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What Is the Average Web Designer’s Salary in 2020? Deep Dive into the Data

What Is the Average Web Designer’s Salary in 2020? Deep Dive into the Data

Web design offers passionate creators a modern, unique way to express their creativity and skills in visual design. It’s an exciting career, especially at this time of growth for the field of web design and development.

Any web designer will tell you that the job has its ups and downs. But when it’s what you really want to do, it can be a fulfilling occupation.

But here’s the big question: Does a website designer salary pay the bills? What sort of salary can you expect to make if you decide to take the leap into a web design career? The answer is that it depends on a lot of factors.

Whether you’re becoming a freelancer, taking on a full-time position, or working with WordPress, we’ve collected the salaries for web designers of all experience levels.

Now let’s see if it’s worth the effort to learn.

What Do You Need to Be a Web Designer?

Before you worry about how much a web designer makes, what about the job requirements? Unless you meet them, you won’t be able to break into the industry at all.

Before you apply to your first web design job, be prepared with these core skills.

First: education. It’s not strictly necessary to have a degree, and employers are increasingly hiring based solely on experience and talent. Still, that’s taking a gamble, so at a minimum, expect to need an associate’s degree in design, computer technology, or other related skills. A bachelor’s degree would be even better. Check out our guide with the best web design online courses.

With or without a degree, you will need experience, and you should create a portfolio to show off your previous work. A good portfolio can single-handedly get you hired.

Last, to become a web designer, you’ll need a wide range of skills, some technical and some creative.

  • Graphic design skills
  • Proficiency with web design tools (Photoshop, Sketch, InVision Studio, etc.)
  • Some front-end programming knowledge: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.
  • Teamwork and communication skills
  • An understanding of web standards such as SEO, accessibility, and other protocols.

 

The Daily Tasks of a Web Designer

As a web designer, your tasks will vary depending on how far you are into a project. You might spend an entire workday refining sketches and wireframes for a client, or others coding entire mockups in HTML.

Start by learning the tools of the trade. The traditional Adobe suite (Photoshop, InDesign, XD, Dreamweaver) is what many web designers still stick with. There are plenty of cheaper alternatives out there, though. These include Sketch, Figma, InVision Studio, GIMP, UXPin, and many more.

It’s important to pick up a few coding languages as well. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are a must. Frameworks and libraries like Bootstrap are worth looking at too. In addition, you may optionally choose to learn languages like PHP, Python, or Ruby.

It’s all good to know the tools, but what do web designers do with them?

Most projects follow a similar process.

First: The concept phase. This is where communication skills come in. You’ll work with others to come up with a website concept, project/branding guidelines, and deadlines. This is just outlining the scope of the project and bouncing ideas around.

Then the real work begins. You’ll sketch out site designs and make wireframes until you narrow down a more concrete idea. You might make a sitemap to better understand how everything will be laid out.

Then: The mockups. These are more in-depth ideas of what the actual website will look like, though you’ll still be getting plenty of client input. Here you’ll be changing up colors, positioning, typography, and other design elements to perfection.

Once you have a working website with developers’ help, it’s time to do testing, followed by launch. Make sure everything is working as it should and nothing was left out. That’s the usual process of website creation on the designer’s end.

The Average Web Designer’s Salary

While there are several factors that will determine what sort of pay you can expect to earn — the amount of experience, skill, or platform — it’s good to know the average salary of most designers.

This will give you an idea of what you can expect to make once you’ve established yourself. You can also compare it to the average salaries of other jobs you’re interested in and see which one pays the best. For instance, a web developer salary tends to range from $60k-$75k/year.

How does a web design salary compare?

  • Glassdoor: $53k/year, with a low of $38k and a high of $74k.
  • Payscale: $51k/year, with a low of $35k and a high of $74k.
  • Ziprecruiter: $60k/year, with a low $21k and a high of $114k.
  • Salary.com: $65k/year, with a low of $50k and a high of $77k.

Putting all this data together, the average yearly salary of a web designer would be about $57k.

Average web designer salary

Average web designer salary

These sites are collections of self-reported salaries from designers around the world. It’s not as official as data collected by the government, but you can assume it’s fairly accurate with some margin of error.

Compared to what experienced web developers earn, that salary isn’t great. But while the industry values web design less than the development side, you won’t be making pennies for your work. You should be able to earn a liveable wage once you have a steady income.

