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Can you be a self-taught web designer?

self study studying cartoon

“Everything is figureoutable” says a book written by Marie Forleo with the same title. According to the author, by identifying the thinking patterns that get you stuck, you can figure out how to reach your goals. 

That being said, everything, including web design, can be self-taught.

What drew you to web design out of all the visual arts? 

Perhaps you’re a programmer who wants to see how the code appears on the front end. Or maybe a client first requested a logo design, but after seeing your work, they asked you to create a new website for them?

Web design is currently one of the most sought-after skills. However, mastering this skill effectively will take over a year. In this article, I’ll provide you with an overview of web design education and other alternatives to explore.

Why do you want to learn web design?

Specializing in web design is well worth your time and money. You can either start your own business or apply as a designer at a design firm to obtain expertise.

If you’re starting from square one and your client needs a website in a day or two, you have to break the bad news to them that they can’t rush quality.

Even experienced web designers can’t create a well-designed website that fast. It’ll just be a rush job.

It’s up to you if you want to take on that client. Although you will learn a lot from this experience, they might be harder to please knowing that you’re a web design newbie. For the sake of learning, are you willing to let go of your designer ego?

On the other hand, if you want to start a web design company and already know the essentials, you won’t need any more training to get started. You can outsource your design work or use an on-demand design service.

How to be a self-taught web designer

Web design is a rapidly evolving field. Although possible, teaching yourself is difficult because you don’t know if you’re getting the correct and essential information.

I recommend learning from an experienced colleague or enrolling in a reputable school for this.

If you’re currently employed and want to add web design to your credentials, but don’t want to pursue formal education, there are several steps you can take to become self-taught.

  1. Know the aspects of web design you want to learn. Are you going to be a generalist or niche down to a specific industry?
  2. Figure out the best way for you to learn. If you prefer online classes, that’s great because it’s convenient and affordable. If you are a kinetic learner, it’s best to find an expert whom you can shadow.
  3. Be ready to commit. Learning is overcoming a series of tests and continuously improving. This is why you have to dedicate time, resources, and energy to this because you owe it to yourself.
  4. Complete the course. Don’t give up if you encounter challenges. I’m sure you will, thanks to conflicting schedules, failing tests, and plenty of other distractions. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Pros and cons of teaching yourself web design


  1. It’s cheaper. Perhaps, the only money you will spend is on subscriptions to different online tools, channels, modules, or videos about web designing.
  2. It’s more manageable. Self-paced learning enables you to be in control of your time and progress. You can focus on the topics you’re weak in and skim through the ones you already know.
  3. You can test yourself with paid assignments. You might try and create designs for paying clients that you can also submit to school as a requirement.


  1. Never-ending learning. You might find yourself in need to subscribe to more lessons because what you completed wasn’t enough. It will take you longer than necessary to finish because of the feeling of inadequacy.
  2. You’re your worst distraction. The success of self-paced learning relies heavily on the discipline of the learner. If you keep on pushing the lessons further down the schedule, nothing will be finished.
  3. Paid tools. To fully exercise what you’ve learned, you need to buy your own design software licenses. Otherwise, you won’t be able to execute the designs properly for your clients and you might encounter glitches from broken copies.

person coding cartoon illustration

Self-taught vs on-demand design service

You’re probably in a kind of a limbo right now because you think that for your web design business to take off, you need to be the best web designer in the world.

This is why you’re itching to finish a design degree or to sign in to an expensive design course.

To be blunt about it, the success of your agency isn’t dependent on your design diploma.

As the captain of the ship, you will only get distracted from steering the ship in the right direction.

What you need is an expert, a design professional you can trust to support you with excellent web design as you look after your client’s other concerns. This is better than signing up for a course you’ll be too busy to finish in the first place.

If you know the basics and you have a talented design team, this is more than enough to keep your clients happy.

Plus, there are a couple of books you can read. My favourite is a book on usability, research, and psychology: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

Do not let education get in the way of learning

What’s your learning goal?

It’s fine if you decide to finally learn more about web design, but don’t let that interfere with what you really want in years to come. Will that certification help or hinder your progress? You must fully understand your motivations.

To free up more time while studying, you can even sign up for an on-demand design service. Who knows, you might realize the value of outsourcing your designs and decide you don’t need to learn web design at all.