Welcome to the
Ultimate Guide
to Web Design

Whether you’re already a web design hobbyist considering going pro, or you’re just looking to break into a new field, this guide to web design success is packed with important resources.

These resources will help build the mindset and skills needed to work either as a freelance web designer, or to score a full-time job in the industry.

You will find links to tutorials, articles to help you determine whether freelancing or working for a company are the best choice for you, lists of programs essential for beginning web designers, and entire websites devoted to important principles like User Experience Design.

The most important thing to remember when choosing to be a professional web designer is that doing it is the most important thing.

Every designer needs a stellar portfolio. The field of web design changes from day to day. Do not wait until you have learned everything to begin designing websites.

The best way to learn is by doing it, so start immediately. As soon as you learn the basics, begin designing sites. Once you design a site and you learn more, go back and revise previous projects.

Always be starting a new project when you begin learning new techniques, then go back and improve previous projects. This way once you have learned enough to begin soliciting potential clients, you will have a strong portfolio of work to showcase your skills.

Brought to you by



What is a Web Designer?

First of all, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of what a web designer does. It’s also important to consider the differences between web design and web development. While some individuals want to become freelance developers, others may want to score a job with a web design company, or with a design department within a major corporation. Below are links to some definitive articles that explain the pros and cons of each of these career paths.


Graphic Design for the Web

Graphic design is an important component of web design. Creating pleasing, sleek graphics that won’t take ages to load is essential. In the age of broadband, no one wants to wait a long time to load a web page. We’ve compiled resources that describe the most important principles of graphic design relating to the web, along with tutorials that explain the basics of using Photoshop, the industry standard in graphic design, to design perfect images for use on the Internet.


Learning HTML and CSS

A grasp of HTML and CSS, the languages that drive the basic visual presentation of any website, is essential for web designers. Without fluency in these areas, a web designer will be confined to producing cookie-cutter websites.


Scripting Languages (Javascript, JQuery, PHP)

Extensive knowledge of Javascript, JQuery, and PHP is not necessary for every web designer. However, a basic understanding of the capacities of these tools can go a long way toward helping a designer create designs that make full use of the power of these languages. Javascript and PHP are scripting languages. JQuery is a Javascript Library with pre-written scripts that can be used by any website for free. Fluency in these areas can be helpful in your professional career. Well-rounded candidates are in demand, and you could be more likely to land a higher-paying job. Here are some tutorials and informational websites that will allow you to begin building a knowledge base.



MySQL is the standard open source database technology used on the Internet. As with scripting languages, an extensive knowledge is not necessary for designers. However, it is important to know the correct circumstances in which to implement the technology. These MySQL resources will serve to educate you on the basic applications, and some of the resources will be perfect for designers looking for a more in depth understanding of MySQL. The in-depth sources will be especially useful for designers seeking to cross over from design to development.


The Web Designer's Toolbox

Adobe Creative Suite products are the standard in the web design business. On a fundamental level, a deep understanding of Photoshop and Flash are important. InDesign and Fireworks are also useful tools. Dreamweaver is the best WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor that also provides powerful tools for hand coding. The choice between whether or not to use a WYSIWYG editor is up to you, and a controversial subject in the industry. Dreamweaver can provide the best of both worlds. There is also a cloud based hand coding tool listed here called C9 which has strong collaboration tools, but no WYSIWYG component. Below is a list of strong core development tools, the links provided are to basic tutorials by the associated software developer to help get you started.


User Experience (UX)

User Experience (UX) is king on the Internet in the modern age. With so many websites to choose from, there is little incentive for users to return to a website that is confusing, poorly laid out, or unattractive in its design. Thus understanding the fundamental principles of User Experience design is one of the most important components of a successful career in web design. Below are some premier resources for UX design theory that feature articles written by the best UX Design gurus in the business.


Premium (paid) Training

While they can’t provide the same credentials as you’d receive by earning a degree at an accredited university, paid online training can help provide a jumpstart in areas where you need to develop your skills. The best of these offerings are continually updated to reflect the latest in web design approaches and techniques. These sites allow you to learn what you need to learn when you need to learn it.


Teachers and Gurus

Some of the most influential and prominent designers in the history of the Internet have become the go-to gurus and teachers of web design in the world. Many of them have founded websites designed to be communities for creative people of all levels of experience. Others have done empirical research regarding user experience design. The five individuals listed below are some of the most important figures in the web design industry. They are designers, authors, researchers, and speakers.


Get Inspired

This collection of websites is intended to serve as inspiration. These sites are paragons of design and showcase powerful implementation of cutting edge technology and design philosophy. While some highlight how to integrate branding into the design of a website, others demonstrate what a web designer’s blog should look like, and still others are the websites of high profile design companies in the business. Study these sites, examine the code, and take copious notes.



Capability in technical fields like web design is often measured both through a prospective freelancer or job applicant’s portfolio and their certifications. Certifications come in many forms. Below are some of the standard certifications for website design that will help boost the credibility of your resume. Once you’ve built a portfolio and have learned what you need to learn to do the job, consider getting certified by one of these companies, some of them even have services to help you find work.


Resources for Getting a Job

Getting a steady job as a web designer can be challenging. Every company has unique needs, and a unique set of attributes they look for in a designer. These resources are intended to help get you started down the path finding your dream job in web design.

Final Thoughts

There is no “best” way to become a professional web designer. The paths often differ radically.

Self-motivated individuals can teach themselves what they need to know with free resources found on the Internet.

For those in need of more structure, there are a wide variety of online (non-degree) training programs that will provide that structure and a great sense of accomplishment at every stage of learning.

And then there are accredited degree programs providing rigorous training and the credentials that come along with earning a degree.