The youth is powering our digital age and they will control the future of our web. The position of freelance website designer seems lucrative and very enticing from the get-go. Set your own hours, work on whatever you want, get paid to work from home and learn as you go. What could be better?
Problems begin to arise when freelancers situate themselves in all markets and spread their techniques too thin. There is a subset of jobs in digital design and development which freelancers should focus into. It can provide huge benefits to master single areas in a market so expansive as the web.
Check out a few of the examples below and analyze your own skills. Try listing your objectives out to see what you think you'd be best at and where you'd need improvement. The drive from within to better yourself comes with the affection of a manageable task. In this case we're considering the entire Web Design market.
Finding your Passion
Before considering what area of web design to pursue it's important to spend some time thinking about this choice. Critically evaluate your current conditions and skill set. What task(s) do you enjoy the most in the creative process?
Ultimately there is a split seen generally between digital design and programming. The answer for which side you lean towards is already within you. Consider which activities you would rather be doing and try spending a few hours doing research.
Would you enjoy messing around in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator creating and editing graphics? Or maybe the task of creating an automated application library sounds more enticing. Look into the backend of both and try to feel that inner passion waiting to come out.
Web & Graphics Design
The market is larger than most of us conceive it to be. As a web designer you are required to complete a litany of additional work other than just "website design". This includes logo and branding design, icons and graphics, wireframing and possibly Photoshop re-touches.
The path of a digital artist requires a large amount of concentration. It is recommended to attack one piece of software at a time and practice with 2-3 new tutorials every day. Recommended choices include:
- Adobe Photoshop (standard web design, graphics, photo manipulation)
- Adobe Illustrator (vector artwork, polishing logos/typography)
- Adobe Flash (creative animations, slideshows, video and audio players)
- Adobe Fireworks (icons, smaller graphics, wireframe templates)
This list was compiled under Adobe software, although there are other free alternatives. Adobe commands the digital software market and leads with a huge team of developers and innovators.
If you'd enjoy learning any of these programs but don't have money for purchasing them you can download free 30-day demos. There are also classes taught among colleges and some private schools which have teachers show you the basics to working with these tools. Video tutorials are another option if they're easier.
The quickest way to understand where your passion truly lies is to mess around in each one. There are countless tutorials online and most will offer project files as a free download. Pixel2life is a community of digital professionals who catalog and share unique tutorials on all of the software mentioned above, in addition to many other languages.
Paths as a Developer
Learning how to develop web applications tends to strike those interested in sciences and maths. Web development is nothing but converting ideas in plain language into a logical structure. This can be done in any programming language - PHP, Python, Ruby, C++ - and all ideas will scale beautifully among every language.
It will take some practice and requires a bit of headway to get started, but can be very rewarding. As a tip for getting started try writing out a list of flowing actions and steps for how your program will work. Write this so it's easy to understand and very clear about what you're trying to build.
From here you can start your favorite IDE and get coding. Breaking down tasks into smaller pieces makes programming simpler. Everything in life can be broken down into smaller steps and this holds especially true for logics-based programming. If this is a difficult task for you to understand or sounds boring, perhaps your path is better left towards design.
Backend v Frontend Coding
The appeal to programmers is how elegant the whole application creation process can be. There are only a limited number of ways to complete a task. Along with this there are an even smaller number of "correct" ways to implement a structure into a system set forth by documented best practices.
Those who enjoy finding the correct answer to problems will love the feeling of solving bug fixes and creating new backend libraries. These languages are used to house the code which runs in the background to display functionality to users.
We've examined both areas of web design and development, broken down individual tasks and even taken a small step towards defining individual job roles. Times are changing and these languages and software could be useless 5 years down the road. Keep up with changing times, there's always more to learn.
The important thing to remember is every decision is just part of the process. Nobody became a professional web designer overnight. And nobody I know has managed to study and retain any programming language's full discography in a night, either. Spend some time each day with projects that catch your interest and you'll find that spark of inner passion much sooner than later.
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