What to learn to upgrade your web design skills

So you've got a perfect design portfolio, you've mastered all the nuances of responsive web design and your user experience skills are tip top, but there's something holding you back from progressing in your career. Sometimes, to get better at your day job, you need to look a little outside your particular specialism. You could take on a side project, try a new creative hobby, or simply pick a cutting-edge new area to skill up in. We asked seven top web professionals what they were planning on doing to add some new strings to their bow. 

01. Game development

Tools like Unity have made game development more accessible

Tools like Unity have made game development more accessible

“I love playing video games (at the moment I’m currently hooked on Stardew Valley), and there are some really great ones coming out from indie developers that I follow on Twitter,” says frontend developer Anna Debenham. “Watching them share their progress of crafting walking (as well as dancing) bears, and teaching cubes to chase a banana using machine learning, is something that has really inspired me.”

Game development software is becoming more and more accessible for beginners, and platforms such as VR are opening up possibilities for more confident web pros. Debenham plans to try her hand at building a 3D game using Unity. 

02. iPad design

Learning to design on an iPad takes a little dedication

Learning to design on an iPad takes a little dedication

There are plenty of great painting apps to help you create artwork on the go, but it takes time and effort to make the most of them. Web designer and frontend developer Katherine Cory finally invested in an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil last year, with the aim of using Procreate to create amazing digital paintings, but is still getting to grips with the new workflow. 

“I naively thought I’d start creating work as great as the time-lapses I see on Instagram, but after a few hours of playing and only creating scribbles, I’ve realised it’s a skill I need to learn,” she smiles. “I’ve signed up to an Udemy course and have joined Skillshare. Hopefully, by the end of the year I’ll be creating designs like a pro (pun intended).” 

03. Artificial intelligence

AI raises ethical questions for developers

AI raises ethical questions for developers

Digital transformation consultant Sally Lait started playing with neural networks last year, and she’s keen to expand her skills. While AI isn’t something she aims to offer directly to her clients, Lait thinks it’s an important area for web professional to be aware of. 

“With AI being a growing corner of tech where there’s a lot of hype and even greater amounts of ethical concerns, I’d like more hands-on, practical experience to better inform my knowledge of these important issues,” she explains. “I see it as my responsibility to experience and understand the impact that different technologies can have.”

04. Podcasting

Podcasts are a great way to immerse yourself in the web industry

Podcasts are a great way to immerse yourself in the web industry

“2018 is the year to get back to combining technology with stories from real people, therefore I’m relearning a skill from years ago: podcasting!” announces frontend developer and consultant Jenn Lukas. Lukas used to co-host the Ladies in Tech podcast, and will be reprising her skills with a new show No, You Go alongside CEO Katel LeDû and Sara Wachter-Boettcher. To get the podcast launched smoothly she’ll be learning the new WordPress updates, refreshing her audio editing, and brushing up on interviewing skills.

05. Soft skills

Brushing up on skills like communication can really pay off

Brushing up on skills like communication can really pay off

Don’t forget ‘soft’ skills such as communication and persuasion. Improving these can have a massive effect on your career. Over the coming months, Make Us Proud’s Inayaili de León Persson aims to focus on design leadership and research, to suit where her career is currently headed. 

“I’ve been reading a lot of books and articles, and watching talks around these subjects, and I’m planning to attend some conferences too – and, of course, learning on the job,” she shares.

06. AR and VR

VR is a completely different ball game

VR is a completely different ball game

An area that’s getting a lot of attention at the moment is virtual reality and augmented reality. In order to understand the possibilities and the limitations in this medium, creative director Shane Mielke plans to spend some time getting to grips with the new tools that are making VR and AR more accessible, including Unity and ARKit. 

“By understanding the tools and process, I can more confidently solve design and navigation problems in a world that doesn’t follow the standards of the web-only projects that I have most of my experience in,” he explains.

07. A rounded approach

Don't panic over every hot new tool or technique

Don't panic over every hot new tool or technique

While all these new tools and techniques are exciting, if you try and learn every new thing that comes along, you’ll find yourself running to stand still. So if reading this list is putting you into a panic, worry not. 

“If you can think algorithmically, share your skills, work with a team and empathise with users, there will always be work,” councils Web Standards specialist Bruce Lawson. “Being rounded is the skill I want to develop.”

Image with a message announcing tickets for Generate London are now on sale, over the top of a London skyline with a red and purple gradient

Web design event Generate London returns on 19-21 September 2018, offering a packed schedule of industry-leading speakers, a full day of workshops and valuable networking opportunities – don’t miss it. Get your Generate ticket now.

This article was originally published in net, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers. Buy issue 304 or subscribe.

Read more:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

net staff

net was a leading magazine for web designers and web developers, which was published between 1994 and 2020. It covered all areas of web development, including UX and UI design, frameworks, coding and much more. Much of its content lives on in Creative Bloq. View the net archive on Creative Bloq.