How to Become a Web Designer in 2020: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide - OnlinebizBooster

How to Become a Web Designer in 2020: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Are you planning to switch to a more in-demand and high-paying career? You should try your hand at web design.

Now, before you say I know nothing about websites and whatnot, you should take a pause and reconsider. Don't give up the idea just yet.

It's true that learning how to become a web designer is not easy or quick, but it's not that difficult either. The path to acquiring the necessary web designer skills will have curves along the way. Once you learn, however, you'll be going where the money is.

how to become a web designer_web design pictures

First, let's answer a couple of important questions that are sure to be running around your head.

Is web design highly in-demand?

It would greatly benefit you if your career choice provides plenty of work opportunities, after all.

Well, according to the ABS Labour Force Survey, job openings for a web designer and graphic designer are predicted to increase above average based on the history of its growth.

From November 2012 to November 2019, employment rose strongly between 25,001 and 50,000. The unemployment rate is also low.

Now, let's look at it from the other end of the spectrum - the number of potential clients. A 2018 research revealed that 73% of businesses are investing in web design to make their brands stand out. Also, 6 out of 10 small businesses have yet to have their website built.

From an e-commerce perspective, over 2.24 billion customers all over the world are expected to go online to buy goods and services. You can get a lot of clients from these selling points alone. So, yes, you can definitely make money working as a web designer.

How much money are we talking about exactly?

A web designer earns an average of anywhere from $42,934 to $66,240 a year, according to job search engine indeed. Rates vary based on location and skill level.

web design salaries

A senior web designer is paid more than an entry-level designer. A web designer in San Francisco earns more than someone working for clients in L.A. A freelance website designer, however, has more opportunities to rack up their earnings because they're in control of how many projects they can tackle.

Have those numbers convinced you to take the steps on how to learn web design?

Good. You made the right decision.

Brace yourself, this is going to be a long one, but definitely worth the time spent.

Of course, we're giving you the option to jump to sections you're more interested in.

There are a lot of topics covered here that are sure to help in your journey to becoming a website designer. I sorted out the most important details and made them accessible to you.

Let's get started, shall we?

Designers vs. Developers: What’s the difference?

Before anything else, let's differentiate a web designer from a web developer.

They are not the same. Not at all.

Because the terms are often used interchangeably, they get mixed up, and people often mistake a freelance website developer for a designer and vice versa. The fact is...

web designer and web developer

source: (

Web designers

  • Design the homepage layout
  • Conceptualize website branding and other design aspects
  • Create/edit photos, videos, and other visual elements
  • Organizes information flow and webpage hierarchy
  • Design graphics

Web developers

  • Build contact forms
  • Create custom code, front-end and/or back-end coding
  • Create a mobile app
  • Fix issues on hosting or on the server
  • Handles the functional aspect of a website operation
  • Ensure responsiveness of a website

As you can see, the path on how to become a web developer is different from how someone wants to become a web designer.

With that out of the way, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of how to become an expert in web page design. 

Types of website designers

While they're all called website designers, the tasks they focus on or specialize in distinguish one designer from another.

Website designs change with the times and user behavior, much like anything else online and related to technology.

design layout

As of this writing, there are more than 10 popular types of websites, including blog, e-commerce, nonprofit, and portfolio websites. All these are built using different styles--flat, responsive, emotional, or integrated with voice or purposeful animation.

Most web designers identify themselves with the type of website they build. Some, however, specialize in certain aspects of web design: 

  • Functionality
  • User Experience
  • Content Design
  • Visual Design
  • Interactive Design

Because web designers can choose to take on more responsibilities, their roles vary. More often than not, they not only focus on how to make a site but also on how to make it work as intended, monitor, and modify when needed.


Web designers who specialize in creating functional sites seamlessly integrate visual designs with a range of functions.

A good example is Amazon, a sleek website that can perform a range of operations, from product search to checkout. It's also one of those websites that are constantly updated as new products come in and inventory changes.


User Experience (UX)

The goal for such a website is to ensure a successful end product based on user response and experience when using the site.

A good UX designer will develop information architecture, content hierarchy, wireframes, and prototypes. They then test the prototype, build personas, and identify solutions to ensure positive experience and engagement from visitors.

