How to Learn Enough Web Design to Not Look Scammy

I am a web developer by trade. I am not a designer. Like most backend engineers, I make things work. I don’t usually bother with making things pretty. Many people commented that I cannot design. I agree. I never had a penchant for design.

Today I have managed to learn enough design that my sites don’t look scammy. Some evidence at Octopress Themes. A year ago, I never entertained the thought that I can design a half decent looking site. I was always led to believe that I am not a creative. Therefore I should not do design at all. It is a good example of learned helplessness. Not being talented means you probably cannot become a top notch designer. It doesn’t mean you cannot design at all. If I can design half decent looking sites, so can you.

Plenty of resources

There are plenty of resources out there on how to learn design. Here are the ones which I find most relevant to engineers learning design.


Hacker news discussions


Learn by Copying

My next tip is: copy good designs. Choose a design which you like, and copy it. Copy does not mean cloning. Copying means stealing the ideas and incorporating in your design. Copying may sound dirty but designers in the fashion industry does that too. Take a few designs which you like, and improve them.

Copy from the best

Which brings me to the next tip. When you copy, copy from the best. If you copy homework from your friends, you copy from the top student correct? Similar logic applies. I often look(steal) for ideas from these sites. You could too.


Be proficient in an image editor

An image editor to a designer is like the piano to a pianist. You cannot do without it. You often have to edit images to fit into the design. Being proficient won’t make you a good designer. It adds options to you. My suggestion is to pick up either one of these depending on your platform.


My last tip is: do. There is no substitute for doing. The more you do the better you get. I hope my story can inspire you to believe that you can become half decent in design. I am still far from being decent in design though.