Top 10 Must-Have Web Designer Job Skills

Grow your career as you add new, relevant skillsets

The web design and development industry is a growing profession that is attractive for a number of reasons. With so many companies and organizations depending on their online presence these days, the people who design, develop, and manage their websites are in high demand — a trend that is unlikely to change anytime soon. 

Whether you are just starting out as a web designer or web developer or are looking to change careers and become a web professional, there are some key skills that you need if you hope to be successful in this industry. The following list of skills, both technical and otherwise, represents some of these primary domains of knowledge that you should add to your repertoire as your career progresses.

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HTML code laid out on a page

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HyperText Markup Language is the very foundation of how websites are built. It's one of the most important things a web designer or web developer can learn, which is why it is one of the first things you will learn. Even if you intend to use WYSIWYG (which stands for what you see is what you get) editors or a CMS for most of your career, knowing HTML will give you an understanding of how those tools work and give you so much more control over your work. This knowledge will also ensure that if you do need to work outside of those editors, you have the ability to do so. 

Anyone doing professional work on the web today has a solid understanding of HTML. Even if they don't use it in their normal job functions, they understand this basic markup language.

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CSS stylesheet laid out on a page

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While HTML dictates the structure of sites, Cascading Style Sheets handle their visual appearance. As such, CSS is another vital tool that web designers — particular designers and front-end developers — must learn. 

For many web professionals, CSS is learned alongside HTML since the two languages are really the combination that builds the structure and style basis for any web page.​

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Design Sense

Female design professional using computer at home

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Having a good sense of design is important for web professionals who fall more into the "designer" category. There is a lot more to web design than simply knowing which colors look good together. You must be knowledgeable of the elements of design as well as the basic design principles as well as typography best practices, how to use images, layout principles, and more. You'll also need to have an understanding of how real people will interact with a design so that you can make the right decisions to help meet the needs of that site.

While design skills are never a bad thing to have, professionals who are more focused as web developers do not need this skill as much unless they are working as a freelancer and are responsible for all aspects of a site's creation (meaning they are not working with a separate designer).

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JavaScript and Ajax

Close-up of Javascript on computer monitor

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JavaScript is an important interactive element of a website and web developers should be comfortable in JavaScript before they learn any other languages, especially how it interacts with HTML and CSS to create the 3 layers of web design.

Web designers don't need to learn JavaScript unless they are doing front-end development as well — and even then, a basic understanding of JavaScript is often more than enough. Web developers should learn JavaScript as it plays a critical role in many ​websites and web applications today. Anyone engaged in back-end development is likely to be very comfortable with JavaScript.

JavaScript works with XML files and communicates asynchronously with a web server through an approach called Ajax. With Ajax, websites load faster and various embedded objects may update without requiring a complete page reload.

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PHP, ASP, Java, Perl, or C++

Hands on keyboard next to iPad and iPhone

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Learning to program web pages requires that you learn at least one or two programming languages. PHP is easily the leader on the web today, in part because it is an open-source language that is embraced by a strong community. If you choose only one language to learn, it should be PHP. The number of resources you will find online for PHP will be very helpful to you.

Web designers don't need to learn a programming language (other than HTML, which is a markup language, not a pure programming language). Web developers must learn at least one and the more you know the more employable and flexible you will be.

Want to make yourself super valuable? Look to learn languages that are still in demand, but which not many people are pursuing these days. If you are qualified in those languages, you will find that there may not be a ton of career opportunities for that skill, but those that do exist are super hard to fill, meaning you will be a premium asset.

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Mobile Support

People on phones with social media icon chalkboard

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On today's web, there are a staggering variety of devices and screen sizes being used. To this end, websites must support this wide range of user devices with responsive websites that are built for this multi-device world.

Being able to design sites that look great are various sizes, and also being able to write media queries to build responsive websites is critical for web professionals today.

Mobile goes beyond just responsive websites. If you can develop mobile applications, especially those that interface with websites, you will be very attractive in our increasingly mobile-centric world.

The line between a web developer and app developer blurs with every passing year.

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Google search engine page with search results displayed on a computer monitor

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Search engine optimization, or SEO, is useful for anyone building websites. There are a number of factors that affect a site's ranking in search engines, from that site's content to its inbound links, to its download speed and performance, and also its mobile-friendliness. All of these factors are ones that a web designer should be mindful of and know how to use to make a site more attractive to engines and more findable to customers.

Both web designers and web developers will have a more desirable resume if they know at least the basics of SEO. Even if the hardcore application of this skill is left to marketing professionals, knowing the basics of SEO is a nice feather in your cap.

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Web Server Administration

Server racks in a data center

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Knowing at least a little about the web server your website is running on can help you solve problems and make your sites run better. Most web designers feel they can ignore the server, but if you know how the server responds to things, then you can build a better site, as well as one that performs better from a performance perspective.

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Project Management

Businesswoman writing in a notebook in front of computer

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Project management is a critical job skill in nearly every industry and web design is no exception. Project management skills help you to kick a project off right, keep it on track, and ensure that a project succeeds. This methodological rigor will endear you to every manager you work with. It will also help move you into more team-manager roles as you look to grow your career.

Both web designers and web developers will benefit from knowing project management. Whether you work in an agency setting or as a freelance web designer, being able to manage a project is an incredibly useful skill. In most cases, you'll use an agile approach, but other PM logic models, like a waterfall, are often employed by very large corporate clients.

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SQL code on black background

Structured Query Language is the scripting tool that interfaces with databases. Although most web designers won't use SQL, many web developers will — and even for designers, understanding the basics of relational database query helps to inform design choices that reduce rework and confusion with developers.

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Your Citation
Kyrnin, Jennifer. "Top 10 Must-Have Web Designer Job Skills." ThoughtCo, Sep. 30, 2021, Kyrnin, Jennifer. (2021, September 30). Top 10 Must-Have Web Designer Job Skills. Retrieved from Kyrnin, Jennifer. "Top 10 Must-Have Web Designer Job Skills." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).