The structure of Web design

May 6th, 2012

For the last few months I had the chance to teach weekly Web design course at my home university. Before diving into the nuts and bolts of Web design, I wanted the students to understand what the field is about.

So, what is Web design? We can easily agree on the fact that a Web site is ‘that thing people access within a browser’.

However, when it comes to explaining what the Web design consists of, you might find yourself fighting hard to answer this tricky question. There is a number of perspectives you can present:

Despite these being a great explanations, none of them gives the really holistic picture. So when I introduce Web design I always start with this explanation:

Web sites are either means of promoting products/services or the digital products/services itself. Web design is about designing these.

The main benefit of this explanation is that it shows Web design within the light of business thinking. Is the Web site going to be an application i.e. a product or service itself? Or is it going to product promotion as a part of marketing communication?

Secondly, it depicts the fact that these two different kinds of Web sites require different skill sets to be designed. An online magazine designer is definitely closer to typography and editorial design gurus than a designer facing a challenge of making an innovative interactive campaign site.

Finally, the scheme does not focus on either the building blocks of Web sites or disciplines the field consists. It describes the nature of the medium.

My name is Ondřej Válka, a digital product designer, practicing interaction design (mostly for the Web) from strategy to surface.

I work at GoodData, a San Francisco based company, contributing to the world's leading cloud-based business intelligence platform.
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