The web is becoming more and more complicated everyday. Many innovative technologies for the internet is being developed and tested. As a result, advancements in the internet do not happen in decades. They happen in short periods of time like months or years.
As web technology evolves, designing for the web evolves as well. This is the ever challenging part of web design: coping with the fast evolving technology that defines the world wide web.
In the olden times, display monitors were monochrome and only had very limited resolution for rendering websites in simpler web browsers thus designs were merely done in textual layout. Today, internet enthusiasts use color CRT or LCD displays to browse the internet. These displays come in various screen sizes and resolutions posing a serious problem for web designers.
During the time in history when internet bandwidth is so expensive and limited, like the dial-up Internet era, low resolution graphics and images were primarily used to enhance web site designs. Now in the DSL and fiber optic revolution, internet bandwidth is cheaper thus websites use high resolution images and animations to enhance their overall appearance without sacrificing page loads on browsers. In effect, designers had been provided with a better playground to express and exploit their graphic creativity without a limit.
Technology is setting trends nowadays. It then makes a little difficult and confusing in deciding which one to use to accomplish a desired result knowing that there are several ways and tools present and readily available which could serve the same purpose.
For instance, there exist several graphic software to do 2D and 3D graphic editing and rendering. All has their own claims of strengths and weaknesses. It is now a designer’s choice as to which to master and fully exploit in order to draw the very best in his or her creative instincts.
Designers’ response to these challenges
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Though the web is growing at a very fast pace, web designers could still be at par with technology. Despite all these challenges, a good designer is never shaken or overwhelmed. Software tools and internet technology may change, but not the heart and artful will of a designer.
Focus on the basic or the core design skill set. This is the only proven way to keep abreast of the challenges and changes of the technology defining the web.
This article details the most essential skills that every web designer should know.
Design Skill Set: A necessity
Every web designer in the world has a unique blend of design skills. This is the core of every designer’s heart and the foundation of their every artistic and creative masterpiece.
Basically, the significant design skill set is categorized in two major groups: the technical skills and the creative skill. The former defines the necessary design tools and software in making the life of a designer easier and mo re efficient. While the later defines the innate creative and artistic instincts that every designer have.
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This set of skills is the most challenging among the different skill sets for designers. This is simply because the design software tools also evolve at a very fast rate. Versions come after versions carrying with them various loads of features to enhance every designer’s experiences.
Graphic and Web Design tools
This article does not intend to teach you on how to use graphic software applications that are very essential for a web designer. This will just show you the proven features of this graphic software that would definitely boost a designer’s productivity.
These graphic software tools generally demonstrate the following common features making them a “must-learn” especially among graphic and web designers:
- User-friendly GUI (Graphical User Interface)
- Supports Win32/Win64 and MAC platforms
- Online support from the software developers and among online forums and blogs
- Several online tutorials on their basic and advance usage
- Intuitive features making tasks easier and less time-consuming
Everyone in the online community probably knows about Adobe Photoshop. It is always perceived as the best graphic manipulation tool. With the right knowledge of the software, one can really transform any creative inspiration into largely anything that we see in print, in the web, and across all media.
Adobe Photoshop is presently in version CS5 Extended. This version comes with rich features that enable designers of all media to push the limits of their creative imagination. It delivers breakthrough capabilities for intelligent image selection, image retouching, realistic painting, 3D extrusions and high speed performance through 64-bit system support.
Among the new features that are extremely helpful for designers include:
- Content-aware Fill. Remove any object or image detail and Content-Aware Fill feature magically fills in the space left behind with an astonishing blend of existing color and texture that looks as if the removed object never really existed.
- 3D extrusions with Adobe Repoussé. Design 3D logos, web buttons, and artwork from any text layer, selection, path, or layer mask, and then twist, rotate, extrude, bevel, and inflate your designs.
- Amazing painting effects. Achieve super natural and realistic painting effects using the Mixer Brush, which offers on-canvas color blending; Bristle Tips, which let you design lifelike, textured brush strokes; an on-screen color picker; and a lot more.
- Simplified complex selections. Select intricate image objects and elements, such as hair, for refinements, compositing, or placing in layout, with no difficulty. Easily eliminate background color around selection edges, and automatically vary selection edges and perfect masks using the enhanced refinement tools.
- Puppet Warp. Precisely warp or stretch graphics, text, or image elements to create unique new looks for your web designs.
- Enhance d HDR imaging. Create photo-realistic or surreal HDR images with unparalleled speed, control, and accuracy. Get superior-quality results by using automatic ghost removal and greater control with tone mapping and adjustments. You can even give single-exposure photos the look of HDR.
- Superior 3D realism and rich materials. Easily enhance 3D objects and designs using simple shadow creation, image-based lights, and materials like glass and chrome. Explore the unlimited design possibilities using various focus points in your 3D scene by adjusting the range for depth of field.
- Enhanced workflow. Boost your creativity and productivity using dozens of features and enhancements requested by Photoshop users. Straighten images automatically, choose colors from the onscreen color picker, adjust the opacity of many layers at once, and a lot more.
- Enhanced media management. Manage your media easily with more flexible batch renaming, and access your assets in the context of what you’re working on by using the customizable Adobe Mini Bridge panel.
- High-speed performance across platforms. Speed up day-to-day imaging tasks and process very large images up to ten times faster by taking advantage of cross-platform 64-bit support.
The beauty and dynamism of web pages today owe so much from animation software. Adobe Flash is definitely one of them.
