Imagination is our power

Archive for June, 2012

How to Get Your Clients to Stop Comparing Rates

Have you ever had the experience of spending a couple of days consulting with a potential client, gave him everything he wanted, only to lose him to another provider simply because of price?

How to Get Your Clients to Stop Comparing Rates

Yet you know competing on price is a losing strategy. For one, you only have 24 hours in a day – how much lower can you charge before you go below the poverty line? And how can you even compete with the thousands of other providers from Asia, who are willing to work for a tenth of what you are asking for?

Well, that’s where marketing comes in. The answer is simple, really: build your brand, position yourself right and ask for the money.


Simple, however, does not equal easy – don’t worry though, that’s what this article is here for.

How To Get Anyone To Do Anything

According to Professor BJ Fogg from Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, three things need to occur simultaneously for an action to happen.

  1. You must have the motivation to act. In other words, you must want it first.
  2. But the fact that you want it doesn’t mean you can do it. The second factor is, therefore, ability. Can you afford what you want to buy, for example?
  3. Even if you want to do something and you have the ability to do it, sometimes life gets in the way. We all want to live a healthy life and we all have the ability to do it, so why not? Answer: triggers – a factor I’ll discuss more in depth later in this article.

The goal, if it isn’t already abundantly clear, is to raise motivation, lower ability (make it as easy as possible) and to constantly remind them of your presence.

Do you want to raise your price and not scare away a client? Do these 3 things.

Let’s start with…

1. Making Yourself Desirable

Back in 2009, psychologists Timothy Judge and Charlice Hurst published a study. The goal of the research, which took 20 years to complete and involved some 12,000 people, was to find out what factors make some people professionally successful and why others fail.

They found pretty much what you’d expect. Demographics, for example, matter: teens who came from well-to-do families are more likely to attend top universities than blue collar families and therefore more likely to do well.

But there’s a small subset of their participants that defies the odds: people came from normal (sometimes poor) families, who didn’t do well in school, yet went on to run/found multi-million dollar companies.

So they searched far and wide for a common factor among these people and here’s what they found: quitting. Or more specifically, decisiveness and focus.

Once these people decide to do something, they are decisive to quit doing any other activity and completely dedicate their focus to a singular task.

So what does this have to do with building your brand and making yourself desirable?

As David Packard (co-founder of Hewlett-Packard) once said, “more companies die from overeating than starvation.” What he really meant is for you to focus on one customer segment and start turning down clients who are not your target.

Specialization and a Word of Warning

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re a big anime fan and you’re getting married. Would you go for…

  • A photographer who does everything?
  • A photographer who specializes in weddings?
  • Or a photographer who specializes in anime weddings?

The answer is clear. If there’s only one thing you can do to increase your desirability to potential clients, therefore, it’s specialization.

Because not only will the third photographer have a lot anime weddings in his portfolio, he’ll also know what are best poses for anime-themed wedding dress, the best locations for an anime fan, and align his whole marketing strategy to focus on that segment.

But what if a regular wedding client knocked on my door? Shouldn’t I take it?

That’s the difference between successful and struggling entrepreneurs, the study found. Sure you’ll make some money if you take that client on, but you could have spent that time marketing your services to the RIGHT customers and building your brand instead of diluting it.

In other words, the wrong customer is like a candy bar. Sure it tastes good now, but think about what would happen if you eat it.

Does that mean you should find the most obscure niche out there and specialize in it? Of course not. Look before you jump: is the niche sustainable? Will it pay to specialize? There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Do a Google keyword research. Are there people looking for your services?
  • Look for blogs dedicate to your intended specialization. Are there even any?
  • Go to the popular forums and see if anyone is talking about the niche you want to dive into.
  • And this is most important: beware if you found a niche that has no competition. That probably means the market is too small.
  • If you’re really unsure, run a PPC ad to test the market. You could save years of specialization if you just tested your idea for a mere $50 on Adwords.

2. Make It as Easy as Possible

Now that you’ve put yourself on top of the potential client’s desire list, it’s time to remove the roadblocks for them to take action.

Making it as easy as possible for clients to give you money sounds ludicrous – do clients really base their decisions to spend thousands of dollars on how simple the payment process is? Answer: to a large degree, yes.

