Check out websites like UI-Patterns.com to explore the best user interface patterns for the web. They come in nearly every category, and can provide great new ideas to get you out of your own interface rut
Do you tend to give your clients the same layout over and over? Do you use the same navigation look, or use the same format with forms? Check out the user interfaces of other websites with collections like these to gain inspiration and learn new habits.
2. Pay Attention to Detail
Look at the detail in everyday objects, and actively look at detail in other web designs. Practice adding more of this detail into your own designs. A great designer looks at texture, shadows, indents, shapes, cutouts, and much more. Don’t get lazy! Look at and add every little detail into a web design from your source of inspiration.
3. SEO Techniques
Many clients love a designer that offers SEO services. Whether you’d like to do this or not, though, learn more about how to create and code websites that are SEO friendly. By adding it to your resume, you’re helping your client’s websites more, and therefore helping yourself more. The more successful your client’s website, the more referrals you’ll be able to get!
4. Learn Web Design Trends
Trends are never something a web designer should solely rely on, but learning new trends is a great way to keep up with technology, and to keep you as a designer out of a rut. Of course, on another note, you’ll never know when a client will see a technique they like on another website and want a similar look.
Do yourself a favor by keeping your designs modern, and by keeping your skills sharp by studying trending techniques.
5. Know Typography Well
Keep in mind that what will be viewed most on any website you design will be the text. Know how to design this text well. Having a good understanding of typography involves math, a good vocabulary of fonts, and more advanced technologies such as SIFR and Cufon. Learn about these things and learn how to use them.
6. Practice with Color
Have you ever grabbed a palette off of ColourLovers, looked at it for awhile, and then realized you had no idea what to do with it? If so, you may have some trouble understanding how one should use color. Learn about color theory and the psychology behind color to know what to do with a palette, and to learn how to create your own palettes better.
8. Become a Better Communicator
It doesn’t just take the ability to make great websites in order to be a great web designer. Being a web designer involves knowing how to solve client problems as well. Client problems can be solved faster, more efficiently, and better with overall better communication skills. No communication is fine for personal projects because you already know what you need and want out of the project. With clients, it’s different.
Being able to call a client with confidence and win over projects is a must for a web design business to survive. It is also important throughout the design process for getting the project done right the first time. Better communication means better final projects, and better final projects means more repeat business, happier clients, and more referrals!
9. Do Some Tutorials
I used to not be a big fan of tutorials, as I felt they took a long time, and I just felt as though I was copying someone else’s work, step for step. However, I soon realized that by doing a few, I began picking up techniques and best practices, and I also began using tools in some of my favorite software with more confidence.
There are a lot of tutorials out there, from coding to design, and some are for small effects or an entire project. Whatever sort of tutorial it is, it can be a great way to learn something new. Sometimes going through something with someone else can help one to pick things up better than reading a book on design theory or programming syntax.
10. Learn from Your Mistakes
Making mistakes and learning from them is the absolute best way to learn. Think about your past web design years — were they perfect? Of course not. Take some time to reflect on some moments where you made mistakes, and then know and recognize the lessons learned. Literally take out a piece of paper and start writing them down.
Some lessons may be client related. Maybe you were not good about calling clients back or too nervous about client phone calls and meetings in the beginning. Where are you now? What were the negative consequences in terms of the project? How can you improve in that area today? Other mistakes may be skill-related. Perhaps you made a design, thought it was fantastic, but then got some negative feedback on it. How do you take the criticism? What were others saying was the biggest problem?