Web design is an industry that is constantly changing and evolving with technical innovations and trends. With this in mind, many people who are interested wonder if they can still learn web design on their own.

Web design, although a complicated task, can be self-taught. Learning web design includes mastering design theory and coding. While there are plenty of online courses or even university degrees teaching each aspect of web design, teaching yourself will be less expensive and can be faster.

Not sure what you need to know or where to get started learning web design? When teaching yourself web design, you should first learn what the elements of web design are. Once you understand what those are, you can begin to practice your skills and implement those elements. Learn how below!

Why You Should be a Self-Taught Web Designer


Currently, there are thousands of schools that are willing to teach you web design. However, these schools require thousands of dollars and hours in exchange for their knowledge. While some people may have the time, money, and desire to attend school for web design, many do not. This does not mean that those without the resources cannot or should not teach themselves to be web designers.

I myself am a web designer with over 9 years of experience in web design. I had a formal education that included a single course in web design that covered some basics but 75% of what I use in web design now was all self-taught after that.  I’ve built a network of web designers by working on projects over the years, and most had a similar experience to mine.  They did not get a formal education centered around web design and simply taught themselves and gained professional experience working in the industry.

As mentioned earlier, web design is constantly changing. As consumer preferences and trends change, web design follows suit. While a web design school will teach you current web design methods, a new method will likely already be unfolding in the real world. Although web design schools cannot accommodate every change to web design, they teach the fundamentals instead. Knowing these fundamentals prepares you for any design shifts that may come in the future.

The best way to learn is to practice but in order for you to take any benefit from the practice, you need to know what is bad web design and what is good web design.  By learning the most common bad web designs you can learn what to avoid. Here’s a list I’ve written of 20 common examples of bad website design and how to fix them.

Meanwhile, self-taught web designers do not learn just one method at a time. Rather, they are immersed directly into the constantly changing web design environment. This better prepares them for changes that are sure to come in the future.

One of the hardest parts about learning web design is knowing where to start. By attending a web design school, you do not need to know where to start. The teachers have already designed a schedule and curriculum that will start at the basics and work up to the advanced aspects of web design. This also ensures that every aspect is covered and nothing is left out of your education.

However, attending school requires you a large portion of your time and offers little flexibility when learning. When learning on your own, you can spend as little or as much time on each lesson that you need. If two weeks is not enough time to learn HTML, you have the option to focus on this subject for as long as you need.

Self-taught web designers are also able to decide their own schedules. This flexibility allows you to choose when you learn and to work while you learn. You may even get the chance to work as a web designer as you learn, giving you plenty of hands-on experience.

Self-taught web designers spend less money and time learning each skill. They dictate how much time they spend on each aspect and when they spend it. Perhaps the best part of learning web design on your own is the motivation behind it. When learning web design in school, most students focus on passing the class not on actually learning the subject. When learning web design on your own, there are no grades to strive for, only skills to achieve.

Elements of Web Design to Learn


Before you start learning web design, you should first take note of everything you need to learn. Think of this as your own curriculum to make sure you learn each aspect of web design. The elements you will need to master, as suggested by myself and other self-taught web designers, are design theory, typography, basic coding and programming, and understanding web design tools.

While knowing how to code is important, if you do not have an understanding of design theory your websites will not be successful. With proper knowledge of design theory, you can implement design elements that effectively communicate with your target audience. Design theory also explains why websites should be arranged in certain ways. Following web design theory on your websites will guide visitors through the site and encourage them to interact with your pages.

Find out the 10 basic principles of web design theory from Learn it Anytime here!

Another element important to web design is user experience. As mentioned above, web design should guide visitors through the site and encourage interaction. However, it should also be user-friendly. There should be no roadblocks in the way of a user experience such as broken links or empty pages. To create the best user experience, you should know the basics about your target audience. This can be done through user interviews and audience research.

Learn the basics about researching your target audience from WebFlow here!

Programming is essentially the backbone of web design. Most web designers suggest starting with a basic level of skill with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Styling Sheets (CSS).  All websites are built up of a series of codes. While there are many website builders and platforms such as WordPress and Wix that offer design templates that do not require you to do any coding, these templates are limited in their abilities.

With knowledge of HTML and CSS (as well as other coding languages), you can improve upon & customize these templates. This will give your websites more personality and will make them look unique vs other websites using those same website builders and templates.

As a web designer, communication is a necessary skill, especially if you are pursuing web design as a career. When designing websites for clients, you need to be able to effectively communicate with them about their business, their needs, and the goals they have for their website.

Effective communication skills will be important, no matter what career you are pursuing. Start practicing the fundamental aspects of communication which are: planning, listening, speaking clearly, and body language. You should start to learn how to be an effective communicator before learning web design. In fact, as you become a better communicator you will also become a better learner.