One of their essential web designer skills is to predetermine the quickest path for online users to find the information they need, resulting in more signups or subscriptions.

Content Design

This type of web designer focuses on content dynamics or whether it's static/fixed. The web page design they tackle will also touch into optimizing the website for all devices, depending on the target market.

If a site caters to people who access it using computers and smartphones, the design should be responsive or changes with the screen size used.

responsive design

Visual Design

The ability to select a webpage's style guide, including font sizes, colors, and paragraph structures and the overall User Interface (UI) design is a valuable skill every web designer must-have.

It's a special ingredient in the recipe for a web designer.  A good visual designer also helps ensure style guides are developed consistently by working closely with a website developer, freelance or otherwise.

Interactive Design

This is where user behavior is used as a centerpiece for all aspects of design to achieve better website engagement. This type of designer creates engaging interfaces based on well-thought-out user behaviors.

  • What do the buttons look like?
  • Should the buttons change when you hover over them?
  • What menu buttons will appeal most to the target users?

This list is not exhaustive and it's likely to change as new data comes in. It does provide a good idea into the kind of design approach freelance website designer can follow and apply.

What type of web designer do you want to be? 

Do you need to go to school to become a web designer?

Here's a question that always comes up every time you search about regarding a web design career.

The short answer is no.


Of course, there's a "but!" And for several reasons, one of which is the kind of designer a client wants to hire.

web design school

Some clients would prefer to hire someone who's had formal education over the self-taught guy.

Therefore, if you studied web design in university or even through short-term programs, you have a sharper edge.

Other employers are in specific fields that require someone with a bachelor's degree, whether related to web design or not. These include information and cultural industries, finance and insurance, and computer systems design and related services.

If you have a web design degree, you have more chances of getting hired.

See, here's the thing...

A formal education

  • Makes you eligible for a project where a degree is an essential qualification.
  • Provides you with a solid foundational knowledge that is sure to last even when the trends and practices in web design change. Your knowledge in CSS, for example, will remain useful even in the age of online website builders.
  • Lets you learn through structured courses and curriculum for more effective learning and better accountability to pursue formal training.
  • Increases work options and opportunities. This is definitely worth repeating.
  • Offers possible assistance in finding work, depending on your school or institution.
design certificate

Being self-taught

  • Keeps you versatile and flexible in an industry that is ever-changing.
  • Is your ticket on how to learn web design at a lower cost and in a way that's most convenient for you.
  • Lets you focus on certain aspects of website design, effectively cutting down time spent on learning.

In either situation, you have the option to work as a freelance website designer while studying and to gain real-world experience that is sure to make your resume and portfolio stand out.

Now, which option gets you closer to your goal of designing websites for money?

It depends on the length of your training or the program you pursue. Formal education can range between 2 and 4 years.

You can be a web designer in 6 months or less or in a year or two or four. 

Different tools a web designer needs

It wasn't long ago when learning how to design a website involved the use of tools such as Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Panic Coda, Adobe Flash, and the like. The birth of website builders changed the process of web page design.

Nowadays, creating a site through website builders is all done online, making it more convenient for designers. The software also eliminates the need to code or to constantly check how a layout will render online since you get an instant preview.

website elements

Just hit the preview button.

Simply put, a website builder handles all the technical stuff so you don't have to. Now you can just focus on user experience, responsiveness, and the like.

You only need to drag and drop the various elements of a page.

Learning some coding, such as HTML and CSS, remains beneficial though as this allows you to experiment with a site's capabilities and limitations.


As a website designer, there are 3 main things you need - a website builder, graphic content creator, and a web design wireframe tool, which helps you map out what the UX (user experience) of a website will be for the end-user. 

Some tools every freelance website designer must have 

Website Builders

Available free and paid, this website builder has a host of pre-built designs to choose from that allows easy integration of animations and other features you want to add. It also comes with an Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) smart assistant that will teach you how to make a site that is appropriate for your target audience.


Among the top 10 million websites, 33% of the share is made by WordPress, which indicates how popular this website builder is. With WordPress, you choose from thousands of templates and more than 55,000 plugins. These give you complete control of your site and allows for easy integration of third-party tools.


