Web design encompasses many different skills and disciplines in the production and maintenance of websites. The different areas of web design include web graphic design; user interface design (UI design); authoring, including standardised code and proprietary software; user experience design (UX design); and search engine optimization. Often many individuals will work in teams covering different aspects of the design process, although some designers will cover them all. The term "web design" is normally used to describe the design process relating to the front-end (client side) design of a website including writing markup. Web design partially overlaps web engineering in the broader scope of web development. Web designers are expected to have an awareness of usability and be up to date with web accessibility guidelines.
Although web design has a fairly recent history, it can be linked to other areas such as graphic design, user experience, and multimedia arts, but is more aptly seen from a technological standpoint. It has become a large part of people's everyday lives. It is hard to imagine the Internet without animated graphics, different styles of typography, background, videos and music. The web was announced on August 6, 1991; in November 1992, CERN was the first website to go live on the World Wide Web. During this period, websites were structured by using the <table> tag which created numbers on the website. Eventually, web designers were able to find their way around it to create more structures and format. In early history, the structure of the websites was fragile and hard to contain, so it became very difficult to use them. In November 1993, ALIWEB was the first ever search engine to be created (Archie Like Indexing for the WEB).
The start of the web and web design
In 1989, whilst working at
Evolution of web design
In 1996, Microsoft released its first competitive browser, which was complete with its own features and HTML tags. It was also the first browser to support style sheets, which at the time was seen as an obscure authoring technique and is today an important aspect of web design.
End of the first browser wars
In 1998, Netscape released Netscape Communicator code under an
Since the start of the 21st century, the web has become more and more integrated into people's lives. As this has happened the technology of the web has also moved on. There have also been significant changes in the way people use and access the web, and this has changed how sites are designed.
Since the end of the
2012 and later
With the improvement of 3G and LTE internet coverage, a large part of website traffic became mobile-generated. This affected the web design industry, pushing it towards a minimalistic, lightened and simplistic style. In particular, the "Mobile first" approach emerged, which implies creating website design with a mobile-oriented layout first, and then adapting it to higher screen dimensions.
Tools and technologies
Web designers use a variety of different tools depending on what part of the production process they are involved in. These tools are updated over time by newer standards and software but the principles behind them remain the same. Web designers use both
One popular tool in web design is UX Design, it is a type of art that designs products to perform an accurate user background. UX design is very deep. UX is more than the web, it is very independent, and its fundamentals can be applied to many other browsers or apps. Web design is mostly based on web-based things. UX can overlap both web design and design. UX design mostly focuses on products that are less web based.
Skills and techniques
Marketing and communication design
Marketing and communication design on a website may identify what works for its target market. This can be an age group or particular strand of culture; thus the designer may understand the trends of its audience. Designers may also understand the type of website they are designing, meaning, for example, that (B2B) business-to-business website design considerations might differ greatly from a consumer-targeted website such as a retail or entertainment website. Careful consideration might be made to ensure that the aesthetics or overall design of a site do not clash with the clarity and accuracy of the content or the ease of web navigation, especially on a B2B website. Designers may also consider the reputation of the owner or business the site is representing to make sure they are portrayed favorably. Web designers normally oversee all the websites that are made on how they work or operate on things. They constantly are updating and changing everything on websites behind the scenes. All the elements they do are text, photos, graphics, and layout of the web. Before beginning work on a website, web designers normally set an appointment with their clients to discuss layout, color, graphics, and design. Web designers spend the majority of their time designing websites and making sure the speed is right. Web designers typically engage in testing and working, marketing, and communicating with other designers about laying out the websites and finding the right elements for the websites.
User experience design and interactive design
User understanding of the content of a website often depends on user understanding of how the website works. This is part of the user experience design. User experience is related to layout, clear instructions, and labeling on a website. How well a user understands how they can interact on a site may also depend on the interactive design of the site. If a user perceives the usefulness of the website, they are more likely to continue using it. Users who are skilled and well versed in website use may find a more distinctive, yet less intuitive or less user-friendly website interface useful nonetheless. However, users with less experience are less likely to see the advantages or usefulness of a less intuitive website interface. This drives the trend for a more universal user experience and ease of access to accommodate as many users as possible regardless of user skill. Much of the user experience design and interactive design are considered in the user interface design.
Advanced interactive functions may require plug-ins if not advanced coding language skills. Choosing whether or not to use interactivity that requires plug-ins is a critical decision in user experience design. If the plug-in doesn't come pre-installed with most browsers, there's a risk that the user will have neither the know-how nor the patience to install a plug-in just to access the content. If the function requires advanced coding language skills, it may be too costly in either time or money to code compared to the amount of enhancement the function will add to the user experience. There's also a risk that advanced interactivity may be incompatible with older browsers or hardware configurations. Publishing a function that doesn't work reliably is potentially worse for the user experience than making no attempt. It depends on the target audience if it's likely to be needed or worth any risks.