Adobe Flash is basically a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to a website. Feature-wise, Adobe Flash manipulates vector and raster graphics to provide engaging animations of text, drawings, and still images.
As a web designer, you can explore and use Adobe Flash to build or create expressive interactive web contents with design fidelity.
Since Adobe Flash is a part of Adobe’s Design Suite, it is also currently running on version CS5 Extended. This version is packed with a lot more features making the Adobe Flash software a real essential web design tool. Among these features include:
- New text engine
- Print-quality typographic control
- Global language support
- Advanced inline text editing
- Advanced rendering support
- Delivers contents to mobile and consumer devices
- Delivers contents to desktop computers
- XML-based FLA source files
- Code snippets panel. Flash Professional CS5 provides a new way to quickly include code for things like timeline navigation, actions, animation, audio and video, and event handlers with the Code Snippets panel. By injecting prebuilt code into projects, you can work faster, freeing up more time for creativity.
- Enhanced ActionScript editor. Boost development speed with an improved ActionScript editor, including custom class code hinting and code completion, and reference your own code or external code libraries more efficiently.
- Enhanced Creative Suite integration
- Flash Builder integration. Rather than choosing between one integrated development environment (IDE) and another, you can now write your ActionScript code in Flash Builder and then test, debug, and publish your content in Flash Professional.
- Video improvements. With integrated support for content created with Adobe Premiere® Pro or Adobe After Effects software, it’s easy to work with video content directly in Flash Professional CS5.
- New deco drawing tools. Flash Professional CS5 extends the functionality of the dynamic Deco brush tools, enabling you to easily draw shapes and add advanced animation effects.
As a web designer, Adobe Illustrator can boost your design performance by enabling you to create distinctive vector artwork for any project. As a proven design software, it is used by design professionals worldwide. It also provides precision and power with sophisticated drawing tools, expressive lifelike brushes, and a host of time-savers.
With Adobe Illustrator, you have countless design opportunities at hand. With the right knowledge and know-how of the software, you can:
- Design with powerful creative tools
- Work smoothly and efficiently
- Deliver virtually anywhere
Packed with the latest version of the software, Adobe Illustrator CS5, are bunch of rich features like:
- Perspective drawing
- Beautiful strokes
- Variable width strokes
- Dashed line control
- Precise arrowheads
- Stretch control for brushes
- Brushes with corner style controls
- Bristle brush
- And a lot more
Adobe Dreamweaver is basically a web design tool that lets you design, develop, and maintain standards-based websites and web applications.
Using the software’s user-friendly and intuitive Graphical User Interface (GUI), you can work visually or directly in code, develop with dynamic third-party application frameworks like WordPress, Joomla!, or Drupal, and troubleshoot efficiently with CSS inspection tools. You can simplify advanced website development with custom PHP code hinting. Work more securely in a team environment with enhanced support for Subversion® software.
Adobe Dreamweaver is integrated with Adobe BrowserLab—a new Adobe CS Live online service— which gives you access to fast and accurate browser compatibility previews, including dynamic content and user-generated interactions.
Adobe Dreamweaver CS5, the current version of the software, gives you a bunch of rich and essential features which include:
- Support for PHP-based CMS
- Dynamically related files
- Live View navigation
- Enhanced CSS inspection tools
- PHP custom class code hinting
- Site-specific code hints
- Enhanced CSS Starter layout
- Simplified site setup
- And a lot more
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Since web designers build designs for the web, it is but normal that they should speak the language of the web fluently. Being able to read and understand the web’s protocol is not enough. Web designers should be able to use and write design instructions in a way that web browsers can understand.
To date, the most important languages that every web designer should learn about include HTML, XML, and CSS.
The Hypertext Markup Language is the internet’s native language. As the name implies, it is consist of an array of markup commands that instruct the web browser how to render the online content. HTML, like other programming languages, follows coding patterns known as syntax.
Today, HTML recently came up with version 5, known as HTML5. This is basically the fifth major revision of the core language of the World Wide Web.
One major breakthrough in the field of internet technology is the formulation and implementation of the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). As the name suggests, CSS is basically a special purpose style sheet language that helps in defining the format and the actual presentation of a web content written in a markup language like HTML.
In creating a design for the web, employing CSS is basically useful especially in controlling the overall look and feel of the site. Besides, using CSS in controlling how a web browser renders your web pages gives the following benefits:
- Improved content accessibility. This normally translates to a better search engine optimization since contents are laid out purely as content eliminating inline styles.
- Better flexibility. Since style is entirely separated from contents, designer can definitely play with his or her imagination in outputting the pages in various ways possible.
- Presentation control. With CSS, the designer can control the overall layout and presentation of the site without affecting and risking the valuable content therein.
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A set of skills that is absolutely unique among every designer is the creative skills. Many believed that it is gained from various creative exposure s and experiences. Others also believed that it is inherited from creative ancestors thus saying creative design skills “run with the blood”.
Whether it is from the genes or gained from previous experiences, only one thing is certain: these creative skills should be honed and expressed in various possible ways available today.
With the right choice of software tools, and attitude towards creative works, you can surely be the next renowned web designer whose web works captures the eyes and heart of many and even transforms the way the web behaves and interacts with the online community.
Jumping right to your next design project
With some details on the essential graphic design software presented here, it is definitely up to the designer whether to use learn how to use them or not. Besides, it is also their discretion on which software to use to accomplish their web design project.However, it is important to understand that these software applications are significant in boosting ones productivity. And as such, learning how to use them and mastering them especially in your next web