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October 4, 2013

How to Stay Updated as a Web Designer

I know what you’re thinking: “I do stay on top of what’s new in Web design, which is why I am reading this blog in the first place. I don’t need to be told something as basic as how to go about updating my knowledge!”

Well, if you are thinking along these lines, your confidence has to be applauded. But here’s the rub: it’s actually quite impossible to know everything there is to know about Web design and everything happening in this domain.

The idea is to know everything that is important and learn more about the changes that impact the way you do your job.

If there is a trend that has the potential to change your design process for the better, you need to hear about it. If there is a technique that seems to be improving the way people design websites, you need to be on top of it. But yes, you don’t need to know everything.

So the real question is, how do you make sure that you remain up-to-date with the things that matter? It’s important to have an ear to the ground. As a busy Web designer, how do you keep yourself updated with the right information? It’s not that difficult actually. Let’s take a look at a few different approaches you can take.

1. Get Your Basic Sources of Information Right

At the moment, the Web is the biggest source of information for any imaginable industry, most of all designers, developers, and other techie types. Since the Internet is a bottomless pit of information, you need to get your information from the right quarters. I am reasonably sure you must be following plenty of design blogs to stay updated with the latest in Web design, but are these the right blogs? Some of the top sites that are an absolute ‘must-follow’ in the design domain are Smashing Magazine, Web Designer Depot and Six Revisions. Are you following them? If yes, pat yourself on the back, if not, follow them pronto!

Some other sites that you could follow are: ‘A List Apart, Mashable, Downgraf  and Boagworld. If you follow these sites regularly, you will keep yourself abreast of all that is new and latest in the world of Web design.

2. Track the Thought Leaders

Who are the people who matter in the Web, graphics, and design industry? Though most people know who the influencers are, they rarely bother tracking these guys and their activities. Can you name the designers reputed for coming up with new ideas all the time? Many of them, Elliot Jay Stocks, Andy Rutledge, Nick La, and Veerle Pieters to name a few, have their own websites and blogs. You need to keep track of anything new posted on their blogs. If these guys are talking about it, then it must be something significant. What’s more, they usually have plenty of freebies up on their sites, which are designed using the best and the very latest in design technology. You can learn plenty just by downloading and analyzing freebies alone.

3. Leverage Social Media

There are plenty of ways you can leverage the insane potential of social media to know what’s happening in the world of web design.

First off, you can use your profiles on Facebook and Google+ to build a network of people who are as interested as you are in Web design. Think of your social media profiles like your very own personal Web design communities. Share links to Web design articles and resources with your friends, followers, and circles. Don’t stop yourself from asking for opinions and suggestions about your work and anything else. Also, don’t shy away from asking your network about the latest buzz in Web design.

Secondly, you could follow the Twitter accounts of industry leaders. Twitter makes it easy for you to ask a quick question, skim the headlines, and take a look at the links that you find interesting. Chris Coyier, the guy behind CSS Tricks (another site you must read regularly) is on Twitter. One of the guys behind the extraordinarily popular and successful Deviant Art, Angelo Sotira is also on Twitter. These are just two of the many amazing lights of the Web design world that you could follow on social media. Moreover, Twitter is just one of the many social media platforms they are using. Find out where else they are and stalk them.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to start and maintain a conversation with the experts. Find out the names that matter in the world of Web design. The names I have mentioned don’t even begin the scratch the surface. The nature of social media allows you to interact personally with them. Create an outreach strategy that will help you connect with the influencers. Hit them up and make sure you stay connected with them.

4. Use the Latest Tools

You are a Web designer and adept at using tools to design successful websites. So, why not use some of the tools available out there to stay ahead of the curve. Here are just two of the many that I have found quite useful:

Google Alerts

All you do is set up Google alerts for specific terms like HTML5, CSS, or ‘Web Design Trends’ and you will get links to any new articles involving these terms in your inbox. If you want to stay informed about the latest developments in your domain, there is nothing better than Google Alerts.

Bookmarking Tools

The more you follow various online resources, the more your bookmarks/favorites become disorganized. That’s where bookmarking tools that improvise on your browser’s functionality come in. There are plenty of them available online, but two of my personal favorites are Zootool (which lets you save and organize images and videos in addition to web links) and Pinboard.

Choose a tool that helps you keep track of your links across devices or platforms, and that makes it easy to organize your favorite sites according to your preferences. You could use anything from Notepad to Microsoft Excel, but the point is to make sure you don’t miss out on reading some of the important articles.

5. Take the Offline Route

The Internet does offer you almost everything you need to stay updated, and the options just keep on coming. However, don’t forget to tap into offline resources such as magazines and conferences. Attending Web design conferences organized by a professional organization such as AIGA or a now behemoth site such as Smashing Magazine is a great way of catching up on the latest developments in web design, not to mention the added benefits of networking with your peers. Talking with other designers in person will improve your knowledge like nothing else can.

If you are a Web designer and want to remain up to date with the latest news about this domain, here’s a ground rule you must follow: Don’t stop looking for ways to learn more. If you stop looking for better ways to keep yourself updated, you will quickly lose the plot. And that is something that you cannot afford.


Abhishek Agarwal is CEO and Co-founder of MobiCommerce and Design’N’Buy. Abhishek is an IT graduate from BITS, Pilani and with an entrepreneurial experience of 13 years, Abhishek is a visionary who proactively looks out for the next big thing. He is well versed with trends in the market and love to write about them. He has expertise in brand management, marketing and advertising, promotions, and content marketing.