Web

Web Design and Development

Web design is a broad term covering many different skills and disciplines that are used in the production and maintenance of websites. The different areas of web design include; web graphic design, interface design, authoring; including standardised code and proprietary software, user experience design and search engine optimization. Often many individuals will work in teams covering different aspects of the design process, although some designers will cover them all. The term web design is normally used to describe the design process relating to the front-end (client side) design of a website including writing mark up, but this is a grey area as this is also covered by web development. Web designers are expected to have an awareness of usability and if their role involves creating mark up then they are also expected to be up to date with web accessibility guidelines.

 

History (1988—2001)

Although web design has a fairly recent history, it can be linked to other areas such as graphic design. However web design is also seen as a technological standpoint. It has become a large part of people’s everyday lives. It is hard to imagine the Internet without animated graphics, different styles of typography, background and music.

 

The start of the web and web design

In 1989, whilst working at CERN Tim Berners-Lee proposed to create a global hypertext project, which later became known as the World Wide Web. Throughout 1991 to 1993 the World Wide Web was born. Text only pages could be viewed using a simple line-mode browser. In 1993 Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina, created the Mosaic browser. At the time there were multiple browsers however the majority of them were Unix-based and were naturally text heavy. There had been no integrated approach to graphical design elements such as images or sounds. The Mosaic browser broke this mould. The W3C was created in October 1994, to "lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability." This discouraged any one company from monopolizing a propriety browser and programming language, which could have altered the effect of the World Wide Web as a whole. The W3C continues to set standards, which can today be seen with JavaScript. In 1994 Andreessen formed Communications corp. That later became known as Netscape Communications the Netscape 0.9 browser. Netscape created its own HTML tags without regards to the traditional standards process. For example Netscape 1.1 included tags for changing background colours and formatting text with tables on web pages. Throughout 1996 to 1999 the browser wars began. The browser wars saw Microsoft and Netscape battle it out for the ultimate browser dominance. During this time there were many new technologies in the field, notably Cascading Style Sheets, JavaScript, and Dynamic HTML. On a whole the browser competition did lead to many positive creations and helped web design evolve at a rapid pace.

 

Evolution of web design

In 1996, Microsoft released its first competitive browser, which was complete with its own features and tags. It was also the first browser to support style sheets, which at the time was seen as an obscure authoring technique. The HTML markup for tables was originally intended for displaying tabular data. However designers quickly realized the potential of using HTML tables for creating the complex, multi-column layouts that were otherwise not possible. At this time, as design and good aesthetics seemed to take precedence over good mark-up structure, and little attention was paid to semantics and web accessibility. HTML sites were limited in their design options, even more so with earlier versions of HTML. To create complex designs, many web designers had to use complicated table structures or even use blank spacer .GIF images to stop empty table cells from collapsing. CSS was introduced in December 1996 by the W3C to support presentation and layout; this allowed HTML code to be semantic rather than both semantic and presentational, and improved web accessibility. In 1996 Flash (originally known as FutureSplash) was developed. At the time it was of a very simple layout basic tools and a timeline but it enabled web designers to go beyond the point of HTML at the time. It has now progressed to be very powerful, enabling it to develop entire sites.

 

End of the first browser wars

During 1998 Netscape released Netscape Communicator code under an open source licence, enabling thousands of developers to participate in improving the software. However they decided to stop and start from the beginning, which guided the development of the open source browser and soon expanded to a complete application platform. The Web Standards Project was formed, and promoted browser compliance with HTML and CSS standards by creating Acid1, Acid2, and Acid3 tests. 2000 was a big year for Microsoft. Internet Explorer had been released for Mac, this was significant as it was the first browser that fully supported HTML 4.01 and CSS 1, raising the bar in terms of standards compliance. It was also the first browser to fully support the PNG image format. During this time Netscape was sold to AOL and this was seen as Netscape’s official loss to Microsoft in the browser wars.

 

Tools and technologies

Web designers use a variety of different tools depending on what part of the production process they are involved in. These tools are updated over time by newer standards and software but the principles behind them remain the same. Web graphic designers use vector and raster graphics packages for creating web formatted imagery or design prototypes. Technologies used for creating websites include standardised mark up which could be hand coded or generated by WYSIWYG editing software. There is also proprietary software based on plug-ins that bypasses the client’s browsers version, these are often WYSIWYG but with the option of using the software’s scripting language. Search engine optimisation tools may be used to check search engine ranking and suggest improvements.

Other tools web designers might use include mark up validators and other testing tools for usability and accessibility to ensure their web sites meet web accessibility guidelines.

