10 Easy Steps to Become a Better Web Designer

By / Oct 26, 2008 / Tips

A great designer is one who can create great designs long after the latest trends have passed. When in doubt always go back to basics & the fundamentals you learned when starting out. Here are some steps I personally take that have helped me become a better designer. My hope is that this will remind you of the little things we sometimes take for granted. Please feel free to add to the list if you have tips – interacting with the community & sharing the knowledge is what it’s all about.

1 . Trends

Keeping up to date on the latest trends is important – however “trends” does not mean “copy”. Get inspiration and create your own style. See this highly effective post of 2008 Design Trends.

2. Learn & Develop

Great designers are always learning and stay fresh on the latest styles. A great resource for finding specific collections for interface design on the web is PatternTap.

3. Think on Paper

Sketching should be your best friend, especially if your in the beginning stages of a wireframe or even simple list ideas. Getting away from the computer and onto paper gives you less distraction. Check out The Importance of Sketching.

4. White Space

Sometimes less is more. Don’t clutter your designs – readability is key to the success of a website. Minimal or Simplistic does not mean boring. For some great examples check out MinimalSites.

5. Technology / Applications

Keep up on the latest programs in your field (But Don’t Upgrade to CS4!) and if your looking for online training I suggest checking out Lynda.

6. Read

These are some great Magazines I recommend flipping through: .Net, Communication Arts, Computer Arts Magazine

If your having an inspiration block check out: Feeling the need for some Inspiration.

7. Know your Audience

Revisit the original creative brief, just because your designing something you like – doesn’t mean the client will like it. You have to look at the age group and demographic target your trying to reach, all these things are very important and you should take extra steps to not lose site of this.

8. Ask others Opinions

Recently I was redesigning a logo and simply “tweeted” on Twitter. I received over 45 replies as well as in depth detailed comments on my Flickr page where I posted the comps. You don’t have to show everyone either depending on the content, ask a colleague you trust. They may point out problems or errors that didn’t cross your mind.

9. Build a “Toolbox”

I keep a harddrive full of assets, code, old work & forms that I made need to grab someday. I organize it by the type of work (ex. CSS, Flash, Vectors, Forms). When your searching for something while working on a project it’s a lot easier when your organized. Trust me it will save you time!

10. Competition

Take a look at what other web designers are doing. Being aware of what’s happening in your industry is a must. There is not a shortage of gallery sites around but these are the ones I visit most: (http://screenfluent.com/) (http://www.lightondark.com/sites/) (http://bestwebgallery.com/) (http://www.faveup.com/) (http://www.webcreme.com/) (http://www.designbygrid.com/)

  • http://p41studios.com Patrick Algrim

    This is some really good information. I really like the whole competition part, it goes really well with my article on design research. Sometimes checking those design galleries, gives you a good idea of what other people are doing, and what other people are NOT doing.

    Great job!

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com adelle

    Thanks Patrick, is your article on design research complete yet? Just want to make sure I didn’t miss it!

  • http://assaultblog.com Timberooni

    One thing I always try to do is look for inspiration outside of your medium, ffffound.com is a great place to see all different types of design work and is a great jumping off point.

    I find that by looking at CSS web galleries too much tends to make your stuff look like a direct rip. EXIST outside the grid! I know Patrick loves his grid based design, but you can break out of it!

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com adelle

    @Timberooni ffffound is a great resource & I feel there are so many css galleries, yes, however there are only a handful of really awesome ones.

  • http://www.iammikesmith.com Mike Smith

    Awesome article Adelle. stumbled for you and tagged on delicious

  • http://www.jordangarn.ca jordan garn

    great article and resources much appreciated.

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com adelle

    @Mike thanks so much your always very supportive! I appreciate that

    @Jordan thank you!

  • http://www.getinon.com Geoserv

    STUMBLED!

    Definitely important to keep up with trends and with new coding and technology.

  • http://konspiredesign.com Vasily

    This is a great summary, thank you.
    Love the resources given.

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com adelle

    Thanks Geoserv & Vasily.

  • http://prismdesigns.co.uk Jaswinder Virdee

    Great post but I’m sure there’s not enough time in a day to do some of these things especially the reading I’m way behind on my rss feeds haven’t even been to http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com/ recently

  • Edwin

    Great article. Short and to the point. Also good external links added to read further. Thanks for this interesting post! :)

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com adelle

    @Jaswinder Better pull up a seat & some coffee and catch up on your reading / rss feeds :) Wouldn’t want you to neglect the good stuff!

    @Edwin glad you found it interesting and I’m sure the external posts will keep you busy for a short while!

  • http://tshayes.com Tyler Hayes

    This post is perfect for one reason: not only does the author talk the talk, he walks the walk. Posting sites, resources, and giving a snippet of your own life’s experiences makes articles like this stand out above the rest. Kudos!

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com adelle

    Thanks Tyler! (and thanks for the DM on the “he” mistake) No worries.

    Makes me excited to do more of these posts!

  • http://daus.trala.la/ Daus

    Thanks for this roundup. I found it very useful.

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com adelle

    Your welcome Daus.

  • http://zaheto.com zaheto

    Great article! For me Step 8 is most important and creative for one designer :)

  • http://www.thisisaaronslife.com Aaron Irizarry

    Adelle,
    Another great article… congrats!

    Love the points about “Competition” “Toolbox” and “Minimal Design/White Space”.

    I have recently just started recycling resources/code that I have collected for various projects in the past.

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com adelle

    Thanks Aaron & zaheto!

  • http://www.zed-axis.com/ Seema

    This is a great post Adelle Charles. Thanks for defines some brief points about to become a great web designer. Its a useful blog and helps to all designers who is new to this field and enhance our abilities.
    http://www.zed-axis.com/

  • http://www.smileycat.com Christian Watson

    With regard to #2 your readers might also want to check out my elements of design showcase.

  • http://www.smallboxsoftware.com Shawn Bouchard

    Hi Adelle,

    Thanks for this resource. We’re always trying to help our design partners with suggestions and resources on design. I’ll be sending them to your site.

    I might also suggest that integrating some form of content management system is a good idea. It turns a static website into a communications platform.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.minimalistes.com jung

    http://www.minimalsites.com is recently redesigned. check it out.

  • http://www.jeevan4u.com Jeevan4u

    thanks a lot for the resource. it’s really helpful.
    thanks & regads,
    jeevan

  • http://free-websitedesign.com/ Free Website Design

    Thanks for the nice tips. I especially like the think on paper part. It’s always best to measure twice and cut once.

  • http://www.ascendtraining.com/ Taylor Smith

    These are wonderful resources for improving your design skills. Even an advanced designer could benefit from reading these great resources.

  • http://www.protocolztech.com Anitha

    Thank you for the information……..

  • j_hatfield

    In regards to the first tip in following trends, I’ve noticed that a lot of the mobile sites that are coming out don’t consider the limited space of the medium. I ran across this blog that talks about when you design a mobile site its important to do less.

    here.

  • http://iit.lt @Ramas

    I’m not a web designer. But this article is helpful to work with designer and better understand him.