Painting The Page Proper

By Samir Makwana Published Date
01 - Apr - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Apr - 2007
Painting The Page Proper

As business becomes increasingly web-driven, the web designer's skills are playing a role larger than ever before

In the early years of the development of the Web, sites were largely HTML-only. Then came Flash animation, JavaScript, Perl, Python, ColdFusion and more. When broadband became common, Web designers began to make Web pages heavier and more content-rich. And today, a lot of large, medium, and small start-ups are designing Web sites conforming to Web 2.0 standards. The role of a Web designer now encompasses more than ever before.

Good Web site design means appropriately laid-out content, working buttons and animations, and no glitches such as misleading links and distracting ads or pop-ups. Of course, there's more to it. But ultimately, information on Web sites helps consumers with purchase decisions, and a well-designed site appeals to customers, clients, and even potential investors.

Business undertakings have foreseen the potential of an online identity, and have started investing in that area to remain in competition.

"Ample opportunities lie in the industry today, both in India and abroad, but especially in India. There is a dearth of quality Web designers, and demand for them is growing gradually in the country. Businesses, both big and small, as well as individuals, want to have their own Web sites," says Deepak Bedi, project manager, eCreed's Creative Labs located in Mumbai, who are involved in Web design and other Web services.

After the necessary education and the gaining of proficiency over Web designing tools, a number of specialisation options await budding Web designers. The design of a Web site takes place at many levels, but at certain times, roles may overlap: a graphics designer may also design the user interface, depending on several factors such as the proficiency of the designer or the lack of a skilled person for the job. Also, one person can be an expert in Flash with ActionScript as well as other scripting languages.

Graphics Designers use images, colour combinations, animations, and other supporting elements for good presentation, navigation, and layout of the site. They create the visual feel to the site. A knowledge and expertise of the latest Web design tools such as the Adobe graphics suite, Flash, Dreamweaver, etc. is a must.

Interaction Designers focus upon human interaction with the site, and strive to bring out better solutions in terms of the user-friendliness of the design. They decide what kinds of animation should be placed, how navigation would be done, etc. Their work profile involves interacting with designers, content developers, programmers, the marketing team, and others. The designer then builds an interaction plan for the site and the functions offered, such that the goals of the client's business and the user's needs are met.

Working with wire-frames (visual guides to suggest placement of design elements and their layout), content flow, mock-ups (models that look like the real thing but without functionality), concept briefs, and conceptual models form part of their routine.

User Interface Engineer/Designers: The interface of the site is designed using scripting languages and other tools. The interface designer actually designs the interface layouts, the size, style, and flow of text, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and process movements, and uses scripting languages such as ASP, PHP, JSP, Perl, Python, etc. as required, for a better user experience. He also designs templates for the site as well as prototypes for testing. Designing a Web site that has a login option is more difficult, because the best measures to prevent ID theft, hack attacks, etc. need to be implemented.

Freelancers: Working as a freelancer is always a good option. Many Web designers who work with Web design firms initially go on to freelance. Running a Web design business of one's own would only happen after some good experience. A freelancer can work on individual projects and can even earn more than some salaried employees.

With the growing IT jobs every year in India and abroad, the Industry itself is growing multifold - with the prima donna being Internet. People who want to make a career in web designing can hope to reap a reap a rich and fulfilling harvest."
Salil Desai, Asst. Vice President, Arena Multimedia

The field of Web design runs on creativity, expertise, and experience. Anyone with aesthetic sense and knowledge of Web designing tools can get absorbed in the industry. However, graduates in the fields of fine arts, visual communication, digital media, and multimedia are preferred.

One's background and educational qualifications will matter depending upon the type and size of the organisation. With small or medium enterprises, a Web design certification after graduation is usually accepted.

"As far as Web designing is concerned,  degree from a particular field is not required. Being highly creative and having the ability to think out of the box are musts," says Irshad Sheikh of Net4Nuts located in Ahmedabad, a leading Universal Resource Management service provider.

In the rarest of cases, creativity and the ability to create really good Web pages can make up for certifications and qualifications.

If you want to work with a large IT organisations that has CMM (Capability Maturity Model) standards, then the proper educational qualifications and technical certifications become necessary. CMM refers broadly to the approach of an organisation to improve its process models.

Engineering and computer science students can select programming as their major strength.

A good Web designer must have knowledge of front-end operations (the look of the Web site) as well as back-end systems (how the site would work). He must be creative enough to make use of the tools he chooses to specialise in-such as imaging tools, scripting languages, animation suites, sound creation / editing tools, etc. The front-end is undertaken by junior-level designers. After the site prototype is ready, senior designers test, fix bugs, and validate the design.

"We only look for a person's design ability and how engaged they are with their profession. I usually prefer people who use the Internet a lot, as only regular Net users know what sites are good and what is considered bad," says Harish Chouhan, freelancer and owner of DreamsOnline Web Services located in Mumbai.

One can hone skills such as drawing, sketching, scribbling, and painting from an early stage-even right from the pre-college level-and take up Web design courses that complement their skill sets.

"Course material should be planned only after talking to industry leaders. Faculty should ideally be art graduates with relevant industry exposure. Just teaching candidates how to use software is not enough; the software is just a tool-creativity has to come from the candidate," says Bedi.

Designers should be able to express technical issues in normal parlance. They should have the willingness to be updated on emerging technologies, as well as sound technical knowledge. Sketching, drawing, writing, etc. along with this would also be required for a proper blend of skills.


The portfolio of the Web designer is an important aspect of his profile. Large IT corporations with CMM standards will look at projects done.

"Training is important, and grooms a fresher to industry standards. There is no specific courseware. To me, design is more like mathematics. One will need to keep working on it, hands-on, in order to master it," says K Pradeep, project director, Niyati Technologies Pvt Ltd located in Chennai, which offers Web designing and development services.

