Web design qualifications. Do they matter?

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Not so long ago I had a prospective client ask me what my web design qualifications were. I thought about it for a moment and replied “Err none actually”.

I rattled off all the years of experience I had. How I got into the internet in 1996 and went on to work with some of the big names in New Zealand’s internet industry. I explained how myself and a couple of friends revolutionized the web hosting model in New Zealand with the launch of iSERVE limited back in 2001 and how I ended up doing a stint of teaching at a tertiary institution and, more recently, was involved in starting a small web and interactive design company.

All of this accounted for absolutely nothing in the eyes of this prospective client. He wanted to see a piece of paper that said “Mark Shingleton has completed web design 101 and now knows how to build web sites”.

Try as I might, I couldn’t understand his logic. I explained that, back in 1996 no-one had any clue what web design was and that courses just simply didn’t exist.

Which got me to thinking … do actual specialized web design courses exist today?

I know that there are design specific courses and there are multimedia courses (because I taught one of them), but they didn’t have a huge web design component. Instead the web design component seemed to focus on how to learn dreamweaver and then throw in a bit of theory here and there.

Web design is a very specialised field and one that changes every day. Technology changes extremely quickly and it’s certainly a race to keep up. I suppose that I could become Adobe Certified but that doesn’t mean that I know how to build web sites. I could become design certified (I did actually do a design course way back in the early 90’s) but that doesn’t mean I know how to build web sites either. Personally I think that it largely comes down to experience … and Google.

What are your thoughts on the subject? I’d be very interested to know.


  1. Glyn Simpson

    Hey! Stumbled upon this blog during a search for career advice in Web Design and Development. I’m currently 17, just turned, and have dropped out after getting my NCEA level 2, to do a diploma in web development (Level 6) at Natcoll Design Technology Starting this coming Tuesday.

    I’ve been interested in web development since I was 11, when I started exploring HTML and Photoshop. Now, 17, I know everything I need to know about PHP, Mysql, HTML, xhtml and standards, css and application of client side scripting – I’ll utilize javascript in Ajax and Dom situations, but I don’t see the need otherwise.

    After I’ve finished my Diploma in web development, I’m looking to do a diploma in Digital Media, then perhaps a degree over the ditch, in Digital Media. I would be able to use this to land clients and jobs – but always guide my potential client/employer to what my first diploma was and why. Because that’s what I want to do, and Digital Media is probably the closest thing to web design/development – it’s just more skills, and at a higher level, it’s probably the most inviting thing I can do.

    I do wish there was a degree specializing in web development, however.

  2. Markos

    Hi Glyn,

    Thanks very much for your comment. It sounds like you have got an exciting career ahead of you.

    Where are you studying your diploma in Web Development? I would be quite interested to find out a little more about the curriculum?

    All the best and if you ever need some advice or want to knock around an idea please feel free to drop me a line.


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