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HI All -

I am a Coldfusion developer with over 2 and half years of experience. I have some experience with Javascript, jquery and sql.

I was thinking to learn Web designing too in my free time. What are the responsibilities of a Web designer? Does it involve converting a PSD to HTML/CSS. Should a web designer be good at graphic designing too?

Thanks..

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3 Answers

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The term 'web designer' is rather generic and has no specific definition other than they are involved in some aspect of designing and/or building web sites.

The roles that can be involved in a web design project can vary from project to project, team to team, firm to firm, but here's a list of various roles:

  • content strategist
  • copywriter
  • Information Architect
  • Interaction Designer
  • User Interface Designer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Front end developer
  • User Experience Designer
  • Usability Analyst
  • Accessibility Analyst

I'd say any of the above can be lumped into 'web designer'

And then there's roles that I like to call designers as well, though not everyone agrees:

  • user/usability testing
  • competitive and industry research
  • SEO (white hat, not black hat!)
  • DBAs
  • Business Analyst
  • Back End Developers

So, instead of answering your question, I'll spin it around and ask one back of you: What aspects of Web Design do you think you'll like and want to focus on?

Based on your response about wanting to focus on UI and Front End dev, I'd suggest the following:

Front end development is likely an extension of your current skills. You'll want to focus on HTML, CSS and JS. If you know the basics of JS already, you'll likely want to dive into a good framework like jQuery, that will also help with your prototyping.

As for UI design, that's a slightly different background. Most UI designers have a background in art and design. So for that, you'll want to focus on skills such as drawing, diagramming, color theory, form, art, typography, etc. They then combine that with human factor type skills such as usability best practices, heuristic evaluations, interaction design, etc.

In terms of the tools of the trade, well, that's where you're going to have to get used to Photoshop and its kin. No real way around that.

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Thanks for the answer. My interest lies in user interface designer/front end developer. But what scares me a bit is the thought of learning photoshop or similar tools for developing prototypes. I tried following some tutorials on photoshop, and somehow found it bit difficult to follow. –  user508518 Jun 2 '11 at 17:14
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@user508518 Using Photoshop for developing prototypes is in fact falling out of favour. Most developers now realize that adaptive layouts for different devices (desktops, phones, etc) are more important than pixel-perfect photoshop mockups. Wireframing UI mockups has resurged in popularity. –  ghoppe Jun 2 '11 at 20:51
    
Good answer! I'll just agree that the term "web designer" doesn't mean a thing any more. We refer to front-end and back-end development on my team –  Bosworth99 Jun 23 '11 at 23:21
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Adding a bit to DA01's excellent answer, you don't have to learn Photoshop to design websites. You don't even need to use a WYSIWYG editor like Dreamweaver (although that certainly can help speed up the process, especially with the new tools in CS5 and 5.5); there are plenty of web designers who use nothing but a text editor and a collection of browsers. I use DW, but 90% of my code is done in the editor, and I seldom prototype extensively in a separate program despite being very at home with Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.

That said, you're inevitably going to run into situations where you need some graphics bits, even if it's only custom buttons or a site banner, that you either have to create yourself, adapt from some existing artwork, or have someone mock up for you. So you will need at least a basic facility with a graphics application such as Fireworks, Photoshop or similar.

I would suggest lynda.com and tv.adobe.com as starting points. There are excellent tutorials on both sites.

Side Note: The best way to get up to speed is to take on a real project to work on that forces you to find out how to do stuff. It'll get your adrenaline going, sure, but everything you learn in a live project becomes part of your toolkit and doesn't get forgotten. My first Flash project (a huge, multi-page interactive kiosk display) was like that. Five long days of deep dive into ActionScript, with immediate real world application, left me with a set of skills I've never lost.

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A web designer is responsible for the same thing as most designers, and the toolkit (css) isn't as important as a basic understanding of design, though of course if you can't code and can only mess around in photoshop you're not nearly as useful on a web project. One simple way to think of it what makes a good web designer, or designer in general, is as follows: A designer is responsible for seeing the product from the customer or user's point of view. For example, if you're designing a computer mouse you would be responsible for making the mouse...

  1. Easy to use and understand
  2. Appealing (after all, if it's unattractive nobody will bother to use it)
  3. Well built (so that customers feel they got a good deal, and so the product isn't returned and earns itself a bad reputation)
  4. Fun to talk about. Ideally your design will make people want to talk about your mouse, using the design itself as way to spread it.

Other products will require different things, of course, but the ability to see what customers want, rather than what barely solves a problem or what users think they want, is a useful point of view when designing most things.

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