Website Design can be defined as the process of constructing a web page. The design of a website will affect the way that visitors find the site (Search Engine Optimization), how long they stay on the site (site stickiness), how likely they are to return (repeat visitors) and the conversion rate of visitors, so if they registered or bought something.
A website developer may use many different disciplines during the process of designing a website including corporate identity, animation, photography, graphic design, marketing, search engine optimization techniques, information architecture, authoring, marketing and the principles of design while taking into consideration human behaviour.
Web pages can either be static or dynamic meaning that they can stay the same or change according to input from a user, changes made by the webmaster or changes initiated by the web or computing environment for example changes to the websites database.
The design of a website must ensure that the site is accessible. Various accessibility principles must be adhered to. These are known as the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). With the advancement of Content Management Systems which allow changes to be made to a website without having any programming knowledge the WCAG are changing.
Before designing a website it is imperative that you take into consideration the following factors that will affect the design:
- What is the purpose of the site?
- Who will be visiting it?
- What will they be looking for or hope to achieve?
- The types of information that should be included?
- The requirements for compatibility.
- A plan of how the site should be structured in order to meet these requirements.
The basic aspects of website design are:
- The content – this is the information that will be contained on the site. It must be relevant and must meet the requirements of visitors.
- The usability – the site should be user friendly and easily navigable by visitors.
- The appearance – the site should look professional and be consistent.
- Visibility – the site should be easily found by all major search engines.
With the increasing complexity and specialisation of website development & design the trend is to separate the two.
Web development refers to the non-design aspects of creating a website. These include coding, writing and markup. Web development can be carried out by a large team of people or a single person depending on the task at hand and the skills of the developer.
A typical web development hierarchy includes:
Client Side Coding – this is the coding of the layout and design, an example of this is XHTML which is stored and executed on a local client (in a web browser).
Server Side Coding – this is the coding of the functionality and back-end system which the client cannot access. This is executed on a web server and then sent to a client.
Database Technology – this is where the information gathered from visitors is stored.
One of the most important focus areas of website development is security especially when it comes to personal information such as email addresses, passwords and protected content such as credit card details - especially on the server side scripts. A breach of security is not only embarrassing to the organisation. It can destroy your online reputation because it can result in identity theft and fraud.
While much of a site’s security is dependent on the host server, the developer also plays an important role. To combat potential security breaches website developers employ various encryption methods to ensure that sensitive information is protected. The effectiveness of encryption and security levels of a site are very dependent on the skills of the developer.
A website developer is a software designer or software engineer who develops web applications that are run over the HTTP protocol from a web server to a web browser. Following the design phase the website developer will write the necessary programming code that will make the required functionality work.
While a web designer focuses on the layout of what you see, a web developer turns the design into a website using coding.