Web design (also known as website design) is the field of expertise that encompasses everything about websites/webpages. All the steps it takes for conceptualizing, planning, creating and updating websites are considered part of your web design strategy.
Web design is not just about how your website looks, it’s also about how it works. It involves many different elements such as information and website architecture, user interface (UI), navigation, layout, colors, fonts, and much more.
All the aforementioned elements combined are what form websites. It’s not uncommon for people to directly correlate design to the visual aspect. While that assumption is not fundamentally wrong, website design is in fact about the visual aspects but it’s also about many other abstract elements such as usability, ergonomics, navigation patterns and all other aspects involving how your website works as well as how your user makes the most out of it.
According to the definition of design at UIC’s School of Design’s website:
Design is about progress. It is the conceptualization and creation of new things: ideas, interactions, information, objects, typefaces, books, posters, products, places, signs, systems, services, furniture, websites, and more. Designers imagine and make. They also research and think. Skilled in one or more specialties of the discipline, designers use their abilities in collaboration with others. Designers want to make ideas real and to make a difference.
Web design is a similar process of researching, thinking and creating. Combining different elements guided by best practices and principles focused on achieving a purpose.
Website design is all about presenting all these ideas and elements in web pages your end-user will be able to access using the internet and a web browser. Seems quite simple, right?
Web Design 1.01: The Elements
Web design shares many of the key visual types of elements other types of design use, such as:
- Layout: A website’s layout is all about how the different elements of a page (header, images, text, ads, etc.) are arranged. In an ideal world, the perfect layout for a webpage is the one that provides the visitor with all the key information he/she needs at a glance, without taking too much time to search. There’s no such thing as a magical formula or a ‘one size fits all’ model that’s guaranteed to make your pages perfect. Each page’s structure will demand its own elements to create a well-balanced, consisted design.
- Colors: Choosing your website’s colors, much like its design, will depend highly on your brand’s identity as well as your targeted audience. It can range from monochromatic or simple black-and-white to multi-colored gradients matching the brand’s personality. It’s all about common-sense. If your targeted audience is not used to strong colors and striking graphics, it might do you best to play it safe when it comes to colors.
- Fonts: Much like the colors, the fonts you use can say a lot about your brand and its identity. Even though using a wide variety of fonts can enhance the website design and the overall experience, most web browsers can only read a select number of “web-safe fonts” so it’s up to your designer to choose what to work with.
- Graphics: Graphics are all about your website’s visual elements such as photos, logos, icons and much more. These elements intend to enhance the page’s overall design and, in order to ensure your targeted audience benefits from these elements, you’ll need to place them properly and work along with the page’s colors and content. Most web designers choose to play it safe when it comes to graphics on a webpage mostly because overloading a page with graphics not only makes it harder to interpret, it may also make it too slow to load, damaging the user’s experience.
- Content: Content is all about the webpage’s message, the information you want to convey to your audience. Proper coordination of both visuals and content is essential to catch the visitor’s sight and lead his/her eyes where you want them to go. It’s essential to keep all written elements relevant, coherent and useful. People say less is more and, when building a webpage that should be your mantra. Don’t overwhelm them with unnecessary information but always make sure you provide enough to catch their attention. Content should always be optimized for search engines, incorporating keywords in a relevant, natural way.