This all-in-one platform offers a fully hosted solution where you can create sales funnels and landing pages that convert. It has a drag-and-drop webpage editor, templates and pre-defined funnel sets, e-Commerce functionalities, and so much more.

For more details, study my Clickfunnels review.


This tool is not just an online business builder but also a marketing platform that boasts of a myriad of features and functionalities. This is what you need to create and promote your client's website at the same time.

Drag and drop the necessary features on a customizable template and perform heat mapping or split testing when needed. Build sales funnels, membership sites, and connect the built-in autoresponder.

If you want to know more about Builderall, check my Builderall review.


Established by Genesis Digital, Kartra is a professional all-in-one platform created to support individuals who wish to leverage their marketing strategies and campaigns. It was authored by Andy Jenkins and Mike Filsaime.

Kartra features a wide array of handy tools. They are mainly used for marketing campaigns, lead generation, lead conversion, and brand awareness. It comes with done-for-you campaigns as well. These templates are marketing strategies designed with the help of Frank Kern and other marketing experts.

For more information, study my Karta review.


Considered as one of the best website builders available, Squarespace lets you create classy and visually appealing websites that you can edit on mobile. Any changes made syncs offline. It has a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor and lets you switch templates with ease at any point.

Available in free and paid versions, Weebly is popularly used for online businesses and offers a fully hosted platform. It's the perfect choice for responsive web design because of its wide selection of responsive templates that are highly customizable. This website builder also prioritizes SEO and provides designers with useful SEO guides.


Graphic Content Creators

This powerful tool boasts of a huge library of pre-built elements that you can use to create a wide range of graphics such as posters, presentations, infographics, and book covers. Customize a project with ease using Canva's drag-and-drop editor.


This cloud-based tool for creating graphics lets you craft and share visual content quickly and easily. Built to be simple to learn and use, you can use it to enhance images, create impressive content marketing visuals, and generate stunning posts for social media.


A content graphics creator that is considered the easiest to use because of its drag-and-drop features and readymade templates. Use it to create blog images, banner ads, and visual elements for social media.


Photoshop is often used in creating a flat web page design. Use it to apply effects, combine different images, edit images, and add text.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) 

This open-source and free raster graphics editor lets you edit and retouch images, draw free-form, convert from one different image format to another, and other specialized tasks. It can be used on various operating systems, including Android because it's a cross-platform image editor.


Web Design Wireframe Tools

This low-fidelity wireframing tool lets you develop the foundational ideas of a website as if you're sketching on a notepad. You can create a quick design mockup by simply dragging and dropping icons, symbols and other items. It is easily integrated with Confluence, Google Drive, and Jira.


This online, cloud-based wireframe tool is used to plan and build a website and then share it with other collaborators. It has a huge library of icons, shapes, stickers and other mockup components.


Use this tool to create prototypes that are fully interactive and with high fidelity without the need to code. This lets you see exactly what an app looks like so you can modify it before releasing it to the wild.

These are just some of the tools that make web design quicker and easier for designers. Do your own research and find out which ones will help you become a designer that is highly in-demand. 

For a complete list of digital marketing tools, study my article: The 61 best tools for digital marketing to grow your business


Essential web designer skills you must have

The trick on how to learn web design is to acquire the necessary skills that will make you a reliable and excellent designer. With the right skills, creating a responsive web design or something entirely unique will not be a problem.

Skills like PHP, HTML, and CSS are beneficial, but they're no longer a must nowadays due to drag-and-drop website builders and CMS.

Learning the basics of those codes will suffice.

What you need to become a successful web designer are a few tech and soft skills. 

Tech Skills

UX (User Experience)

How to make a site that resonates with your client's target audience requires you to understand how people feel when using a website and their behavior towards a particular product or service.

This will help you design a page from a user-first perspective, creating personas and the right path that users will take to generate leads and convert to sales.

For example, find out if most website visitors want to jump right to connecting via social media, or are they keen on opting-in for a subscription. You can then use the data to build wireframes complete with components that are essential to user experience.

Visual Design

The look and feel of a website are often determined by different design principles, such as color theory, grid systems, proportions, and typography. This is where skills in visual design come in handy.

