Last few months I had the chance to teach weekly Web design course (with deep respect for UX, ROI and strategic business thinking) at my home university. Prior to further investigation of the field, I wanted the students to understand what Web design 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:
- A Peter Boersma’s T-model for UX design.
- Or a more complex one by Dan Saffer.
- A great introductory book A Project Guide to UX Design offers a categorization of Web sites into 4 main plus 3 minor types.
- And you can always say that Web design is about content, design and development.
Sadly, none of these views 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 and product/service production design. It stands back from general ’14-years old Web design bros’ perceiving and clarifies the business impact. The fact, that clients expect Web sites to be earning money.
Secondly, it is abstract enough to handle any kind of Web site. It doesn’t focus on either the building blocks of Web sites or disciplines the field consists. It describes the nature of the medium, not some transient tools.
Finally, it depicts the fact that these two completely 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.
Surely, positioning particular Web site types within the diagram always depends on their specific characteristic.