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- Most Necessary Web Designer Skills?
- Mario T. Lanza
October 16, 2004, 8:26 pm
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I have a question that deals with one's resume and the skills it
offers. Imagine that you are a firm looking to hire someone to do a
very high-end site. You are not as concerned with the precise
technologies that your candidates have as much as you are concerned
with their ability to produce a professional, polished result that
meets your requirements.
I am evaluating my skillset and determining what areas lack and where
I should focus my educational efforts to fill the gaps.
For example, take Active Server Pages (ASPs). This is merely one
server-side technology for dynamically generating markup. An equally
valid counterpart would be PHP. Some may even prefer it over ASP.
The point is, a person can have one skill (ASP) or the other (PHP) to
meet one particular need of web design and development (generating
dynamic database-driven content and online applications).
With my current skillset I regularly make use of:
Server-side dynamic content: ASP
Data access: ADO
Database: MS Access or SQL Server (based on side of app)
Web standards: guiding priniciples, not so much a technology
As far as I can tell, I have been able to meet the needs of the
clients I have worked for using this skillset.
I have developed Windows applications on the .NET framework and plan
on taking advantage of ASP.NET and ADO.NET in an upcoming web
As I mentioned, I realize that there are numerous substitutes for the
various technologies listed. PHP for ASP. XSL for CSS. MySQL for MS
Access. Therefore, I'm not looking to argue which of the comparative
technologies is better except where significant technological
advancements clearly makes one superior to the other. For example,
ASP.NET in my understanding is far more powerful than ASP 3.0.
Therefore, moving on from ASP to ASP.NET seems like a wise step
forward from obsolescence, but only because ASP.NET in not an
equivalent technology but a superior one.
Futhermore, here are some things lacking from my skillset:
I limited exerience with Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop. As a result I
lack digital design skills. Futhermore, I have no expertise with
Flash (or Shockwave). As a result I lack skills with dynamic effects.
effects produced by Flash, but since the manhours required to
and the DOM is an inferior technique. Flash wins out.
I hope you can see where I am going. I looking merely to come up with
a definitive list of skills that any professional web developer ought
have for the purpose of periodically assessing one's skills and
Here's what the working list. Please add to it as you see fit. If
there is a better name for the category please correct me. I won't
1. Server-side dynamic content (such as ASP)
3. Markup (such as HTML/XHTML)
4. Data access (such as ADO, ADO.NET)
5. Presentation (such as CSS, XSL)
6. Database (such as MS Access, SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL)
7. Web standards (as taught by Zeldman -- www.zeldman.com)
8. Digital/Graphics design (such as Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop)
9. Digital Motion Media (such as Flash or Shockwave)
Obviously there are many more. One might even list "Writing" as skill
as web content should be authored with polish and style. In any case,
I'm looking more for a technological skills grab bag. What are the
most useful tools in your grab bag and why? What technologies did you
consider a godsend in that they made your life so much easier?
I wouldn't even mind if people were to list minor technologies that in
practice are superior. For example, I wrote script to produce some
sophisticated functionality on some of my on-screen inputs. Later, I
learned how to create HTML Components (with an HTC extension). The
methodology made it FAR EASIER to plug in functionality. Using script
alone, it was more of a cut'n paste and edit effort. Therefore,
learning HTC is very worthwhile. Unfortunately, I later discovered it
wasn't readily integratable into other browsers like Firefox. The
final point, the best technologies to list should be readily supported
by most popular browsers. Thank goodness for server-side technologies
where this is not an issue!
Thanks for your valued input.
Mario T. Lanza
Clarity Information Architecture, Inc.
Re: Most Necessary Web Designer Skills?
And you have mentioned writing.
- systems architecture skills (needed to slot together parts of a large
project, where the different pieces may have been written by various third
- knowledge of accessibility and usability.
Toby A Inkster BSc (Hons) ARCS
Contact Me ~ http://tobyinkster.co.uk/contact
Re: Most Necessary Web Designer Skills?
