9 Tips on How To Improve Yourself as a Web Designer

There are times in life where everything goes well, people like your work and you get more and more clients. But sometimes the “business” stops, work flow decreases, you get bored and uninspired, and you stagnate. The reasons behind this can vary, but mostly it’s just because you’re feeling uninspired and have lost your drive. It’s very easy to lose inspiration, when we are not surrounded by a learning and inspirational community.

You know you love what you do, so don’t quit. In order to counteract the situation, you need to go further, learn new things, and adopt new work methods. You will find out that maybe you just need a push or build your own motivation and energy to go forward, or that maybe you are just afraid to step up.

So grab a pen and get ready for new resolutions.

1. A Tutorial a Day

Tutorials

Tutorials are the best way to improve your skills. Setting this goal for yourself ensures you don’t stagnate and keeps you motivated. Repeating this process every day or at least every week is half-way to success, and it’s also entertaining. If you like several areas, try to invest in a different area each day. 1stwebdesigner, PSDtuts or Photoshop Lady are great examples of free and high-quality tutorial resources. Ten years ago, web designers and developers didn’t have the possibilities you have now, and they still managed to evolve. Those people are now teaching you for free, while you remain in the comfort of your home.

2. Do What They Do

Do what they do

If you have favourite design layouts, icons, effects, etc, you should try to recreate them. Sometimes the best way to learn is finding out how others did it. If you can’t get there, ask for help. There are also plenty of great  Photoshop to HTML tutorials out there, which can help you discover how some effects and functionalities are built. As soon as you recreate your favourite work pieces, you reach the same quality level  as the author on that moment, and you are ready to the next level.

3. Redecorate Your Workspace

Workspace

I don’t know about you, but for me redecorating my workspace is a plus for motivation, and helps my creativity. I’m not saying you need to buy new furniture, but move your desk or monitor to a different position, or stick a poster on your wall. The same old workspace layout and routine discourage your will, creativity, and motivation to work. Sometimes, you may realize that having two monitors side-by-side instead of having them apart, or having your desk near your books, will tremendously increase your work efficiency.

4. Read Books, Magazines, and Interviews

Magazine

There are great books and magazines out there. I personally love magazines like Web Designer and Computer Arts, but you have so many more to choose from. They are inspiring and have plenty of good tutorials and articles. Books are another invaluable source of information, and although I don’t read books very often, they are truly another great addition to your shelf . Reading 15 pages a day is quick, gives you valuable insights, and at the end of the month you realize you have read an entire book. Do the same the next month. I also like to read interviews, I believe it’s a great way to learnnew things from the best in the field.

5. Build Relationships

Build relationships

Having an active online, and if possible offline presence is an important learning and motivational process. Try to be involved in conferences, events, workshops, etc. They are extremely useful to increase your list of contacts and ideas. Also try to talk with everyone and not only designers, since they are not your potential clients.

6. Grab a Moleskine

Moleskine

The first thing you need to do before you start any web design or development project, is to put your ideas on paper.  You don’t actually need to use a Moleskine – I’m just a fan. But if you need some motivation to start organizing your ideas, grab a sketchbook and take it everywhere. It can really improve your brainstorming, organization and work process.

7. Read Design Blogs

Read Design Blogs

Books and Magazines are not the only material you should read. Personally I believe blogs should be number one on your list. Reading daily articles gives you good insights, ideas, tutorials, inspiration, and much more, which helps your work tremendously. Do not forget to share your ideas by commenting on other people’s work, and write your questions every time you have them.

8. Plan Your Days

Plan your days

I’ve started to do this recently and I realized it increased my work performance tremendously. I personally love to use http://teuxdeux.com, but it doesn’t really matter which software you use or how you do it. The important thing is to keep your work and life organized. Start your weekend by planning your week, or at least try to plan on a daily basis.

9. Try New Software

Try new software

One thing I always like to do is to read about new apps, web apps, and software, that can help me improve my work. Woopra is a hosted analytics service which I didn’t know anything about until I searched google for “Web Analytics Tools That Rivals Google”. A great tool doesn’t necessarily need to be immediately known.

Conclusion

Working as a freelancer can be very isolating, and the will and motivation to keep going is what makes the differences between the good and the great. Never forget about the one rule – Don’t stop.

