Everything you need to know about web design
when you're about to build your first website.
Websites are complicated.
On the surface, they seem like a collection of text and media elements that you simply need to put in place... sort of like a puzzle!
Underneath, they are far more complex.
I'm not here to teach you everything you need to know about web design: it takes years to learn enough about web development to create exactly what you want.
Instead, I'll focus only on the key terms that you'll hear as you embark on the journey to your first professionally-made website.
The most important terms to know before working with professionals.
- Front End Developer
- In the strictest terms, a front-end developer converts raw content into HTML and CSS (simple markup languages that structure and style your content).
- Back End Developer
- A back-end developer handles the parts of your site that are not seen, like servers, databases, and member portals.
- Full Stack Developer
- A full stack developer (sometimes called end-to-end) can develop in the front, back, and everything in the middle.
Nearly every project requires a full stack developer - otherwise things can get very messy very quickly.
Front-end Developers are sometimes called Web Designers, though it has little to do with the actual design and much to do with making the site/webpage exactly like the design.
Back-end Developers usually overlap into either full stack or network security, depending on their personal preference. Full stack gives you access more complex APIs and development options.
The most commonly used (and ambiguous) terms in the web world.
The next terms are almost too generic to do any good, but they're some of the most commonly used in the industry (at least, when clients are concerned).
- Web Design
- A catch-all term for creating web sites and applications. In the strictest terms, it's actually about design!
- Web Development
- A catch-all term for creating web sites and applications. In the strictest terms, it's actually about programming (but can refer to the process of making a great site).
- Web Designer
- A catch-all term for someone that designs websites. Can sometimes mean a graphic designer with the ability to convert the design into front-end code.
- Web Developer
- A web developer is usually a programmer. It can also mean someone that actually develops the site (developing the entire project) from start to finish.
There is a lot of middle ground here, which is where most websites live. You need a developer more than you need a designer (you need both, but only one can turn the design into a perfectly functioning site/application).
Areas of Expertise/Ancillary Roles
There are specialized areas of web design/development that can (in the case of large projects/companies) extend to their own unique role!
- User-Interface (UI)
- The UI is the visual portion of a site/application. Typically a 'Graphic User Interface', or GUI, user interface designers build structural (theme) elements to fill in UX mockups.
This has almost nothing to do with content and media. UI is an almost abstract concept, dealing with things like the overall structural design of the site (pages, panels, etc.).
- User-Experience (UX)
- UX has to do with flow and feel. It starts out as wire-frames and flow charts - is handed to UI designers to be colored in - then transferred to developers to be brought to life.
UX encompasses everything your user experiences - it's the key metric as far as the people using your site/application are concerned.
This is all you'll need to get started.
The rest of these terms deal with filling in your site and how larger project are handled.
Content Creation and Site Development
At this point, we've covered all of the basics you'll need to build your site and design the overall theme and a few elements (components).
Now it's time to fill in your site with things your visitors will need to engage with it, like content and media!
- Copy Writer
- Copy is the text portion of your content. Good copy helps you sell, inform, and/or entertain.
- Graphic Designer
- Media enhances content by accenting copy and driving the point home (or giving a warm introduction).
- Motion Graphics
- Motion graphics are typically videos, but mean animations used on the site. They add class and pizzazz.
- This begins reaching beyond web design and development, but you'll still need marketing for many things (SEO, CTAs, etc.).
For larger projects...
Large projects can require additional support staff to keep everything on track.
- Project Manager
- Used by companies as the sole contact point for your project.
- Systems Administrator
- SysAdmins handle implementation of designer/developer work and maintaining network security, versioning, etcetera.
- Quality assurance by hiring people to use your site/software. They report bugs and potential problems.