Almost one billion – in fact, 975 million and counting. That’s how many websites exist on the internet today.
And this is why designing websites can only be a growth prospect for a new business, if you’re good at it.
But remember that designing websites is really about design, not just the mechanics of using a program to plonk text and images around the screen.
Anyone can learn the software to produce a website, just like you can learn Microsoft Word or Powerpoint. Design, on the other hand, needs flair and creativity.
Don’t lose heart, though, if you are not very artistic. You can work in partnership with a creative person who can do the more creative side, and you can then apply it to the website that you are building.
As a website designer the work you do will include graphic design, building internet databases and creating interactive sites.
You start by assessing what your customer wants to achieve with their website, then you work with them to plan, create, test and launch the site.
You will usually also help them maintain, update and improve the site once it is up and running.
So you ideally need a good combination of creative flair and technical ability in using web-design software.
You will use this talent to come up with practical designs that get people’s attention while communicating the client’s message to the targeted audience.
This usually requires some good training in graphic design skills and typography.
Here are some places that offer courses in web design:
The University of South Africa’s School of Computing offers a correspondence course in web design.
This course will teach you about all the important online tools and how to design and publish your own multimedia web pages.
New Horizons (www.nhct.co.za) offers web design courses, including HTML, MS Frontpage, Dreamweaver, Flash, PHP and MySQL.
You can study at a computer learning centre or online in your own time.
Intec (www.intec.edu.za) offers an 18-month Introduction to Website Design course by correspondence, as well as more advanced courses in website design.
As important as your technical skills, good communication skills are also essential.
You must be able to listen and understand your clients, to determine exactly what their ideas are and what they want their website to do.
At the same time, you need to communicate your ideas clearly to clients so that they understand your suggestions and design options.
This will help you to sell yourself, your service and your ideas.
To get your business off to a good start, find yourself a niche where you can focus on a smaller target group of customers. For instance, find customers in your local area first, where they are easier to visit and to talk to.
If you only have basic web designing skills to start with, you probably can only do projects for clients who are new to the internet and have quite low budgets.
These could be small businesses, churches, schools, sports clubs, youth groups or non-governmental organisations in your area.
Once you are more established, you can think of looking for customers from other areas – and offering to develop their existing sites, update old designs and add in new features that suit their changing needs (Flash demos, blogs, databases and product catalogues, for instance).
The information and communications technology (ICT) sector is very competitive, and so is design; so you need an interest in the latest trends and you can never stop learning and updating your skills.
- Paul Crankshaw is head of Cobweb Information South Africa and specialises in information on support services that assist small business. Go to www.cobwebinfo.co.za for more information.