IN 2003, Eric Johnson and Daniel Goldstein published a study on how they significantly increased how many people choose to donate their organs when they pass away. Guess how they did it?

Did they offer incentives for the organs? Did they punish those who refuse to donate? Nope, none of that.

They simply made the default choice to “Yes, I will donate my organs when I die”. You’d think that organ donation is such a major life decision, people would check a box to keep theirs when filling out the forms.

But they didn’t.

Making It Easy To Do Business

In business, that can mean a few things:

  1. Keep your web forms as short as possible. If you can get someone into a sales funnel, you can always ask for more information later. For example, I remember wanting to hire a graphic designer but I left because of his form: it was too damn long!

    Why would he need my last name, my phone number, address, scope of the project, estimated budget and a dozen more information at this point in time? I just wanted to know if he’s available and if so, for how many hours a week.

    Instead he could have a “register your interest” form with two fields: first name and email address. Then he could follow up with one question at a time – making it far less intimidating for me to answer.

  2. Consider your payment options. Believe it or not, just last week I was asked to print out a form, fill it out, sign it and fax it back to the merchant. If I have no fax machine (who does, these days?), I’ll have to scan it and email it back to him.

    Guess what I did? I abandoned the process (even though I had my credit card ready).

    So why didn’t he accept paypal or credit card online? Because of the “processing fee”, and fraud he said. It’s a common mistake many business owners make.

    If you’re concerned about fees, raise your price to cover them and make it as convenient as possible for your clients to give you money. It’s rare that that modest increase would decrease your conversion.

  3. Revise your contact options. I hate talking on the phone because I would have no records about anything that was said, yet a number of providers insist on doing so. Why? I was given a number of reasons: it’s faster, makes sure I’m a real person, etc – but all of those reasons have one thing in common:

    They are all for the benefit of the business owner, not the client!

    On the other hand, some industries insist that clients use email instead of call. Others are only available through a Skype chat. If you insist on a particular contact option, make sure you’re making things easier, not harder.

  4. “Uncomplicate” the process of hiring you. For example, I used to require potential clients go through an 18-page contract before I would start any formal work. It was the prudent thing to do – after all, I’ve heard of horror stories of clients refusing to pay up when the work is done.

    Then a colleague of mine suggested I should get rid of that document and use a one-page agreement instead – conversion rate for that last step, doubled. Meaning I doubled my client base.

    Did anyone scam me because of the lack of a contract? To be honest, yes. But out of the 8 additional clients I got, only 1 was a scammer. I treat that experience as a marketing cost and my income doubled – even after I took the scam into account.

    Most people are the stark opposite: they would rather lose 7 legitimate clients than fall victim to one scam.

3. Triggers

Why do you eat what you eat, and why do you eat the amount you do?

That was the question that was plaguing psychologist, Brian Wansink. So he set out to do a number of experiments to test this crazy theory he had: it’s the environment people are in that affects what and how much they eat. Not hungry they are.

And it turns out to be true.

For example, the amount of chocolate bars you’d eat increases if the candy jar is within your immediate reach. Similarly, the bigger the plates you use, the more food you put on your plate and the more you end up eating.

These are great examples of “triggers” – subconscious factors that influence your behaviour.

In the case above, you have the motivation to eat the chocolate bar and you certainly have the ability to do so. The trigger is the very presence of the chocolate bars. That’s called the “signal” trigger (When Wansink switched the transparent candy jar for an opaque one, consumption dropped).

The reason triggers have such a huge amount of influence on our behaviour is because we are cognitive misers. We use mental shortcuts to determine our behaviour rather than fully and rationally analysing each situation.

For example, study after study found that we tend to view beautiful people as more competent, honest and kind – beauty in this case is a trigger. We view people who are like us as friendlier. And we view those with an Ivy League degree as more of a genius.

All these are not necessarily true, but that’s how most of us perceive them.

Manipulating Triggers Online

There are several ways you can do this in the online space. Smart marketers, for example, don’t insist that people buy their products on the first visit. Instead, they get their clients to fill out a form so they can follow up from there.

Those constant follow ups are triggers. The emails say something to the tune of, “Hey, you expressed interest in my service a couple of days ago. Just thought you might like this resource I wrote on my blog.” Completely non-intrusive, helpful even.

