How to Determine Which Skills You Should Learn


When you take a look around at various web design publications, you often see headlines touting the next big thing. It might be a tool, a programming language or a framework. One can compare the experience to walking along the Las Vegas strip, complete with neon signs tempting us with all that we are missing out on. “Come inside”, they insist, “and you’ll be at the forefront of the industry!”

The whole thing can lead a designer to feel left out, or worse, left behind. This is a natural reaction, as all of us want to believe that we know what we’re doing and can deliver top-notch results for our clients. Seeing all of these headlines can paint a picture of an imaginary person in our heads – one who has in-depth knowledge of everything.

But the reality is that the super-developer we see in our minds doesn’t exist. Even the most dedicated and brilliant web professionals don’t know it all. And, even if they did, when would they possibly find the time to implement this vast knowledge? So, let’s erase that image from our memories.

To that end, let’s also ignore the lure of buzzwords when it comes to the skills we need to learn. Instead, we’ll need to take a good hard look in the mirror. It’s there that we’ll find the right path to take.

Discover Your Pain Points

The first step in figuring out where to spend your limited educational resources (time and/or money) is through some self-discovery. The good news is that it won’t require any sort of deep analysis from you or a professional.

To start, take a few minutes to think about some projects you’ve worked on recently. How did they turn out? Did you find yourself struggling with any particular aspect? Were there any features you would like to have added, but couldn’t?

If you look at a number of past experiences, you may notice a pattern. Perhaps you really struggled with writing some custom JavaScript or in getting your CSS layout just right. If you see these things happening repeatedly over time, that’s a pain point – and something you can ease through learning.

By taking steps to improve these skills, you’re making an investment in your own efficiency. If, by mastering CSS layout techniques, you can get things done more quickly and produce better results, it’s wholly worth doing.

The thing is, we all have these pain points in our workflow. It’s just a matter of identifying them and taking action to improve.

A feather stuck in a spider web.

Think About Complimentary Skills

As great as many of the latest buzzworthy technologies are, they’re not always the best fit for what we do. For instance, React is quite a powerful JavaScript framework. But if your typical projects don’t require the sorts of features it brings to the table, is learning it really the wisest use of your time?

The exception to this would be if you’re interested in changing your niche or in adding JavaScript interfaces to what you offer clients. In this case, you’re leveling up your skills in order to tap into a new part of the market. It takes commitment, but can be worth the effort if you truly want to take things in this new direction.

The point is to take stock of the skills you use every day. From there, think about which new skills you can add to the mix. In many cases, you’ll want to look at ones that can act as a natural extension of what you already do. There are times when you may want to stray from this path, but overall it makes sense to continue to build upon an established foundation.

Sticking with React as our example, let’s say that you already work extensively with jQuery. It’s a tried-and-true framework and continues to serve you well.

But as you see React being integrated into the likes of WordPress, you see an opportunity to do even more. This new skill would allow you to extend your reach into a growing segment. And since you already know JavaScript, the learning curve may not be quite as steep as it would be for a novice in this area.

When you consider all of these factors, it would seem like a perfect and logical fit. And if learning a new skill makes this much sense, you know you’re on to something good.

Child stacking blocks.

It’s About Bettering Yourself and Your Career

There’s a lot of noise out there – often stepping over the boundary into pure overload. But just because something is being hyped and superlatives are being thrown about doesn’t mean it’s a must-learn skill.

As difficult as it can be, it’s important to look past all the flashy headlines and think about substance. Determine which skills out there will make a positive difference in both your career and even your life. Does it make your job easier? Will it help you make more money? Will you be able to better serve your clients?

When looking to upgrade your skill level, these are the things that really matter. By placing the focus on this form of self-improvement, you’ll put yourself on a path to continued success.

This page may contain affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, we may earn a commission from any purchase via the links on our site. You can read our Disclosure Policy at any time.