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What Does a Web Designer Do?

Over the years, the term “web design” has become a catchall for a process that encompasses a number of different disciplines, from user experience design, to document markup, to serious programming. This section describes some of the most common roles. If you are designing a small website on your own, you will need to wear many hats.

The good news is that you probably won’t notice. Consider that the day-to-day upkeep of your household requires you to be part-time chef, housecleaner, accountant, diplomat, gardener, and construction worker—but to you it’s just the stuff you do around the house. In the same way, as a solo web designer, you may be a part-time graphic designer, writer, HTML author, and information architect, but to you, it’ll just feel like “making web pages.”

Nothing to worry about. AT A GLANCE The term “web design” has come to encompass a number of disciplines, including: Visual (graphic) design User interface and experience design Web document and style sheet production Scripting and programming Content strategy Multimedia There are also specialists out there whom you can hire to fill in the skills you don’t have.

For example, I have been creating websites since 1993 and I still hire programmers and multimedia developers when my clients require interactive features. That allows me to focus on the parts I do well (in my case, it’s the content organization, interface, and visual design).

If you are not interested in becoming a jack-of-all-trades solo web designer, you may choose to specialize and work as part of a team or as a freelance contractor. Large-scale websites are almost always created by a team of people, numbering from a handful to hundreds. In this scenario, each member of the team focuses on one facet of the site-building process.

If that is the case, you may be able to simply adapt your current set of skills (writing, Photoshop, programming, etc.) and interests to the new medium. I’ve divided the myriad roles and responsibilities typically covered under the umbrella term “web design” into four very broad categories: design, development, content strategy, and multimedia. Design Ah, design! It sounds fairly straightforward, but even this simple requirement has been divided into a number of specializations when it comes to creating sites.

Here are a few of the new job descriptions related to designing a site, but bear in mind that the disciplines often overlap and that the person calling herself the “Designer” often is responsible for more than one (if not all) of these responsibilities.

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