Wants to Be a Web DesignerQ: I want to be a website designer like you, where do I start? - David O.
A: This question actually came to me via LinkedIn rather than by email, but that's OK.
Part of the answer depends on what you want to do with your design skills. If you want to work for a company as a web designer you'll probably need to take some classes at a tech school or college. The days of "just being able to build a website" and get a job doing it are mostly gone.
Employer requirements vary, but most will want you to know Photoshop and Dreamweaver, at a minimum, and they often want experience with other programs as well.
The larger companies prefer employment candidates have a Bachelors degree. With smaller companies you may get by with an Associates degree or even a certificate. Some may consider experience in lieu of education, but that probably won't put you in contention for the better paying jobs.
Good communication skills are usually a requirement, along with being a team player, having the ability to follow written instructions, and the usual requirements like being dependable, passing a drug test, the ability to work in a fast-paced environment, etc.
You must also be able to demonstrate good design skills, so creativity and imagination are intangibles that matter.
If your goal is to work for yourself, you generally won't need a degree, but you will need to be able to wear a lot of hats in addition to have design skills. For example, you'll need the ability to sell your services, to keep accurate records, and set up hosting services.
Working for yourself you may also need skills in web production and web development. Web production includes content creation and management, marketing skills, and above average writing skills. A web developer works with the back end of the web site, such as CGI programming, for example.
The lines between a web designer, web production worker, and web developer are often blurred. Some employers will want people who have at least some skills in all three areas.
If you just want to build sites for yourself, then you only need to learn what you need as you go. An understanding of HTML, CSS and some graphics skills will get you by for that.