SEO Blueprint

Web design encompasses many different skills and disciplines 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
[1] 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
Web design partially overlaps web engineering in the broader scope of 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
Although web design has a fairly recent history, it can be linked to other areas such as graphic design
However web design can also be seen from 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
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
During 1991 to 1993 the World Wide Web was born
Text-only pages could be viewed using a simple line-mode browser
[2] 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 naturally text heavy
There had been no integrated approach to graphic design elements such as images or sounds
The Mosaic browser broke this mould
[3] 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
“[4] 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
Netscape created its own HTML tags without regard 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, as Microsoft and Netscape fought for ultimate browser dominance
During this time there were many new technologies in the field, notably Cascading Style Sheets, JavaScript, and Dynamic HTML
On the whole, the browser competition did lead to many positive creations and helped web design evolve at a rapid pace
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
[5] 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
[6] 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, see tableless web design
In 1996, Flash (originally known as FutureSplash) was developed
At the time, the Flash content development tool was relatively simple compared to now, using basic layout and drawing tools, a limited precursor to ActionScript, and a timeline, but it enabled web designers to go beyond the point of HTML, animated GIFs and JavaScript
However, because Flash required a plug-in, many web developers avoided using it for fear of limiting their market share due to lack of compatibility
Instead, designers reverted to gif animations (if they didn’t forego using motion graphics altogether) and JavaScript for widgets
But the benefits of Flash made it popular enough among specific target markets to eventually work its way to the vast majority of browsers, and powerful enough to be used to develop entire sites
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 start from the beginning, which guided the development of the open source browser and soon expanded to a complete application platform
[5] 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 was 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
[5] During this time Netscape was sold to AOL and this was seen as Netscape’s official loss to Microsoft in the browser wars
Since the start of the 21st century the web has become more and more integrated into peoples lives
As this has happened the technology of the web has also moved on
There have also been significant changes in the way people use and access the web, and this has changed how sites are designed
Since the end of the browsers wars there have been new browsers coming onto the scene
Many of these are open source meaning that they tend to have faster development and are more supportive of new standards
The new options are considered by many to be better than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer
The W3C has released new standards for HTML (HTML5) and CSS (CSS3), as well as new JavaScript API’s, each as a new but individual standard
However, while the term HTML5 is only used to refer to the new version of HTML and some of the JavaScript API’s, it has become common to use it to refer to the entire suite of new standards (HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript)
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 designers use both vector and raster graphics editors to create web-formatted imagery or design prototypes
Technologies used to create websites include W3C standards like HTML and CSS, which can be hand-coded or generated by WYSIWYG editing software
Other tools web designers might use include mark up validators[7] and other testing tools for usability and accessibility to ensure their web sites meet web accessibility guidelines
Marketing and communication design on a website may identify what works for its target market
This can be an age group or particular strand of culture; thus the designer may understand the trends of its audience
Designers may also understand the type of website they are designing, meaning, for example, that (B2B) business-to-business website design considerations might differ greatly from a consumer targeted website such as a retail or entertainment website
Careful consideration might be made to ensure that the aesthetics or overall design of a site do not clash with the clarity and accuracy of the content or the ease of web navigation,[9] especially on a B2B website
Designers may also consider the reputation of the owner or business the site is representing to make sure they are portrayed favourably
User understanding of the content of a website often depends on user understanding of how the website works
This is part of the user experience design
User experience is related to layout, clear instructions and labeling on a website
How well a user understands how they can interact on a site may also depend on the interactive design of the site
If a user perceives the usefulness of the website, they are more likely to continue using it
Users who are skilled and well versed with website use may find a more unique, yet less intuitive or less user-friendly website interface useful nonetheless
However, users with less experience are less likely to see the advantages or usefulness of a less intuitive website interface
This drives the trend for a more universal user experience and ease of access to accommodate as many users as possible regardless of user skill
[10] Much of the user experience design and interactive design are considered in the user interface design
Advanced interactive functions may require plug-ins if not advanced coding language skills
Choosing whether or not to use interactivity that requires plug-ins is a critical decision in user experience design
If the plug-in doesn’t come pre-installed with most browsers, there’s a risk that the user will have neither the know how or the patience to install a plug-in just to access the content
If the function requires advanced coding language skills, it may be too costly in either time or money to code compared to the amount of enhancement the function will add to the user experience
There’s also a risk that advanced interactivity may be incompatible with older browsers or hardware configurations
Publishing a function that doesn’t work reliably is potentially worse for the user experience than making no attempt
It depends on the target audience if it’s likely to be needed or worth any risks
A study by Longo et al
[11] introduced the construct of Human Mental Workload (HMW) in Web design, aimed at supporting current interaction design practices
