5 Career-Threatening Mistakes Web Designers Make and How to Fix Them


Web designers are a great mystery and a source of awe for regular people. They appear to be great individuals who can create just about anything! But in reality, there are a lot of mistakes web designers make that could threaten their careers.

It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an experienced web designer, a lot still fall on at least one of the five career-threatening mistakes.

Are you curious if you’re doing something wrong with your career?

5 Mistakes Web Designers Make

Ready to set things right or discover which your problem is? Let’s rock it!

1. Zero Online Presence

Since being a web designer means working for the web, having little to zero online presence is one of the biggest mistakes, ever. It is the era of social media, where trust is built around how many people actually know you for what you do. Do not expect to receive projects or join a good team if you don’t have a robust portfolio to show.

Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of web designers out there, but are they even noticed? I’m pretty certain that only a few thousand are actually enjoying their careers, and that’s because they have the necessary connections.

Some web designers compensate for this by blogging, building up a great social media following, creating an outstanding portfolio that just about anyone can enjoy.

Check out DeviantArt and browser through their Interface section and you will see what I mean. Submitting your designs to CSS galleries is also a neat way of generating interest, of spreading your name out there.

So, in a few words, how do you actually combat zero online presence?

  • You can either start a blog of your own, very much like 1WD and share your neat tips and tricks.
  • Hop on the social media train and be fun – people should learn a lot from Sam Spratt, a great illustrator. You can apply the same thing he’s doing on his fan page. People love visually appealing designs!
  • Join online communities like DeviantArt, Dribbble, and Behance.
  • If you’ve done all of the above, consider creating a central portfolio site for your works.

It is a tedious process, especially for beginners, but this is what makes a solid foundation.

2. Not Learning New Things

I personally know a couple of web designers who didn’t actually bother learning how to code, even just the basics, because they’re designers and not coders. Umm, what? If you do this then consider your career already ended.

Web design isn’t just about using Adobe Photoshop! Well, before it surely was, but right now people are looking for the whole package. “If you can design it I’m pretty sure you can code it too, right?” is what most employers would ask. You can’t just stay too isolated in your own world that you begin to forget the world is changing. It’s a sad truth, but all-rounders are getting more and more successful by the day than those who just focus on one thing.

If you are a designer who doesn’t know how to code, then you should start learning how to code right now!

For those who know how but are reluctant to learn new things like jQuery, JavaScript  CSS3, and HTML5 (relative to those who only know HTML and CSS – the basics), you would do yourself a great favor by at least touching these topics a little. You don’t want to get caught off-guard!

  • Learn how to code, or at least read and understand the basics to give you a whole new perspective of things.
  • Follow web design blogs to be always updated.

Since in the world of technology nothing is permanent, and only those who can adapt survive the longest.

3. Too Ambitious

I once made the mistake of accepting too much projects simply because I want tons of money. Bad decision.

Remember the age-old adage, “moderation is the key”? That applies here perfectly. If you are a one-man team, never take in everything. Fix your schedule and tell your clients about it, so that they won’t expect you to deliver as soon as possible.

Overloading yourself with a lot of projects is the best way to burn yourself. Ouch.

Spreading your wings too far will hurt you, for sure. Take item one for example. If you decide to boost your online presence, if you overdo it, you might actually hurt yourself instead of helping. “I will blog, then accept projects, then write an eBook about web design!” Whoa there, buddy. One at a time, or manage your time carefully!

In order to combat this fever, you need to have a solid action plan for every day of the week!

  • Use an application that will enable you to see your current and pending tasks, I recommend Trello.
  • Take a vacation and meditate on what you really want to achieve.

Because you can only do so much with two hands!

4. Zero Ambition

If there are people who get their hands on everything, there are also people who don’t want to do anything at all. I mean, come on, you don’t want to spend 2 years doing the same thing, right? This isn’t exactly a career-threatening mistake, but it might turn into a life-long regret. I know it’s annoying, but YOLO.

Take risks, step on new territories, and create new things that you haven’t even dreamt of doing.

Things you can do right now to give your world a boost:

  • Write an eBook about the things you know and earn passive income from selling.
  • Record video guides and create a membership website much like TeamTreeHouse.
  • If you’re working alone, find like-minded individuals and build a team to take on new and bigger projects.
  • Learn a new piece of technology!

In fact, you can do the first two even if you have a full-time job!

