You've started a business and now you need a website. Considering the proliferation of the internet and the level of connectivity most people have today, this is a common scenario. A new business, or an existing one for that matter, simply can't afford not to be on the web. Often, the web is the primary means by which businesses attract customers and a prime source of new business.
It may seem to many that the process of web design is shrouded in mystery and an impenetrable fortress of complex terminology and vague concepts that are impossible to understand. Web design is indeed complex, but it need not be frightening or mysterious. Understanding a few simple concepts won't turn you into a web designer, but it will certainly help you make better decisions.
A web designer can work alone, or they can work in conjunction with a web developer. While the boundaries blur between the two in many cases, essentially a web developer works on the back end of the site making more complex functionalities work and the web designer works on the back end and the front end, making sure that the site looks nice and the basics function effectively.
Knowing whether you need a web designer or a web developer is a crucial first step in having a site built. A general rule of thumb is to start with a web designer and consult a web developer is there are functionalities beyond the scope of the web designer's skills. If you require a complex functionality, such as a bespoke extension or an app, you should consult a web developer.
Possibly the two most common terms used in web design are UX and UI. UX is User Experience and UI is User Interface. UX is about how a visitor to a website experiences that website, what they feel about it, what they do on it and what they do with it. Ideally, you want visitors to your site to have a good experience on it so they'll buy things and come back. You want them to have a positive UX.
UI, or User Interface, is that part of the website that the visitor interacts with. For example, the website has links that the user knows they can click on, or specific functionalities such as “buy now” buttons or “message us” buttons. Ideally, you want those functionalities to be recognisable, clear and perform effectively. What you don't want is broken links and 404 Page Does Not Exist messages!
Another term that frequently causes confusion is responsive design. Responsive design involves designing a single website that can be viewed across devices and browsers. Put simply, the website responds to the device on which it is opened by automatically shifting to fit the display and the requirements of the device and browser, for example, on a PC, tablet or smart phone.
Responsive design is critical in contemporary web design. There are literally thousands of devices and browsers out there and users expect a website to open and function on their device. Meeting those expectations with responsive design ensures that customers and visitors to your site don't fall through the cracks because the site either didn't open or didn't display properly on their device.
Having one website that is designed to be responsive is also critical when it comes to maintenance and updates. It would be rather tricky to update multiple sites every time something needed to be changed on the website. Updating one website and having the changes display correctly on whatever device is being used is a far simpler affair.
Web designers often talk about “future-proofing” the website or the business. This means using forward-thinking strategies in building the site, ensuring maximum compatibility with existing technology and software and any imminent changes that are expected. That said, technology is constantly evolving and even a future-proofed site will need periodic maintenance and updates.
While these are some of the most commonly used terms, there are many more terms out there that might just feel likbfuscation. In a field that is barely thirty years old, it can be expected that terms and even concepts will come up that are generally not understood. However, with a little perseverance, it possible to catch the gist of it and actually enjoy learning more about this exciting field.
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