Triggers also come in a few other forms:

  • A prominent call to action button. Facebook, for example, uses a green sign up even though blue works better with their design. Why? Because if it doesn’t match with the theme of the site, that button will grab more attention and trigger people into signing up.
  • Always have functional, usable and pleasing marketing materials. Maintain and update your website at least once a month and make sure your business card, flyers, banners and any other client facing materials reflect your professionalism. A website and/or advertising materials that wows your prospective client is a trigger of competency. You don’t have to brag about your skills – that awesome site of your does it for you.
  • Be transparent about who you are and your design processes. Display a nice portrait of you, use your real name and write a brief background about you. Maintaining anonymity will only raise suspicion – how do they know you really are who you say are? This is a trigger of honesty.
  • Social proof is another great trigger. If you have a significant amount of Facebook fans or Twitter followers, show them off. If you have raving testimonials, feature them. If you’ve worked with large clients or interviewed/contributed to national magazines, boast about it. These are triggers of popularity.
  • Last but not least, is your trigger of authority. Being an authority in your marketplace is not the same as being popular. Many university professors and entrepreneurs, for example are never popular, yet the former has contributed to humanity’s knowledge and the latter made millions of dollars.

Being an authority is not easy, but there are couple of things you can do to create that perception. For example, create a great case study (note: Case studies are not portfolios). Or start a side project to benefit your community – license your images under the creative commons, help a local charity with design work, make it a point to help other designers in popular online communities.

When specialization, accessibility and triggers converge, price becomes almost an afterthought. It’s like if Da Vinci offers to paint you a picture – you just know it will be the money. You’d do it if you can afford his fee.

And here’s the truth: most clients never wanted to pay as little money as possible. Some do, but most don’t. What they do look for are two things:

  1. Whether you can do the job well
  2. And if they can trust you

If too many clients start comparing your rates, it’s a symptom that you’re missing on these factors.

UI vs UX: what’s the difference?

UI is the saddle, the stirrups, and the reigns.

UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse, and rope your cattle.

At least that’s what they used to say in the olden days. Rather, that is what I wished they’d say. Despite how simple that may have sounded, there are many complications and misconceptions when it comes to the differences between UI and UX design, and they cause the design community to go into quite a stir whenever they are brought up.

An interesting note to that is that I’ve found the people who work at jobs with titles such as Interaction Designer to get paid more simply because they know and act on the differences between those two fields (typically harnessing a little of both). And in fact, I think there are more differences in the people behind these roles than the ideas behind UI and UX design.

Let’s jump right into a standardized definition that we will try to metaphorically elaborate on. Defined very simply a User Interface design is the part of the product that faces the user when he looks at the site, and the User Experience is how they feel when they look at the site, aka the broad scope.

More pointedly, good user experience is the art of a drill going through wood, or a surfboard gliding through water effortlessly. The feelings those give you is unparalleled because they just work, simple as that. Though, in contrast, the shape of that board that helps it make those turns on the wave is good UI, and the surfwax on the top so you don’t slip off is also good UI. In short, the ENTIRE package is what makes it good UX, whereas good UI is always a very important inner-element of that.

Before continuing, I’d like to just say that this article is based on my opinion alone and in no way is trying to make large grandiose statements on the way anything should be. I will be trying to educate readers about various elements of each field, based on my own past experiences but I am, again, in no way trying to impede on your personal views should they differ from those stated in this article. All the metaphors are things that I think relate, and if you think they don’t feel free to let me know in the comments but be sure to give your own as well. It always helps the reader if they have multiple sources giving input about a topic.


Let’s break it down



Just look at that image; that is such a glorious illustration of exactly how much is incorporated in User Experience design. Now you can tell why the people in these roles have to be able to think critically and creatively on an almost constant basis. Though, don’t be thrown off if you are a bit confused thus-far, because we have indeed mainly related UX and UI design to physical products like the surfboard, or animals like the horse.

The reason for that is, this is obviously a bit of a confusing topic, and it is mainly that way because it is heavily fractured. That is, little pieces of one make up the larger view of the other, and that can be sort of confusing or challenging to a lot of people. But even designers have a hard time with it, so don’t feel let down.

