Tips for Print Designers Looking to Go into Web Design
I've recently shifted gears quite a bit in my professional life. Extenuating circumstances dictated that shift to a certain degree, but there's no doubt in my mind that it was only a matter of time before my career took a turn from static print design into the realm of interactive and dynamic design.
Let's face it: with the rising costs of labor and materials print media is facing these days, and the sudden emergence of technologies that aim to replace the printed page a as a medium, it seems as though it's the destiny of the entire market. Here's what I've learned so far:
Decide what it is you want to do, exactly. Do you want to [i]just[/i] design websites? What interests you about the web, if anything? If you're not sure, surf around, and see what sorts of pages you tend to spend the longest amount of time at. Is it the visual style? The animation? The in-depth application nature? As web development grows as a field (and economically) and become more complex, there's going to be a greater need for people who understand individual parts of web design very well. (There is a caveat to this: eventually, as web design and building becomes streamlined with applications -- think Dreamweaver -- there's going to be more of a need of individuals who can take on a variety of tasks. Leave this to the experience you'll be getting in the workforce.)
Don't try everything at once. It can be easy to become overwhelmed and drop the thing entirely. Make a small page. Add on something you think you might like. Add on something else. Then something else. So on and so forth. You learn a lot this way, and eventually you'll have the basic framework for a website that you can use again and again in your development tasks.
If you have a question, search for it. Odds are someone else has asked the exact same question, and it's sitting in a forum somewhere collecting dust. If you're at a point where you get the basics of what you're working on, you can learn a lot by implementing some of the things that other people have tried.
In graphics and design, you save often. On the web, you back up often. If your website is working fine, but you want to add a new tweak or bit of code for additional functionality, back the page up that you want to edit, so you have an original, pre-useless version of the page available just in case you need to wipe the slate clean. It's the same reason you keep that backup layer of the picture you're adjusting in photoshop. It can be extremely difficult trying to remember what it was that you added/deleted/edited on a page, and if it doesn't work, this can create hours of frustration trying to weed things out. The web doesn't have a history or a cmd-z, so definitely keep a copy.
Don't reinvent the wheel. This goes back to what I said above about questions. You can't imagine how many websites there are out there, and how many are exactly like the one you want to build. Don't kill yourself over something that is relatively simple and has been done 1,000,000 times already. Do you need a bbcode parser for your online blog? Don't build it from scratch; there's ones here, here, and here. I found all of those in like 5 seconds. Take your pick. If you're just starting out in web design, there are so many resources out there to get you up to speed, you really should be paying for it.
Try your code over and over again. Just as you might hold up your design in various ways to see if it breaks down in certain viewings, put your code and website through rigor. It will keep your designs and your code in tip-top shape.
Most of all, don't get discouraged. I graduated college with a degree in journalism, only to find that the world didn't need writers. I've been working in print design now for 5 years, and am now finding that the world is needing those less and less, as well. You've got a lot of work ahead of you, but you can make it happen. The web is just a new way of doing what you've done best, and will also afford you a lot of great opportunities to let your designs be seen by a lot of people, and come to life. Good luck and take care. If you have any questions or maybe want some more advice you don't see here, feel free to contact me.
Tags: design, print, web, tips, career, switching, list
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