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Career Spotlight: Web and Mobile Design

Although web design has become an established profession over the past twenty years, it has gone through major evolutions mostly due to the advances in digital and mobile technology. The job of a web designer is in fact a complex field that involves an interdisciplinary course of study to create sophisticated web projects. Some of these areas of expertise include information architecture, web development, visual design, responsive design, user interface design, and content production.

Web designers are involved in creating the icons, images, navigational tools and other features that give web projects their public face. But don't be fooled: Web designers devote their energies to far more than the look of a web site. With the explosion of users connecting to the web through mobile devices, web designers need to also understand how to design responsively and anticipate how users will interact with the content.

Designing for the web is about communication, content, and back end functionality that is synchronized with the user expectations of the target audience.

Job Basics

Web designers often work with project managers, programmers, information architects, marketing professionals and others on the appearance, architecture and functionality of web sites and systems. Web designers team up with colleagues to tackle a range of duties, from concept planning to testing. Tasks may vary from determining user expectations, to designing tiny icons for navigational purposes to planning the color scheme for a company's web presence. Web designers work in a broad variety of settings, including marketing departments, design firms, advertising agencies and other organizations.

According to the AIGA Survey of Design Salaries for 2014, an average mean salary for a mobile interface designer is in the mid-$60,000s. This survey is a national average, and if you are seeking employment in the Bay Area this is approximately an entry level salary.

Web Designer Education and Training

Opinions vary widely on what the appropriate training for Web designers is. Some employers seek candidates with a degree in graphic arts and a portfolio of Web projects, while others scoff at formal training, saying the field is too new for training to be truly relevant.

Some professionals, such as Jason Fried, president of Chicago-based 37signals, a Web software company with an influential blog, Signal vs. Noise , and book, Defensive Design for the Web believes that the most important skills you will learn will come from on the job experience. This may be true, but how does one get their foot in the door and secure that first job?

Most agree that a background in graphic design, visual communication, or computer science can help you land a job, when accompanied by relevant experience or projects that you feature in a portfolio. Web design is a pretty open field and can accommodate people with varying backgrounds.

Breaking In

Most web designers will agree that you need to build web sites and web experiences to get noticed. Countless numbers of web designers have gotten noticed by building web sites for nonprofits, community groups or simply by creating a site surrounding one of their own interests or enthusiasms. Build something for real and promote it so that people will use what you build. There is no better marketing for your professional self than that.

Job Skills

Before you sign up for classes in Dreamweaver or Interface Design, take a step back, and remember the essentials employers want to see in candidates for jobs as web designers. These include knowledge of graphic design, project management, information architecture, human/computer interaction, writing, and programming. Get the fundamentals down, and then worry about the tools.

Still, skills do matter, and for web design, the essential ones include knowledge of HTML, CSS, blogging tools such as Wordpress, Photoshop and the Adobe Creative Suite of tools, and scripting languages such as JavaScript or PHP. Experience with print design also helps, as many organizations require their designers to work on both print and Web projects.

Why Web Designers Like Their Work

Web designers often see their work as challenging, in part because the field is relatively new and constantly changing. You are creating things, usually making something from nothing, and that can be highly gratifying. You are on the front end of a wave, working with a new medium, helping to define what users want and the means and manner in which they will be able to obtain it.

There are a number of books about web design and usability, including: There are a number of good books about web design and usability including: Learning iOS Design: A Hands-On Guide for Programmers and Designers by William Van Hecke. (Pearson ISBN: 978-0-321-88749-8); Seductive Interactive Design by Stephen Anderson (Creative Edge ISBN: 978-0-321-72552-3); and

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan M. Weinschenk (Creative Edge ISBN: 978-0-321-76753-0).
Another iPhone/iPad document that targets iOS is the Apple HCI Interface Guidelines. It is free and is a valuable resource, as well as the mandatory approach for iOS development:

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