Career in Web Design and Development in the Age of COVID-19

By Steve Waddell, Director of Education and Training

Traditional retail was already taking a big hit before the days of COVID-19. But the worldwide pandemic has accelerated the shifts we began to see in retail over the last 5 years and accelerated the closing of many retail operations, both big and small. Essentially, the hope for most businesses is to become COVID-proof, meaning serving customers as easily online as in the store. For retailers this means finding a way to take that great customer experience of the store and move it to a strong web presence. 

This means an opportunity is opening up—a new and growing demand for web designers, developers, content writers, and retail experts to help small and large operations convert what they used to do on the sales floor to making the magic happen online. Hard-working and talented retail staff who once walked the sales floors are well suited to take their retail knowledge and sales skills into the cloud to help retailers build success on the web

Before the COVID-19 crisis, web design and web development were already high-growth career paths. Now with companies scrambling to reach customers on the web, every business needs to have their web capacity to reach existing and new customers. To do this, retailers must have skilled web designers who can help bring the retail sales narrative to the business’s website. Selling on the web is a little different than selling in person, but retail skills still translate very well to web design and development. 

Web design and development is a fast-growing STEM career path that offers flexible and fun careers to those who don’t want to report to an office every day. The median salary for the industry is $73K and ranges up to $150K. Let’s take a look at how the retail experience aligns with web design and development.             

What Do Web Designers and Developers Do? 

Broadly speaking, web designers and developers work with clients to market products and services online. Designers utilize text, images and video to create websites and reach intended audiences. Developers write the code that provides the technical foundation of these websites. 

Most web designers and developers keep a foot in both the design and coding worlds. The beauty of this career is that you can weave elegant design with rock-solid code to create a compelling website for your client and site visitors. By merging visual and technical solutions, web designers and developers help their clients succeed and meet business goals. 

How Does Retail Experience Relate to a Career in Web Design and Development?

Retail workers looking to reskill have excellent qualities including working under pressure, talking through problems, taking on new responsibilities, managing time, taking initiative, and serving each and every customer with empathy and respect. Retail helps you learn how to focus on what you can control and not worry so much about the “overly concerned customer in aisle 3.”

In retail, you help people figure out what service or product is right for them. Guess what? Much of that is at the core of what a web designer does—except instead of standing in a store, designers and developers figure out how to reach people through a web presence. Web designers and developers take client ideas, products and services, helping to sell them to targeted audiences. 

Benefits of a Career in Web Design and Development

According to research, 30 percent of the U.S. working population currently freelances in some capacity, and that will grow to 51 percent by 2020. Many web designers and developers freelance and/or work remotely, and that has only increased in the age of COVID-19. Surveys of freelancers show that they are happier and earn more than in previous office jobs. This isn’t a surprise: when the most recent recession hit, companies began to seek ways to cut costs. They began to hire contractors who could work from home, saving on rent, insurance, and utility costs, and allowing freelancers more flexibility over when and where they could work. Web design and development is one of the growing STEM careers that offers unparalleled flexibility and opportunities to work on impactful projects.  

How Can I Get Started?

One of the wonderful things about the coding industry is that you don’t need a four-year degree (or even a two-year degree) to become a trained professional. To get started, you will need to gain technical skills, whether it be through online resources, books, or more organized courses. The easiest way to learn web design and development is to use media-rich courses that utilize images and video to engage you. All you need is a browser and text editor – you want to avoid courses that teach specific applications like Adobe Dreamweaver. Focus on basic skills first like HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript.  

As you learn, you will build a career-ready portfolio of your work including real-world projects, a digital resume and a portfolio website that will showcase your story to potential employers. This is important to demonstrate your technical aptitude and ability to successfully develop and guide a project from beginning to end. You can also achieve in-demand industry certifications to prove to companies you have a comprehensive skill set and are ready to produce for them on day one. 

WebProfessionals.org offers an engaging web design and development online course featuring over 200 engaging videos that will tutor you step by step, perfect for visual learners. The course also prepares you to sit for an International Industry-Recognized Certification (IIRC). Try to avoid courses that only offer a course completion certificate. Anybody can issue you a piece of paper saying you completed their course, and the industry knows this. An IIRC will help open more doors for you faster and get you career going quicker. So, take the time as you look around for training to be sure you know what you are getting for your educational investment.   

Reskilling in the Age of COVID-19

Although it can be a scary time, don’t panic. There are numerous opportunities out there for transitioning from retail to a new career. Why not web design and development? The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) offers services for laid-off workers, dislocated workers and those transitioning to new jobs. This helps provide job training to people looking for a new challenge and growing career path. 

The Web Professionals Organization has reskilling courses available for workforce programs, vocational schools, universities, job centers and community colleges. Not sure where to go? Contact the Web Professionals Organization for more information today.

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