Welcome to the World of Web Design
Before the Research
To start out this blog post, I want to begin by talking about my initial impressions of what web design is in comparison to web development. Before this class, I would usually just refer to creating web pages as web design because I felt that the difference didn’t need to be explained. I figured that both were required to make a proper website anyway, so why would it matter. Although I had these thoughts, I was able to distinguish between the two. For me, web design was similar to interior design, where you only focus on the looks of the site. You determine where things should be placed, how far apart, which colors you are going to use, and so on. For development, I pictured that as the blueprints to actually build the site. We know what we want it to look like, but now we need to put it into practice and write code for it to be possible. Since these two are so intertwined, web design was the simplest term to describe it because using development alone makes it seems as though it is just coding.
After the Articles
The article that I believe describes web design and development perfectly is “4 Things You Need to Know About Web Development and Web Design.” It speaks about web development being about “building, creating, and maintaining a website” which also includes things like programming and publishing. On the other hand, they explain that web design refers to “layout, graphic design, and web content generation.” This is quite similar to my own initial impressions, which is good, because I was on the right track. The web designers focus “on the aesthetics” and “the information flow” of the website, whereas the developers make sure that the functions relating to the site work, such as comments, subscribing, purchasing, and so on. An easy explanation for the two comes when they say that “Web development is a logical process, while web design is a creative process.” I think that is a perfect depiction of the two. Where development tries to figure out how things will work, design tries to figure out how things should look and feel. An important thing to remember is that although they are two separate entities, they are both needed to create a functional and aesthetically pleasing website.
Another article we read spoke specifically about web design in relation to trustworthiness, and I think that this reading resonated with me tremendously. Back in 1999, Jakob Nielson listed four ways that a web site can be seen as trustworthy. They were: design quality, up-front disclosure, comprehensiveness and current content, and connection to the rest of the web. First, design quality is an imperative part of believing if a site is trustworthy or not. If I go to a site and the fonts are different, the sizes are off, the information is everywhere and in no particular order, and so on, then I am unlikely to believe this site contains truthful information. The article also talks about “typos, broken links, and other mistakes” that quickly degrade credibility. Having problems like these shows that you don’t care about your site, and likely don’t care about your information as well. Also, if links are broken, how can I tell where you got your information? Second, up-front disclosure is huge for me, because then I feel that the person has nothing to hide. When you put things behind paywalls or registrations, it feels like I’m being baited into a terrible service. Third, being comprehensive, correct, and current is also crucial to trustworthiness. Having a plethora of information relating to the same subject always improves your credibility because other people have similar findings as well. Also, current and up-to-date information is better too. If we’re having a conversation about web design and you find an article from 2000, it is unlikely that the information will still be reliable because the landscape has changed since then. Lastly, connections to the rest of the web are extremely important. Having links to other reputable websites or articles that have the same information makes your credibility skyrocket. As it talks about in the article, people have learned to trust outside review sites instead of the testimonials on the websites themselves because who knows if those reviews were paid for. When the company, such as a restaurant, links to their Yelp page, it shows that they’re proud of their ratings and have nothing to hide about their service. All four of these points are essential to web design because they make your site more believable. It shows that you care about how the site looks, the information that is presented, and that everything is laid out for you to develop your own opinion.
The last article that we read about was a study on young adults as web users. Knowing information about who will be using the site can be an advantage to web design. They found that young adults “commonly engage in several activities in parallel.” Using this, you may want to design your site in a way that can grab the person’s attention and keep it for as long as you can. A good example is Vine, where they took people’s instant gratification attitude and put it into a 7-second video platform. It’s quick, to the point, and you can move on to the next one because the information is so short. Another point was that they prefer content that is easy to scan. In this case, maybe bold the important points or create easy to read graphs or pictures. They are also error prone, so in a website with typing, maybe include a spellchecker or dialog boxes that ask, “Are you sure?” One last thing that I thought was important was that people should focus on “building a relationship over time” in relation to social media. I personally hate when company social media accounts post non-stop about a certain thing. It almost makes me want to not buy your product or visit your site even more. To avoid this, they suggest that the posts should be “interesting and relevant to your users.” I think that this is the perfect approach because, as an example, it doesn’t make sense to advertise to come into a store everyday. If I wanted to go to the store, I would. But, if the store advertises that they are having a 25% off sale this week, it is interesting and relevant to me and although I hadn’t planned on going before, I may be interested in going now.
After My Own Additional Research
I wanted to find more information about web design and web development, so I found two interesting articles on each subject individually. These articles made me think more about what each part really means when it comes to creating a website.