An experiment has been conducted using the original Wikipedia and Google web-interfaces, and using two slightly different versions
Three subjective psychological mental workload assessment techniques (NASA-TLX, Workload Profile and Subjective Workload Assessment Technique) with a well-established assessments usability tool (System Usability Scale) have been adopted
T-tests have been performed to study the statistical significance of the original and modified web-pages, in terms of workload required by typical tasks and perceived usability
Preliminary results show that, in one ideal case, increments of usability correspond to decrements of generated workload, confirming the negative impact of the structural changes on the interface
In another case, changes are significant in terms of usability but not in terms of generated workloads, thus raising research questions and underlying the importance of Human Mental Workload in Interaction Design
Another research conducted by Longo et al
(2012) [12] introduced the concept of mental Workload [13] as an aid to enhance usability measurement
A user-study has been designed and executed in the context of human-web interaction
The aim was to investigate the relationship between the perception of usability of three popular web-sites, and the mental workload imposed by a set of typical tasks executed over them
Scores obtained with the System usability scale were compared to the mental workload scores obtained from the NASA-TLX and the Workload Profile assessment procedures
Findings suggest that perception of usability and mental workload are likely to be two non-overlapping constructs, and there is no clear evidence of their interaction
They measure two different aspects of human-system interaction and therefore they could be jointly employed to better describe user experience
Part of the user interface design is affected by the quality of the page layout
For example, a designer may consider whether the site’s page layout should remain consistent on different pages when designing the layout
Page pixel width may also be considered vital for aligning objects in the layout design
The most popular fixed-width websites generally have the same set width to match the current most popular browser window, at the current most popular screen resolution, on the current most popular monitor size
Most pages are also center-aligned for concerns of aesthetics on larger screens
Fluid layouts increased in popularity around 2000 as an alternative to HTML-table-based layouts and grid-based design in both page layout design principle and in coding technique, but were very slow to be adopted
[note 1] This was due to considerations of screen reading devices and varying windows sizes which designers have no control over
Accordingly, a design may be broken down into units (sidebars, content blocks, embedded advertising 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 recognize the details of the reader’s screen (window size, font size relative to window etc
) the browser can make user-specific layout adjustments to fluid layouts, but not fixed-width layouts
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 a more flexible display than a hard-coded grid-based layout that doesn’t fit the device window
In particular, the relative position of content blocks may change while leaving the content within the block unaffected
This also minimizes the user’s need to horizontally scroll the page
Responsive Web Design is a newer 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 rule
Web designers may choose to limit the variety of website typefaces to only a few which are of a similar style, instead of using a wide range of typefaces or type styles
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
This has subsequently increased interest in web typography, as well as the usage of font downloading
Most site layouts incorporate negative space to break the text up into paragraphs and also avoid center-aligned text
The page layout and user interface may also be affected by the use of motion graphics
The choice of whether or not to use motion graphics may depend on the target market for the website
Motion graphics may be expected or at least better received with an entertainment-oriented website
However, a website target audience with a more serious or formal interest (such as business, community, or government) might find animations unnecessary and distracting if only for entertainment or decoration purposes
This doesn’t mean that more serious content couldn’t be enhanced with animated or video presentations that is relevant to the content
In either case, motion graphic design may make the difference between more effective visuals or distracting visuals
Motion graphics that are not initiated by the site visitor can produce accessibility issues
The World Wide Web consortium accessibility standards require that site visitors be able to disable the animations
Website designers may consider it to be good practice to conform to standards
This is usually done via a description specifying what the element is doing
Failure to conform to standards may not make a website unusable or error prone, but standards can relate to the correct layout of pages for readability as well making sure coded elements are closed appropriately
This includes errors in code, more organized layout for code, and making sure IDs and classes are identified properly
Poorly-coded pages are sometimes colloquially called tag soup
Validating via W3C[7] 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
Usability experts, including Jakob Nielsen and Kyle Soucy, have often emphasised homepage design for website success and asserted that the homepage is the most important page on a website
[18][19][20][21] However practitioners into the 2000s were starting to find that a growing number of website traffic was bypassing the homepage, going directly to internal content pages through search engines, e-newsletters and RSS feeds
[22] Leading many practitioners to argue that homepages are less important than most people think
[23][24][25][26] Jared Spool argued in 2007 that a site’s homepage was actually the least important page on a website
In 2012 and 2013, carousels (also called ‘sliders’ and ‘rotating banners’) have become an extremely popular design element on homepages, often used to showcase featured or recent content in a confined space
[28][29] Many practitioners argue that carousels are an ineffective design element and hurt a website’s search engine optimisation and usability
There are two primary jobs involved in creating a website: the web designer and web developer, who often work closely together on a website
[32] The web designers are responsible for the visual aspect, which includes the layout, coloring and typography of a web page
Web designers will also have a working knowledge of markup languages such as HTML and CSS, 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, while larger organizations may have a web designer responsible for the visual aspect alone
Further jobs which may become involved in the creation of a website include:


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