Boagworld, my favorite web developer podcast, has a juicy forum topic active right now — tips for new web designers. Here’s more or less what I wrote for it.
1. Learn as much as you can – and plan on keeping that up for the rest of your professional life. You can learn in whatever way suits you best. My preferred venues are books for new skills and RSS feeds for staying on top of the latest. But some like online tutorials, others classes, and still others prefer trial-and-error.
2. Devote time almost every day to following web design technologies and trends. RSS feeds, Twitter, email newsletters…. Again it’s whatever suits you best. Just don’t overwhelm yourself. Whenever I subscribe to a new RSS feed, I unsubscribe from another.
3. Understand the main skills involved in creating an excellent website. You certainly don’t have to master them all, but it’s good to have a grasp on what they really are and how they overlap. The primary skills for almost all sites are content creation, standards-based coding, design, and keeping the site current. For larger sites, they expand to project management, programming and information architecture.
4. Of these skills, know your strength in each. In areas where you’re weak, either work with someone who has them or develop them in yourself.
5. Follow your passion. There are many ways to grow within web development, so once you have basic mastery in the broad range of skills (within your abilities, of course), develop yourself in the areas that interest you most.