Learn how to create type hierarchy and mood boards. Experiment with different color schemes and web fonts. 

visual design

Design Platform

Learn how to use design software and website builders to their full potential. Find out which tools let you deliver a responsive web design that a target audience will respond to and engage with enthusiastically.

Identify which design platform will help you complete projects the quickest time possible without sacrificing the output quality.

Soft Skills

To be a successful freelance website designer, you must have the skills that will help you stay organized and deliver projects on time.

You should also know how to properly deal with clients, react to criticisms appropriately, and establish and maintain good client relationships. 



It's impossible to be a good website designer without proper communication.

How else can you get your point across or discuss with clients their visual ideas and collaborate with them while a project is underway?

You must know how to...

  • Pitch ideas
  • Explain what you've created
  • Update clients on the progress of the project
  • Turn down certain requests without alienating a client

Through all these, you must listen effectively to avoid misunderstandings. The goal is to get your point across in any situation.

Time Management

One of the most important web designer skills, especially freelancers, is proper time management. To be a standout in your career, you must stay on top of your schedule.

This is made easier with all the productivity apps and tools that you can use, such as a calendar, task list, and project tracking tools.

It is important that you know how to prioritize and track your projects to stay sane in the hectic world of web design. 


Client or Business Management

Isn't one of the end goals of web page design is to earn from it?

This is why you must learn the skills to ensure a profitable and sustainable business.

It's as simple as having an idea about your goals and finances and making a plan to ensure healthy cash flow and project backlog in the short and long term. 

How to become a web designer: different steps you’ll take

Now that you know if you need to go to school, and the necessary tools and skills needed to build a website, it's time to get started.

Showcase your skills as a website designer

What better way to sell yourself than to create your own website that displays your skills in design, layout and structuring, graphic content, user experience, and basic coding?

Your own website is also the best way to establish your virtual presence and show your clients what you're capable of.

Don't stop at creating a professional website. Work to get your site ranking on search engine results as well. The higher your site is ranked as valuable and authoritative, the more trusts you'll gain.

Choose to work freelance or for an agency

A freelance website designer works remotely and enjoys flexible hours. They earn higher pay, depending on the number and cost of projects handled.

Working for an agency, on the other hand, ensures a flow of regular clients for regular paychecks. You also enjoy the comfort of a support system you can rely on.

If you choose to go freelance, you'll need to build a brand to help you sell yourself.

More on this later.

pros and cons of freelancing

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Keep learning...web design is ever-changing

It's not enough to know how to become a web designer, you must also constantly evolve with industry changes.

  • Stay updated on trends and best practices
  • Constantly update your skills
  • Critique your own approach and improve where needed
  • Read resources, blog posts, and authority sites on website design
  • Gain experience and as many contracts as possible.

By staying updated with your knowledge and skills, you can keep up with the changes and offer your clients the best and the latest in web design.

Why every web designer must have a portfolio

Think of a portfolio as the marketing material that businesses use to raise awareness and sell their brand. It backs your claim as a professional or expert in web page design.

It's your best tool to convince clients to hire you or influence their decision in your favor.

Potential clients want to see your work and past projects so they'll get a good idea of what to expect if and when they work with you.

An online portfolio is especially vital to a freelance website designer as it not only provides work samples but also examples of your design style. For novice web designers, a portfolio is the first thing most prospective clients look for.


Put simply, it's what you need to get more work and projects.

Isn't that one of the reasons you want to know how to become a web designer in the first place?

For the maximum impact that will result in more leads, create an effective website design portfolio.

It should meet the following criteria: 

  • Presents your talent and style in the best possible way
  • Attracts the maximum number of prospects.
  • Easy to use and navigate through.
  • Encourages visitors to become clients.
  • Contains your contact information and other means to connect with you.

Your portfolio is the first point of contact, so make sure it has all the elements that will encourage prospects to speak to you.

What should your portfolio look like?

On the design aspect

  • Animations
  • Bold fonts
  • Bright colors
  • Illustrations
  • Logo, etc. 

Use whatever tools you have to convince clients that you have the web designer skills they're looking for.

