From pharmaceutical-makers to online retailers and financial services, companies are seeking top-tier Web designers who can create rich user experiences, social media interactions and other interactive apps.
To hire them, however, employers better be willing to pay for their talents. Equipped with an arsenal of skills including animation, graphics, photo editing, mixed media, social media, advertising, apps design and video, Web designers with five or more years' experience can earn between $72,750 and $100,750 annually, according to Menlo Park, California-based staffing firm the Creative Group.
Not surprisingly, with the explosion in online content, job opportunities in Web design are expected to increase 13 percent through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook. The BLS states that people with skills in Web design, mobile and other technologies will find the most opportunity in today's job market, with more companies regularly seeking new college graduates with the latest techniques in Web design.
Donna Farrugia, executive director of the Creative Group, has seen an "unreal" increase in the amount of job orders for Web designers. In fact, the demand for Web designers hit an all-time 13-year high during the second quarter of 2012 for her staffing firm as the national unemployment rate for Web designers/developers hovered at 3 percent, Farrugia says.
Institutional pedigree doesn't rank as highly as boots-on-the-ground experience for Lori Richmond. As director of creative services at New York-based XO Group Inc., Richmond oversees a team of nine Web designers who work on the media company's three main websites: The Knot, The Bump and The Nest, among other online projects.
"Their portfolio is the first thing I look at before their résumé," she says. "I don't care if you went to a community college vs. Harvard. Another thing we look for when reviewing portfolios is what people are doing outside their professional work, like if they have a craft business on the side or a photography blog. All of that gives us insight on their level of design sensibility. Their outside interest piques our interest."
Richmond has used freelance Web designers as a training ground for hiring full-timers. Her two most recent full-time Web design hires were former freelancers for her company. Hiring a Web designer as a freelancer first gives the company a better feel for the person's skills, personality and work ethic, Richmond says.
"I would much rather someone come in and freelance for us for a day or a couple of weeks and get a sense of what they can do," she says. "Personality, professionalism and being responsive to feedback is really important."
Richmond's staff works on a variety of projects online and offline, including website design, mobile and iPad apps, sales and marketing materials and online media kits.
"Because of the type of work we do, we need people who can bounce between different projects," she says. "We need to be more than Web designers. We need good designers and artists who can work across different mediums.
"It's easy to learn some technical skills and call yourself a Web designer. But we look for skills that are a step beyond that," Richmond says. "Do you understand typography and hierarchy of information and can you edit photos? We really look for the true designer, not just somebody who is mostly technical. We can focus on user interface, design and usability and collaborate with our technical team."
Andrea Siedsma is a writer based in Encinitas, California. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.