Written by Ashley Murphy

Web design is the art of designing and creating web pages -- in a way, designing the internet! While web development focuses on the hard science of building sites, such as writing mark up and coding, web designers are more concerned with the look of websites and user experience.

Most universities offer a BSc (Hons) in web design and web development. Other relevant degrees include computer science, graphic design, and communications. However, if you know how to code and can familiarise yourself with design and development programmes, nothing is stopping you from working freelance.

As a web designer or web developer, you will likely pick up a wide range of transferable skills, giving you plenty of career options. With that in mind, here are six careers for those who want to work in web design and development.

Web Designer

Web designers work on the layout of a website, which includes how the content is structured, categorized, and accessed. They are also responsible for selecting fonts, logos, colors, and other aesthetic aspects of websites.

When it comes to functionality, web designers aim to keep things simple. The principle behind good web design is to enable users to find what they are looking for as quickly and as efficiently possible. Designers work from the logical page hierarchy model. In other words, the home page will display the most important information, which then links to sub-topic menu pages.

Web designers need a keen eye for design, but they also need a practical and organized mindset. After all, functionality is key. Moreover, they must understand the psychology of internet users. They must consider what attracts people to sites and what keeps them coming back.

Systems Architect

A systems architect designs IT networks. It's their job to analyze and then recommend a combination of systems and hardware that can achieve the desired results of a business or large organization. Often this requires a delicate balancing act of providing efficient service while maintaining a secure IT network. A system architect must always take a holistic approach. The design part is only the beginning. Equally essential considerations include the implementation and long-term maintenance of the system.  

Skilled systems architects will also be business experts, and web design and development education can be combined with business studies. IT networks are designed to achieve specific business goals, and architects with a greater understanding of their business will create better networks. Like many IT industries, practicality and functionality are the primary objectives.

A systems architect also requires strong interpersonal skills. Much of the job is managing relationships with stakeholders, which means you'll need to negotiate, manage expectations, and translate complex ‘IT-Speak’ into everyday language without diluting its meaning or significance.  And self-confidence is essential, as is the desire to take responsibility for big decisions. System architects are often senior members of staff or report to them directly.

SEO Expert

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the vital the art of generating more website traffic and making your website more visible than others. For example, if someone searches for “emergency plumbers in my area,” sites with the best SEO  show up on the first pages of Google (unless they have been paid to be promoted). Given relatively few people look past the first few pages, SEO is an essential part of a building a successful site - and business. A Google search of ‘emergency plumbers in my area’ returns many millions of results, so making yourself stand out is crucial.

In its most basic form, SEO involves identifying certain words and phrases that web users are likely to google and ensuring that those words and phrases appear in a website’s content.  But truly skilled SEO involves much more than keyword analysis. SEO experts will work closely with developers and designers to optimize the structure and appearance of a website so that everything from URLs to index tags and metadata sends the right signals to search engines like Google.

Some businesses and larger organizations will have a team of SEO experts, but many outsource work to consultancy firms. An SEO expert needs plenty of technical ability, but they also need people skills, including the ability to communicate without using industry jargon.

Game designer

Designing computer games is a dream job for millions of tech-savvy gamers. And with the industry now worth over $130 billion, there's plenty of opportunities to become a video game designer.

Again, the emphasis is on the design. Game designers have little to do with programming and coding, which are jobs for the developers. Instead, they focus on designing the actual gameplay. Given the complexity of today's games, a designer will usually find themselves working on a specific element. Electronic Arts, the company behind the hugely successful FIFA series, assigns a separate producer and team of designers to every aspect of the design, such as controls, level design, and soundtrack.

Designers at smaller companies can take an active role in plotting storylines, character arcs, and interactive elements. This new approach to video games has led many people to compare some designers to film directors and producers, especially as video games are so sophisticated now that many of them are beginning to resemble films.

The majority of designers are drawn into the industry through their love of video games. For others, it's a rare chance to be part of a revolutionary industry that evolves at an incredible pace. In just under 50 years, video games have gone from simple two-player games such as Pong to multiplayer interactive worlds that can sometimes be confused with the real thing. The video games sector now accounts for over half of the whole entertainment market in the UK, according to figures from the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), with the market’s value rising to a whopping £3.864 billion, more than double its value in 2007. And video games have gone beyond home entertainment.  According to a recent report, the eSports industry - where teams of gamers compete in tournaments streamed globally to fans and gaming enthusiasts -- is about to break the $1 billion mark. With the emergence of VR and augmented reality, the possibilities for the next generations of game designers may well be endless!  

Project Manager

Being a project manager requires strong organizational skills and the ability to solve problems. It's about finding practical ways of implementing abstract concepts, something which any good web designer or developer will know how to do.

An IT project manager often focuses on a specific problem or question, such as how to make sure IT systems comply with changes in industry regulation. They are also responsible for ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget.

Project managers must be entrepreneurial in their approach and outlook. They need to be self-starters who are comfortable with responsibility. It's a perfect job for natural leaders because being a project manager is a challenging role. And the bigger the project, the more people there are to manage. This includes the most willing, the least able, the most stubborn, and sometimes the downright lazy.

Most IT project managers begin their careers by working on project support teams while simultaneously working toward formal qualifications, such as PRINCE2 certification. Entry level project managers start on a salary of $39,000, while more experienced and senior managers can earn upwards of $84,000.

UX designer

UX design, or user experience design, “is the process of creating products and apps that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users.” And while functionality is always essential, a UX designer delves much deeper. UX design focuses on a user's emotional responses, their motivations, and even their identity and values. When considering any project, a UX designer will ask and then answer three questions: why? what? and how? All three are equally important, but it's the why that drives UX design.

Before the project begins in earnest, UX designers will gather as much information as possible about potential users through interviews, surveys, and focus groups.

One of the best examples of UX design is the Starbucks mobile app. Coffee drinkers are creatures of habit and so tend to order from a small selection of their favorites. So, rather than scrolling through the full menu, app users are presented with a much shorter list based on previous orders. There’s also a featured tab just in case they're feeling adventurous. The app makes ordering your coffee much easier, but it also creates a sense of familiarity, the idea that this app understands what you like, and, by extension, who you are.

UX design is a relatively new field and is yet to establish itself in many universities. However, there is a wide range of online diplomas and courses that will teach you the basics. Many UX designers make vertical moves from other IT and design fields, including web design, computer science, and software development. There's also plenty of freelance opportunities in this new and exciting industry.

So, web designers and developers have the option to work in more traditional fields, but also forge a career in some of today's most exciting and forward-thinking industries.

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