Answered: Are Successful Web Designers Specialists or Well-Rounded?

by 2 10/14/2011

You have an eye for design.

But you have a critical decision to make.

Should you take a deep dive into a single aspect of web design or be a jack-of-all-trades?

We asked the Crazy Egg Design Experts the path they would advise designers to take to achieve web design success.

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To be successful, web designers should always have a philosophy about their coding. Anyone can create HTML by copying and pasting from others’ work or Google; a well-rounded web designer will understand the “why” behind what they do and how they mark up their work. Thinking about semantics, repurposability, and editability by others are all part of the philosophy behind good web design skills.
~ Lara Swanson, Dyn

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On any web team you are going to have a variety of people who specialize in different areas. That being said, it is very important that all team members have an understanding of best practices in web design and development.

All team members should be able to efficiently critique and evaluate the project throughout the process of design and development.
~ Shane Adreon, The Loud Few

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I’ll cop out and say this depends on the person. There are some awesome designers who are comfortable as ‘jack of all trades’ being able to do visual design for the web, dabble in UX and being able to do code, and others who find a niche and stick to it.

My advice is to find out which one you are and move accordingly. Does looking at HTML make you want to pull your hair out? Then don’t spend time being a web designer who can also develop and find team members or friends who compliment your skills. Similarly, does seeing other people implement your design without maintaining your vision, you better start learning CSS.
~ Brian Schwartz, Spoke Marketing

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If you’re going solo, its important to develop your skill sets in wide variety and then specialize in a few key areas. I started out, for example, as a WordPress developer, specializing in WordPress Integrations. I knew how to do a bit of just about everything else and I used that to make my strength, WordPress, even stronger.

If you’re a part of a team, its important that each team member be familiar with the different skill sets required in your line of work and then each member be constantly growing in their strengths and becoming even better at what they do. As a team, though, I think the greatest satisfaction (and money) is in specializing, though the degree will vary.
~ Jonathan Wold, Sabramedia, LLC

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It really depends on how you learn and what your circumstances are. The biggest thing to learn is how to solve problems through design. Attention to detail and listening to people before putting the pen to the paper is the most important thing to learn. Some designers learn by copying designs and figuring out how to reproduce certain aesthetics, but those lessons are much less important than the ones you learn through designing simple solutions for simple problems.
~ Chris Wallace, Lift

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With the industry becoming as saturated as it is, there’s always that notion that you should set yourself apart from the competition somehow – whether it be through the skills you offer or industry experience in a certain niche. I personally feel it advantageous to get your footing in the basics of web design as it pertains to all areas, then decide from there which area your wish to explore more – whether it be Visual Design, Coding, WordPress, or Email Marketing, etc. The industry changes quickly and it’s hard to keep up with all areas of web design, so the more focused you are in one niche, the more you can use it to your advantage.
~ Stephanie Hamilton, Stephanie Hamilton Design

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Web designers can be successful by either being well-rounded or specialized. It all depends on context. However, I feel the environment is critical to point out. For example a well-rounded web designer might be better utilized in a smaller company or agency. This is because resources are limited, and having experience on many different kinds of tasks is very utilitarian. A larger company or agency has enough resources to hire very specific talents. In this scenario, being specialized can be advantageous and demand a higher salary.

The best advice I give to new employees, interns, and designers coming up the ranks is to learn as much as they can. However, at some point, it is best to pick a specific passion and become a master. A jack of all trades is good to start a career, but the highest salaries and benefits go to specialists.
~ Cesar Keller, SimpleFlame

What are your thoughts?  What is the best route for a designer to take?

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2 COMMENTS

Ian

As a jack of all trades, I find working with “specailists” to be the ultimate in frustration, because they have very little sense of context. How to trainslate a design from web to print, from web to email, from web to mobile web…they lack the context that comes from “knowing everything” to some degree.

I am personally addicted to knowing as much as I can about everything, and I realize that not everyone is like that, but I don’t think people can afford to be insular in their professional skills forever, eventually someone like me is going to come and eat your lunch.

October 18, 2011 Reply


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