It’s also a very well-payed job in the field of visual arts — you’ll make more than graphic designers, artists, illustrators, or photographers.

Web Design vs. UI Design vs. UX Design Salaries

Web design and UI/UX design go hand-in-hand. Most designers know enough about UI to get by, but it’s an intricate enough job that you can choose to focus on it as a career. Think of UI/UX design as a specialized form of web design.

UI, or User Interface, designers create website interfaces. They’re the ones who perfect the precise spacing, layout, and interactions on a site. While web designers work at the big picture, selecting colors or general layout of elements, UI designers handle the smallest details.

  • Glassdoor: $85k/year, with a low of $59k and a high of $128k.
  • Payscale: $64k/year, with a low of $44k and a high of $92k.
  • Indeed: $87k/year.

Average this and you get a UI designer salary of $79k/year.

Then there are UX designers. While UI designers make those details look better, it’s the UX designer’s job to make it feel better. They ensure that navigating the site feels good and animations trigger at just the right moment for a perfect experience.

  • Glassdoor: $85k/year, with a low of $59k and a high of $128k.
  • Payscale: $74k/year, with a low of $50k and a high of $108k.
  • Indeed: $103k/year.

The range here varies quite a bit, but on average you could make $87k/year.

Last, there are UI/UX designers combined. These two jobs have a lot of overlap, so many designers choose to specialize in both.

  • Glassdoor: $85k/year, with a low of $59k and a high of $128k.
  • Indeed: $87k/year to $103k/year.
  • ZipRecruiter: $96k/year, with a low of $34k and a high of $150k.

Averaged up, this makes $89k/year for UI/UX designers.

UI and UX designer salary

UI and UX designer salary

As you can see, UI/UX designers do earn a bit more than web designers.

This is likely because it’s a more specialized job that requires more experience, and because it’s more sought after in larger projects. Every project, large or small, needs a web designer. But it’s the bigger, better-paying jobs that will hire multiple designers of different specialties.

Web Design Salaries by Experience

Experience level is another factor that will have a big impact on how much you make as a web designer. More experience means better pay.

As a junior, you’ll possess less than three years of experience. You should know generally how web design works, and maybe have a project or two under your belt, but allowances will be made to help you adjust to the company.

  • Glassdoor: $50k/year, with a low of $36k and a high of $70k.
  • Linkedin: $41k/year, with a low of $31k and a high of $58k.
  • Payscale: $40k/year, with a low of $30k and a high of $59k.
  • ZipRecruiter: $45k/year, with a low of $31k and a high of $59k.

All in all, junior designers make about $44k/year, a lot less than the average for designers as a whole.

Junior web designer salary

Junior web designer salary

Seniors, on the other hand, generally have 5+ years of experience. You should know what you’re doing by then and have worked on plenty of projects before. This comes with the bonus of a much higher salary.

  • Glassdoor: $64k/year, with a low of $46k and a high of $90k.
  • Payscale: $71k/year, with a low of $50k and a high of $98k.
  • ZipRecruiter: $82k/year, with a low of $42k and a high of $130k.

That makes $72k/year for senior web designers, nearly $30k more than juniors.

Senior web designer salary

Senior web designer salary

As expected, juniors make a little less than the average web design salary and seniors make a bit more. It’s not an explosion of extra income, but you can definitely expect to make better money once you’ve broken into the industry.

Freelancing Web Design Salaries

Junior and senior positions are exclusive to salaried positions within companies. Many prospective designers are choosing to become freelancers instead, finding clients and taking on projects on their own initiative. How much can you expect to make then?

Freelance web designer salary

Freelance web designer salary

  • Glassdoor: $79k/year, with a low of $58k and a high of $110k.
  • ZipRecruiter: $56k/year, with a low of $24k and a high of $112k.

There’s not a lot of data as many freelancers don’t report their salaries, and the income range can be quite variable. But successful freelancers seemingly make more than junior designers, earning $68k/year.

If you excel at nailing clients, your salary can actually be quite good. It’s definitely not as reliable as a salaried job, but many people have managed to make a good living off freelancing.

WordPress Web Designer Salary

WordPress web designers have a unique set of skills to better work with the popular platform. You may work with HTML and CSS to design websites within WordPress’ interface, or even pick up a bit of Javascript and PHP to become a theme designer. Here’s how much you’ll earn doing it.

