There’s no doubt about it. The web design industry is changing fast for both web designers and web agencies.
The reason why?
Small web agencies are moving up the market and larger agencies are moving down the market in order to find work.
A spectacular clash in an overcrowded market where too many agencies fight for the same projects. But there’s another big shift unfolding:
Digital design is becoming less about designing web pages and more about designing coherent user experiences across multiple digital channels.
On a global market, there are many, very good web designers. This means web designers are not in scarcity.
That’s why many web designers should, maybe, consider reeducating/rebranding/repositioning themselves as full-stack marketers with UX skills.
w00t! I hear you whining already
“Me the designer, converting myself into a marketer? Never!”
But here’s the kicker:
Web design as we’ve come to know it is “dying” because, in general, digital design is switching from being about web pages to being about digital products, services, and tools. Web pages are increasingly “just” a part of a bigger digital experience which includes; APIs, social media, mobile apps, SEO, customer service etc.
So, if you’re a web designer today, moving away from calling yourself “a web designer” to adopting a role of full stack marketer with UX skills might actually make sense.
Because when software eats the world, there are A LOT of digital touchpoints and channels need to be designed, strategically planned and managed.
The ideal professional for this is the versatile UX designer with deep marketing skills. This professional will always be employable because they will be the experts capable of designing and creating value across many channels.
Still got your attention?
Good! So how can you prepare yourself and switch your career towards marketing?
Through updating and sharpening your skills and at the same time specializing and go deep in a couple of skills/ digital channels. We thought we’ll provide a starter’s guide on making the switch.
First, a heads up:
- You will NOT get these skills in college. Digital design & marketing covers so many areas and is changing at a blinding speed so unis and colleges just simply can’t adapt. They’re too slow. I’m not saying it’s bad to go to college, but the education system is simply failing to give people the skill-set needed. I would recommend a place like Hyper Island, though. But be prepared to learn by yourself.
- There is no magic course that will teach you everything you need in order to specialize. If you’re looking for one, stop now, you ain’t gonna find one.
- You will not be able to only “read up on” developing a specialized skill-set. You will have to work on it. The best way is participating in a project or product.
The field of digital design & marketing today is vast and it is very easy to get overwhelmed.
That is why you should shape yourself like a “T”. First you need to go broad and know the basics. Afterward, you need to go deep on a couple of disciplines. (The T-Shaped individual is an originally from IDEO, read more about it here.)
To shape yourself as a “T” you need a plan and you need to stack these three bricks:
- The Foundation Brick – The brick that gives you a solid base from where to start.
- The Digital Marketing Brick – The brick that gives you the general skills any UX designer with marketing ambitions need today
- The Expertise Brick – The brick which helps you specialize and makes you an attractive employee.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be a generalist. The best companies today wants to hire the one who is the best candidate for a specific role. You want to have a good grasp on MANY digital channels but be an expert in ONE. A jack of all trades and master of ONE.
What marketing channels should you focus on?
This if, of course, up to you. But the important thing is to make a choice (To channel Yogi Berra; If there’s a fork in the road, take it”).
But here are some things you might want take into consideration:
- Your current skills (and personal preference). What type of person are you and what are your strengths? If you can identify a marketing channel where you can leverage your strengths the better the odds of you becoming an expert in that channel.
- Identify an emerging field and make a bet on it. If you manage to time the emergence of new digital marketing channel the greater your chances of becoming an expert fast becomes.
A hot tip is to pick one established field that you know will be around for a while (content marketing) and one more experimental (Snapchat).
Just one last bit of advice before we move on: Start something that you can experiment with. In learning to market in digital channels, hands-on experience is invaluable. Courses and tutorials are a great way to begin but make an effort to either start something of your own or find one where you can help out.
So, hope this starter’s guide will get you to where you want to be:
1. The Foundation Brick
Programming (know the basics)
Here are some great courses:
- Learn HTML and CSS with OneMonth
- Learn JQuery Basics with Treehouse
- Learn Ruby on Rails with OneMonth
- Learn Python the Hard Way
Product Design & UX Principles
This might sound redundant but in my experience many web designers basically just design “catalog websites”, and have little knowledge about product design.
A lot of digital design from now on forward will be about designing and marketing digital services and products. And digital design will be increasingly tied to marketing. Here are three great books:
In order to design and market something to someone having a basic understanding as to why people behave like they do is important. Understanding some behavioral psychology is therefore very useful. It will give you an added dimension and help you when arguing for or against something.
