Web Design Resources

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    Introduction to Web Design Services

    Good web design is a crucial part of your website's success. One of the most overlooked parts of digital marketing is web design. In today's world of drop-and-drag simplicity, it is easy to overlook good design principles and methods. Most people think that if you can draw a picture, you can design a website. This isn't exactly true and a lot of poorly designed websites out there. I know because I have worked on some of them in my early days.

    There are many web designers out there who think that if it looks good on print, the website will look good on the web. The truth is that web design is intentional, methodical, and keeps the end-user in mind. It also needs to be mobile responsive. The purpose of a website is to create value for the end-user. In most cases these days, that value is measured in web traffic, conversions, and, ultimately, revenue for the website owner.

    Here we take a look at professional web design services and how they can impact the success of your online business.

    A Brief History of Web Design

    In the early days of the internet, web design wasn't a thing yet. No one was sure that the internet would catch on. The internet was a huge gamble with billions of dollars in capital being thrown at it. Tech entrepreneurs in the right place and the right time could attract millions of dollars in capital simply with a business plan, and sometimes just an idea on a bar napkin.

    The one thing that tech entrepreneurs forgot to do was return value (money, in the form of profits) to their investors. Investors will not stay invested in a company for long without a return on their money. For more on this topic, check out an episode of the hit TV show Shark Tank. This should clear up any misconceptions you may have about the investment world.

    Besides knowing how to make money, good web design was missing from the early internet. Web designers didn't design anything. They didn't think in terms of user expectations or user experience. The concept of the buyer's journey wasn't even on the map yet.


    An image of Yahoo's website from 1997

    Macromedia Flash

    Websites became "flashier" in the 2000s...literally. Software companies developed programs to help designers and developers build better websites. Macromedia released Flash in 1996. Developers built websites, games, and ads with Flash. The internet blinked and whirred in some sort of futuristic mess. Some websites would give people headaches instead of good user experiences. Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005 and took over Flash's reins.

    As browsers evolved and Google Chrome took dominance, Google decided that their browsers would no longer support Flash. Although there are a few companies that still use Flash in their websites, Flash is a thing of the past.

    Microsoft FrontPage

    In 1996, Microsoft purchased Vermeer Technologies to acquire FrontPage. FrontPage offered a WYSIWYG ("what-you-see-is-what-you-get") editor that hid the code from the user, allowing novices to build fully functioning websites.

    FrontPage became the darling of small businesses everywhere and brought web design and development into the mainstream. Instead of paying a developer and designer thousands of dollars for a five-page website, FrontPage cost only a few hundred dollars. Often dubbed the "Microsoft Word of Web Design," FrontPage allowed almost anyone to build solid websites.

    Microsoft FrontPage taught developers some horrible habits like making web elements out of images instead of code and using tables throughout the website. As search marketing evolved, search engines had trouble reading table-based websites. In December 2006, Microsoft discontinued FrontPage.

    The First Look into User Experience

    When designers built the first websites, it was a lot of throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what stuck. No one thought about what the user would do. The flashier the website, the more eye-catching. There were a lot of neon colors and blinking lights. Website owners threw elements into the websites and everyone hoped for the best.

    In 2000, Steve Krug published "Don't Make Me Think." His book centers on the premise that a good software program or website allows the user to complete the tasks they want to complete quickly without thinking too much.

    In 2014, Steve published the Third Edition of his book that helped define what good web design means. It is still the first step in determining how design can help your new site.

    WordPress

    In 2003, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little created WordPress as a blogging platform. WordPress was originally touted as "a factory that created webpages." Page links were (and still are) a big factor in search engine ranking. WordPress features a link management system with search engine-friendly, human-readable links.

    The theme catalog made web design easy. If the web designer built the theme well, an out-of-the-box website looks great on WordPress.

    Today, WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world powering over 63.6% of websites with a known content management system and 38.4% of all websites as of September 2020. There are thousands of themes to choose from, some good, some not-so-good choices.

    At the other extreme, WordPress has made website design and development look easy. Mobile responsiveness seems to be "automatic." The truth is that a designer and developer built the theme with these characteristics in mind. Nothing happens on the internet unless someone codes it that way.

    Mobile Responsive Web Design

    Once upon a time, phones were attached to the wall and only made phone calls. Then in the late 1990s, mobile phones became affordable and almost everyone had one. Then, mobile phones became smart and you could surf the web on your phone. Web designers had to take this into account and start designing for mobile devices and their different screen widths.

    Mobile responsive means that the site adapts to different screen sizes. Originally, mobile responsive design was a feature that some web designers offered and some didn't offer. Today, mobile responsive design is a "given" as more users view websites from their mobile devices than from their desktops.

    Good Web Design is Intentional

    There is a myth out there that design just takes care of itself. When building websites with a content management system like WordPress, many believe that the mobile version "just takes care of itself." This is simply not true, even for mobile responsive design.

    The truth is that the mobile responsive design is already built into the theme. Someone (usually a design team) codes the mobile responsive design into the theme. Mobile design doesn't happen by magic, and it isn't an accident.

    Web Design Today

    Web designers use many different tools to design websites today. Adobe applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver have been staples in the web designer's toolbox. Adobe XD allows designers to design in multiple screen widths, build mobile applications, and even wireframe websites and mobile apps. Other tools support web design such as Figma, Sketch, Canva, and GIMP. However, Adobe XD is built to design websites.

    Smaller companies tend to cut corners on web design and then wonder why their traffic is flat. Not considering web design is like taking a trip without a roadmap. Thought needs to go into what colors work best for different products. What are users most likely to click on in their behavior flow? How does this flow translate into a path converting a user into a buyer?

    The Importance of Good UX/UI Design

    "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."

    Steve Jobs

    It has been said that "the devil is in the details" and web design is certainly no exception. Web design has become so detailed these days that there are two different types of design. There is User Experience (UX) design and User Interface (UI) design.

    Most people think that UX design is what an application looks like or how it makes the user feel. And that is part of it. Have you ever been on a site or application and looked for a button that you think should be "right in front of you" but it isn't? I have. How does that make me feel? Angry. In some cases it makes me search for another site to visit that has the same thing I am looking for.

    The same is true for UI design. Whereas UX design focuses on how the user's experience, the UI design focuses more on the usability of the website. Are the buttons placed in positions that make sense? Does the flow seem automatic? Does the user have to think too much while using the interface?

    Good web design is the starting point of whether or not your website can meet its goals and purpose.

    Conclusion

    There are thousands of articles on web design that can be helpful. There are also countless opinions on what the right approach to good design is. And these opinions and strategies change. Over time, technology changes that make data easier to access. User expectations can also change over time. Companies change too. Some designers think the Amazon site is a design nightmare while the Amazon mobile app is convenient and user-friendly. Amazon outgrew its website and now the mobile app works better for their customers.

    Web design is one of the most important aspects of your website's success. And it all starts with how well your website fulfills its purpose.

    Helpful Articles

    Here are some helpful blog posts that can help you find what you are looking for. Check back to this page often as I update content.

    1. The Difference Between Mobile Web Design and Mobile Responsive
    2. The 4 Golden Rules of UI Design
    3. The 15 Rules Every UX Designer Should Know