A freshly-employed Web designer undergoes training for a period ranging from three weeks to six months. The nature and duration of the training period is dependent entirely upon prior skill sets and proficiency over scripting languages such as PHP, JSP, ASP, and others. Hands-on knowledge of tools such as Adobe Photoshop and CorelDraw (for imaging), for example, would be procured during training. Organisations are also flexible in terms of the employee undergoing education while still working.

# Design Schools
National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad
Program: Graduate Diploma in Graphic Design; Post Graduate Diploma in New Media Design.
Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay
Program: Master of Design in Visual Communication; PhD in Design in Visual Communication.
Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology
Program: Professional Diploma in Visual Communication.
Department of Design, IIT Guwahati
Program: Bachelor of Communication Design; Master of Communication Design; PhD in Communication Design.
IIT Kanpur
Program: Master of Design in Visual Communication Design
Symbiosis Centre of Design, Pune
Program: Bachelor of Design in Communication Design
Department of Visual Communication, Loyola College, Chennai
Program: Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication; MSc in Visual Communication.
D J Academy of Design, Coimbatore
Program: Undergraduate Program in Communication Design.
Raffles Design International, Mumbai
Program: Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Visual Communication Design (Multimedia); Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Visual Communication Design
Apeejay Institute of Design
Program: Bachelor in Design; Bachelor in Multimedia; Post Graduation in Design; Master in Design.

"Usually, training is not given to candidates, as the work processes of the companies are same. Also, candidates are expected to actually have the skills mentioned in their profile. Once a trainee gets along with the working style, he is ready for the next level," says Chouhan.

 Career Path
At any level, Web designers should be able to work with close deadlines and under pressure. Needless to mention, the time span between promotions, as well as the remuneration, is highly variable and dependant on the calibre and the contribution of the person in company projects. The career path in Web design can be divided into three levels.

Junior Level: Here, one begins as a trainee, and assists the senior Web designer with all the minor front-end tasks such as drawing, designing logos, and learning scripting processes and workflow. One gets to know the work process of the company and gets hands-on experience with various software tools, scripting languages, and other aspects of Web design.

Once promoted as a Web designer, the work profile includes activities like preparing HTML pages, designing logos, drawing, creating PowerPoint presentations for showing prototypes to clients, generating graphics and animations, determining flow of content, designing user interfaces, etc.

A Web designer can get promoted to a senior designer in about one to three years. While at this level, he can earn as low as between Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 per month in a non-CMM IT company. In a CMM organisation, one can expect to start off somewhere between Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000 per month.

Senior Level: Here, one prepares the architecture of the Web site. The senior Web designer plans the activities to be performed for designing the site in accordance with the requirements of the client. He is in charge of the layout of the page, selection and usage of Web tools, image usage, colour combinations, additional features to be included, planning the content flow, etc., in addition to testing, bug fixing, and validating the Web site. The person at the topmost position in this "senior" territory is responsible for project co-ordination.

Advancing to the next level takes from three to five years. Remuneration ranging from Rs 15,000 to Rs 35,000 per month can be expected by a senior Web designer in an organisation with CMM standards. In a non-CMM or small to mid-sized undertaking, one can expect somewhere between Rs 10,000 and Rs 25,000. Moving further, one can start an independent undertaking.

Top Level: At this level are the project managers and the client relations executives. The design team and the other teams involved in the development of the site are managed and co-ordinated by the project manager. He takes care of the requirements of the design teams in general. Task schedules, deadlines, and progress reports are prepared and passed on to higher management. The job is similar to that of account executives, and thus requires good interpersonal skills.

Client interaction is taken care of. Issues between the client and design team in the context of the site are addressed. Regular checks on the progress help decide whether the site has a unique appeal in accordance with the corporate ethos of the client organisation.

The project manager is at the top position; this is more of a managerial function. He takes care of clients and brings in more business for the company. The average remuneration for project managers in an organisation with CMM standards ranges from Rs 35,000 to figures in lakhs.
> The Technical Armoury Of A Web Designer

>  Adobe Creative Suite-Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.
Macromedia Flash with ActionScript
>  Macromedia Fireworks
>  Macromedia Dreamweaver
The ability to use CSS
>  ASP
>  PHP
>  JavaScript
>  AJAX (an added advantage)

> The Webby Awards

Here is a random list of five sites that won awards for best Web site design at the Webby Awards 2006 (also known as "The Oscars of the Internet").
The site, developed by ARC Worldwide Ad Agency, a Division of Leo Burnett, won the Webby Award 2006 for Best Visual Design-Aesthetic. The site has an innovative design where pencil replaces cursor on a white background for navigation between letters.
Developed by Code and Theory, this site won the Award in the People's Voice category. The site is about the documentary shot by Tony Silver on hip-hop and community.
Google's Earth homepage received the Award for Best Visual Design-Function. Google Earth enables one to view geographic information of places all over the world with satellite imagery, maps, terrain, and 3D buildings.
Designed by Ocelot Productions Ltd, the site won the Award under the People's Voice category for Best Navigation / Structure. Book of Cool is a showcase for three DVDs and a 320-page book for learning fun skills in the holidays.
The site, designed by DSD Animations, won the Award for the best use of animation and motion graphics. It is a showcase of DSD Animation's own profile: services offered, work done, etc.

 Parting Words
"As more and more companies shift part or all of their operations to the Web-such as advertising, purchasing, selling, and researching-the demand for Web designers climbs exponentially," says Salil Desai, asst. vice president, Arena Multimedia, which provides multimedia education.

Ultimately, Web design requires a nice blend of creativity and technical expertise. This is the field for you if you think you have a feel for the Web, and are willing to learn what drives it.

Samir MakwanaSamir Makwana