The word 'design' has led to some very serious problems with the development of the internet as a new media. The main problem, which is only now beginning to get resolved, is that traditional graphic designers attempted to treat this new media as just another version of print or television. This resulted in huge, slow loading, graphics overburdened, poorly executed websites, almost none of which functioned properly. Such websites tend to rate very poorly on search engines as well, since they rely on images instead of ASCII text based code to deliver their messages. Search engines cannot read images, and so ignore them, except for their file names.
This is not to say that the role of a competent, web–savy designer can in any way be underrated. It is very unlikely that any truly great, or even halfway decent, website can be created without the design skills of a trained visual designer. If you don't believe this, check out any programmer's or coder's website, upto and including the website of the web standards body, the www.w3c.org. The generally poor, often downright cheesy, design of these sites shows just how important the role of the designer is in creating a unique, quality website. This is why the best websites have their graphical interface created by real designers, but their coding and information architecture is done by coders, programmers, and information architects. Allowing designers to do the whole job almost always results in an impossible to maintain website, with useless code, and almost no thought given to search engine placement, site maintainability, or its fundamental information architecture.
Fortunately, this problem is beginning to get resolved, but at the expense of these so–called 'web designers'. The solution involves much better coding (correct, standards compliant HTML 4 or XHTML 1, together with technically correct page construction), along with much cleaner, less graphic reliant web pages, all formatted with cascading stylesheets (CSS). The use of the very aptly named 'Flash' product is beginning to wane as clients begin to demand performance and search engine ranking over such 'flash'. Of course, designers still love Flash, since it allows them to 'express themselves'. Our suggestion to such designers is that they express themselves on their own websites, and leave the rest of web to those of us who actually want it to work the way it was intended to work.
With the advent of the CSS 1, and now 2, standards, web pages no longer need to look generic or plain, while still adhering to good web design practices.
The part of the internet we are dealing with here, aka 'the World Wide Web' is a medium built around HTTP ( Hyper Text Transfer Protocol ). This is what the 'http://' in your browser address bar refers to. The simplest way to understand hypertext is to look at any text based link on a webpage. This is hypertext. Information is linked together into what is called the world wide web. Thus the foundation, and main functionality, of the web is based on text, contained within code, that is also text based. The simplest text editor in the world, such as Microsoft's Notepad, can create the most complex web page in the world.
Rather than getting simpler, the web is actually getting more and more complex as the needs of managing and searching through such huge amounts of text begins to press for more and more stringent coding standards and data management techniques. The results of these new demands are XHTML and CSS and XML. XHTML is simply a way to make HTML XML compliant. To be XML compliant means that there are no errors in the code. Errors come from unclosed tags and illegal characters. While you can still make non standards compliant web pages, it is not guaranteed that this will continue to be the case in the future. techpatterns.com produces only error free, standards compliant web pages, except in those cases where a so-called 'error' actually improves page functionality.
What is 'Web Design'?
Web design, simply put, is the process of creating a series of hyperlinked documents that fulfill these primary requirements:
- The documents, or site, must look good to both the client and to the prospective visitors of the website. Fortunately, what is considered to 'look good' now is a much cleaner, low–graphic interface. Such design is steadily sweeping across the net, replacing the older, technically poor, and extremely inefficient graphics based sites.
- The site must be able to function correctly in almost all cases. This means that the site will work more or less correctly in about 99% of the browsers that visit it. It does nobody (except the designer's ego) any good to have a site that doesn't work, or that takes so long to load that visitors will leave before even entering it.
- The information that the client wishes to present and that the site visitor wishes to find must be readily, and intuitively, reachable. The usual rule is that the visitor should not have to make more than 3 clicks to get where they are going from the index page of the site.
- This information must also be readily accessible by search engines. Search engines cannot read Flash graphics, or any other graphic, in any form. A flash graphic forms an impenetrable wall to search engines, a literal blank page, that leads nowhere, no matter how many links that Flash object has contained in it. Using Flash for a site intro page (what is called a 'splash screen') is search engine ranking suicide. Again, the only one who actually benefits from this extremely ill–advised technique is the designer's ego.
What is the payoff for making a site 'right'?
The reward is very simple: visitors will stay; search engines will list your site higher; more visitors will come to your site, which is presumably why you want a site made in the first place. And, once there, they will be able to find what they were looking for with a minimum of effort.
Of course, after the visitors are there, they have to be given a reason to stay, and surf your site, which brings us to the next area:
What is 'Information Design'?
The actual content of your site has to be arranged in a logical way, that makes sense to your site's visitors. This means that the primary purpose of your site has to be self–evident, and all of your site's navigation links have to be clearly, and intuitively, named, and to be structured so as to make your visitor's surfing as easy and straightforwards as possible.
Once again, these techniques also pay immediate dividends when it comes to search engine rankings, since search engines look for exactly such a clearly labeled and structured site navigation scheme. Again, the use of graphical navigation bars is search engine suicide. CSS technology allows many different looks to be created with pure text and code, which search engines love.
Good information design and layout is the key to the long term success of any website. Without it your site will simply fall by the wayside. Good information design must be built into the site from the ground up, it is not an after–thought or a side aspect to website construction. Very few traditional 'web designers' have any idea of what this is, or why it is critical for the longterm success of your website. The same goes for good coding and any advanced use of CSS, XHTML, and actual web programming.
The rest of the Web Design section
The design section will be created over the next few months, but this brief overview should serve as an adequate introduction to the topic for the time being.
Web Design Site
Please go here if you are looking for our web design site, Phoenix Web Technologies.
Rather than clutter up this site with client information, we decided to create a separate web design site. Check it out, it's pretty cool, has super advanced CSS construction.