What Is Web Design and How Does It Work?
The web is all the content you see online, from this article to your bank’s website to a game you play in a browser. It’s the sites with memes, videos and social media. At the most superficial level, web design is what makes those sites.
But great site design is more than code. Web design includes visual designs and how users interact with a site.
Last Updated March 2023
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So what is web design exactly, and what does it include?
Web design is designing for all screen sizes
The age of designing with full-resolution computers in mind is over. Today, visitors to your website could be using any of a wide range of devices.
These include smartphones, like iPhones and Android devices, and tablets, like iPads and Surfaces. They also include netbooks and even gaming consoles, and of course, this does still include a full-resolution desktop computer.
Because of the variety of devices available, your website should have a responsive design. A responsive design scales to any resolution or screen size and is usable with any type of device.
Responsive design might seem complicated, but it’s simple once you learn the basics of HTML5 and CSS3.
Web Design is designing for speed
Designing for all devices isn’t just about responsive design. It’s also about load times. Load times are how long it takes for a page to show on a device. Top connection speeds are becoming faster every year, but people also use devices with shared WiFi and cellphone data. Those speeds can be painfully slow.
Speed matters. Search engines like Google monitor page load times when determining a website’s rank. You want to make your pages load as fast as possible while still looking good on all those devices.
You can start by looking through the images used on the website. Which format are they in? Do they use any type of compression? Could they be further compressed without quality loss?
Great targets for compression include large background images and thumbnails. You could reduce your website’s total size by as much as 50 percent, boosting your page load speed.
Web design is easy to use
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Web design is simple to learn, but it should also be easy to use. Study the designs of Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other successful websites. They all focus on the user rather than complicated layouts.
Overdesign can include complicated navigation menus or annoying sidebar widgets. A good rule for web design is that your website should only be as complex as it needs to be. Unless a design element has a specific function that isn’t carried out by anything else, it shouldn’t be there.
Removing unnecessary features is one of the most important aspects of usability testing. Modern web design includes taking into account the user, or visitor’s, experience, or UX design. Web designers also consider user interface design, or UI. User Interface and User Experience design focus on what a user needs.
Web design is consistent
A big part of the user interface is the icons and buttons on a website. These include social media links, buy buttons, and more. A wide variety of free icon sets are available for designers.
Icon sets that don’t match can make your design feel amateur and inconsistent. The same is true of buttons. When you mix different button styles and color schemes, it’s hard for users to find their way around your site.
Each icon and button should have a clear purpose and a specific design.
Likewise, you should use the same typefaces throughout your website. Keep your headings, subheadings, and body copy consistent across pages to increase readability.
Web design includes website builders
Web design can include learning a lot of code, but it does not have to be about code if that’s not your thing, and you can still design great websites. You can build websites with frameworks and content management systems.
What is a framework?
The most popular HTML and CSS framework is Bootstrap. Bootstrap is a massive collection of free HTML and CSS templates for all aspects of modern web design. It’s easy to customize with thousands of free and paid extensions.
What is a content management system?
A content management system, or CMS, is a way to build websites with pre-existing parts. The structure is already there, and you don’t have to do any code at all. You can choose to add code with some. A content management system already has all the working parts, though.
You get to put in your own content, including text and images, and focus on the design. You can also work from designs that already exist using templates and focus on the content.
Popular content management systems include WordPress, Webflow, SquareSpace, and Wix. I compare WordPress and Webflow in this article.
Web design is what you make of it
The term web design includes all of the above and more. Web design is also what you make of it.
Are you interested in getting into the code? Graphic design and making beautiful sites? Creating websites that are easy to use? Building great content? Web design is all those things.
Figure out what appeals to you, and dive in!
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