What Is Web Design?

Jennifer Betts
Designer working at new web design

Every website you have ever encountered on the seemingly endless internet has a designer. It could be a professional designer or a novice, but someone created each page. The web designer decided how the page would function and the different elements that would go into making the look of the page.

Web Design Defined

Before you can delve into the different elements of website design, you need to understand what web design is and how it differs from web development. Web design is the process of creating a website, including the look, style and user experience. Web design tackles the layout, text, graphics, colors and structure of the site as a whole which takes significant planning and conceptualizing. Web designers also take into consideration the various limitations of the web and how to work around them to create a cohesive and functional design.

Web Development vs. Design

While web design might be similar to web development and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, these two two fields are not identical.

  • Web design: If you are a web designer, you are concerned about the aesthetics of the website and how it will be used by the end user. You would specialize more in graphics software like Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver.
  • Web development: A web developer is concerned with the programming and functionality of a website. These individuals worry less about how aesthetically pleasing the website is, instead focusing more on how it functions. Web developers focus more on programming languages like CSS, Perl, and PHP rather than design software.

Key Components of Web Design

There are several areas that go into creating beautiful, interactive websites. Not only do you want to make sure the site functions, but you have to think about all the different visual elements of the design. Key elements of web design include:

Graphics

Graphics are lifeblood for web designers. Web graphics include all types of visual elements, such as photos, clip art, logos, galleries, infographics, and more. Not only do graphics add interest and variety to a design, they can make or break a website depending on how they are positioned or work together in the layout. For example, bold, bright images wouldn't work well for a website on grief that needs more muted, comforting tones. Muted black and gray images might seem strange for a website on hip-hop dancing.

Layout

One of the most important elements of web design is the layout, which is how the information and graphics are placed. Not only do you want to create a website that is eye candy, but it also needs to be functional. You need to consider how the design balances on the screen if the colors complement each other and how the pages work together. Additionally, contrasting and highlighting specific areas to create unity is important. You might also ensure that the entire website works together to help users find what they are looking for quickly.

Content Arrangement

While layout and content arrangement work hand in hand, they are two separate aspects of web design. As SPE International points out, "content items are arranged on the webpage using the page layout you've chosen." Content arrangement involves arranging the visuals so the site's message is instantly clear. It's critical to consider the lines, shapes, color, texture and rhythm of the work. This is important because how the headers, text and buttons are arranged can make it easy to move throughout the site.

Font

There are thousands of fonts out there to add variation to a website. A designer must ensure that the fonts used on the site work together cohesively and that the text is readable to the user. Having a font that is fancy but not functional doesn't work in this field.

User Interface Design

User interface design is another important aspect of web design. This is the ease of use of a design on a computer or a mobile device. Here, designers have to question how the website will be used. You must consider where and how this website might be used and ensure the content is easy to access by all users. For example, having a design that will only work on a computer will frustrate users that prefer mobile devices. A responsive design that adapts based on device is preferable.

More Than Just Graphics

Web design involves creating websites that are aesthetically pleasing yet functional. Designers must consider both the user and the constraints of the web. While website creators might make this look easy, designing a website requires skills in several key elements of web design beyond just graphics. From layout and content arrangement to text and even user habits, web designers use their expertise to craft sites that are as useful as they are beautiful.

What Is Web Design?