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  • Glassdoor: $53k/year, with a low of $38k and a high of $74k.
  • ZipRecruiter: $55k/year, with a low of $31k and a high of $91k.
  • Payscale: $45k/year, with a low of $33k and a high of $64k.

This means WordPress designers earn about $51k/year.

WordPress web designer salary

WordPress web designer salary

WordPress web design and development is a somewhat oversaturated field. It’s one of the easiest platforms to get started on, especially for freelancers. But this means lots of competition. Don’t expect to earn a ton unless you’re exceptional at design and self-marketing.

Hybrid Designer-Developer Salary

You’d think someone who could handle every aspect of web design would be a rare and well-valued commodity. It takes a lot of skill to be a web designer who can also code or a programmer who can also design. They’re even known as “unicorns” in the web development community because of just how rare they are. But is the salary worth the effort?

  • Glassdoor: $58k/year, with a low of $39k and a high of $84k.
  • Payscale: $58k/year, with a low of $39k and a high of $89k.

The salaries listed here were very similar, so you can assume an average salary of $58k/year.

Hybrid designer developer salary

Hybrid designer developer salary

Hybrid designers and developers definitely do earn above average pay, but for double the amount of work, you aren’t getting double the salary. If you enjoy making small websites by yourself this may be a job worth pursuing, but most of the time your extra assets will go unused.

Many people will prefer to hire separate designers and developers anyway. And on larger projects, there’s no way you’ll be able to handle everything by yourself.

While it can help you as a designer to know how developers handle things, and it also allows you to implement your own ideas quicker, it’s probably better to stick to one or the other.

Despite that, having some coding ability with front-end languages, like Javascript, CSS, and HTML is very desirable and can increase your chances of getting hired.

Web Designer vs. Web Developer Salary

Web designers unfortunately tend to make less than their programming counterparts. But just how big is the difference?

On average, web developers make 60k-75k per year, while web designers make only about $57k/year. The discrepancy here is fairly large.

In addition, there are other factors to look into. Junior developers make on average $55k/year, while seniors make $92k/year. That’s compared to $44k/year and $72k/year at the exact same experience level for designers. Developers start out making more and ramp up in income quicker.

Last, freelancing web developers make $72k-$75k/year, while freelance designers make only $68k/year.

Both are just as necessary to create a successful website, so why the discrepancy? Sadly, many creative jobs just don’t pay well and design work tends to be undervalued. To be fair, developers need to master multiple complicated programming languages and learn how to apply them. But both jobs certainly require a lot of skill.

That doesn’t mean web designers earn nothing at all. You can still make a lot of money, especially if you dive into higher-paying fields like UI/UX design or mobile application design.

If you would be happy doing either job, it may be worth pursuing development just for the higher salary. But designers are just as necessary, and if it’s the job you want to do, there’s no reason to give up on it.

Should You Be a Web Designer?

Knowing that developers make more money, you might be asking: is web design the career I want to pursue?

While web developers do generally make more on average, that’s no reason to throw out your dream career for something potentially incompatible. These two do very different things in the process of website creation.

Developers work with complex programming languages to create sensible implementations of a design, while designers take a more visual approach, focusing on creating functional beauty. Designers do the planning, and developers take care of the doing.

Many of the skills required to be a designer or developer overlap, but much of what you do on a day-to-day basis is quite different. If you’re more comfortable with planning and visual learning, big pictures over little details, web design would be perfect for you.

If you’re unhappy with the salary, consider specializing. A jack-of-all-trades web designer is common, not so much a skilled UX designer or mobile designer. There’s money to be made by narrowing and perfecting your skillset.

Web development is a growing industry, and where there are developers, they’ll need designers. If this is the career you want, the salary is fair and the industry is growing. Now is a great time to become a web designer!

 

Summary

Web design certainly isn’t the highest-paying job in its field, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. You can make a great career out of it, especially if you pursue niche fields like UI/UX design. The more experience you have, the more you’ll earn.

Web designers on average make $57k/year. This will be influenced by factors such as your position in the company if you’re specializing in something like UI design, or what platforms you choose to work with. Starting out you’ll likely earn less, but stick with the field, and you can certainly make more.

Don’t undersell yourself, know what rates you should be working for, and learn the best practices for your industry. Success as a web designer is more than possible if you know how to apply yourself.

 

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