What Does a Web Designer Do (And How Do I Become One)?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

As a web designer, you are responsible for big-picture decisions, like the menus listed on the site, and minor details like font, colour, and graphics.

[Featured image] A website designer sits on a pink sofa in a living room with her computer on her lap working on a website design.

A web designer creates the layout and design of a website. In simple terms, a website designer makes a site look good. They use design programs to create visual elements. Website designers usually have expertise in UI, or user interface, which means they strategically design a site that’s intuitive and easy for visitors to navigate. 

Website developer vs. website designer

It’s common for a website designer to be confused with a website developer. A developer uses coding languages to create the framework of a website. They build the structure and then turn the site over to a designer to beautify it. 


Why is web design important? 

The aesthetics of a website can impact a user’s opinion of the site and the company. Fifty per cent of consumers consider website design an important element of a business’s brand [1]. A survey conducted by Google found product information and pictures are extremely important, with 85 per cent of shoppers using these criteria to decide which brand to buy from [2]. 

What do web designers do?

Before talking about the skills or education needed, let’s uncover the daily tasks of a website designer so you can see if they suit your interests. Regularly, a website designer will:

  • Design and layout websites

  • Think through the navigation of a site to provide the best user experience

  • Design sample pages and create mockups

  • Work in Adobe programs to create visuals, graphics, or animations

  • Register web domains

  • Organize files 

  • Collaborate on website updates or refreshes

  • Coordinate with writers and designers to create a site

Salary and job outlook 

As a result of the importance of web design, companies are putting more emphasis on it, which is reflected in the job market. The Government of Canada Job Bank reports a stable outlook for jobs in the field of web design. Overall, 10,900 new jobs are expected to become available for web designers and developers between 2019 and 2028, with approximately 14,000 new job seekers predicted to seek to fill those positions [3].

Those exploring this job opportunity will also find good wages. The average base pay for a web designer in Canada is $53,602 annually, according to Glassdoor [4]. Remember that salaries may be influenced by location, industry, and experience. 

What kind of skills should you develop to become a website designer? 

If you’re interested in becoming a website designer, there are certain skills you can develop to start down this career path. Here’s a look at both workplace skills and technical skills that you can expand on:

Workplace skills

  • Communication: A designer needs the ability to talk with a company about what they want, ask questions about the intended audience, and convey their ideas for an effective site. Being able to communicate is just the start; companies want a responsive designer, too. A responsive designer keeps a company informed, explains issues as they arise, and discusses deadlines. 

  • Time management: As a web designer, you may take a freelance approach where you work with a variety of company types at once, or you might work for one company. Either way, you’ll need the ability to manage your time effectively to keep multiple projects moving. 

  • Collaboration: A website designer often works with other people to create a site. There could be a copywriter, graphic designer, or even members of an IT department participating in website creation. If that’s the case, you’ll need the ability to listen, collaborate, and take constructive criticism. 

Technical skills

  • Visual design: A website designer’s core job is creating visual elements for a site, so having a firm grasp of design principles is necessary. Visual design incorporates best practices that hone in on things like proportions, symmetry, typography, and colour systems.

  • UX design: UX design, or user experience design, influences how a person feels about visiting a site. A designer’s purpose is to create a layout that’s easy to navigate and visually pleasing, which results in a positive customer experience. To generate the right experience for the audience, a designer often researches the audience and studies actions taken on the site to build a website experience that fits a brand’s target market. 

  • Knowledge of design programs: Website designers must have proficiency in design programs like Adobe Creative Cloud, CorelDraw Graphics Suite, or Inkscape. Designers often use these programs to create visual elements, produce mock-ups, and manipulate images, all of which are necessary for web design. 

  • Coding knowledge: A designer doesn’t write the code to make a site function, but it doesn’t hurt to know a little about HTML or CSS to make minor tweaks to a site. With a basic understanding, you’ll be able to manipulate templates, enhance fonts, or adjust the placements of objects easier. 

Do you need a degree to land a job as a website designer?

Many website designers have a bachelor’s degree or college program in graphic design, computer science, or a related field. However, a degree isn’t the only path to this creative career. Obtaining certificates is another option. Let’s take a closer look at both degree programs and certificates. 

Degree programs 

You can find bachelor's degree programs that provide the necessary training to become a website designer. Here’s a look at a few options: 

  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science: A degree in computer science provides a well-rounded education in computing skills, problem-solving, and design work. Within some programs, like BSc Computer Science from the University of London, you can pick an area of focus, like user experience (UX), to narrow your skill set. 

  • Bachelor’s degree in graphic design: Some students decide to get a degree in graphic design, which can help them gain design skills, such as colour theory, drawing, digital imaging, and design fundamentals. A degree in graphic design typically incorporates interdisciplinary subject matter from the business, technology, communication, and art fields.

Web design certificate programs and courses 

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree isn’t the only option. You can also explore college programs, certificate programs, or courses to build your web design skills. To help you explore options, here’s a look at a few courses available on Coursera:

  • Google UX Design Professional Certificate: Learn from industry leaders at Google in this series of courses that cover foundational UX concepts. Build job-ready skills like wireframing, prototyping, and user research as you complete projects for your design portfolio. 

  • UI/UX Design Specialization: This series of courses from the California Institute of the Arts offers practical, skill-based instruction to help students understand the UI/UX development process, website architecture, site maps, wireframing, and best practices to create a delightful online experience for the end user.

  • Responsive Website Development and Design Specialization: With a growing number of people using mobile devices to search online, understanding how to make responsive, mobile-ready websites is a valuable skill. This specialization from the University of London has students develop and design responsive sites with built-in multi-user experiences. While this class might lean more towards web development, understanding these skills will bolster your web design knowledge. 

Web designer portfolio

With the right skills honed and the right educational background, securing a website designer job includes building an impressive online portfolio. To help, here’s a list of tips to curate the best examples possibilities:

  • Quality over quantity: A portfolio should contain your best work, but it’s essential to be selective. It’s better to showcase fewer, higher-quality sites than many that don't showcase your best work. 

  • Highlight the work you want to do: Is there a particular industry you’d like to serve? Do you want to focus on creating online stores instead of single-page sites for small businesses? Your portfolio should include the work you want to do and showcase examples you’re passionate about creating. 

  • Provide context: Your portfolio is a visual representation of your best work and an opportunity to provide context about your impact and projects. Consider providing a quick three-to-four-sentence description that explains the site’s purpose, its challenges, and why it’s in your portfolio.

  • Update it regularly: Setting aside scheduled time once a quarter to update your portfolio is a good idea. Even if you are not adding new work, you might have additional context to add or edits to make based on your ongoing learnings and goals. It's easier to update when things are fresh in your mind versus months or years later. 

Take the next step

Are you ready to take the next step toward building a career as a website designer? If so, consider Website Design For Everybody offered by Michigan State University and the Meta Front-End Developer Professional Certificate. In both courses, you’ll create a professional portfolio you can use in your job search. 

Article sources


Top Design Firms. “Website Redesign Checklist: 5 Trends to Consider, https://topdesignfirms.com/web-design/blog/website-redesign-checklist.” Accessed March 25, 2024

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