Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video What do we mean when we say "web design"?, part of Mapping the Modern Web Design Process.
- When talking about a topic, it's important that we have agreed upon and clear definitions of the terms we use and that we share the same horizon of understanding. This is especially true when we start exploring a term like web design, which thanks to its relatively loose definition and blurry edges, has as many interpretations as there are people trying to define it. With this in mind, it'll be helpful if we start out by establishing a definition for the term web design that can be used for this course.
Traditionally, the creation of a website has been seen as a merging of two separate but overlapping groups of disciplines, web design, which concerns itself with the appearance and forward facing functionality of the site, and web development, which focuses on what happens behind the scenes, both in code and on the hardware. Wikipedia provides a great summary of this perspective. 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, interface design, authoring, including standardized code and proprietary software, user experience 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 related to the front-end or client-side designing 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 if their role involves creating markup, then they are also expected to be up to date with web accessibility guidelines. You'll notice that Wikipedia sees web design and web engineering as two parts that fall under the broader definition of web development. I humbly disagree with this definition. First off, what Wikipedia refers to as web engineering is what most of us would call web development.
Furthermore, while there was a time when we could practically approach web design and web development as two separate worlds that only partially overlapped, we have evolved well beyond this dichotomy. Today, the act of designing a website, what Wikipedia refers to as web design, and the act of building the infrastructure that website stands on, refers to as web engineering, are fully intertwined and overlapping. To me, the term web design has evolved to become the umbrella term that encompasses all the disciplines that go together to create a website.
These include the old web design principles, graphic and interface design, authoring, user experience design, search engine optimization, et cetera, as well as the other disciplines involved in creating and providing a website, content strategy, information architecture, front and back end development, even infrastructure and system architecture. Going forward in this course, I will use web design as the catchall term that holds within it all the roles and disciplines that go together to bring the idea of a website to fruition, as the presentation of live content on the web.
Web design is the circle that surrounds and holds everything.
- Understanding what your users care about
- Creating user personas
- Creating content priority hierarchies
- Testing wireframes and interaction patterns
- Establishing a three-track build process
- Incorporating accessibility principles
- Using content blocks
- Testing and revising your web design
- Optimizing for social media and SEO
- Launching your web design
- Getting feedback from users