Everyone has strengths, you just need to find yours.

Ruben D'Oliveira

I am a Portuguese UI/UX designer, visual designer and writer. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and Multimedia and I'm addicted to web technologies and design. Feel free to check my work on Behance or Dribbble. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Jacobus Swart says

    this is an incredibly useful collection of tips. i particularly like the idea of spending some time taking apart and ‘copying’ a design/idea that you like, teach yourself how it’s done. i love doing this.

    great article, thank you.

  2. Stanley says

    great…
    good tips. One thing i do know is imp – is keep on attending conference / workshops. that helps a lot..and is ofcourse more interesting, if its boring to read on books (for me atleast)..

    I wil surely try to follow all the steps.
    Thx

  3. Angel E. V. says

    I can relate to a lot of what you speak of in the beginning of your article about losing your motivation. I been stuck in a difficult position at a dead end job which then lead to me being laid off. I almost lost hope.

    Thank you for your insight into regaining my creativity.

    I will follow your steps and add some of my own so I can be more productive.

  4. Snarky says

    Read, write, talk, build. It’s surprising how few developers and designers actually follow that advice.

  5. Anil Pakhare says

    Wonderful Article, Thanks a Lot.
    It come when I actually needed it most. This means lot to me. Going through depression personally, This gives me new energy to do things (new & old).

    Thanks again Ruben :)

  6. a.tomlinson says

    This is very motivational. Like you mentioned, just don’t stop. Consistency is the key to being successful. I’ve practice these steps for awhile although some not as frequent as others. Reading this served as a reminder of what I love to do. Time to get back in the game.

  7. Gavin says

    Couldn’t agree more with ALL of these. I do every single one already. The best one is grab a moleskin. I surprised myself how many ideas a day I actually had until I started jotting them down and reading them of a night. And some of my best work has come from my daily spurts of creativity.

    Another excellent post – a fantastic resource!

  8. Samantha Prinsloo says

    Brilliant article! You really know how we suffer in isolation! you’ve posed a number of excellent points – especially that of carrying around a sketchbook. You never know when inspiration for your latest graphic design will hit!

    Keep more fabulous articles coming :)

  9. Peter says

    This is a great article with useful links and a nice amount of “push” for the next few months for me!
    Thy Ruben!

  10. Victoria says

    Thanks so much, I’ll try and use these tips and improve my designing.

  11. Carlos Viloria says

    Thanks for your advice, I make most of them, the least I do is to redecorate my workspace.

  12. Adán says

    Hi Ruben, I love you!!! hehehe

    i like your post, and I feel totally identified with your opinions.

    I feel like I’m the writer and not you.

    so very good job.

    Regards, Adán.

  13. says

    I like Do What They Do. You can read up all the tutorials on the web but if you don’t practice any, you will not improve on your design skills.

  14. Alan says

    One difficulty with being a web designer, is isolation. But while I’m alone in my office, I am always interacting with clients, and I do try to get involved with like minded people.

    I recently started a group on Facebook, so people who are interested in web and graphic design can get together, chat about design work, and share links to useful sites and resources. If you want to join, do a search of the groups for “trick out your website”, I’m sure you will find us.

  15. says

    Wonderful Article!!
    I’m delving more and more into freelancing these days and articles like these are really helpful!!

    One thing that struck me here though on the point “Do what they do?”

    “As soon as you recreate your favourite work pieces, you reach the same quality level as the author on that moment, and you are ready to the next level.”
    I think I disagree with this. I do believe this is a thing to do and it will increase our skills and quality of work a lot but becoming the same level as of the author doesn’t seem to be easily possible. The author whom we like possess a lot more innovation and ideas than we, his followers do. I’d say we stepped one step higher towards reaching the level of our star author!
    Thanks!

  16. Ryan says

    Brilliant post Ruben. I’m a newbie on the scene and posts like these are inspiring for guys like me. Keep ‘em coming! ;-)

  17. says

    Ruben, thanks for your excellent insights. I also find that books, tutorials, articles and blogs are among the best sources for inspiration and motivation. As we stimulate our mind with intentional education and imagination, our world is enlarged. The impossible becomes possible.