Let’s imagine that we convert those ideas we already spoke about into the web or mobile spaces. The UI would be a series of buttons and how they look, and the UX would say that button should physically press down when you click it. The responsiveness of being clicked, and then having the button pressed down on a 2D website is so satisfying after all, how could a designer not do it? Well, it happens all the time, and I think we get spoiled by the ones that do.

For instance, I have been to tons of sites that have nice big beautiful buttons with shadows under them like they are just itching to be clicked on, and then when you do, they don’t inset into the page. No responsive animation, and all I know is that it makes me feel disappointed in the design or designer of that product.

Now, I don’t believe that is because I am some sort of weird button elitist, but instead I think it is because that is how powerful good user experience is. I believe that when we come into contact with user experience that is so over the top, and so amazing (as the buttons that inset are, for some reason) then we literally feel like all things should be that awesome. Of course, I wouldn’t judge an entire product because some buttons don’t press down, but that is a big part of how I feel in that given moment going to press that button.

There are tons of outside factors that influence how we feel on a website at any given time, and we need to do all we can to make sure that website presents itself in such a way that we curb all those outside influences into not being as apparent as the inner-influences of our UX is. In general, always think of UX as an umbrella that houses all the points that make up your product’s experience, in the now, in the future (though that’s some strategy), and in the past.

It has been argued time and time again, based on all this talk regarding UX and Interaction, is how someone feels on a 2D website actually important at all? Well, if you are trying to get conversions it is; if you are trying to get people to be fascinated by your product or blog it is; if you are trying to get people to understand you it is; if you are trying to get people to listen to you it is; if you are trying to get people to spread your message it is; if you are trying to get people to do pretty much anything then yes, it is very important.

I’m sure you can tell that yourselves, but the reason we often have this seemingly unnecessary debate is that designers who are in one field really don’t know how to define themselves. And for good reason. Designers often end up doing a number of different jobs within the design realm, and that is why it is actually even more important to find someone who knows exactly what they do best and how they fit into the team – unless of course you are looking for a jack of all trades.

Outside of the design industry people get really emotionally about design. Which makes it a no-brainer when you think about how important a designer’s job really is. They do more than just put a nice pretty ambiance on things. They can literally create an entire emotion around your product, and should.

The designer is one of the most important people on your team, and should be treated as such. As a related example, Mark Zuckerburg keeps the desks of the Facebook lead designers multiple feet from his desk when he is at work. Engineers are important, but they are what the users don’t see. Their effects are implicit, like site speed and database architecture, but a designer is very much expressing himself all over your product — and there is something to be said for that.

One of the people a lot of designers look up to is Aaron Walters who does various talks and books, but equally important is his job as lead UX Designer at MailChimp. Now, talk about an amazing product. Without even knowing anything about him or what he speaks or writes about, just head on over to the site or look at the image above, and tell me if that doesn’t evoke an emotionally response from you. Well, I know it does so we can just cut to the chase.

He is all about what is called Designing for Emotion, and he talks about it quite often. You want your design to center around the user’s feelings and emotions when he arrives on your site. Not just what he is feeling externally (more on that later), but what emotions you want your site to convey to him and/or to make him feel.

This is very apparent when you use MailChimp’s service, or when just navigating around their product pages. You will immediately see that it is one of the most well-designed websites out there, and the simplicity of creating a rather complex form is astounding. They walk you through everything with guides, in a colorful and step by step manner, and you’re never left alone out in the dark. They completely round off the product by sending you examples and tips on how to improve your forms or form behavior, or how to capture other areas of the product for best use after you are using it. And they don’t just do it by giving you huge modal windows that block your exit from the site when you log in, but instead they give you beautiful reminders throughout.

Because remember, it’s all important. The entire product is UX, an individual section is UI. The joy of throwing a baseball is user experience, the stitching and spherical shape is UI.


UX and UI: within a team

In my opinion, when working on a web or mobile project a UX designer is effectively a creative director. Though, often times in a more formal team structure the creative director is someone who works closely with the founding team to identify the creative vision they have and then he squeezes it through his creative direction and passes it on down to the UX designer who then makes that happen on the site with help from and while leading the UI team.

