The Internet is becoming a major force in the marketplace. The market research firm INPUT estimates that, this year, $250 billion worth of goods and services will be traded over the Internet. The need for companies to have an attractive and enticing “net presence” has caused them to hire Webmasters and Website designers in droves. Website designers are, in a sense, a new breed of graphic designers and typesetters, whose medium is the World Wide Web, and their audience is estimated at 45 million strong worldwide. It is no wonder companies want Web designers who can capture the attention of that audience for brand awareness, advertising, and sales reasons.
Although Webmasters are generally accountable for the functionality of the final Website, it is the Website designers who are initially in the trenches, coming up with the look, layout, and overall impact the site will have. Some consulting Website designers may also author the text that appears on the site, while most who work for large corporations will most likely receive text and information intended to be published on the Web from copywriters, Webmasters, or marketing managers. The text that writers give to designers might also indicate where to place hypertext links in the finished product. From there, it is up to the designers to work all of these elements into a functional, intriguing, user-friendly design.
To accomplish the task, Website designers need varied and numerous technical skills. Knowledge of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is required. A Website designer’s knowledge should be exceptional as he is often expected to be the HTML expert. Designers must also be competent in browser compatibility issues, extensions (tables, frames, server push/client pull, and server-side protocols), and Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripting devices (Java, Perl, C, UNIX, and others). Skilled knowledge of TCP/IP and networking protocols is also necessary in areas such as service ports, names servers, USENET, HTTP, FTP, and, naturally, E-mail. But they are designers after all, and in addition to their technical know-how they must have graphic design skills-and not just in the artistic sense. Full knowledge of the capabilities of graphics applications within their medium (i.e., Photoshop, Fractal Painter, and 3-D modeling among others) is crucial or their designs, however nice, won’t work. If all that isn’t enough, a Website designer must be a certified net geek, familiar with downloading time and bandwidth problems, content-driven pages, and a knowledge of “netiquette.” Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to have patience-as hours can be long when meeting deadlines-and good interpersonal skills. You will be working with a lot of other people who are expecting you to translate their ideas into a functional thing of beauty, whether you work for a corporation or are a self-employed consultant.
The nature of the work is not managerial and because of this, few academic standards have been set in this very new field. However, a lot of creativity and knowledge is required to be a successful Website designer. Knowledge of computer science, programming, advertising, graphics, and art and design is favorable. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or design will help, although unlike most other technical professions, the level of education is not as much a factor in remuneration as is design talent and hands-on technical skills.
The heavy emphasis on electronic layout and design creates many crossover opportunities for Website designers. Graphic designers have much in common with Web designers, using many of the same design applications and requiring the same talent for layout. Electronic typesetters who design and produce everything from books, magazines, and menus also share many job skills and traits. Computer programmers have less in common, but also share a knowledge of computers and scripting languages. However, being a Website designer provides great preparation for careers in all multimedia applications as well as a career as a Webmaster.