If you are going to work for a web design company they will most likely have
some preference for procedure and operations. This is just practicality...
if they have 10 people working for them and 9 know PHP and you are the only
guy who knows ASP and something happens to you (you quit, you are sick, you
are on vacation, you are falling behind in your workload) they can't assign
a PHP programmer to go over your ASP code.
If you are going to work for a big company in their web design department...
then again they will most likely want skills that match their needs. Whats
the point of hiring a PHP programmer if their current website is written in
ASP or ColdFusion?
You might be better off trying to master a few things instead of being a
"Jack of All Trades"
If you are doing a freelance job for the guy down the street who owns the
autobody shop and wants a website... then he is definitly not going to care
what server side language you know (nor is he going to know what you are
talking about if you even bring it up). All he is going to care about is
what it'll say/look like, how much it costs to build it, and then how much
it costs to keep it up on the web
For the most part, what you need is:
- a server side scripting language
- knowledge of database access and SQL
- know how to use a graphics program
There is still alot more to it than that,but with the above you can pretty
much cover all your bases.
In this business its hard to see anything ever becoming obsolete. Maybe
"old" and "dated" but 5 years from now there will still be designers who
check what their site looks like in Netscape 4.7 and people will still be
Personally, I will stick to using ASP for the forseeable future. I have a
decent grasp of ASP.NET but right now I can crank out the code with ASP
pretty fast and things run smoothly here as it is...
In fact, just now I am starting up on the newest version of my website...
pretty much starting from scratch and going to rebuild the entire site from
the ground up (currently its about 650,000 lines of code) so that I can
improve the ordering system and install about 200 new features into the
site... I could do it in ASP.NET but if I do it in ASP I can have it done in
The thing here is it all depends on who you are working for:
If you work for a web design company then odds are they will hire you for
the skills you have. If you are the "ASP Guy" they aren't going to come to
you and say "slice up this PSD file so we can convert it into a website and
then animate the buttons with flash"... instead they will send that over to
their "graphics guy" and if he has flash skills he'll do the animation, if
not he'll pass it on to the "flash guy"
On the other hand, if you are working freelance for a client then you would
have to be pretty stupid to pitch them a site with loads of flash and
You pretty much covered the bases here...
Some other important ones to add would be:
Those two would be especially important if you were looking to hire on with
a web design company (you don't have to know how to be a project manager,
but you should know the terminology and how things operate in a properly
You might also want to know proper business writing principals and writing
copy. Those skills will be handy if you have to write copy and content for
a website (can be an easy way to pad the bill with a few extra dollars or
move things along if you have a client that is dragging his ass in getting
the site content to you)
In any case,
I'm not sure what you want here... you pretty much cover everything you
really need to make serious go at it.
People could sit here and list off the skills you don't have but what good
would that really do? I try to think about what purpose you have in your
post and come to 2 different conclusions:
1) You are looking to hire on with a web design company
2) You are looking to land a big contract with a big company
If its #1 then the company would be more interested in you if you excelled
at a couple of skills, rather than if you knew a little about everything.
If its #2 then you might be going about it the wrong way... usually all they
care about is the end result and if its compatible with their current
An Example: Earlier this year we did a big job for the US Dept of
Agriculture... we went in there with our presentation... a 35 page booklet
for everybody present and a powerpoint presentation.
The first 5 pages of the booklet covered who we are, what we are going
to do for them, how long it will take and how much it will cost... The next
10 pages were screenshots about what the site would look like... The rest of
the booklet was all project management stuff: procedures they have to
follow, procedures we have to follow, timelines, milestones, when we will be
having meetings, Gant charts, change request forms, etc. Then, on the final
page we listed the technologies the site would use and any custom software
we would need (either to develop or install upon completion)
Anyhow, thats my thoughts... hopefully there is some insight in there
Re: Most Necessary Web Designer Skills?
The days when one alone could build a website of an acceptable standard are
Now labour division everywhere. To get a job at a big employer one needs to
be nerrow but deep.
Still there are a lot of small jobs for a one-man team.
But these usually need good command of graphics including Flash and an
ability to draw scatches (problem is that people who are good with pensil,
usually are not that good with keybord and the other way round).
These customeres usually cannot not be impressed by site's behind-the scene
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