Learn5 Things Web Designers are Afraid of but Shouldn’t Be


Allison Grayce
writes on November 20, 2013

Unless your job as a designer requires you to wear multiple hats, it can be easy to become content in doing only what you’re an expert in. You’re comfortable with your process and feel at home in Photoshop, HTML & CSS. A master of one is better than an novice of many, right? Maybe not.

I’m not suggesting that you spread yourself thin and learn anything and everything related to the web. Just that you get out of your comfort zone and become familiar with these 5 things web designers like you are typically afraid of.

1. The Terminal

I’ll be the first to admit that I avoided the terminal for as long as possible. Literally, like it was the plague. I am perfectly content with a GUI for most things. But once I needed to learn Git, becoming comfortable with the dreaded terminal was inevitable.

Using Git for version control makes both backing up and iterating versions of websites that much easier. This includes smaller projects you might work on independently and larger projects that you collaborate on with other designers or developers. Setting it up and learning the lingo is a bit of a learning curve, but after that it’s smooth sailing. You’ll wonder how you ever worked without it.

Git is also a skillset that is beginning to make regular appearances on web designer job postings, so you won’t regret learning this one. (And you just might impress a few developer friends along the way.)

2. Digital Marketing

Typically a client or agency only expects a designer to create the visual graphics and interface for websites and digital marketing campaigns. It’s easy to stick to what you know and design what’s in the brief (with hopes someone else has already done all of the preliminary research), deliver the graphics, and move onto the next project.

But how effective of a designer can you really be if you don’t know whether or not what you created actually worked? It might look great, but did it perform well? Did visitors actually convert into customers? Imagine the value you’d add to a website or digital marketing campaign if you were to take the time to understand how and why they performed the way they did, and make decisions moving forward based on the information you’ve gathered.

Become a designer who makes data-driven decisions in addition to emotional decisions, and see a huge improvement in the effectiveness of your designs.

3. Copywriting

When I was fresh out of design school, I had a horrible habit of not reading what I was designing. While I’d pay attention to typography from a design perspective, it was almost as if I zoned out the words themselves. So, first step – read before designing. Thoroughly understanding the message behind content will help as you try to then convey that message to users through design.

Once you’re an expert at designing and presenting content on the web, don’t stop there. Learn best practices for writing for the web, and start writing! After all, words are directly related to usability – and often the most effective tool to communicate what the user should do next on your website.

Improving your writing skills will help you in all facets of your job, but gaining insight specifically into effective web writing tactics will be incredibly valuable as you design and develop the online experience.

4. Users

When you’re knee deep in code and pixel perfecting graphics, it can be tempting to ignore that actual humans are on the other side of your website or app and design based solely on intuition. The ability to transition the way you approach designing websites from technology focused to human focused isn’t easy, but it starts by involving the user early on and often.

Challenge yourself to gather user research early on and test your design with real users along the way to validate its effectiveness. You’ll be surprised at how willing users are to provide feedback. People love to know that their opinion matters. Although it can be scary to open up your design for critique and input in the early stages, doing so will result in a better and more effective end product.

5. Sharing

“There is always someone out there who knows less about something than you do.”

A mentor of mine told me this a few years ago as he was encouraging me to begin writing and speaking. It seems obvious, but it was inspiring. I had always been hesitant to share my opinions until that point because I wasn’t sure whether or not what I had to say would be new or interesting to others. Did I have a unique approach to solving design problems? Was my opinion on worth listening to? Is my solution really the best out there?

What I failed to realize was that I didn’t need to solve the internet’s problems with a few blog posts or talks, and neither do you. No one becomes web royalty after one blog post. (Okay, maybe some people.) Get over those initial fears and share what you’re knowledgeable and feel passionate about, even if it seems simple or obvious to you. Chances are, it will be new and interesting to someone out there.


Overcoming your fear of the terminal, digital marketing, copywriting, users, and sharing is no small feat – but once you have, you will certainly find yourself a more well-rounded and valuable designer.


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16 Responses to “5 Things Web Designers are Afraid of but Shouldn’t Be”

  1. Hi Allison! What an awesome article! I included it in our Resource Round up this month http://www.wiredtree.com/blog/novembers-best-web-designdevelopment-cms-security-content/

  2. Really great points on web design.

  3. very cool stuff love it…can someone please invite me on dribbble i would like to share and get feedback about my work.

  4. Good points, especially 2. Digital Marketing, i must say that your not a designer unless you learn it. I you design only to be nice, what is the point. The idea behind design is to work. If it’s a website it has to convert. Learn the psychology behind, learn why people do certain things and why the react in a specific way because of certain stuff, everything matter.

  5. Dan Carpenter on November 22, 2013 at 9:13 pm said:

    Allison, great article, very informative. I was wondering if you could recommend where I could find more information on digital marketing. Any books or websites you could point out would be greatly appreciated.

    • Jenny Chan on November 26, 2013 at 12:10 am said:

      I am a devoted follower of Information Highwayman (http://informationhighwayman.com/) and KISSmetrics blog. Another very helpful resource is to read books on persuasion and psychology / behavioural economics. After all, if you don’t know what makes people tick and motivate their actions, how will you know how to convince them?

  6. Ah sharing, it’s all fun and games until you meet someone who mistakes discussing with telling you what should/has to be changed 🙂

  7. Actually, copywriting was one of the things I’m not really afraid of, but I think I’m just unsure of doing. But I learned that the more I read, the more my writing skill improves. Thanks so much for your post! Never been afraid of the terminal due to my former work. 🙂

  8. All great points. I’m certainly guilty of most of them

  9. nice write up please keep it up

  10. When I first started as a print designer 2 years ago, I really did not pay attention to the content I was designing for. Soon I realized that I really needed to read the content in order to make a relevant degin. Then I started sutdying best copywriting practice and poncuations. (there is so many rules in my native language : french.) Now it’s a big part of my job, I can not send a work with spelling mistakes in it.

    I recommend “The Elements of Typographic Style” written by Robert Bringhurst. This really is the bible on typography and copywriting.

  11. Great post Allison, thanks!
    No 5, most definitely!!!
    You hit the nail on the head when you said . . . “did I have a unique approach to solving design problems? Was my opinion on worth listening to? Is my solution really the best out there?”
    This industry is new to me (career change) and I’m trying to learn so much and for that reason, I keep schtum!
    Maybe I should engage more, what’s the worst that can happen? Everyone has to start somewhere right?

  12. So many good points. Terminal!?! Ahh scary but thanks for advising it I’ll check it out. Blogging is a great way to give back even if we aren’t the best writers. I agree.

    • Thanks Kris! Check out Tommy’s course on Git, it’s a great introduction! Having someone help you set it up and explain what exactly repositories are, what it means to push and commit… makes the whole concept easier to grasp than reading through the documentation on your own. Good luck!

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