emand for web developers is predicted to increase in the upcoming years, as businesses slowly transition to working exclusively online after the 2020 spike in e-commerce sales.
Web designers are a part of this mix. While nearly 3,000 designers are employed in the Province of Alberta, the demand for more continues.
This article will help you understand why becoming a web designer and developer can benefit you, and what it takes to become a part of the industry. We discuss the following topics:
Websites have come a long way since the first website came out on August 6,1991. British scientist Tim Berners-Lee created the website with information on how to create web pages. It was created to meet the demands for automated information-sharing among universities and institutes around the world. Unlike the simple URLs we know today, Berners-Lee’s website had a more complicated web page address:
But what he did not know then was how much of the world wide web would evolve to become a source of information, business and social connections for people everywhere.
Today, creating a website requires a team of people in complex roles with knowledge and skill sets in the fields of technology and design.
Web development focuses on how a website functions while web design focuses on the look, feel, usability and experience of online users.
A web developer is a programmer who develops web applications using programming languages like HTML/CSS, C#, Ruby and PHP, to name a few. But there are over 100 programming languages available to web developers. A web designer, on the other hand, prepares content for the web. Designers are primarily concerned with the style and layout of text and images on a website, and commonly rely on hypertext and hypermedia resources like HTML, CSS and other web design tools.
In other words, web designer Jesse Showalter explains the difference between the two roles best using a car analogy.
“A web designer would be the person who designs the aesthetics of the car, what the car looks like on the exterior, on the interior, [and] how it feels,” he says. “The web developer would be responsible for all those internal components like the engine, transmission and all the other parts of the car that you don’t even realize you’re using when you’re using it.”
Despite these differences, web developers and designers can either be the same person or work for different teams to achieve the same goals, explains Showalter. Many people in the field do have knowledge of both disciplines and can be found working in different types of organizations or as freelancers.
In Alberta, web designers and developers earn an average hourly wage of $34.62, with the highest wage recorded at $59.08 an hour. While the average Canadian salary is recorded at $54,630 per year, web designers and developers in Alberta earn significantly more with an average annual wage recorded at $69,140, according to ALIS.
Although a degree in computer science usually takes four years to complete, a Web Design and Development Diploma can take anywhere from one to two years. As the demand for web developers and designers grows, so does the availability of educational resources. Online courses, flexible class hours, specialized short programs help many aspiring web designers and developers create their own journey to success as colleges, universities and educational institutions adapt their own programs to meet society’s demands.
While getting the education you need to get hired, it would not be a bad idea to start a freelance career. Any additional experience on top of your education will be a huge advantage you can present to your future employers. Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing for a job interview:
This popular question comes up in any interview. It gives employers a good sense of your professional outlook with a hint of your personal background and inspiration. If you know how to answer the question properly, that is.
Example: “I started creating websites in high school through third party applications. I thought it was a great way to earn some money at that time. When the time came for me to decide what degree to pursue in college, I thought it was an obvious choice to learn more about website creation considering how much fun I had pursuing it as a side job. I immediately fell in love with web development and chose to take extra UX/UI design courses to expand my skills and knowledge of the craft.”
Having a good understanding of your strengths and how it could be an asset to your potential team will show employers that you are self-aware, knowledgeable and confident of your abilities.
Example: “I am very comfortable with programming languages like HTML, C#, Ruby and PHP. Working as a freelancer also gave me the opportunity to successfully work independently, manage my time efficiently and create meaningful results despite working with challenging clients.”
Be honest. Nobody is perfect and employers know that. Recognizing any potential setbacks and acknowledging steps you have taken to change them shows employers that you are constantly growing and improving.
Example: “I, at times, can feel passionate about my work. In the past, when a client has purchased a cheaper web package, I can feel tempted to add in more valuable but expensive features into their website because I do see the value in it. As a freelancer, I can do that. But as an employee, there are boundaries. If our team has discussed the benefits of more expensive web applications and features to the client, and they still refuse due to budget constraints. We will work within the limitations of the package they purchased. Over time, I have learned to make the best out of those limitations and produce clients with websites that I am still proud of.”