I found this one book by Alexander Dawson and decided to read the beginning parts because the title caught my eye. It was called “Future-proof Web Design: A Survival Guide” and it obviously grabbed my attention because it claimed to be future-proof. It started by talking about how much the concept of web design has changed, which I didn’t initially think about. I was very young when my family started having access to the Internet but as he explains, the beginning was basically only text-based sites. Also, the idea that web pages are no longer desktop based only, since mobile web pages are a very recent thing. Before I used to think about mobile pages as having nothing to do with the design because basically it was just a conversion of the normal site which would be done by the developers. But, even recently with the Hearthsong site we talked about, the desktop and mobile versions have very different designs that someone had to create. Also, now that technology has changed so much, we need to realize what kinds of sites we are creating in terms of design because instead of a computer screen, now we have smart phones in various sizes, tablets, laptops, and so on. In addition, people are not always up-to-date on their technology and that needs to be taken into account when designing a site. I even personally know someone who had an iPhone 4 until last year because they didn’t necessarily need a new one when their current phone still worked. The article also goes into the development portions of sites and made me think about certain things that don’t work on all browsers and some phones. Things like flash don’t work on Safari on the iPhone, unless you download a different browser. Some websites I have been to even have notices that “This doesn’t work with Chrome” or “This doesn’t work with Firefox” because they haven’t developed that portion for the site to work properly. This brings my next point where there are so many options for browsers now, whereas when I was younger, the main one was Netscape. Now we have Opera, Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Safari, and I’m sure many more that I don’t know about. We need to take into account all of these different environments when designing the look of the page in addition to developing the proper coding for the site to function properly. One last point that resonated with me is when he talked about new things not always being the best, which is true in many cases. I’ve learned that updating immediately is not always the best option because things can crash or have security flaws, which can be detrimental to users and owners alike. It’s nice to have everything brand new, but if it doesn’t work properly it could negatively affect you.
The second article I read focused on web development for mobile devices. It was called, “The Evolution of Web Development for Mobile Devices” by Nicholas C. Zakas. I chose this article because I wanted to learn more about the newer form of web development with the prevalence smartphones. While reading this, it made me think of another analogy for design and development relating to a car, where design is the body and the look of the car, and development is what is “under the hood” and makes the car move. This article mainly touched upon the difficulties with designing and developing web pages for mobile devices. One thing that I hadn’t considered was the latency issue between the cellphone and the cell tower. It takes a significant amount of time for that process to occur and for the webpage to load. They even did a test whee they applied 50 milliseconds of latency to a server, which is relatively small, and measured the amount of requests they could complete in 300 seconds. They found that the number was cut nearly 67%. When they applied a 300 millisecond latency, it was decreased almost 90%. This is an important issue because when you visit a page, it requests the latest version and if there is a 300 millisecond delay between each requests, almost no one is going to be able to get to the site in a reasonable amount of time, likely driving people away. I know for myself, when a page takes too long to load, I just completely give up with it because then I’m just wasting my time and I can find whatever I need elsewhere. Their solution was concatenating the requests into one request, so that if there needed to be a small delay, like the 50 millisecond one, it could make the requests at once, instead of it multiplying by three or four files to download. Next, he talks about how some browsers, like I mentioned previously with Safari and the iPhone, are not the best at loading pages. In the article they had a graph and it took significantly longer to load than many desktop browsers, including Safari itself when on a desktop. In addition, many mobile phones have little memory to work with so the pages need to be efficient or the application could crash. This caught me off guard because we always think of smartphones as computers in our pockets, which they are to an extent, but they really are not as capable as desktop computers. This makes web development that much harder and the need to find clever solutions, like concatenation, so crucial in creating a quality website.
Reading through these articles made me realize that design and development are much deeper than I had initially imagined. I knew the tip of the iceberg, but was unaware of many other things like the difficulties of mobile development. Even though I use the technology every day, sometimes you take it for granted without understanding how it truly works. This was an interesting experience and I cannot wait to learn more through readings and additional research in the future.
Web development and web design are commonly interchanged. Although they do have certain similarities, they also have a…www.thedevonseoco.co.uk
Dawson, A. (2012). Future-proof Web Design : A Survival Guide. Chichester: Wiley. (I found this on Articles+ and it is a book, so there’s no link).
Zakas, N. The Evolution of Web Development for Mobile Devices. Communications Of The ACM [serial online]. April 2013;56(4):42–48. Available from: Business Source Premier, Ipswich, MA. (Similarly found on Articles+ and it was from an Academic Journal).