While the Internet is now a ubiquitous aspect of life for most people, many may be curious about what web design entails. Rather than falling under the purview of software design and implementation, it functions as an interface with the public and all who use web pages, browsers, and even streaming video services. The article below explores what the field entails and how it impacts virtual and corporeal cultures.
Broad Brushes and Fine Points
Many in modern societies interface with the Internet on a daily or weekly basis. When this contact occurs, what each user encounters is web design in the form of web pages, browser search engines, and streaming video services such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and many others. But what each individual sees isn't the code that builds function or enacts user commands. That is separate and represents a different aspect of the realm of computers.
Web design itself is almost exclusively concerned with the user interface with web content. It is, at its core, profoundly interactive, and those who use it in their professions focus on a few key things. The experience of the Internet user is of primary importance.
If a web page appears sloppy or is confusing to navigate, users will seek out other, more appeal options. As noted by the Interaction Design Foundation, this experience embraces both the general appearance and the structural layout of the content displayed on the page.
Web design relates to aesthetic appearance and functionality, and a vital task of those who practice it is to identify and remove or streamline any points of potential viewer frustration. This may, at first, seem inconsequential. However, when one considers that every site is selling something, whether that be a service, product, or merely a reputation for reliable information, user experience assumes a place of paramount importance.
Some fields concerned with image conceptualization and presentation can feed into this design field. Graphic designers will often expand their skillset and marketability by learning techniques and skills related to user interface platforms. Similarly, marketing and development specialists are integral in presenting a brand and its story to the public via images, color schemes, and cohesive, easily navigated content that enhances brand image.
Platforms and Approaches
From the birth of the Internet until approximately 2010, web pages viewed from desktop and laptop computers were the primary forum in which designers worked. However, following the introduction of smartphone mobile apps and tablet computers, design assumed new complexity. There are two main approaches to design that enable graphics and other sensibilities to work well irrespective of viewing medium.
Responsive design allows moving graphics to scale down or up in a dynamic fashion, depending on the size of the screen. Adaptive design fixes the layout based on an array of standard screen sizes. Each of these approaches can present potential problems, of which the designer should be aware. The former can drastically alter the layout of content, leading to a disjointed or clumsy appearance, when moving from large to small screens. The latter can also cause problems at the viewing interface if the user is viewing content on a non-standard screen.
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As individual use patterns of and available technological platforms for virtual content continue to evolve, it's likely that design tools and concepts will, too. What was once either a bare-bones tool for academic and business information transfer or a novelty for the public has now become essential to performing everyday tasks. Web design renders those tasks, both leisure and professional, easier, faster, and more enjoyable.