What is Web Design?

The Role of a Web Designer

Web Design, in its simplest definition is the process of constructing a website or webpage.

The process of web design can include conceptualisation, planning, producing, post-production, research, Search Engine Optimisation, advertising and marketing. Web Designers use text, images, videos, interactive elements and other digital media to construct the webpages which are viewed in web browsers.

The construction includes the layout, user interface, site structure, navigation, colours, fonts and imagery, all of which are combined using good design principles to create a website which meets the objectives of the client and designer.

Webpages are created from programming code known as markup “languages”,

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is commonly used for structure while Cascade Style Sheets (CSS) is utilised for presentation and styling. Flash and JavaScript are also employed to incorporate interactivity and other advanced functionality.

Websites are typically divided up into webpages based on specific content and are navigated via hyperlinks, either anchored to text (hypertext) or images.

Web Design Challenges

Web design can be very challenging, because unlike traditional print media, HTML has many variable elements. Not all web browsers render HTML according to the standards devised by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  So while one webpage may appear as the designer intended in one browser, it may appear completely different in another. There are various solutions to overcome browser-specific discrepancies but they can be very arduous to achieve across all browsers.

Adding to the challenge is the fact websites can be viewed on numerous devices, ranging from a large widescreen monitor to a small Smart Phone. While print media designers usually know the dimensions of medium their design will be presented, a web designer must allow for a variety of monitors sizes, varying display settings, and browsers for those with disabilities.

Web designers must ensure their websites appear aesthetically pleasing in a range of screen resolutions while designing a layout which allows the use of images and other fixed-size components.

Dynamic Websites

To provide dynamism and interactivity, Web Designers often use a number of database driven programming languages in addition to XHTML and CSS. A dynamic website has web pages which content and/or layout is generated for each individual viewing. 

There are two types of dynamic scripting languages. The first is “server side” scripting which includes languages like ASP, CGI, PERL and PHP.  Webpages using these languages usually store content in a database on the server which is then loaded into a layout template. The completed webpage does not exist as a file on the server but is built on the fly as the user loads the page.

The second is type “client-side” scripting which includes languages like JavaScript and Action Script. Client-side scripting is used to modify interface behaviours within specific webpages, in response to mouse or keyboard actions or upon specific timed events. In this instance the dynamic behaviour occurs within the user’s web browser after the webpage has fully loaded.


Once the possibilities for webpage design were dictated by limitations of web browsers, but with the growing flexibility of Flash and JavaScript, these limitations have been greatly reduced.  What can be achieved by the modern Web Designer is now limited by his or her skill and imagination.

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