As many businesses now supply products and information via their Web sites, Web
design has become a very hot area of IT. And very few people have all the
skills to meet the demand, particularly for those businesses moving into
Photoshop skills can create a visually attractive site, but there is more to a
successful site than the graphics. The information needs to be structured so
that it is easy to access, without getting lost in the process.
If it is an interactive site, it needs to meet the needs of browsers, searchers
and, sometimes, shoppers. If it doesn’t, the business loses potential revenue.
The solution is usually to call in a Web design consultant.
Catherine Rosenbrauer, the education and marketing manager with the
user-interface design consultants the Hiser Group, uses a building analogy to
explain the important aspects of Web design.
“The architect designs the building, the builder gets the materials and makes
it and the interior designer looks after colours and cosmetics,” she says. “The
architect is the Web designer, the builder is a computer programmer and the
interior designer is a graphic designer. However, some Web designers will
perform all three functions.
“To be a good designer you need visual, information and interaction design
skills,” says Rosenbrauer. “Information design involves grouping information on
a Web site into a hierarchical structure that is easy to navigate.”
Good interactive design allows the user to search, browse and perform functions
such as banking or online shopping relatively quickly and easily.
“A Web designer can have any or all three skills,” says Rosenbrauer, “but there
are not many good interaction designers around.”
With ever-changing software and increasingly complex Web sites, becoming a good
designer requires far more skills than it did a few years back. There are no
longer (or at least very rarely) job advertisements for Webmasters.
“Webmasters did everything,” says Michel Hedley, the education and training
manager at the Australian Information Industry Association, “supplied the
content, html code, page design, graphics, images and loaded it onto the Web
server. It is now far more complex and many of those tasks will be done by
different people and overseen by a Web site manager.”
Prospective employees reading the job ads for Web designers need to be very
clear as to what is meant by the term in each instance.
The job title means different things to different employers – from the visually
creative graphic designer to the person who literally designs and builds the
With a commerce degree and language skills behind her, Juliana Ngiam had no
interest whatsoever in the Internet, until a chance search in 1996.
“I typed in ‘Asian women’ and got 80,000 sites of porn,” she says. “I couldn’t
believe what was being done to women. I whinged for a few days and then decided
to take up the challenge and do something about it. I made my own Web site –
Asian Women On Line – and it was so ugly I enrolled in a six-month multimedia
course with TAFE.”
After studying the basics, Juliana continued to learn independently and moved
forward from a freelance Web designer, to producer, to project manager.
She has recently completed a role as a project manager for the Federal
Government Online Australia initiative, Women’s Online Week
(www.onlinewomen.looksmart.com.au), and is looking forward to her next venture.
“It’s a great job, very left brain and right brain. You need to be logical to
structure information, and creative to make the site visually attractive. You
need to motivate people to want to ‘click’.”
While she is reticent to talk about her income, Ngiam says her skills have
recently been valued by recruitment agencies as being worth $60,000 to $100,000
Internet site designers with visual, information and interaction design skills
are in huge demand, but hard to find.
An evening surfing the Web should return loads of information on available
courses (www.aiia.com.au is a good place to start).
Talk to the educators about course content and to those in the industry about
skills in demand, where they studied, and what they do at work.
• Most universities offer a three-year degree course in either communications,
multimedia or computer science which include Web design.
• TAFE (phone 131 601 or visit www.tafensw.edu.au) has a number of certificate
courses and a two-year diploma course in Web design and management ($610 a
• There are countless courses on offer from private organisations which cover
many aspects of Web design. The Hiser Group (phone 9212 7700), for example, has
a range of courses, including Successful Web 1 – Overview ($595, one day), and
Successful Web 2 – Practical Techniques ($995, two days).
• A number of graphic design schools offer courses on graphic design for the
With basic Web design skills you should be able to kick off a career at about
$30,000 to $35,000. With good graphic design skills as well, that rises to
about $60,000 and with visual, information and interaction design skills, you
can earn about $80,000. By the time you have mastered all the ins and outs of
good design and can direct others, you can start looking above $60,000.