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Susan Nelson

Web Designer

Primary design concentration:

Web Design

Most preferred tools for designing:

Adobe Photoshop

How and why did you choose to become a designer?

I didn’t plan to be a web designer. My background is in Elementary Education, and I spent a few great years teaching 4th grade. But once I became a mom, I left the workforce to stay home and take care of my babies. While my kids were napping, I jumped online and browsed a lot of websites and participated in online message boards and was always wishing that I could “make something like that!” I decided that I would read everything I could get my hands on and teach myself how to design a website, and with the help of some very generous people on the message boards at Killersites.com, I did just that. The first website I ever designed and developed was for a local custom home builder. Now that my kids are older and all in school full-time, I am working from home as a freelance web designer. I create websites for small businesses and boutiques, and most recently, I have branched out to creating premade WordPress themes. I am completely in love with what I do and wouldn’t trade it for the world!

What are some of the challenges you encounter as a designer and how do you deal with them?

Right now, the biggest challenge for me is finding balance in my schedule. I have a good amount of client work, multiple ideas for premade WordPress themes, three children who need my help and attention, a house full of dishes, laundry, and chores, a husband whom I love to spend time with, and the list goes on. Since my office is in my home, it’s easy to lose track of time because I just want to try “one more thing,” but I have learned I need to make a conscious effort to stick to a somewhat consistent work schedule so that my family life doesn’t suffer.

What is your definition of an “elegant solution,” that is, good design?

Good design happens when the design of a website is simple and beautiful without overtaking the content. Sometimes, people get caught up in filling every nook and cranny with design elements on a website, but that can be very distracting to visitors, and can actually prevent them from taking the steps website owners want them to take.

From skills to values, what makes a designer successful?

A successful web designer will know how to write HTML and CSS code so he or she can transform their beautiful designs into a fully working website (you’d be surprised at how many people try to be a web designer without knowing the basics). Having a clear understanding of website code will also enable a web designer to troubleshoot issues and find workable solutions. Aside from code, they should also know the best practices for designing a website that is easy for visitors to use and leads them to complete the objectives of the website owners (sign up for an email newsletter, purchase a product, etc.).

How do you stay motivated and grow personally and professionally as a designer?

Honestly, it’s not hard for me to stay motivated because web design started out as (and still is) my hobby. But I like to stay current on the latest trends by following other designers and developers on Twitter. I have learned so much from the information and links that people share there. Also, I’m finding that browsing Pinterest weekly is a wonderful source of inspiration and motivation. Seeing what moves others and what they love gives me lots of ideas for my next website or WordPress theme.

For those aspiring to become a designer, whatever the discipline, what is your advice?

When you are just getting started, you will have to work hard as you learn how to perfect your craft so that it is marketable. But with persistence and passion, you can do it! The pay off will be so worth it. Get involved in groups of like-minded people whether that be through online message boards, Facebook groups, Twitter, reading, and commenting on blogs of other designers, etc. And then just do it—sometimes you just have to step out in faith and CREATE! The more you create, the better you’ll become.

What is your quest in design, from a professional practice, education or evolution standpoint?

I would love to take some design classes so I can improve my skills and learn some new techniques.

Susan Nelson is the founder of Oh, Hello Designs in Columbus, Ohio. She enjoys playing with HTML, CSS, Photoshop, and is a bona fide WordPress enthusiast, who has made a couple of WordPress themes. She highly recommends the book Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte.

Image of WordPress theme Pure Elegance provided by Susan Nelson.

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