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Digital Basics: What Is Web Design?

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Understanding the basics of web design is crucial for any modern business owner. Image credit: ProfileTree

These days, having a website for your business is pretty much non-optional. However, before you get out your wallet and start splashing cash on a new site, it’s important to understand what web design actually is.

If you don’t have a technical background, you may have some misconceptions.

For example, you may not understand the difference between web design and development. In this guide we’ll start with the absolute basics and dispel some common myths.

This is understandable. As a business owner, your priority isn’t to be a complete expert on the digital world. Rather, you should have enough of an understanding to ensure you reap the benefits of going online.

Read on for our essential guide to web design for business owners.

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Web design actually comprises a large number of different functions: Image credit: UnSplash

The Web Design Industry

Technically, web design is an industry that encompasses a number of varied tasks.

To create a website you obviously need to know how to create code. However, to create a website which offers ROI for a business, there is a lot more to consider. That is, simply having a site which looks good is only half the battle.

You need someone who understands things like how colour works, what items need to be included to make visitors stay around and see what you have to offer, and what factors will enable the search engines to find your website and display it to their users.

Finally, you need content that appeals to visitors. This content includes information and, increasingly, entertainment too.

Web Design Roles

To give a better idea of the ingredients which make up effective web design, let’s consider some of the job roles which make up a design team.

To make things more confusing, however, the names for roles you encounter may include content writer, programmer, or even very specific roles like SEO specialist or UX designer.

The actual web designer may only be responsible for the layout and other visual components of a website.

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Web design companies are made up of a large number of different specialised roles. Image credit: UnSplash

It is important when you hire someone to help build your website that you discuss with them what they include in their service, or you may end up being disappointed and end up having to bring in other people. It’s much more cost effective to get this right the first time.

What Does a Web Designer Do?

Of course, ‘web designer’ is a job role in itself. If all of these other people have a role to play in creating a website, what is the designer’s specific job?

Web designers are essentially responsible for what’s known as the front end of a website. This is everything that users actually see. You can distinguish this from the back end of a site, which is everything that happens behind the scenes.

In other words, a web designer works on the look and feel of your site, as well as how users interact with it.

Most web designers are also graphic designers. They have knowledge of things like:

  • How two or three colours work together,
  • What kind of font is easiest to read,
  • Where to place various components such as contact information or purchase buttons or visuals,
  • How to create a positive UI so visitors will return,
  • How to make your website easy to see on different devices,
  • Some web designers also help with SEO.

To summarise, a web designer works on the front end of a site, whereas a web developer works on the back end. Someone who can do both is known as a full-stack developer.

Web Design Basics: What is UX/UI

When a designer is creating the initial plans for a website, they think about the people who will be visiting the website. They then use this as a basis to design your site in such a way that users are most likely to make a purchase.

They consider what is called UX, or user experience. This is how well a visitor is likely to respond to the way things are laid out.

For example, it has been discovered that visitors to any website have a general path they follow when scanning.

In order to make sure all your important information has the best chance of being seen, your content must be within that scanned area.

Users also like pages that load quickly and sites which are easy to navigate.

UX is related to your user interface, or UI. Essentially, these are the design elements that a user can interact with on your site. Common examples include things like buttons, forms and the checkout process.

The designer uses the knowledge of what is best to lay out the components of the website to create that experience. Think of it this way: UX is what makes your visitors enjoy your website. UI is making sure the means for that enjoyment are there.

What is Responsive Web Design?

Not long ago, a web designer only had to worry about how a website looked on a desktop or laptop computer screen. Designers would test and make sure the site looked good when viewed by different browsers, but that was all that needed to be done.

Today, people are more likely to be viewing a website on a tablet or phone. There are a wide variety of sizes and shapes of devices being used and a website that looks good on a desktop isn’t always going to look good on a smaller device.

When other devices began gaining popularity, web designers often had to make several versions of the same website, each with a different URL, in order to manage the difference in appearance and still allow users to get a positive experience.

Mobile and Tablet Use

This added a lot of work and ended up costing the web owner a lot of extra money. Looking for a way to solve this issue, responsive web design was created.

Think about how you can view a website on your phone in either horizontal or vertical mode. It looks basically the same, correct? This is a result of responsive web design on a small scale.

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When a website is created with this coding, a user can pull up a site on their desktop at work, their tablet while waiting to pick up the kids at soccer and their laptop at home that night – and each time they will be looking at basically the same website.

It will appear (roughly) the same regardless of screen size or device.

Digital Basics: Everything you Need to Know about Web Design

These days, investing in a killer website is one of the best things a business can do to stay competitive. While business owners don’t need to be design experts, it helps to understand the basics of web design, if only to ensure you get the best results.

While web design may seem intimidating when you first approach it, an experienced designer will be able to help you become familiar with everything the process involves.

The most important thing you need to do is to ask what aspects of the process the particular designer is able to do, and what parts you will need to have done by someone else or do yourself.

A well-rounded web designer may be able to do everything but create the content. In most cases, it’s best to engage a digital agency rather than an independent designer. This may cost a little bit more up front, but will quickly save you money.

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