteground. In this case you will need to point the domain to the clients nameservers so this is an important skill to know as well.
2) Working with WordPress
One of the key tools that you will use as a web designer is WordPress. Currently 33% of websites on the internet are built on the WordPress platform, and most of the time when a client needs a website WordPress will allow you to accomplish everything you need and allow you to accomplish it quickly. For these reasons it is essential to know how to install WordPress on a domain. Once it is installed you need to know how to set it up and use it. There are two key components to WordPress, themes and plugins. Themes are the backbone to the website and will control how it looks and feels. You will need to know how to install themes on WordPress and use them accordingly. There are a huge variety of themes. Some are more static and are pretty much a template for a website where you then add in your own content while others allow for more flexibility and allow you to create a completely customized site. My suggestion would be to find a particular theme that allows for a large amount of customization, offers good support, and become an expert in it. Personally, I recommend Themify. It is what I used when I first started out, what I still use today, and what I use throughout all the other courses in this school. It is incredibly customizable and they have an excellent builder and plugins as well. Becoming an expert in one particular theme is a good idea because while some clients will already have a website with a theme installed, and in this case you will obviously have to work with their theme, if they don’t then you will be able to build the website using software that you are familiar and confident with which will allow you to complete projects quicker and also you will just produce a better product in general.
Besides installing and working with themes you will need to know how to install and work with plugins. These are additional features to the site that either expand or add new functionality. Some are really good and some are really bad. It is important that you read the reviews before using one, but sometimes you just have to mess around with a few to see which one actually works for your needs. Normally the paid ones are better for obvious reasons. Each plugin is different and some can get pretty complex, so there will be some that you find you like and use frequently and it is important to be competent with these, and others are more situational and you will need to know how to take a plugin you haven’t used and make it work for the particular site you are working on.
Assuming you have installed your theme and plugins, you will then need to know how to build the site. This includes setting up the structure of the website such as the categories for posts and the format of the pages. Some of this will heavily depend on what theme use are using and how much customization it allows. You will also need to know how to set up the navigation bar, create pages, and add content to the site in a aesthetically pleasing way for desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. It will take a little bit but eventually you will start to know what looks good and where. You’ll be able to visualize the website and its pages before you ever start creating it.
3) How brand a Website
Another key are of knowledge you will need to know a little about is branding. This mainly involves working with a clients to create a logo and establish a color scheme. Once this is completed you will want to incorporate that logo and color scheme into everything you do for that client. Each client will have a particular message they want to convey and that message goes beyond just the copy that is on the site. Everything they do should look and feel like that message. If it sounds obscure that’s because it is. It takes some practice to create something that feels professional yet friendly, but when you see it you’ll know it. Other than that it is really all about consistency. Making sure you always use the same color schemes, logos, taglines, and core values. The goal of branding is for people to recognize a company just be seeing some content. You see the design and say “oh that’s probably Apple” or you see a commercial and you know it’s Nike before you see the logo. That’s good branding.
4) How market a website
Once the website is completed it is pretty common for the client to continue to work with you to market it. To accomplish this you will want to know how to create social media and google ad campaigns, discover target markets, optimize sites for search engines, and gather leads. It also doesn’t hurt to understand content marketing strategies and how to develop a marketing roadmap for your clients which can help landing clients for long term contracts.
There is a lot to know and a lot of trial and error when it comes to marketing. They key is knowing your clients target audience to best utilize the trials and mitigate the error. If the client has never had a marketing campaign before then you obviously can’t just start marketing their content and suddenly see a return. Everyone likes to think that’s the case but the reality is it’s not. You first have to find out who wants the product and what about the product appeals to them. Only after that can you work with the client to determine who they want to sell to and how to then build campaigns around those target markets.
Furthermore, beyond just selling the product you need to know how to get the client noticed. A site means nothing if no one visits it. You will need to know how to build campaigns that promote the company itself to their target market. The more traffic the site sees the more potential to gather leads and the better your SEO will be which will make you rank higher on Google. However, the content has to be good. if you create campaigns or blogs that have no intrinsic value to the customer and were created just to get the to click, then you wasted their time and ultimately this will do you more harm than good and kill you SEO.
Lastly you will need to know how to gather leads. This involves gathering information on people who visit your site and are potentially interested in the product. This is usually done through some sort of subscription or promotion that sparks interest for the user. Additionally you also have returning customers, people who have already previously purchased the products and may be interested in more. Marketing to existing customers is very different from marketing to new ones, so knowing how to generate leads and handle the different types is essential to making any business successful and therefore essential for you to know.