Learn more communication skills from Indeed‘s Career Guide here!

The final element of web design you need to learn is how to use the design software. Common design software includes most of Adobe Creative Cloud’s programs. Most web designers use Photoshop and Illustrator when designing their websites. This software can be learned by trial and error or by following some online tutorials.

Now that you know the basic elements of web design you can actually get started learning them. The most difficult part of learning web design on your own is knowing where to start. Find out how to get started in the section below!

How to Start Learning Web Design on your Own


If learning web design on your own seems intimidating, keep in mind that you are not completely alone. There are plenty of inexpensive–or even free–online tutorials and videos to help you develop this skill. You can also find plenty of books to read to help you learn the basics.

However, the best way to learn web design is to practice it!

To practice web design, the first thing you are going to need is a website to design on. This site does not need to be well established and its sole purpose can be to practice on. As you build this website start simple. As the saying goes, you do not need to re-invent the wheel. Start by following a design template or by following inspiration from other popular designers.

Not sure where to find some inspiration? Check out Awwwards.com to see some of today’s best-designed websites! Each day a new website receives an “awwward” for quality design. You can even start a collection of your favorite websites so you can always look back at them for inspiration.

Other websites for design inspiration include Dribbble, Behance, and even Pinterest.

Now that you have a basic website layout and some inspiration, it’s time to learn how to code. All web designers suggest starting with coding when teaching yourself web design, for good reason too. Coding is one of the only ways to take your website from just any run-of-the-mill site to the website everyone wants to visit. While there are plenty of paid tutorials to teach you coding, there are also several free websites that can teach you scripts such as HTML, CSS, Java, and more!

Check out W3 Schools and Codecademy to find the program that works best for you! While W3 Schools teaches you the basics of each coding language in separate lessons, Codecademy helps find the perfect program for your needs.

With a collection of design inspiration and a knowledge of coding, you can begin to apply what you have learned on your own website! As you implement design from your inspiration, be careful not to just copy and paste their work. Simply apply the aspects of their design that you like the most to your own site.

While the design of a website is important, it is nothing without content. Content is ultimately what gets people to your website and design is what keeps them there (as well as a few other factors). However, if you have a beautiful website with no content, why would anyone visit it?

Before publishing your website, have some related content on standby. This content should also influence the overall design of the website. Using the content to influence the design ensures that they work together rather than against each other. Earlier we mentioned that a website should cater to the users’ needs. Web design accomplishes this in two ways: what is pleasing to visitors (user experience) and what works best for visitors (user interface). As you design your website, always keep your audience in mind.

Advice from Web Designers


As you start to learn web design all on your own it may seem a bit overwhelming. There will be many days that feel like you are not capable of succeeding; however, following the advice below from me and other web designers will help you accomplish your goals.

The first bit of advice I would give is general but important: Know why you are doing web design. Are you looking to start a career or just a hobby? If you are pursuing web design as a career, know why! What is your career goal? What part of web design are you seeking? Pick your lane and stick to it. Answering these questions will help you find the best path to achieving your goals.

Once you know why you want to be a web designer, start learning. As you learn, write down any questions that come to mind. Research those questions until each one is answered. This will help you develop a thorough understanding of the subject. Pay particular attention to the aspects of web design that will help you reach your goals.

As you start to learn web design, remember to stay calm. If web design was easy everyone would do it. Be patient with yourself and understand that this is a skill that can take months, even years, to master.

Be active in web design as you learn it. I suggest creating a site for yourself at first once you’re ready, then create some for family & friends. You can start with a one-page template and just design a home page with content.  Read my post here to learn about what people want to see on a home page to get yourself started. Doing so will help you practice what you have learned without the stress of a professional job.

As you create websites, be open to criticism from those with more experience willing to mentor you.  You can find web designers in forums and Facebook groups.  You can even contact me here and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. This is the best way to learn as others will have an objective view that you can’t have as the designer of the website.

Once you’ve completed a site and revised using advice from a mentor you can begin doing user research & interviews to see what they think of your site.  Running these interviews and doing this research is a skill in itself so make sure you do the research and learn how to do these properly.  Don’t just start taking friends’ and family members’ feedback.  They can be users but if they are not your target audience their feedback doesn’t help you, rather it can hurt you.

The last bit of advice I have is to take a break. If you get overwhelmed or frustrated, take a step back and return with a calm, clear mind. No matter how you go about learning it, web design is hard. Have a goal in mind, a plan to get there, and then do not give up until you get there.

Although teaching yourself web design will be difficult, the result will be worth it.