You’ve carved out a career as a Web designer. It took a lot of training and learning new skills, but you persevered. Congratulations. Now what? Even if you’re right in the middle of a sweet gig, you should be aware that there will always be a new batch of designers nipping at your heels. Yes, they will be looking to take that very job you’re in.
How can you avoid that? By staying competitive as a designer. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and find a better job – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Keeping up with the industry and reading some of the many blogs out there will help give you an edge on how to stay current. However, you need to embrace some traits that might not be part of your current skillset in order to stay competitive. Here are five traits that will help you become a competitive designer.
1. Become an Active Listener
“The customer is always right.” You’ve probably heard that oft-used phrase. It is said by a manager to anyone who works directly with a consumer. It is also a concept you have to surrender to as a Web designer. This doesn’t mean the customer knows about programming and graphic arts, but they know what they like. If you show them something that isn’t catching their eye, then it is your job to come up with another option. There is where being an active listener is vital. Customers are probably telling you exactly what they want. Are you hearing that?
2. Become Empathetic for the End User
A visit to a website is an active experience for users. They might be looking for information or for something to buy. You can’t lose track of the fact that a first-time visitor needs to feel at ease navigating through the site to find what they’re looking for. If you overwhelm a page with a lot of fancy graphic bells and whistles, you could alienate a large swath of the user population. Try to put yourselves into the shoes of that first-time user. Is your design welcoming or intimidating?
3. Become a Team Player
If you’re working at a company, then you’re part of a team. Sure, you might spend most of your work hours in your cubicle toiling away at your design job, but there are plenty of co-workers doing the same thing. Don’t become so insulated that you don’t notice what is going on. If you find some new application or design element, then share it with the team. Being a person who’s great to work with will carry you far in this business.
4. Become Even More Detail-Oriented
A big design project can become overwhelming. There are a lot of moving parts you need to stay on top of. Just because you’ve made some earlier designs that scored points doesn’t mean you can slack off. The phrase “good enough” should never enter into your lexicon. Outstanding and exceptional are what you should always be striving for, and that means paying attention to details throughout the entire design process.
5. Become a Student Again
Just because you know enough to get the job done doesn’t mean you know everything. Advancements happen in this industry on a daily basis. It is vital you stay on top of things. Not only will you have to follow design trends – hopefully you’ll be making a few of your own – but you should also seek out further certification in your field. Take that extra course. Read that new manual. Experiment on your off hours. Staying ahead of the curve isn’t a cliché; it should be your operating philosophy as a Web designer.
Now that you know how to be competitive, are you ready to give it your all?