I think that in a scrum development environment though, the creative director can just be replaced with the UX lead, if he is okay with that sort of responsibility. Simply because they do much of the same thing, and have much of the same expertise from my POV. Though, again, that is just my opinion.

In reality, you should fit them in wherever you feel they should fit on a project, but ideally they would not be a joint UI/UX person, unless they were exceptionally talented. I would love to know what the commenters think about this particularly. A lot of you reading are probably designers or aspiring designers, do you bill yourself as both a UX and UI designer? Or do you think there should be separation between the two?

As far as the actual project goes, the UX designer should be there from inception to completion. He is critical in the project’s life cycle. Projects without them often turn out like Google Video, with no emotion.

Alternatively, projects that have a UX person/team on call for the entirety turn out like ZenDesk, just absolutely beautiful and end up being a delight to use. Side-note: go to ZenDesk’s site and click the “Try it free” button on the top right. That is how a button should interact. Also as another side-note, apparently I’m obsessed with buttons.

Another thing to remember is that UI is effectively a tool that you will be using, and the people working on it are as powerful as a drill or hammer are to a construction job. Always remember to choose the appropriate designers for the job, even if you believe UX to be more important. You should keep in mind that this is a fractal enterprise and that the susceptibility of one branch effects all the others.

Basecamp is another example of great UX, and in fact they have a great engineering team that has a large focus on UX as well. Typically, engineers don’t quite know how to do great UX, *cough* Google *cough*, but in this case 37signals’ engineering team along with their splendid designers do an absolutely amazing job of coordinating ideas to create just the most simplistic and awesome project collaboration applications. The new Basecamp has got to be one of the least resistant applications I’ve ever used (you get up and going so fast).

We’ve touched on this a bit throughout the article thus-far, but it is important enough to dedicate it’s own subsection to. Simply and straight-forwardly put, if you don’t have emotion on your site your readers will become emotionless and indifferent towards it. The more your readers get from the feeling of your site or product, the more they are engaged on a cerebral level and the more they’ll want to use it, to comeback, to tell friends, or just overly delight you with compliments about your services/product/or site.

The thing is though, it is often a catch-22 scenario. We are building in pixels, gradients, shine, and artificial depth, and that can often cause us to become complacent when it comes to having a “feeling” toward our products. The software-as-a-service market really helped improve this, and before then especially it was really hit or miss.

Now though, it is starting to become more jarring when a service doesn’t help you feel something for it. That’s the catch-22: even though this is a flat pixel filled world we work in where we never get to physically touch what we build (ever), we still should feel that it is a part of us and an extension of ourselves. Designers put that much emotion into what they do every day, well the good ones do, and it really is apparent. This is going to become especially important as the web continues to grow and mature over the next few years.

In fact, I can see a web where all sites and products are designed in such a delightful and emotional way that they literally can become the magazines of years past. Web 2.0 seemed to be all about shine on logos, and social interaction online as an experiment — but the future of the web is much more important and critical. In a few years the maturity of the web will demand nothing but maturity from all products and sites that live on it, and rightfully so. This will cut out the sub-par sites or products very fast. You will pick your company’s intranet, your to-do list, your form creator, and whatever other tools you need based on the feelings they give you and thereby also the functionality therein.

So, wait a minute, if it’s all about feeling doesn’t that lead away from functionality? Should I have related those two things? In my opinion, yes I should have, because they are incredibly co-dependent. As the maturity of the web increases, and thereby the robust maturity of product design increases, so to does the maturity of product functionality increase. It is an organic and interdependent umbrella effect.

None of us want to hit our heads on the roof, so what if that roof was non-existent? What if it was up at 10,000 feet? Well, you could do anything – in the world of pixels where gravity doesn’t exist. Relating that all back to UX vs UI designers is really important, because they will be the pushers of this mature web.

Yes, of course the protocols, database architecture, and engineers will as well, but ultimately the people that create things that are so unbelievably mature looking, well, they are the people that attract worldwide customers.

And this isn’t just about images or design and CSS, it is also about copywriting. Take a look at the copy in the MailChimp image above. It is simple, clean, sleek, and has no BS involved. That is how copy should be, and will be, when we require it to be so. You could be one of those people that helps us along our way, by requiring it to be so.


