What Your Web Design Students Need to Know by Graduation
Teaching students the wonders of the web is no easy task, especially since the technology used on the web is constantly changing. How can you possibly know that what you're teaching them today will be useful by the time they graduate? While we can't predict the future, we can identify core skills that every web design student needs to know by graduation.
This article will focus on web designers who specialize in front-end development. In the past it was acceptable to be a web designer with no knowledge of code. However, web designers today must have a basic understanding of the code that creates their designs. What your students should leave your school with is a real grasp on core concepts and the core languages.
CSS makes the web beautiful, which is what a web designer should strive to do. While preprocessors are all the rage, the main thing your students need to understand is CSS itself. They should understand how to use selectors to dig deep within their HTML to target what they're exactly looking for. You should introduce the concept of a preprocessor, but CSS is more important than any preprocessor. Also, you don't need to really worry about CSS4 that's on the horizon. Teaching them CSS3 and ways to learn about new selectors is important.
Something all web designers should understand before they've got a degree in hand is vector and raster and the differences between the two. They should feel comfortable working in programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to create things like style guides, wireframes, and brand assets. Of course, they don't absolutely need to use the Adobe Creative Cloud products to achieve those things, but they should understand how design programs work and how they're used in the web design world. Visual design is a great part of a web designer's job.
Accesibility and the theories that go along with it are essential for web designers to know and understand. Understanding why we create sites that are accessible will help your students understand the type of design decisions they'll need to make at the beginning of their design process.
Working in a team and creating clean and organized work that can be passed off and understood by the next person in the pipeline is incredibly important. Understanding version control, like Git, is often a requirement on many job listings. If your student can demonstrate that they understand what happens before and after them in the pipeline, they will be much more appealing to future employers.
Web standards and why we write semantic code is important as well. If your students understand that they need to get their code validated to make sure that it's compliant, then they'll be on the right path.
Students should also understand testing and how important it is in the web industry. Not only should they be able to preform browser testing, but they should understand the importance of quality assurance testing and why websites often start out in beta.
One thing you should make sure and teach your students is that they need to become lifelong learners. If they're not willing to stay up-to-date on technology, then they will definitely fail as a web designer. That means they should prepare to spend time at conferences, read a lot of blogs and constantly keep up with new training on new concepts. After all, Responsive Design was introduced on A List Apart.
Students who want to expand their horizons and grow with the industry to continue to be competitive and valuable assets to their employers must stay current with emerging technology.