Questions like these are another reason why a portfolio and added experience will benefit you in your job search. Talking about project experiences are a good way to learn more about you, what you care about and how you work.
Example: “In my portfolio, you will see the website we created for a prescription service company called J&J. It is an e-commerce site where online users can send their prescriptions to and have medications be delivered to their homes. Employees on the other end of the site deal with the insurance companies and the billing information of the accounts. There is a lot of work required to successfully complete a web project like this and I am proud to have collaborated with both the development and design teams throughout the duration of this project. But I have to say, every team member did equally contribute and that is probably why we were always ahead of our deadlines and ended up making so much more than what we anticipated.”
Learning from your experiences is a big part of any profession. Your ability to contemplate on previous challenges and decide how you can move forward says a lot about your character. If there are no past projects that have disappointed you, then look back to the challenges you have faced during a project and how it made for a valuable learning experience. The point of this question is to see how you have grown through your experiences and challenges.
Example: “I’m not sure if there is a project I delivered that I am truly disappointed by. However, there are moments that come before a project’s fruition that I know could have been handled better. But I am grateful for those experiences because they were great learning opportunities for me and my team. An instance that comes to mind was when my team and I were getting flustered over the little details when we could have directed our attention to the bigger task at hand. This prevented us from meeting our deadlines and forced many to work overtime. Since then, we started setting goals each day and each week for us to reach. That way, we know what our priorities are and what can be set aside indefinitely.”
It’s best to be honest for questions like these. Developers and designers work in independent and collaborative environments. The ability to balance both is essential. However, some workplaces may offer you more creative flexibility than others. So, it is best to be vocal about your preferences and your work process.
Example: “Having worked in the industry for five years, I had the opportunity to work in independent and collaborative environments that provide professionals with a lot of room to creatively experiment with functionality and design. But working as a freelancer, I also worked with clients that have a specific vision which I am more than happy to honour. It is my job to always communicate with the client what they want, need and expect from a web application, work with them on designs, provide a website they can alter and change in the revision process and finalize every detail according to their preferences.”
Designers and developers spend a lot of time explaining their design choices to stakeholders who may not have a good understanding of best design practices. Employers need to see how you can communicate with others to be effective in the role.
Example: “I find it easy to communicate with coworkers because it is usually a team effort to create websites and other web applications. For clients, however, it is a necessary task. I would first suggest various functionality or design concepts, explain why I think certain methods or ideas are more effective than others, ask for suggestions and revisions where necessary, finalize concepts with the team before going to the client for their thoughts and suggestions to our drafted website. I will also rationalize design choices and concepts with the client on the basis of optimizing site usability, effectiveness and user experience.”
Designers gain inspiration from other designers and artists. This question gives employers a peek into your creative process and how it all begins. Allow them to understand the artist within you.
Example: “I am inspired by other people’s work. I’m always on the lookout for innovative websites and trendy designs. Similar to how a writer needs to read a lot to write better. Developers and designers need to expose themselves to good web developments and designs only to discover how they can build upon that.”
This question tests your approach to this vital part of any business model — building strong customer relationships. Do you make assumptions of what a client wants? Or do you communicate with the client on matters that could use their input?
Example: “My first step is to learn more about the client’s project and discover what their vision looks like. I also look into their design preferences, branding style, personality and business goals to have a solid understanding of the perfect website that fits their needs.”
Sometimes, questions about dealing with conflicts at work can pop up during an interview. Be sure, to contemplate on this question, reflect on past experiences and ponder how you were able to overcome these challenges, or what you would do differently.
Example: “In the past, I had disagreements with a few colleagues. Although this is normal, especially in the field of design where many things can be subjective, I’ve learned to not attach myself to my work. I learned to listen and value others' input, rationalize my choices for others to understand me, make the same effort to understand others and always do what serves the project or the client best.”
Web development and design continues to be a sought after program by many students and a profession many employers will continue to depend on. Be sure you are equipped with the right skills to take on the many exciting challenges that come with the role and join others to establish yourselves as key players in this demanding industry.
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