I’m a Designer Being Asked to Make Websites! What Now?!?

I know you planned on making brochures and flyers for your professional life as a graphic designer, but you WILL, way more than you might expect, be asked, “Hey, do you do websites?” So what, as a designer, should you start researching in order to get even more work from more clients and still manage to pull off a nice job? That’s what I’m here to answer. I’ve, without fail, been asked about making websites by every client I’ve had in the last year. Eventually, I just started saying “yes” in order to force myself to learn more about the process and to expand my skill set. So, here it is: What I, as a what-you-see-is-what-you-get graphic designer had to learn and become proficient with in order to build stylish, unique, and functional websites for clients.

The things You Could Learn.

1. Flash/Actionscript 3.0 – I know, I know…I can hear you saying it now. “But I thought Flash was on its way out, so why would I learn it now?!?” Simply put, learning Flash (and possibly coupling that with Actionscript, the code that makes it all work), gives you an edge as a designer. It’s not about databasing or plugging away at a screen full of code just to get a few links to work. It’s similar to working in Illustrator, and you can import in so many different formats (including .PSD files with all its layers), it’s no wonder designers feel at home within the software. Here’s a site I created recently within Flash, due to the concept requiring a video background: Hard Bean Coffee’s Corporate Website. Cool, right? Not only that: 92% of computer users support Flash within their browser and Flash text is now able to be indexed by search engines. You’ll just have to keep in mind that a mobile version of the site might be in the future for the iPhone users.

P.S. – Learning Actionscript 3.0 is also helpful if you look to really get into web design, as it resembles Javascript, another powerful web programming language, enough to give you some experience before jumping in headlong.

2. WordPress – If you scoff at this entry, you haven’t been asked to make a website or been given a document outlining what a client wants a site to be able to do. Nine times out of ten, the demands of a standard business just looking to get on the web would be perfectly served by a WordPress template. There are many, many websites devoted to selling and offering support for really great looking and working templates for fairly cheap, and you can allow your client to maintain it and update it as easily as they would send email. Seriously, consider learning your way around this interface and a template. You won’t be doing a ton of work, and your client will be thrilled with the final product…what more could you ask?

Above: I'm just going to leave this here...

3. CSS/Dreamweaver/RapidWeaver – CSS, for the designers out there who don’t know, is a set of styles similar to ones you would find within InDesign. Only, they apply to how data is organized within a website. Put more bluntly, you can take an ugly text document and, using CSS, form it into a really slick website. Dreamweaver has a nice set of tools for working with and creating CSS layouts, and RapidWeaver (Mac-only software, I believe) can be used to create quick, simple websites that follow web standards by using various CSS rules. These two applications will make the most sense and create the easiest transition into CSS for a designer used to seeing-what-they-get.

And Where Should I Learn These Things?

Above: Yep. I can thank her for getting the jobs I get now.

Did you really just create a section header to plug a website?
Yes. I can’t stress enough, without just creating a whole other article, how much you should be learning as a designer month to month. For my money, has taught me skills that have allowed me to work on fun, great-paying projects that I would have never had the chance to if not for learning the software from their experts. It is absolutely foolish to not want to learn new skills in this industry, and an online resource that can teach you the basics of Dreamweaver or Flash, or get down and dirty with Javascript code is too good to ignore. Seriously, reader. You don’t know all you want to know and you know it. Hit up that site.

And Then There’s the Other Route.

If you really don’t want to get into the web world (you’ve tried before, and it just wasn’t for you), you may still be able to work something out in order to take care of your clients’ needs without getting your own hands messy.

1. That weird guy who does design websites.
Alright, it may not be just some “weird guy.” What I mean is that, if you are getting a lot of requests for websites, it might be a good idea to utilize a contact of yours to get the job done. Teaming up with someone can be a very good thing, as a web designer might need graphics in the future, and then they’ll be calling upon you! Consider sharing the wealth on a project, as they’ll usually do the same!

And finally, the very website you’re on provides a fantastic service that you could certainly use. I’m not paid for a plug, but I can tell you that if you just want to focus on the graphics, here’s where you need to be. The developers here take the coding side of a project and get it done, while retaining the awesome look you’ve already created in Photoshop.

Above: You knew this article was headed towards this, right?

Open Up the Possibilities!

Whether you decide to let someone else handle the development side, or are interested in learning how to do it on your own, in my mind, there’s just too many possibilities for extra work and extra pay to pass up web design.

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