MA Web Design & Content Planning

Core competencies

This page describes what is expected of students during the course and the core competencies you must have before starting the course. Students who do not already have the minimum core skills outlined below will find it difficult to progress.

Graduates discuss the latest trends in web design
Nicola, Tom and Jim discuss the latest trends in web design over a cup of tea


The MA Web Design & Content Planning course takes a fast-track approach to teaching and learning and is taught in a “blended” mode, meaning that although students need only attend on 1 day per week, their commitment to and engagement with the course extends well beyond this limited time. Students are advised to begin the learning process before the start of teaching in order to gain the best chance of a positive outcome (see Preparing for study for more information).

Important: Although the course requires attendance on only 1 day per week, it is, nonetheless, a full-time programme and requires a full-time level of commitment. A part-time mode is also available for those who are unable to commit on a full-time basis.

  1. Students studying the full-time mode will need to dedicate an average of at least 25 hours per week in addition to the day of attendance in order to successfully complete the coursework, which is set weekly. Some weeks you may need more time than others, depending on submission deadlines. Some students may need more time than this in the early stages of the programme if they have little or no prior experience of web design.
  2. You must ensure that they you able to commit to attending the one “face-to-face” day per week for the entirety of the taught course (September to May). This is particularly important in view of the fast-track nature of the programme. You will find it difficult to catch up if you fall behind.
  3. You will require reliable broadband access from home or the place where you do your coursework. The university provides Wi-Fi access in all study areas.
  4. You will need a modern laptop with an up-to-date operating system. The actual hardware specification is not important because any recent laptop will be good enough. Either Mac or PC will be fine.
  5. You don’t need to buy any specific software because appropriate applications for both Mac and PC are available for free or at low cost. However, many students prefer to use their own favourite applications and if this is the case, please ensure you know how to use them.
  6. Students should ensure that they have available funds for book purchases throughout the course. Although all books on reading lists are available from the university library, many students prefer to keep their own copies of some texts for personal reference.

Personal Skills

Contemporary web design practice encompasses a large and ever-growing body of knowledge. In order to acquire this knowledge, students cannot rely purely on the taught courses or even on their own research. Students will need to become part of a learning team, consisting of tutors and other students on the course. To facilitate this mutual learning model, a number of online applications and resources must be utilised.

Tutors will provide a level of support and guidance for student learning which is appropriate at MA level (Level 7). However, students are responsible for their own learning and a successful academic outcome is unlikely without a positive, proactive, investigative and collaborative approach.

  1. Students must be prepared to fully engage with the programme and participate in online learning activities. These include the following:
    1. A group-working platform where students, tutors and alumni can publish personal research, debate and discuss web design and various related topics (currently, we use Slack). Students will be expected to become an active participant on the platform.
    2. Each student must keep a blog (WordPress) and will be expected to publish content on a regular basis. Students will use their blog to present various elements of coursework and to publish reflective articles on their learning experience and the web design process. Students are expected to publish articles regularly (once per week).
    3. Each student must provide their own personal web hosting where live project-work and some elements of coursework can be made available for viewing by staff and students. Guidance will be given at the start of the academic year.

    Students need to become confident and regular users of the 3 online tools detailed above (Slack, WordPress and Web Hosting) in order to effectively participate in the programme.

  2. Students are expected to be independent learners. The design of the course allows for tutors to introduce the various topic areas to students in a logical and structured manner and to provide a framework for further study. Further study is not optional and students are expected to develop and enhance their own understanding of topics by reading, undertaking practical exercises and online research.
  3. Students are expected to share their research work with other students and contribute fully to the pool of knowledge generated by the student group. This programme relies on a collaborative approach to learning.
  4. Students are expected to become active participants in the face-to-face discussions that take place during tutorials.
  5. Web Design is a fast-moving subject area and students need to keep up-to-date with current trends and ideas. This is only possible by reading blog posts, online and offline magazines, following social media and listening to podcasts. Students must have a willingness to consume such content and then feed back to the student group.

Specific Skills

Students should already be skilled general users of computer and information technology at the point of joining the course. It is not designed for computing beginners and tuition in the general use of computers will not be given.

  1. Students may use either PC or Mac (or both) but they must be competent users of the respective operating system(s). For example, students must be able to find suitable software online, download it, install it and learn how to use it.
  2. Students should have a good understanding of file and folder management and be able to organise their work effectively and logically. Students must also be able to implement a secure backup strategy for their work.
  3. Students should either be familiar with web design software or have the aptitude to learn new software quickly and easily. Students who have no experience of web design software and who find learning new software applications difficult are advised to undertake specific training prior to the commencement of the course.
  4. All students must have good English language skills because:
    1. A number of assessed elements require written submissions.
    2. A high proportion of communication on the programme takes place online and is text based (blog, messaging etc.).
    3. Creating good web copy is an important skill for web designers.
  5. All students must be able to independently research a given topic, form an opinion, create a summary and present a seminar to a group of staff and students. This requires good organisational and verbal skills.

The technical skills required for the Major Project will vary from project to project and from student to student. Therefore, the skills outlined above are not comprehensive and students must be prepared to learn new skills as required.