Asa person who went from having no designer skills to building websites for a living, I think it’s worth sharing some basic principles that helped me become a WordPress web designer. Today I will talk you through some critical skills that one should develop to become a full-time web designer.
If you’ve ever considered becoming a web designer, but you’re not interested in learning to code, now is a great time to give it a try. Why may you ask? The answer is simple – there are so many tools that allow you to design without the back-end knowledge that you can become a WordPress web designer with a bit of imagination and some skills. But to become a successful web designer I would advise you to start with research because there is much more to web design than just translating your vision into a working and functional website using some software (that I will talk about as well).
1. Plan to become a WordPress web designer
First, to build a website you need to have an understanding of who is it for, what features are required and what are your client’s expectations. Don’t have a client yet? Perfect! You don’t want your first website, which is going to be a disaster anyway, affect your confidence. Start small. Does your mum have a hobby? That’s how I started. I had built a website where she could showcase her cat sweaters. I was not ready for e-Commerce yet to sell them to other animal lovers, but I could start with a nice portfolio showcasing her creations (and my basic WordPress web designer skills).
So, whether it’s your mum or a neighbour sit down with them and ask all the questions that you think will be important to build a website. I would discourage you from skipping this step and interviewing yourself. There are certain things you can learn only when you’re surprised. Therefore, interaction with somebody else is the best way to do it. And the good news is that from the very start you can build your first website for free. There is minimal financial risk involved in investing in developing your web design skills, especially at the beginning.
The Importance of a Questionnaire
Check out our basic web design questionnaire that I used at the early stage before Colorpeak was an agency. It does not matter whether you’re a WordPress web designer or developer. If you’re building a website, then you need one. Below, I also included some additional links with other questions that may turn out handy for your project specifically. Be cautious though as too many questions will bore your client. Be accurate but don’t go overboard with three pages of questions. As part of a large marketing agency, there will come a time for fancy shmancy questions about the company’s vision or whether their solutions are better than their competitors. Now you need to know if they have a domain, what colours do they like (or hate), what is the website for and do they have content or do you need to create it.
Remember to use your website creation questionnaire as a guide for your conversation; don’t just send it to them point blank. A discussion is a key to land a client. You will not get them through cold calling or emails. Therefore, you should practice this skill as often as you have an opportunity to do so.
Handy links for building your own Questionnaire
Checklists that cover multiple areas from content to usability to accessibility to standards, you’re a lot less likely to overlook important parts of a site.
A know-how guide explaining what’s important when creating a questionnaire. If you subscribe to their newsletter, you get access to the question list & ready to use form.
But at the very beginning, the technical skills that you need as a WordPress web designer are how to set up a website on a hosting platform and install WordPress on it.
WordPress themes that speed up design process
Start your first website by using one of the WordPress free templates. This will help you learn how it works and what are the principles of working with Gutenberg design engine. To make your website look more appealing there are some themes that offer more flexibility and will allow you to be more creative. These are Divi from Elegant Themes, Elementor or Beaver Builder. You can find out the pros and cons of each one on this YouTube video.
To state the obvious, as a WordPress web designer you will need some graphic design skills. Fortunately, these days there are many free repositories that you can source images from. If you combine them with basic skills of working with Photoshop or Gimp image processing tools you are set. Also, don’t forget to go through some User Experience (UX) guides that will teach you the principles of good web design that will help the visitor of the website enjoy the experience.
When creating a website in 2019, some marketing skills are a must. A WordPress web designer won’t get away without knowing basics of copywriting and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), like keyword research and on-page optimisation. I know many people who would argue with me on that point, but I believe that a competent web designer should have this knowledge.
Content writing – copywriting is the key
You may not have to write content for your website as the client will provide it, but you need to recognise when it’s crap. It’s part of your job to advise your client that they need to hire a better writer. Even better, to leave the copywriting to you (or your trusted freelance copywriter – you will find them on Fiverr and People Per Hour, although it takes few orders before you can find somebody trustworthy).
You will also need to skilfully describe what each page is all about in between 120 and 158 characters in a page description. That requires not only copywriting skills but also some keyword research and SEO knowledge. Fortunately, there are plugins for that! For example, Yoast will not only tell you whether your meta description or page title is too short or too long but also it will score your keyword strength. It will also suggest how to correct your text to make it more readable and point the header tag structure (H1-H3) in relation to the keywords. It’s a great tool. Optimising images is also important, and you need to have tools to decrease image size to speed up page loading time. As a WordPress web designer, you need to know how to add Alt Tags and descriptions and geotag them, which helps with Local SEO.
Keyword research and why is it important
In terms of keywords, clients will often tell you what keyword they want to rank for. Nine times out of ten they will be wrong. Sometimes because the competition is too strong and sometimes because nobody searches for that keyword, so there is no point to rank for it. I have included some articles below that will give you a better grasp on keyword research. After that use Google Trends or Answer the Public tools to judge the value of your keywords.
4. Hungry for knowledge
It seems like a lot, but do not feel overwhelmed, because you will simply acquire all these skills while designing websites and being open to self-learning. I am a firm believer in “learning on the job” and acquiring abilities that you need to resolve problems one by one as you approach them. This is why the best way to learn WordPress web designer skills is to actually try and design some websites for fun and google your way through obstacles. So, go ahead, start now. Just register your new site on WordPress today, and tomorrow… well, the sky is the limit… OK, if you think this is cringy, then it is, but do it regardless. No postponing!
The above skills won’t make you a Frontend Web developer yet, we will get to that in another article, but it will get you started. Don’t miss the opportunity. Today is the day when you choose the path to become a WordPress web designer.