UI: the line and its curves

UI Is a fascinating concept, and one that has really revolutionized the web as we’ve known it in the web 2.0 days. As you could no doubt tell, I have done a lot of praising of UX over the course of this article, but I have to say that without the core tools of UI it wouldn’t really mean anything. Remember how fractals work from science class? How could a crystal be formed without the first center section having been formed first?

When everyone decided that true beauty online meant a lot, it really took a lot of us by the reigns (horses again, I know), but it actually did. We all took notice, we all started to become obsessed with these products that were designed with these amazing little UI facets that sort of have become overly worn by now. jQuery has had an effect, responsive media queries in CSS have had an effect, so too has the actual design.

I think one of the things about us as people is that we really don’t take things seriously until they are fully polished. And yeah, this could relate to the previous paragraph about the maturity of the web but it also relates even more to how UI has evolved.

For instance, we never started to take the internet as a communication method until we got professional email and IM clients. We never started to take cars seriously until Henry Ford came up with the production line. We never started to take ice cream seriously until Cold Stone. Okay, maybe the last one was a stretch — but you get the point.

We relish maturity, and when it comes to UI nothing really has grown the user facing (front-end) web more to what it is today, presently, than UI design has. We are now taking the web more seriously than we ever have, and that will no doubt just continue to increase. Consider how much we do now online. We manage our tasks, meetings, watch video, interact via networking, gaming, and literally do anything we can online. Not only is it better on natural resources, it is one of the more fun ways to do things. Ask yourself why it’s so fun, and the answer you will invariably get back is that it is often so beautiful.

We are limited in our day to day offline lives with the resources we have like wood, gas, oil, paper, etc. — but online we are completely free. We are only limited by the creativity of designers and programmers. We are moving into a new wave of online access, and the things we do therein and I think we should give a collective “Thank you” to UI designers for that (and engineers too! I am not leaving you out, but this article is about designers after all).


UI and UX: the proof is in the pudding

I am not one of those who enjoys continuing the bantering that goes on about these two fields, but in reality the terms are completely different. Do not let a job posting, or anyone tell you that UI is equal to UX.

The image above is what I would consider UI work, but I don’t get any sort of feeling from being there or looking at it. Though, it has nice polished UI, the reason I don’t get a feeling is because it is a facet of UX, but it isn’t UX in totality. UX is the totality of the feeling I get from seeing my accounts all in one place on Mint. The UI is one of the graphs on the page.

The UI elements of a page seem to have been down trotted throughout most of this article, but please let me restate that is not the impression I am trying to give off. I love UI elements, and once again it is super important that we realize that UI is one very important part of UX. UI can make your site look beautiful, think ZenDesk, and yet without UX it can be like Digg is without the community. It is emotionless. If there is no community behind UI without UX to re-state the emotion, then there is literally not going to be any. Yes, sometimes good UI guys are so good that they inadvertently create UX without knowing it, but they are few and far between.


Bringing it all together

Really though, talking about these two fields in isolation is great for a bit of mental acumen, but they are completely related when it comes to working on them. They are fields that should never be separated in the work-place, and they are fields where the two creatives who perform these jobs shouldn’t work with different directives.

There is an interdependent aspect to a lot of what we do in the design world, but this really isn’t one of those times. Similarly to how a Creative Director or Scrum Master doesn’t want to leave his team to run on their own, the UI and UX parties should never run on their own without coordination from the other. I firmly believe in that from past experience.

In summation I think that UI and UX is a topic of much debate, and one that honestly is true to form when it comes to a debate. It enhances the knowledge of both parties in the debate on both topics that are subject to it. It is really an amazing situational topic, and one that you should discuss with your designer friends if you can or when you get a chance. I know I’ve had many a dinner conversation over this exactly, and it can turn out to be quite heated all simply because one believes another’s metaphors aren’t accurately displaying what the difference is (hence why I put the disclaimer at the top of the article).

Five Alternative Careers for Designers

Design might be the love of your life and the thing you are really talented at but very often most of us come to a point where no matter how much we love what we do, we need to take a break from it.

Every now and then we need to diversify or simply change our routine. If you want to branch into other careers because you are fed up with being only a designer, or to improve your career prospects, here are 5 of the many alternative careers to consider.