Progressive enhancement is a strategy in web design that puts emphasis on web content first, allowing everyone to access the basic content and functionality of a web page, whilst users with additional browser features or faster Internet access receive the enhanced version instead.
In practice, this means serving content through
Part of the user interface design is affected by the quality of the page layout. For example, a designer may consider whether the site's page layout should remain consistent on different pages when designing the layout. Page pixel width may also be considered vital for aligning objects in the layout design. The most popular fixed-width websites generally have the same set width to match the current most popular browser window, at the current most popular screen resolution, on the current most popular monitor size. Most pages are also center-aligned for concerns of aesthetics on larger screens.
Fluid layouts increased in popularity around 2000 to allow the browser to make user-specific layout adjustments to fluid layouts based on the details of the reader's screen (window size, font size relative to window, etc.). They grew as an alternative to HTML-table-based layouts and
Responsive web design is a newer approach, based on CSS3, and a deeper level of per-device specification within the page's style sheet through an enhanced use of the CSS
@media rule. In March 2018 Google announced they would be rolling out mobile-first indexing. Sites using responsive design are well placed to ensure they meet this new approach.
Web designers may choose to limit the variety of website typefaces to only a few which are of a similar style, instead of using a wide range of typefaces or type styles. Most browsers recognize a specific number of safe fonts, which designers mainly use in order to avoid complications.
Font downloading was later included in the CSS3 fonts module and has since been implemented in Safari 3.1, Opera 10, and Mozilla Firefox 3.5. This has subsequently increased interest in web typography, as well as the usage of font downloading.
Most site layouts incorporate negative space to break the text up into paragraphs and also avoid center-aligned text.
The page layout and user interface may also be affected by the use of motion graphics. The choice of whether or not to use motion graphics may depend on the target market for the website. Motion graphics may be expected or at least better received with an entertainment-oriented website. However, a website target audience with a more serious or formal interest (such as business, community, or government) might find animations unnecessary and distracting if only for entertainment or decoration purposes. This doesn't mean that more serious content couldn't be enhanced with animated or video presentations that is relevant to the content. In either case, motion graphic design may make the difference between more effective visuals or distracting visuals.
Motion graphics that are not initiated by the site visitor can produce accessibility issues. The World Wide Web consortium accessibility standards require that site visitors be able to disable the animations.
Quality of code
Website designers may consider it to be good practice to conform to standards. This is usually done via a description specifying what the element is doing. Failure to conform to standards may not make a website unusable or error-prone, but standards can relate to the correct layout of pages for readability as well as making sure coded elements are closed appropriately. This includes errors in code, a more organized layout for code, and making sure IDs and classes are identified properly. Poorly coded pages are sometimes colloquially called tag soup. Validating via W3C can only be done when a correct DOCTYPE declaration is made, which is used to highlight errors in code. The system identifies the errors and areas that do not conform to web design standards. This information can then be corrected by the user.
There are two ways websites are generated: statically or dynamically.
A static website stores a unique file for every page of a static website. Each time that page is requested, the same content is returned. This content is created once, during the design of the website. It is usually manually authored, although some sites use an automated creation process, similar to a dynamic website, whose results are stored long-term as completed pages. These automatically created static sites became more popular around 2015, with generators such as Jekyll and Adobe Muse.
The benefits of a static website are that they were simpler to host, as their server only needed to serve static content, not execute server-side scripts. This required less server administration and had less chance of exposing security holes. They could also serve pages more quickly, on low-cost server hardware. This advantage became less important as cheap web hosting expanded to also offer dynamic features, and virtual servers offered high performance for short intervals at low cost.
Almost all websites have some static content, as supporting assets such as images and style sheets are usually static, even on a website with highly dynamic pages.
Dynamic websites are generated on the fly and use server-side technology to generate web pages. They typically extract their content from one or more back-end databases: some are database queries across a relational database to query a catalog or to summarise numeric information, and others may use a
In the design process, dynamic pages are often mocked-up or wireframed using static pages. The skillset needed to develop dynamic web pages is much broader than for a static page, involving server-side and database coding as well as client-side interface design. Even medium-sized dynamic projects are thus almost always a team effort.
When dynamic web pages first developed, they were typically coded directly in languages such as Perl, PHP or ASP. Some of these, notably PHP and ASP, used a 'template' approach where a server-side page resembled the structure of the completed client-side page, and data was inserted into places defined by 'tags'. This was a quicker means of development than coding in a purely procedural coding language such as Perl.
Both of these approaches have now been supplanted for many websites by higher-level application-focused tools such as content management systems. These build on top of general-purpose coding platforms and assume that a website exists to offer content according to one of several well-recognised models, such as a time-sequenced blog, a thematic magazine or news site, a wiki, or a user forum. These tools make the implementation of such a site very easy, and a purely organizational and design-based task, without requiring any coding.
