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DCE Magazine

Designing the Future

Fall 2018

A new Web Design certificate can help launch a career in this booming field.

In a very real way, web designers play a leading role shaping our future — or at least the way we perceive and interact with it. With the Internet and connected devices evolving at a rapid pace, our lives are increasingly intertwined with apps and websites, in ways we couldn't imagine just 10 years ago.

Actually, there isn't much we can't do with smartphones and computers these days. And with systems like artificial intelligence and virtual reality poised to radically transform our online experience, the market for web designers is positively booming, said Carol Greenberg, instructor for the newly refreshed Web Design certificate program.

“The demand for web designers is very high,” she said. “It's a hot market right now and it's only going to get hotter. So many people are using multiple devices throughout the day, in a number of ways, and they're becoming increasingly sophisticated about their user experience. It's all creating a need for more skilled and knowledgeable designers.”

But mastering the technology is only part of it, she said. Creating a good user experience is based on brain research and human behavior studies, some of it from the ‘50s and ’60s.

That's the basis for Greenberg's UX Design course, part of the redeveloped Web Design program that split off from the previous Web Design and Development incarnation. The new program is streamlined with an emphasis on creating advanced interfaces to enhance the user experience (UX), a basis for effective web design.

Perhaps surprisingly, this brave new world is rooted in principles from decades past. Advanced technology is simply a new toolbox to implement them.

“What we call UX was once called Human Factor before the days of computers,” said Greenberg, principal and owner of the UX Incubator, a Long Beach-based consulting firm. “It's based on extensive research on how people see and interact with the world. And it can be the key to designing a successful website or app.”

Clicking on a new career

DCE's Web Design certificate program is structured to give participants a solid background in basic theory, learning how to design the look, layout and organization of websites, followed by hands-on projects using state-of-the-art software, led by experienced professionals.

Intended for beginners as well as more experienced professionals, the program is a perfect fit for graphic designers, multimedia designers, and marketing professionals — anyone who wants to master web design and enter this flourishing field.

Consider that more than 130,000 web designers are working in the U.S. with projected growth of nearly 25% through 2027. And the median annual salary is nearly $65,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Web Design certificate program can open the door to this exciting and wide-ranging career by giving participants a solid background in all aspects of design and UX theory, finishing with a professional portfolio they can use as a calling card to potential employers.

“It's absolutely essential to develop a good portfolio,” Greenberg said. “That's what my students focus on for the final four weeks of my course. The first four weeks are all about basic theory, and the rest of the course is project based, dedicated to developing a good portfolio that shows off a person's best work.”

Web design covers a range of tech careers, including game design, multimedia, applications development, and SEO specialization. Demand for UX designers and analysts has been especially high lately, Greenberg said.

“There are lots of UX design jobs available. IBM recently invested $100 million in UX design, and now lots of other companies, large and small, are following suit. Some of them aren't sure what it is, but they know it's becoming more important and they need to have it.”

Psychology meets technology

Effective web design is more layered and psychology based than most people think, Greenberg added. Learning graphic design skills, creating attractive layouts and easy-to-understand interfaces are certainly key components. But it takes a superior user experience to keep eyes focused on the site.

That's where UX psychology comes in, a timeless concept that's more essential than ever in today's connected world.

“Users now have multiple devices, and they are becoming so much more sophisticated,” Greenberg said. “You need to engage them immediately. Research has shown that it now takes users an average of one tenth of a second to decide whether to stay on a site.”

Cognitive research — how eyes perceive shapes and colors — plays a significant role in UX and web design, she said. “Let's say there are two bar charts on a dashboard, and one is a pastel color and the other has bright colors like yellow and green. Research shows that a person's eyes will automatically gravitate to the brighter colors.”

Consistency in design is another basic principle from the past, keeping everything looking the same from page to page. So is system status visibility, letting the user know that a process is at work, like when a spinning wheel tells you a page is loading. That way you know something is happening.

Modern technology has led to more recent behavioral research. For instance, eye-tracking technology has shown that people almost invariably view a website from the upper left corner down to lower right, Greenberg said. So it's essential to place the most important content in the upper left field.

“There are even elements of storytelling that come into play when you're designing an effective website,” she added. “The content needs to spell out the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ of the website in order to keep the user engaged. It's somewhat similar to journalism theory.”

A career in web design can be a creative and fulfilling journey, one that continues to evolve at a breakneck pace. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and voice interface systems like Amazon's Alexa are just a few of the nascent revolutions poised to reshape the face of web design.

It's an exciting time to be a web designer, and the future is brighter than ever.

“I would say that web design can definitely be fascinating and surprisingly multi-layered, and the marketplace is booming right now,” Greenberg said. “But most of all, it's really fun!”

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