Website design or web design is a general term used by lots of different people to describe the process of creating a website. More specifically the design of a website is most often described as the front-end, layout and visual side of the site. The process behind the design of a new website can often be confusing and seem daunting to many people with little or no knowledge of design and programming.
There are two parts to most websites: the human interface, usually visual, that allows users to read content, view pictures and navigate around the internet. The second part is the back-end coding, used by the computer or other interface to allow the site to be shown and used in the correct way.
Let’s start with the look and feel of a website. Most web designers use a graphics programme to begin the design process – although there are plenty who still use paper and pencils to sketch out ideas. The first designs become templates to refer back to for colour schemes, layout and fonts. Once a design is finalised the process turns to a mixture of coding and graphics.
To code the layout of a website you need to tell a browser how to present the information using a language called HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Over the last few years another language has evolved to make the process of coding easier called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Using CSS and HTML it is possible to seperate the content of a site from the layout and so make sites easier and quicker for browsers to read and display.
Most sites are built from the Homepage inwards – completing the first page is a big step and will often provide the basic code and images for the rest of the website. For most modern websites the act of design and coding the first templates is often undertaken almost silmultaneously. This makes sure that there is a consistent feel throughout the website with colour schemes, fonts and layout staying the same as you progress, much like a magazine.
One of the difficulties of designing a website is the range of systems and formats a site can be viewed in. There are several different browsers and computer systems that show websites slightly differently – not all users have the same screen resolution or fonts. There is also the problem of content as most websites use a similar template throughout the site no matter the amount of content on any given page. This is most evident on sites with hundreds or even thousands of pages where the content is pulled into templates from a database. Any web designer has to contend with these issues during the design process and then again when coding the template.
The second part of a website is the backend – most often on big sites a database with content and information. The design and programming of this part of a site is often produced by a different person to the layout. One of the main advantages of backend coding is that this side of a website is mostly produced using code that sits on a server and isn’t affected by the system of the end user.
Once a site has been designed and coded it just remains for it to be uploaded to a host server to be viewed online over the internet.