I’m a formally trained graphic designer, a trade that prides itself on creativity and “reinventing the wheel” to influence and persuade consumers in new and engaging ways. It’s a broad field that encompasses a lot of subsets—one of those being the field of web design.

I’ve spent my entire career in the online space and consider myself a web designer first and a graphic designer second (there’s a difference). If I were to boil down the mission of a web designer, it would be: influencing action online.

Successful designers do this by manipulating the various elements of design in an intuitive and engaging presentation. But the exact (and correct) methods by which you achieve this goal are what separate a novice from an expert. And these methods have been slowly evolving since the advent of the modern day Internet.

During the past twenty years or so, the web design industry has established a widely accepted set of best practices. In other words, there is a right and a wrong way to layout and design a web page. This is why you often find a logo in the top-left corner of a website. Primary navigation across the top, sub-navigation down the left column, etc. These are aspects of any web page design that directly affect its success. Now are there exceptions? Of course, but they are few and far between.

Keeping this in mind, here’s one of the biggest challenges web designers face today: how do you keep your work looking fresh while adhering to these proven, formulaic best practices that users have come to expect and demand? Answer: it’s really, really hard. And truthfully, this is why many designers take awhile to get momentum on a project. But perhaps the biggest asset is experience.

I’ve known a lot of independent graphic designers, or agencies that specialize in traditional media, who try to make the jump into web design. It’s often unsuccessful and is almost always attributed to their inability to grasp web-centric methodologies, or an uncertainty on how to incorporate them into their creative development process. It’s not unattainable and the process does become clearer over time. So I’m not suggesting you can’t make the jump, but don’t expect it to “just happen” or be a smooth ride.

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