On the content aspect

  • Samples of your work
  • Image galleries
  • Video presentations
  • Photo slideshows, etc.
  • About page
  • Testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Call to action
  • Blog and syndication

The content you include depends on the purpose of your portfolio. If you want to be hired, for example, testimonials will provide the foundation for your client to trust you.

Once your portfolio is done, get it out there. 

  • Join social media groups
  • Network and ask for referrals
  • Offer your web page design services to local businesses
  • Scour the web for people who have yet to switch to responsive web design and offer to do it for them
  • Sign up to freelance job sites

Don't sit and wait for potential clients to see your online portfolio. Reach out to them and sell your skills as a web designer.

Best freelance job sites for web designers

The gig or freelance economy is growing bigger and faster. In the US alone, there are 57 million freelance workers in 2019, according to a study on the independent workforce that is commissioned by the Freelancers Union and Upwork.

Click the image to open full size + 

freelancing in america

This represents 35% of the workforce in the US.

The steady growth is spurred by technology, positive perceptions of freelancing, and the choice to work independently. Align with this is the increasing number of online job sites for freelance workers.

As a website designer, some of the best places to find work this year are:

Designed primarily for graphic design jobs, Designhill lets you meet clients who are specifically looking for the kind of skills you're offering. Transparent upfront pricing makes this freelance website a popular choice.


This is where companies have their banners, logos, and websites made, giving you the best platform to find projects to work on. What makes this an awesome job site is that designers receive an award if their work is selected.

Find WordPress-related projects on this site. Aside from freelance, there are also full-time and intern positions available.

This site connects a freelance website developer and designer with great companies. It doesn't matter if you're new to web design or an expert, you're sure to find opportunities here.


This is a job board for creative professionals. It also serves as a career resource and even allows members to build a portfolio right on the website.

On this site, creative professionals post their portfolios, while design firms post job openings. It bridges the gap between the two parties and makes a good match.

Promote yourself as a freelance website designer and find projects in a collaborative space. Get the opportunity to work with some of the biggest companies, including Airbnb and Microsoft.


Choose from thousands of jobs that will kickstart your freelancing journey. Use this platform to build your portfolio and gain reviews and testimonials.

This is the best place to look for a range of freelance jobs, including web design. Because jobs are not restricted to certain locations, there are plenty of opportunities available for you.


It's important to sign up for a good number of freelance job sites to maximize your reach. Start with web-design-focused platforms and then spread out. 

How web design changed due to the drag & drop website builders

In the past, the path to becoming a web designer involved learning how to use a range of software and tools for different design elements.

HTML or CSS for coding. Dreamweaver for coding, designing and publishing websites. Photoshop to create or edit images.


The introduction of website builders has significantly simplified web design. Think of them as a pre-built home where the necessary elements are already in place before you move into it.

A website builder turns visual and content elements into CSS, HTML or JavaScript files that are easily integrated into a website. Some are even bundled with hosting, storage, and other features. What's even better is that hosting is automatically calibrated and optimized.

With this software, there's no need to code. You only need to drag and drop different content and visual elements to build a website and they will render in a browser.

Website builders are the best thing to ever happen to a freelance website designer.

But is it the best solution for you? After everything you went through to learn web design, right?

Well, it depends on your knowledge, skills, needs, and goals as a web designer.

A website builder is great for many reasons.

  • Convenience and speed
  • Everything for a single price 
  • Predictable monthly fees
  • Tailored customer support

Moreover, website updates are handled at the provider's end.

Which website builder should you use?

The best one should work for your style, has all the features that matter for you, and can produce HTML and CSS files that are crawlable, indexable, and readable.

So choose wisely.

For more information, check out my guide - Best Sales Funnel Builders

Additional resource

Select Columns Layout

The Most Common Website Design Mistakes You Should Avoid | Top Web Design Mistakes

Ready to be the next big website designer?

Don't delay!

Now that you have all the information you need on how to become a web designer, put it to good use.

Equip yourself with the necessary web designer skills and then start promoting yourself as a trusted freelance website designer, creator of a functional, engaging and responsive web design extraordinaire.

Give these tips a try and tell me all about the progress and successes you made.

Did it lead you to the right path? Is your portfolio attracting clients? Did you get hired from any of the freelance job sites you joined in?

Leave your comments below. Let's celebrate your success!


About the Author

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.