5 valuable (and overlooked) web design skills to start learning

8 min read
Andrew Claremont

You’re a WordPress wizard, a master of markup, and you place every pixel with precision. You’ve spent hours studying the latest web design techniques and tools. But when it comes to sharpening our web design skills, we all have blind spots—valuable skills that most designers tend to overlook. Skills that boost the value you bring to your web design clients and bring you one step closer to the top of your game.

Here are five niche but highly sought-after skills that all web designers should add to their resume. All these skills are timeless, sought after by clients, and can make you more valuable to current and new clients.

Five web design skills to make you more valuable to clients

  1. Progressive Web Apps
  2. Niche WordPress Skills
  3. Accessible Web Design
  4. Information Architecture
  5. Copywriting

Web design skill #1: Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps, or PWAs, run like traditional JavaScript-based online apps, but with additional features that make the online apps look and feel like native mobile or desktop apps. Companies like AliExpress and Twitter are leading the charge toward PWAs, and the results are undeniable: AliExpress, for example, saw a conversion-rate increase of 104%when they rolled out their PWA, back in 2016. PWAs also make for a better user experience—browsing is faster, and sites can even be accessed offline. Now that more visitors are using their mobile devices as their main tool for browsing, demand for web designers and developers experienced with PWAs will only continue to get stronger.

Becoming a skilled PWA designer is like insurance for your business. Progressive web apps will likely replace native mobile app development at some point, becoming the norm for mobile web development. Unlike mobile apps, PWAs also rank in search engines, boosting your clients’ visibility and increasing conversions for your clients. And, like all the skills listed here, PWA development lets you charge more for your web design services, so everyone wins.

Learn more about creating progressive web apps by checking out The Immense Power of Progressive Web Apps7 Tools for Developing Your First Progressive Web App, and the great examples at PWA.rocks.

Web design skill #2: Niche WordPress skills

Even though advances in website builder apps are making it easier to build basic websites and blogs, WordPress still powers nearly half of the entire CMS market. The demand for specialized skills to support those sites is higher than ever. Future-proof your WordPress design business by specializing in either a specific niche or category. See how Mode Effect does this for ecommerce sites running WooCommerce or how Member Up manages membership websites running WordPress.

Specialization is a powerful tool for making your marketing more effective.

By focusing your services on a specific ideal customer and helping them solve a specific, expensive problem, you’ll find new clients more easily. Many services will list you as an expert on their site, helping to drive even more leads to your business, like WooCommerce does with their WooExperts. The clients you do attract will trust your expertise and guidance even more, letting you charge more for your services.

Getting started in a new specialization doesn’t mean upending your entire business. Follow these tips to get started:

  • Start small. Test your new niche with one or two clients before updating your messaging on your site.
  • Learn your niche back to front.In order for clients to trust you as the expert, you need to be one. Time spent learning is worth the investment.
  • Experiment on your own. If you’re not sure about whether a particular specialization is right for you, try building a side project using the platform before offering your services to clients.

Ecommerce, specifically sites using the WooCommerce plugin on WordPress, is a valuable niche for web designers. Learn more about getting started in the WooCommerce community here.

Web design skill #3: Accessible web design

More and more of our lives are being managed online—but much of the web still remains inaccessible for many people. Designing accessible websites lets everyone use the same digital services and information, regardless of any impairments or disabilities they may have.

Creating accessible sites can be highly valuable to clients because they tend to rank better in search engines and, therefore, reach a wider audience. Once you explain the advantages, most web design clients are excited to incorporate accessibility into their designs—but they often don’t know where to start. Offering accessible design services not only sets you apart from other designers in your clients’ minds but also provides an opportunity to charge more for your designs.

Read more about the basics of web accessibility, or visit the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from W3C for more detailed information. Below are a few quick tips to get you started:

  • Start with a template. Web frameworks like Bootstrap are beginning to incorporate accessibility into both their code and their examples. If you aren’t using a framework, you can also start by copying an existing accessible project.
  • Create a checklist. Use an accessibility checklist in your design process. WebAIM has a great Accessibility Checklistyou can use as a starting point.
  • Test, and test again. Every new design should be tested for accessibility and can be delivered to the client once you’ve proved that the site is accessible.

Web design skill #4: Information architecture

Information architecture—the organization and structure of the information presented on a website—is another important web design skill that’s overlooked by many designers. IA is to a web designer what an outline is to a writer or a rough sketch is to a painter—it gives you a map of where each piece of information should be placed on the site, creating a clear path for visitors and improving the user experience.

Information architecture is like having a road map for your web design projects.

Starting each new site design with well-defined information architecture is worth the effort for both you and your clients. Building your map up front lets you save time (and client money) that would otherwise be spent on revisions after the site is delivered. It’s easier to identify and fix any gaps in the content your clients provide. And strong information architecture gives you and your clients a road map for delivering the site, helping to set the scope of projects and minimize last-minute changes.

It’s not hard to start learning information architecture:

  • Emphasize what’s important, and minimize what’s not. Don’t make visitors think—make it crystal clear what they should be doing on each page of your site.
  • Plan your navigation. Don’t go with the default options your CMS gives you, and don’t wing it at the last minute.
  • Use search logs to your advantage. Visitors often turn to the search field when they can’t find what they’re looking for. Use search logs to better understand how to improve the information architecture of your site.

There’s plenty of great information out there to help you learn information architecture, but we’d recommend starting with How to Make Sense of Any Mess, by Abby Covert, and Peep Laja’s post on ConversionXL, Website Information Architecture: How to Optimize for UX.

Web design skill #5: Copywriting

Effective copywriting is one of the most valuable skills a web designer can master. Learning to write powerful and persuasive web copy—copy that gets visitors to sign up for a mailing list, buy a product, or hire you—can magnify the effectiveness of your design projects, bringing more value to your clients (and more clients to your business!).

Moving customers to take action requires a careful balance of copy and design. If the design and copy aren’t working together, your clients’ sites won’t reach their potential. As a designer, learning to help your clients with copywriting gives you a leg up on the competition. You can more easily match the style of writing to your designs, whether clients are looking for formal and professional, or fun and lively. You can also package your design and copywriting services together, offering more value for your clients and making more revenue for yourself.

You can start improving your copywriting with a few basic tips:

  • Be concise.The best online copy uses simple words and short sentences.
  • Focus on benefits.Don’t tell readers about every detail of the product or service; instead, describe the results and value customers will experience.
  • Repeat your customers’ language. Mine help-desk emails, product reviews, emails, and other customer communications for the exact words and phrases used to describe the product, then repeat them in your web copy.

Learn more about how to improve your copywriting skills, and how those skills can complement your web design services, in the Copywriting 101 guide from Copyblogger, or check out this guide to the basics of copywriting.

Boost the value of your web design services

These days, being a generic “WordPress designer” is pretty standard, but clients will continue to expect—and will pay for—more. While these five skills are sometimes overlooked, they are an essential part of becoming a better web designer and are sought by clients and employers alike. Learning them will increase the value of your web design services.

Products Used