Related article: 5 Easy Things Designers can do to Generate Extra Income

5. Onion-Skinned

Among the four items above this one is the deadliest. You are the expert and you should know better than your clients, but quite often you will find the need to bend to their will.

When talking with a client, never chime in your personal feelings. Always expect that people will always find a fault, ask for revisions, and totally reject a design and ask for another. This is common, and if your method of dealing with this is with anger or passive-aggressiveness then, buddy, you’re in for a deep burying.

A few tips to combat this is by thinking ahead. Mentally prepare yourself by thinking that not everything you do is the perfect solution. There will be revisions, there will be criticisms, and those things will help you grow more as a web designer.

Well, sometimes it’s not your fault, but the clients. That’s why there are things you need to teach your clients too in order to avoid personal problems.

  • Never think that you are the best.
  • Listen to criticisms and figure out the best way to deal with them.
  • Open communication is crucial in order to understand clients better.

Being susceptible to criticisms is what everyone needs to overcome. Everyone will arrive at that point, but not everyone passes through it.

Is That Everything?

Being a web designer is not an easy task, there are a lot of pitfalls involved. Since it’s your design that people will be looking forward to, the pressure is really high. As web designers you take pride in everything that you do, and people will always find things to set you off track. That said, do not let yourself get left behind, seek new and bigger things while being vigilant!

Feel free to share your thoughts below and add more items!



  1. EA

    I think a lot of companies do expect some knowledge of web developing because to understand the technical aspect of a website

  2. Every college student needs to read this article. School teaches how to technically do the work, but they certainly don’t teach you about the industry environment and that you must continue to learn. Thanks for posting!

    • Well to be honest to be developer-designer is a bad idea. Knowing how hard to slice some things, with the time you will start to avoid designing complicated stuff (personally iv stopped developing back 12y ago). It is better to avoid being master of all trades master of none. To be designer-developer is great, but don’t forget those professions doesn’t get you big wage or many carrier steps. <- thats what you need to tell your students:)
      By doing design and doing it great together within a team by the time you'll learn project planing, managing and those things deliver better opportunities for you in a future. Art director or project manager doesn't slice but gets a way better salary than author of this post. Would you really care about a website you've just designed after 12years?

  3. Anthea

    Great article! Spot-on. I am guilty of #1 because of #3 LOL… weird huh? I get most of my work through word of mouth referrals, not so much through my online portfolio (which is woefully out of date) so I always push it way down on my list of “to-do’s”. You have inspired me to change this … thanks!

  4. Nice article!

    I want to add one more thing that, bigger developed agencies are looking for people who are focused to just design or front-end development. They think that, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. But smaller developing agencies are seeking for all rounders to have one solution for multiple needs. Actually I am an all-rounder. This helps me to innovate the modern web with latest available technologies. Why I am telling this here is, actually I am not getting chances to work in bigger agencies because I am not focused to one thing. But I don’t care about it. I do freelance and will develop innovative products for the web which will be useful to many. Lets rock as ALL-ROUNDERS….

    • Well,

      This is nice.Sometimes working with smaller agencies can be challenging. Just make a wish and one day, things are

      going to change on your way.

      You will get more experience.

  5. Great tips! I know a lot of web designers who are more of a dogmatic than flexible when it comes to laying all their work. According to them, it’s creating a “legacy” and trademark that people will definitely recognize it as theirs but I think that ideas from external factors can still be helpful. But I think having too many ideas can still be problematic. The dilemma will lie on how to put all these things together.

  6. Mr James Richman

    I was just wondering.

    Is there anything guys You studied (or are currently studying), that is not directly related to Web Design, but still benefited your web designer career?

    Psychology? Business Management? Music? Sports Science? Or something else?

    • Marketing would definitely be a plus for everyone, especially if work is found on the web. There are several thousands of designers out there but only a few are noticed because they are the ones who bothered to actually go out of their familiar zones and study marketing.

      • Mr James Richman

        Exactly Rean,

        At the end of the day becoming a freelancer self-employed is no more the same as working for some web development agency.

        Suddenly everything your employer was looking after, you have to take in your own hands. Bookkeeping, Paying tax, customer relationships as well as marketing, all up to a single person – You!

  7. Nikhil Mlahotra

    I agree and truly appreciate the way the article is written as this is exactly whats true in present times.

  8. Interesting post, interesting topic. I whole-heartedly agree with all of your point above, especially #2. With the degree at which the world wide web changes and updates, continuous learning is the MOST important aspect to keeping a design firm on top.