Who is a graphic designer?
Graphic designers combine text and images to create designs and layouts. It is their responsibility to create interesting designs which attract the viewers' attention and effectively communicate the message. The message may be meant for both offline as well as online audiences. To put it in brief, graphic designers deal with how objects look. It is all about making static designs as visually appealing as possible. There are many branches of graphic design and many designers specialise in creating one category of work - such as Film poster designer Raj Khatri - while others prefer to do a little bit of everything.
Who is a web designer?
Web designers are broadly divided into UI and UX designers. User Interface designers are responsible for the way the layout of an application or a website i.e. the interface looks to the audience. While user experience designers are more concerned with what happens when one interacts with the interface. Together, they both work towards how the product feels. Their goal is to maximize product simplicity. They refine and iterate to create the best possible experience for the users.
As you can see, graphic designers are different from UI/UX designers in terms of both their process as well as the final result. There's no doubt that currently UI/UX designers are in the greatest demand in India. They bridge the gap between how things look and how they work; and are at the forefront of creating fantastic products for people in the technological age. On the other hand, the graphic designer market has fallen a bit stagnant and the job market is shrinking for them compared to more technologically relevant designers.
Lots of graphic designers are in fact, making the switch over to becoming web designers. Are you too looking forward to making the switch? Here are five tips to keep in mind when moving from Graphic Design to Web Design;
1. Don't be the Expert
The best web designers are the ones that don't have all the answers. Huh, what? The key is to understand that all clients are different and one solution will not work for them all. You need to understand what designs they need, exactly and create it for them. Often, giving them an answer won't be enough. You will have to research and give the clients reasons why your answer is right. Be prepared to get stumped every day and having to work hard for every single change that you make, because you'll need to be accommodating of the clients' needs in your designs.
Good web designers always start with the basic, always plan ahead while working and create rough wireframes for your designs. Rough is the key word here, as many designers often put too much effort in making their wireframes look pretty and lose focus on their purpose. This is a very important point for graphic designers as aesthetics take a backseat when it comes to creating wireframes. This doesn't mean that you need to throw away your creativity but you need to learn to focus it and use it in the right places.
2. It's a Science as much as an Art
Being a web designer, you must embrace product thinking. Being a web designer means understanding that designs overlap with product management, as no one can design an intuitive user interface for a product that they don't have a clue about.
User research and testing is a big part of web design. Your intuition as well as all kinds of biases should never get in the way of the design process. This means that you'll have to conduct interviews, studies, inquiries and testing to validate your design and ensure it's intuitive to your users.
It's a scientific approach, and you should understand that in web design the definition of beautiful is what makes users feel good while navigating through your interfaces and not what is just easy on the eyes. To achieve that you should not only be good at the art, you need to understand the science behind it all as well.
3. Design for Information
One of the most important aspects of good web design doesn't deal so much with pixels, colours or typography, as does with the content that is inside your designs. People use websites and apps not for their beautiful designs, but because they want easy access to the content. While making the switch from graphic design to web design, one must keep this aspect in mind and make sure one's designs are as simplistic as possible. It is very important to make it as easy as possible for the users to find the content that they need. The entire interface must be logical in its arrangement and easy to access for the end user.
4. Follow guidelines, don't invent your own
"Wait, you want me to follow convention!" Although this sounds like cyanide to graphic designers, it makes perfect sense when it comes to web design. Like programming, UI/UX design has guidelines, such as Google's Material Design for Android or Apple's iOS Human Interface Guidelines. And following those is critical to ensure your design doesn't cause any confusion in the mind of the users.
If you break completely from already established patterns, you might experience a steeper learning curve for new users. Many of them will not bother to figure out your design patterns and will move to another website or application which fits into what they already know.
However, this doesn't mean that you have no space for customisation and offbeat design solutions. You do to some extent, but unless you work at Apple or Google, it's not recommended to reinvent entire design patterns that your users have already got used to. It's not creativity but usability that is important in this field.
5. Play Around
While it is but obvious that you will need to research and read up as much as possible on the world of web design, one thing often missed out on is that as a web designer, you should just visit as many websites as possible. Many graphic designers feel that using a reference throws off their intrinsic creativity and so they avoid using references for what they create.
Note down what you like about them and what you don't. What makes them different from their competitors? What makes accessing content easier for you? Do you like that additional menu bar? How many clicks or actions does it take to reach from one section of the website to another? All of this will help you out a lot when you are designing your own websites as you can then learn from what others have done and avoid the mistakes that they've made.
If you are thinking of switching to web design, keep in mind that there will be radical shifts in your work process and mindset. The hardest part in this transition might be changing your perception of design and its goal.
So before sketching your first interface, try to get into the shoes of the user to understand what they are looking for in the product and what are their goals. Then think of design as a way to help them accomplish those. From now on, that's your goal!
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