What is Web Design ?

Summary: Web Design is an umbrella term for an increasingly multi-disciplinary specialism. It is less about graphic design in a Web environment, and more about a widening set of skills, including Web graphic design, needed for a website to make the Web work to best effect.

Web Design’s roots

Web Design is the process of making a website. The name arises because it used to be enough for a graphic designer to make up a design in a graphics program which then turned it into a Web page.

Modern Web Design

Modern Web Design is more sophisticated and increasingly powerful:

  • Works effectively on several levels (the standards-based approach):
    • for the search engine
    • for the sighted visitor
    • for the visitor with accessibility needs (with legal benefits).
  • More adjustable by the visitor: text size, colour scheme, even shape
  • Lower cost of ownership (standards-based websites): easier to maintain

Also, websites with a lot of information often allow visitors to search or select just part of what’s on offer e.g. in e-commerce websites - another level of complexity.

The multiple skills needed today

A state-of-the-art website will use several of the following skills:

  • Coding / programming: to write the instructions for software delivering the Web pages. Between two and five languages may be needed, and more than one specialist. Accessibility issues must also be addressed.
  • Web graphic design: for the “look” in lightweight graphics
  • Interaction design: for the way we navigate through the website
  • Web copy writing: to write for the way we read off screens
  • Information architecture: to organise and categorise the information on the website so it is easy to find
  • Animation: usually in Flash (self-contained software requiring a skilled specialist)
  • Project management: so the client’s aims for the website are met by the agreed dates, and within everyone’s budgets.