Marketing In the Dark Ages Once upon a time, people went to malls and markets to buy things, and news and information came from television and newspapers. But brick, mortar and print is so 2008. E-commerce retailers have seen steady growth since 2009, and digital media is quickly becoming the information venue of choice. So who is making this online marketplace user friendly and visually engaging? Web designers. Given those stats, there is no mystery to the growth of web design as an industry. It is forecasted that online retail sales will grow from $144 billion in 2009 to $268 billion by 2015, that’s double the dollars spent at digital storefronts. Businesses need developers and designers skilled at creating interesting and easy-to-use digital experiences. News outlets want pages that catch the eye and keep the reader. And even businesses who don’t use their pages for sales wouldn’t dream of not having an elegant and informative web page to communicate with their customers. As Bill Clinton once said, “Even my cat has a web-page.” Now that’s a lot of graphics. Do You have what it takes to design? So you’ve got a good eye and can wrangle a keyboard into submission, but is being a web designer a good fit? In this day of workplace flexibility there are opportunities to fit most work styles. You can be a freelance designer who works their own hours and can say “yes” or “no” to a job. Or you can work in-house as a staff designer for companies from web design specialists to large corporations who maintain their own web management staff. So you can find a niche whether you want to work nine-to-five or find your best creative energy at midnight. But in both cases you need to be prepared for people to tell you want they want you to do. Because despite your evident visual brilliance, some people just may not get your artistic vision. But is it all drinking Red Bull and playing with the cool software? Yeah… no, not so much. There are some downsides: Their timetable, not yours Being creative on someone else’s calendar isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It can be hard to keep things fresh and edgy when the IT people are breathing down your neck to meet a deadline. Pressure for innovation It can feel sometimes like the newest killer app is yesterday’s news before it even hits iTunes. Web designers need to work hard to stay current and pay attention to technology trends. Customers want “five minutes from now” not “last week.” Designer fatigue Web designer Jeremy Davis lists this as one of the things he hates about being a designer. When you design for a living, it’s hard to turn off your brain. Everything you see gets filtered through your designer’s eye. You find yourself critiquing everyone’s use of color, layout, fonts and composition. Which can be annoying when you just want to enjoy the movie. But the good news is…There are even more things that designers love about their careers. Logic and Creativity Andrew Houle puts both on his list. The creative process is what draws people to web design in the first place, but the logic of coding taps into an analytic process that satisfies the need for challenge and problem solving. Demand It’s a lot easier to find satisfaction in a career that’s growing and can offer some security. While competition for the juiciest plums can be intense, the overall demand means good opportunities for most dedicated designers with the necessary education, skills and training. Creating outreach Being the problem solver and the creative genius is pretty rewarding. Web designers and developers are the people who create a platform for an organization to reach an audience – be it for commerce, entertainment or education. Starting from scratch and then delivering a product that can play a pivotal role in the client’s success is a path to some deep professional satisfaction. Freelance or Employee? The working lifestyle of web designers hinges a lot on whether they work for a web design firm, a business or corporation large enough to manage their digital presence in-house, or work freelance. Which type of web designer am I? Opt for an employee position if you: Need a predictable schedule Like structure Prefer assignments be given to you Like collaboration Don’t mind giving up some decision making authority You might do well as freelancer if you: Want more creative control Like variety Need work-hour flexibility Prefer to work independently Want complete decision making ability Want control over client selection Don’t mind unpredictability Are good at self-promotion While freelance web designers make more on an hourly basis (generally), it’s important to remember that taxes, benefits, vacation and sick time all come out of that hourly wage. So make sure to do the math when you’re making employment decisions.