Storytelling & Branding
Most design solutions works best within a narrative – a story. In order to create a narrative you want to convey a feeling and connect with target audiences. A great way of doing this is through storytelling. Stories help you with correct positioning and branding of digital products and services. Here are some great resources on that:
There is a clear trend towards design and marketing decisions being data-driven.
What this means in practice is that digital marketing and product design is in need of professionals that can analyze data. The following resources help you understand how to use and how to implement popular analytics tools like Google Analytics and Mixpanel:
- Google Analytics for Beginners (Course)
- Lean Analytics (Video)
- Google Analytics Learn (Courses)
- Mixpanel University (Resource)
2. Marketing Foundation Brick
With this brick you acquire knowledge that are used across almost almost any online design and marketing project.
Conversion Rate Optimization
99,99% of digital experiences is about conversion (yes, even the quirkiest ad campaign). Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is about finding out why users aren’t doing a desired action/event. It’s about identifying where performance can be improved. CRO processes and tactics can be leveraged within any digital product, tool or service.
- You Should Test That (Book)
- Conversion XL (Blog)
- Crazy Egg Blog (Blog)
- Master The Essentials Of CRO (Book)
Before a UI has visuals it’s only words. In fact the best interfaces doesn’t have to be much more than words. As a digital designer you’re probably constantly writing dummy texts, whether you like it or not. So why not become better at it? Knowing how to write good copy will make you a better designer and it will definitely help your become a better marketer. Here are some suggestions on some great courses:
Funnel marketing is fundamentally the art of mapping a complete customer journey; from piquing the interest of a user to the user making a purchase or performing a desired event. Knowing the basics of funnel marketing is mandatory for any UX designer with ambitions to become a marketer.
A/B Testing / Multivariate Testing
A/B testing goes hand in hand with both CRO, copywriting and design. These resources are great for getting started:
Basic Photoshop & Wireframing Skills
Somewhat of a no-brainer but having basic skills in PS and wireframing is of course important. It’s like with programming skills, if you know your way around Photoshop you don’t have to ask for help from colleagues. So, just learn it. Here’s one good course:
3. Channel Expertise Brick
Time to stack the third brick; the channel expertise brick. Now is where you acquire the knowledge that makes you an expert by going deep. This is what makes you an attractive employee in the long run.
Viral loops is what makes B2C products like Snapchat take off. It’s also somewhat of a closely guarded secret so not a whole lot of content is available out there. Also, “going viral” is a lot about luck, but here are some great resources to with some best practices:
- Growth (Video)
- How To Model Viral Growth Part 1(Blog Posts)
- How To Design & Track Viral Growth Experiments (Video)
Pay-per-click is a very crowded channel, no doubt about it. But it’s still worth studying.
It becomes a very efficient if you have the chance to market something which does not have too much of keyword competition.
Facebook & Twitter Ads
If done right, Facebook ads are very, very, very effective. Especially their targeting features. It’s also a great channel to work with if you need to validate product ideas, features etc. Twitter ads is a somewhat new channel which is very efficient for example lead generation.
- The Facebook Funnel (Video)
- Twitter Ads for Businesses and Entrepreneurs (Course)
- The Complete Facebook Ads and Facebook Marketing Course (Course)
SEO is, much like PPC, a somewhat red ocean. But just like PPC, if done right, it can drive a lot of traffic. Any digital marketer should have a fundamental understanding of SEO. Here are some great resources:
- Backlinko.com (Blog)
- ClickMinded SEO Optimization (Course)
- Moz.com SEO Learning Center (Resource)
- Distilled University (Course/program)
No need to talk too much about this channel. Social media is obligatory for any digital marketer.. Especially when it comes to understanding how to distribute content.
If you’re working with B2B clients, content marketing can be extremely effective. If done right it’s also extremely cost-effective and long-lasting. Here are some great resources to start with:
- Inbound.org (Community)
- Inbound Marketing University (Resource)
- The Quicksprout Advanced Guide to Content Marketing (Resource)
- An Epic Guide To Creating a Content Marketing Strategy (Resource)
Displah ads / Retargeting
Display ads… You’re probably frowning right now. Banners!
Well, if done right, display ads work great, retargeting display ads work even better.
Email is still the number one marketing channel. Knowing how to set up up proper lead generation e-mail campaign is a very good channel to go deep on:
- Email Marketing Best Practices (Resource)
- The Mailchimp Blog (Blog)
- Email Marketing Guides (Resource)