All these careers are Web-related and presumably it will be easier for you to make the switch but of course, if you are totally fed up with HTML, CSS, .PNG, and the like, you can make a U-turn and go into a totally unrelated area. Here the choice is basically endless and it all depends on the skills and talents you have.

1. Web Developer

Probably the most obvious alternative for a Web designer is a Web developer. Of course, the two are very different and if you hate code, Web development is hardly your best bet.

Web development is very close to Web design and I do believe any designer must have some coding skills, or at least have some basic familiarity with Web technologies (PHP, Ajax, etc.) outside pure design because this knowledge makes you a better designer. In fact, I know many people who are half designers, half programmers and this is a really winning combination.

Still, there is a difference between being familiar with Web programming and becoming a full-time Web developer. If you aren’t comfortable with coding, then becoming a Web developer will be a torture for you (and for the rest of the team, if they have to put up with your poor code), so you’d better pick something else from the list.

2. Web Master

Another very closely related career is to become a Web master. I don’t claim my definition of Web master is the most precise one but basically when you are a Web master, you need to know design, have some coding skills, be familiar with databases and operating systems, and have some knowledge of hardware, so that you can manage a site.

Additionally, sales and marketing skills are also welcome because most likely you will have to deal with the promotion of the site as well. If you can write, this is also a huge plus because you will be able to write Web content as well. In fact, a Web master is just a bit of everything Web related plus some business skills. It’s a perfect match for somebody who doesn’t want to stick to one Web area only.

3. Marketer

If you feel that programming isn’t for you and even becoming a Web master is too technical, you can consider less technical careers, such as (Internet) marketing. There are many marketers who have almost no design, coding, or any technical skills and more or less some of them are doing well, so being a former designer/techie isn’t an absolute must for an Internet marketer.

Of course, your design/technical background will always help you as a marketer, so the fact that you come from a Web-related area is an advantage. In fact, I think that a good Internet marketer must have at least some knowledge about Web technologies to do his or her job in the best possible way.

Many people who switch to marketing from a technical profession find it a much easier area but this is only at first sight. Still, when you know the technical aspects of the Web, after you learn the marketing fundamentals, it is easier to be a marketer than if you start this from scratch.

4. Sales Person

For many (technical) people there isn’t much of a difference between sales and marketing but this certainly isn’t so. You do need to have marketing skills in order to be a good sales person but you also need many other skills – above all the ability to work with people. In marketing you also have to deal with people but there are some positions (i.e. the more analytical ones) where this isn’t a huge part of your job, while in sales you are dealing with humans almost all the time.

Many good marketers aren’t good at sales, so the fact that you have a talent for marketing isn’t a guarantee you will become a good sales person. However, similarly to marketing, the fact that you know the technical aspects of what you sell is an advantage and for you the change in careers might not be an abrupt one. The best sales persons in software/hardware/computers in general I can think of are former techies turned sales, not people who just got a business degree and went to sell computers because this is hot.

5. Writer

Believe me, there are tons of Web content and other stuff to be written and if you can write, writing can be a very lucrative career. If you have come to design from literature or arts, it might be easier for you to write as opposed to when you come from maths/sciences but this isn’t fixed in stone – there are many people who are good both at maths/science and literature/arts.

If you decide to become a writer, most likely you will start with something around design and Web technologies in general because presumably this is what you know well. Later you can branch into Web copy and more business-oriented topics because generally these pay better, though in my opinion they are also more boring.


These five careers I am suggesting definitely don’t end the list of potential careers for designers. You could also consider becoming a usability expert, a support rep (another career that is an intersection of technical skills and ability to work with people), or a manager, to name a few. You could also consider developing the skills needed for these alternative careers but don’t give up design completely.

These suggestions for alternative careers will be especially useful to newbies – i.e. everybody who is relatively new to design and doesn’t feel like committing to it at 100 percent and to veterans, who feel that even though they are great at design, it is time to move on. On the other hand, if you feel design is the thing you are born for, this is great – there is no need to think for alternatives.

The point is to try this and that till you find the best place for you. I can think of many unhappy designers and developers who are stuck into positions they hate simply because they don’t have the drive to experiment, so don’t make the same mistake!