 

Skills and techniques

Typography

Usually a successful website has only a few typefaces which are of a similar style, instead of using a range of typefaces. Preferably a website should use sans serif or serif typefaces, not a combination of the two. Typography in websites should also be careful the amount of typefaces used, good design will incorporate a few similar typefaces rather than a range of type faces. Most browsers recognize a specific number of safe fonts, which designers mainly use in order to avoid complications.

Font downloading was later included in the CSS3 fonts module, and has since been implemented in Safari 3.1, Opera 10 and Mozilla Firefox 3.5. This has subsequently increased interest in Web typography, as well as the usage of font downloading.

Most layouts on a site incorporate white spaces to break the text up into paragraphs and also avoid centre aligned text.

 

Page layout

Web pages should be well laid out to improve navigation for the user. Also for navigation purposes, the sites page layout should also remain consistent on different pages. When constructing sites, it's important to consider page width as this is vital for aligning objects and in layout design. The most popular websites generally have a width close to 1024 pixels. Most pages are also centre aligned, to make objects look more aesthetically pleasing on larger screens.

Fluid layouts developed around 2000 as a replacement for HTML-table-based layouts, as a rejection of grid-based design both as a design principle, and as a coding technique, but were very slow to be adopted. The axiomatic assumption is that readers will have screen devices, or windows thereon, of different sizes and that there is nothing the page designer can do to change this. Accordingly, a design should be broken down into units (sidebars, content blocks, advert areas, navigation areas) that are sent to the browser and which will be fitted into the display window by the browser, as best it can. As the browser does know the details of the reader's screen (window size, font size relative to window etc.) the browser does a better job of this than a presumptive designer. Although such a display may often change the relative position of major content units, sidebars may be displaced below body text rather than to the side of it, this is usually a better and particularly a more usable display than a compromise attempt to display a hard-coded grid that simply doesn't fit the device window. In particular, the relative position of content blocks may change, but each block is less affected. Usability is also better, particularly by the avoidance of horizontal scrolling.

Responsive Web Design is a new approach, based on CSS3, and a deeper level of per-device specification within the page's stylesheet, through an enhanced use of the CSS @media pseudo-selector.

 

Quality of code

When creating a site it is good practice to conform to standards. This includes errors in code, better layout for code as well as making sure your IDs and classes are identified properly. This is usually done via a description specifying what the element is doing. Not conforming to standards may not make a website unusable or error prone, standards can relate to the correct layout of pages for readability as well making sure coded elements are closed appropriately. Validating via W3C can only be done when a correct DOCTYPE declaration is made, which is used to highlight errors in code. The system identifies the errors and areas that do not conform to web design standards. This information can then be corrected by the user.

 

Visual design

Good visual design on a website identifies and works for its target market. This can be an age group or particular strand of culture thus the designer should understand the trends of its audience. Designers should also understand the type of website they are designing, meaning a business website should not be designed the same as a social media site for example. Designers should also understand the owner or business the site is representing, to make sure they are portrayed favourably. The aesthetics or overall design of a site should not clash with the content, making it easier for the user to navigate and can find the desired information or products etc.

 

User experience design

For a user to understand a website they must be able to understand how the website works. This affects their experience. User experience is related to layout, clear instructions and labelling on a website. The user must understand how they can interact on a site. In relation to continued use, a user must perceive the usefulness of that website if they are to continue using it. With users who are skilled and well versed with website use, this influence relates directly to how they perceive websites, which encourages further use. Therefore users with less experience are less likely to see the advantages or usefulness of websites. This in turn should focus, on design for a more universal use and ease of access to accommodate as many users as possible regardless of user skill.

 

Occupations

There are two primary jobs involved in creating a website: the web designer and web developer, who often work closely together on a website. The web designers are responsible for the visual aspect, which includes the layout, colouring and typography of a web page. A web designer will also have a working knowledge of using a variety of languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and Flash to create a site, although the extent of their knowledge will differ from one web designer to another. Particularly in smaller organizations one person will need the necessary skills for designing and programming the full web page, whilst larger organizations may have a web designer responsible for the visual aspect alone.

Further jobs, which under particular circumstances may become involved during the creation of a website include:

  • Graphic designers, to create visuals for the site such as logos, layouts and buttons
  • Internet Marketing Specialists, to help maintain web presence through strategic solutions on targeting viewers to the site, by using marketing and promotional techniques on the internet.
  • SEO writers, to research and recommend the correct words to be incorporated into a particular website and make the website more accessible and found on numerous search engines.
  • Internet Copywriter, to create the written content of the page to appeal to the targeted viewers of the site.
  • User Experience (UX) designer, incorporates aspects of user focused design considerations which include information architecture, user centred design, user testing, interaction design, and occasionally visual design.

Source: www.wikipedia.org