Editing the content itself (as well as the template page) can be done both by means of the site itself and with the use of third-party software. The ability to edit all pages is provided only to a specific category of users (for example, administrators, or registered users). In some cases, anonymous users are allowed to edit certain web content, which is less frequent (for example, on forums - adding messages). An example of a site with an anonymous change is Wikipedia.
Usability experts, including
In 2012 and 2013, carousels (also called 'sliders' and 'rotating banners') have become an extremely popular design element on homepages, often used to showcase featured or recent content in a confined space. Many practitioners argue that carousels are an ineffective design element and hurt a website's search engine optimisation and usability.
There are two primary jobs involved in creating a website: the web designer and web developer, who often work closely together on a website. The web designers are responsible for the visual aspect, which includes the layout, colouring, and typography of a web page. Web designers will also have a working knowledge of markup languages such as HTML and CSS, although the extent of their knowledge will differ from one web designer to another. Particularly in smaller organizations, one person will need the necessary skills for designing and programming the full web page, while larger organizations may have a web designer responsible for the visual aspect alone.
Further jobs which may become involved in the creation of a website include:
- Graphic designersto create visuals for the site such as logos, layouts, and buttons
- Internet marketing specialists to help maintain web presence through strategic solutions on targeting viewers to the site, by using marketing and promotional techniques on the internet
- SEO writers to research and recommend the correct words to be incorporated into a particular website and make the website more accessible and found on numerous search engines
- Internet copywriter to create the written content of the page to appeal to the targeted viewers of the site
- User experience (UX) designer incorporates aspects of user-focused design considerations which include information architecture, user-centred design, user testing, interaction design, and occasionally visual design.
- Lester, Georgina. "Different jobs and responsibilities of various people involved in creating a website". Arts Wales UK. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
- CPBI, Ryan Shelley. "The History of Website Design: 30 Years of Building the Web [2022 Update]". www.smamarketing.net. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
- "Longer Biography". Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- "Mosaic Browser" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-02. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- Chapman, Cameron, The Evolution of Web Design, Six Revisions, archived from the original on 30 October 2013
- "AMO.NET America's Multimedia Online (Internet Explorer 6 PREVIEW)". amo.net. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
- "W3C Markup Validation Service".
- W3C. "Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)".
- "What is Web Design?". The Interaction Design Foundation. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
- "What is a Web Designer? (2022 Guide)". BrainStation®. Retrieved 2022-10-28.
- "Building a resilient frontend using progressive enhancement". GOV.UK. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
- "Rolling out mobile-first indexing". Official Google Webmaster Central Blog. Retrieved 2018-06-09.
- Stone, John (2009-11-16). "20 Do's and Don'ts of Effective Web Typography". Retrieved 2012-03-19.
- World Wide Web Consortium: Understanding Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.2.2: Pause, Stop, Hide
- W3C QA. "My Web site is standard! And yours?". Retrieved 2012-03-21.
- Christensen, Mathias Biilmann (2015-11-16). "Static Website Generators Reviewed: Jekyll, Middleman, Roots, Hugo". Smashing Magazine. Retrieved 2016-10-26.
- Soucy, Kyle, Is Your Homepage Doing What It Should?, Usable Interface, archived from the original on 8 June 2012
- Nielsen, Jakob (10 November 2003), The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines, Nielsen Norman Group, archived from the original on 5 October 2013
- Knight, Kayla (20 August 2009), Essential Tips for Designing an Effective Homepage, Six Revisions, archived from the original on 21 August 2013
- Spool, Jared (29 September 2005), Is Home Page Design Relevant Anymore?, User Interface Engineering, archived from the original on 16 September 2013
- Chapman, Cameron (15 September 2010), 10 Usability Tips Based on Research Studies, Six Revisions, archived from the original on 2 September 2013
- Gócza, Zoltán, Myth #17: The homepage is your most important page, archived from the original on 2 June 2013
- McGovern, Gerry (18 April 2010), The decline of the homepage, archived from the original on 24 May 2013
- Porter, Joshua (24 April 2006), Prioritizing Design Time: A Long Tail Approach, User Interface Engineering, archived from the original on 14 May 2013
- Spool, Jared (6 August 2007), Usability Tools Podcast: Home Page Design, archived from the original on 29 April 2013
- Messner, Katie (22 April 2013), Image Carousels: Getting Control of the Merry-Go-Round, Usability.gov, archived from the original on 10 October 2013
- Jones, Harrison (19 June 2013), Homepage Sliders: Bad For SEO, Bad For Usability, archived from the original on 22 November 2013
- Laja, Peep (8 June 2019), Image Carousels and Sliders? Don't Use Them. (Here's why.), CXL, archived from the original on 10 December 2019