Ask a Madman: Am I Too Late to the Web Design Party?

I’m a graphic designer just now getting on the web design bandwagon. Am I too late to the party?

For years, my father refused to learn how to set the clock on his VCR. Twice a year (if there were no power failures) I’d get a call from him, asking how to do it. Eventually, he just got acclimated to deducting an hour from the clock time in the spring and summer months rather than try to learn it.

So when my mother bought her first computer, I started screening my calls. But soon enough she learned how to do an email attachment and even set up her own blog—oddly enough—about how to set your VCR clock.

learning web design, too late?

Don't worry, you aren't that late to the web design party.

Some graphic designers have felt left behind by rapidly changing web technologies. At first it was just easy drag-and-drop web design software supplemented by a simple understanding of HTML. Soon Flash and Java scripting became the norm. Then HTML gave way to DHTML, XHTML and HTML5 and so on. Now, putting Dreamweaver on your resume incites snickers from 23-year-old creative directors.

Many of my peers are taking web classes, trying to catch up on needed skills. Some succeed enough to not be laughed at; others just can’t keep up with all the new programming languages and plugins. For the 23-year-olds who grew up coding HTML and build apps for fun, print designers are like the elderly parents who call about VCR clocks. Print designers who have a few more years (or decades) before they retire need to learn some new tricks.

If you confuse PHP with PCP and think jQuery might be something conservative politicians want to outlaw, you may be a little too late to the technology party. To stay competitive with younger, more savvy designers, you’ll need to work twice as hard to catch up. It means not only keeping up with the changes Adobe makes to its graphics programs but knowing about web language developments, learning new software AND having examples to show employers. No one said it would be easy. 

learning web design, too late?

It's never too late to get back on your feet.

In fighting obsolescence, it might seem like there’s just too much technology to digest. So we’ve boiled it down to four main points for you to focus on. Being familiar with all of these concepts is important; being an expert in one of them can help you score jobs and keep hustling.

Learn WordPress.

WordPress makes it easy to set up websites and blogs for clients—and yourself! In fact, the WordPress content management supports the majority of websites started today. You can use a stylish theme to get started, and when you learn some code, you can customize it or even start building and selling your own awesomely designed themes. HOW Interactive’s got a whole series on how to use Wordpress themes, plugins and tools.

Be a presentation software guru.

Believe it or not, there are design companies that do 90% of their business in creating digital presentations. Creatives excel at presentations because of our ability to make beautiful visuals, and clients big and small need presentation material. While PowerPoint is still the gold standard in corporate environments, keeping up with emerging presentation technologies can be a great selling point for yourself. For example, check out this amazing animated presentation made with Google Docs:

Stay on top of new technologies.

From left: a QR code, a Microsoft Tag and a Data Matrix.

If you haven’t seen these crossword-looking things on packaging or posters, you aren’t getting out enough. QR codes are barcodes you scan with your smartphone to go to a web page, video, app or to make a call. The boring black-and-white squares can also be modified with great design and color. New design firms are popping up everywhere to handle the design of these codes. With trial and error, you can still create some really impressive pieces for clients. (But be careful you don’t end up in the annals of QR code fails!)

And it’s been around for a few years, but augmented reality technology is starting to make its way into our daily lives. It’s a way to interact with your surroundings through your smartphone’s camera—the videos in this article are great examples.

Prepare for the mobile web. 

Oh, to have been in the forefront of this technology a few years ago. It’s no secret that making just one monster app like Angry Birds will let you retire. Two will let your whole family retire. Three popular apps, and you can buy a better family! 

But responsive websites (ones that work just as well on laptops as they do on tablets and on smartphones) are the real future of mobile apps. It will take some training for a print designer but having a creative eye is the key to being a superstar of this technology. And if you aren’t ready to design for the mobile web yourself, just befriend some developers!

There are many avenues for creatives to follow to stay on the forefront of technology. It takes hard work, dedication, imagination and the passion we all feel by being creative. Catch up or get left behind—the choice is yours.

Party detrius photo by Ben Seidelman; party lawn chair photo by Erich Ferdinand

One thought on “Ask a Madman: Am I Too Late to the Web Design Party?

  1. cre8ivetype

    Ask a MAD man, and he’ll always give you an interesting and informative answer!

    Thanks again, Speider, for sharing all the great stuff you’ve learned throughout your career! And thanks to HOW, for having the smarts to provide him with another platform for mentoring the design community …