While the fundamentals of web design remain the same in 2010 as they were 10 years ago technology and web design trends are constantly evolving. In this article I'll share some tips for how you can stay ahead of the curve and ensure your web design remains cutting edge by adopting some of the latest techniques, technology and trends into your work.
Learn from others
Even if you're designing websites at a high level its important to keep learning new things to push your designs to the next level. Once you're beyond the point where web design tutorials can teach you anything you don't already know the best way to learn is to observe the design work of other web designers. Website showcases and CSS galleries are a good place to start as web designers who are proud of their work will submit their sites to these. Not all the work here will be stellar but you're likely to find one or two designers whose work you really like. From there you will easily be able to explore other sites which they've built.
Your clients or bosses might be really happy with the web design work you're doing but if they're not designers themselves they're likely to have less of a critical eye (although obviously they're opinion is still important as they pay the bills!).
Having other web designers cast their eyes over your work and feedback on it with constructive criticism is the best way to ensure you're always challenged and don't rest on your laurels when it comes to your design work.
Designers forums are a good place to get this sort of feedback, or if you know a few other designers why not create your own private peer review group on Facebook.
Seek inspiration from offline design
As web designers we often operate in the online bubble but its worth remembering that the foundations of web design came from offline graphic design and many of the forefathers of website design were designing for offline long before they started working with HTML and CSS.
Follow emerging trends in graphic design through design books and magazines. You might also seek inspiration from more abstract sources like photography and modern art. The best designers can integrate elements and inspiration from different styles into a seemless web design.
Keep up to date with technology
Don't just read design blogs. Even if you're strictly a front end UI designer its important to have an understanding of the backend technical workings of sites and how this technology is evolving. Web design is a balance of what can be imagined by the designer and what can be achieved by the technology so staying up to date with the latest developments in browser based technology, content management systems and server side scripting will make you a more useful and well rounded web designer.
Keep challenging yourself
If you're a 9 to 5 web designer its easy to fall into a design rut, especially if you're always designing the same kind of websites or even working on a single site all the time. Even if its just your personal portfolio site or building websites for friends make sure you're always working on projects which take you outside your comfort zone and challenge you to adopt different styles of web design rather than falling back to your usual ways of working.