About Professional Web and Web Design

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.

    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 Mosaic 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.

    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:

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