  18. Kelvin says

    Good post, I do about everything you listed on a daily basis, it’s a habitual routine. Another key element I would factor in during the downtime process is working on side projects. For example, I have a fan site I am working on for an MMO game that I’m currently active in. It’s not a commitment, but it benefits me in several ways, such as helping to build a solid community for the newly released game which directly correlates to helping the overall games success. With this site, I’m sure I’ll make a lot of new acquaintances, that could comment as well as advice me on my work. As for most things in life, the result will vary on your work, effort, and skill.

  19. Almarma says

    great post and great website. I just have arrived to this site, and I’ll keep for a long time! Very interesting and useful information and very motivative. Just what I needed, because I’m starting with webdesign, and I find nothing but troubles everywhere! Sometime ago I bought Artisteer thinking it was going to be the miraculous thing that would let me design sites without programming, but later I discovered that there is nothing like learning to program to be 100% free. And there’s where I’m now, learning about 960 system, WordPress, CSS, etc., to be a good designer.

    I want also to say that, when I visit a site talking about design, that has a ugly design, I automatically close it (how can you talk about design with an ugly design?). But here I’m impressed. Even the comments are wonderfully designed!. Congratulations!!!

  20. Johan says

    Really great article, I love the part “Read Books, Magazines, and Interviews”…that’s a best way to learn :-)
    thanks for sharing…

  21. Stan says

    thanks for the post. Great ideas ! Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.

  22. Katty says

    I highly recommend designers use notebooks. This idea can extend to people who code as well, it just may not be as visually appealing (with all those little logos and thumbnail sketches…)
    I started serious web design just over 1 year ago. When I am having a bad day, and just can’t create anything I like (or just can’t come up with any ideas at all), I go back to the first pages. It always inspires me to see where I have come from and just how much I have achieved and learnt. I almost always have an idea by the time I have flipped back to the very lastest page.

  23. Gregory says

    I’m personally inspired on tip number 6 and after reading some information about moleskin, it makes me wanna get one immediately, but moleskin is pretty expensive lol. But kidding aside, I think this article does not solely apply on web designers, even writers, artists, photographers or any one who belongs in the art world can apply these tips in their daily lives. Thanks for sharing this to all of us. It’s enlightening.

  24. Nanang Gunawan says

    i am new web designer, and i think built relationship is my first step…

    thanks :D

  25. Andrea Spikes says

    This article doesnt just help you become great and successful as a Web Designer but also in life in general

  26. Jamie says

    I can only say I do at least 2 of these and the others here and there. I’m going to set myself the challenge of following all these tips for 7 straight days. Inspirational I would have to say!

  27. Robin Cannon says

    Really good article with a lot of excellent advice.

    I’d add one more vital suggestion though;

    Stop looking at websites. There’s a real problem about web design being too self referential. If you only ever look at other websites for your inspiration, your own websites are going to look generic.

    Make sure and spend a little time getting completely away from the technical side of things. Find inspiration in nature, in architecture. When you read books and magazines, look at non-web related publications too (e.g. I have a subscription to Vogue, and find lots of inspiration there which I can later implement in some way in a website).

  28. John P says

    This is a nice article. I’ve been down the road where I sometimes loose inspiration and need to be inspired. This article has provided new avenue to seek inspiration. Great job!

  29. Flavio Mester says

    Always useful to try new things, there’s always room for improvement especially if you’re stuck.

  30. Gareth Torrance says

    This has been such a great read. I really need to make myself more active online and offline. I haven’t really been getting involved in the whole web design community, so I think its about time I get started. Oh, and I also use a moleskine.

  31. Zeeshan Siddiqui says

    Very motivating article! I agree with others, the ‘1 tutorial a day’ is something that every web designer needs to start doing.

  32. dawn says

    Great post! Thanks so much for the encouragement! Can’t wait to use some of these ideas.

  33. Adam Huxtable says

    Great post, some really great ideas on self improvement. Especially the ‘Tutorial a day’ one.

  34. says

    Thank you for the tips! As a new designer starting out these tips will certainly help me become a better designer.

  35. says

    Excellent post and although i try and make sure im doing tutorials regularly, there are some other good points that I will start doing / using :-)

  36. Nattu says

    Thats very interesting article… I like it Mr.Ruben D’Oliveira… This article motivates me a best designer…. Thank u all……. Thats this is the first time i am replying to the article, thats because of ur article man…. Cool

    by Nattu