What’s the difference between web design and development? what about UI vs UX? What do these divisions mean? Why are there so many acronyms?? What do people mean by a user- friendly website?
If you’re new to getting a website designed, approaching across the terminology of the technology industry can feel a lot like listening to a foreign language except most foreign languages have poem and reason. But working with a Web Designer is something every business should do at some point; if you want a winning website, you may need a translator.
That’s what this article is about. If you’re getting your first website designed or just trying to understand the business better, here we explain and dissect four of the most used and most worrying terms in technology today: UI, UX, web design and web development. After reading this, you’ll not only know what each field does but also which one you must want your business to focus on most.
The ABCs of IT
Let’s start off with some basic definitions to relieve your initial misunderstanding and give you some context before we dive deeper:
- Web design — A extensive umbrella category for everything that relates to designing the visuals and usability of a website. Both UI and UX design, along with many other fields, get included under web design.
- Web development — The technical side of making a website, focusing on code. Web development is further separated into “front-end” and “back-end,” explained below.
- User Interface (UI) — A specialty of web design that deals with the controls people use to interact with a website or app, including button displays and motion controls.
- User Experience (UX) — Another specialty of web design, this one dealing with user behavior and feeling when using the site or app. UX design encapsulates many other areas but views them from the standpoint of the user.
As you can see by now, none of these areas are exclusive and there’s tons of things have common characteristics. Web design and development are just two sides of the same invent, UI design influence UX design, web development chains them all… it’s less about which fields handle which tasks, and more about how each field considers the same task from a different approach.
For example, let’s look at loading times, a regular problem for every website. How does each field deal with loading times:
- Web design: If a page takes too long to load, there’s either too much content or content that’s too difficult. The image files can be packed together, assets can be adjusted & re-exported and pages can be trimmed of excess content.
- Web development: To make content load faster, we can try better file compression to decrease the file sizes of the content, CSS sprites to save bandwidth or a content delivery network to get better loading times in precise geographical regions.
- UI: Controls must be as responsive as possible, so the interface must be simple enough that interactivity is immediate.
- UX: The chances a user will “bounce” (leave your site after just a few moments) increases with every second of loading time, so we should prioritize dropping the load time on the home and landing pages first before addressing the problem site-wide.
In a perfect world, you would hire an expert or team of specialists for each of these fields so you have a professional looking at your website from all angles. However, budgetary constraints often mean choosing one field over the other or hiring freelancers on a project basis.
Occasionally you’ll find somebody who claims to do it all:
- Designers who can code sometimes make themselves as the all-in-one package, but in actuality, they’re more limited than two separate specialists (though sometimes this might be a smart hire if you have a simple site).
- UI designers have various overlapping skills with web designers, so some people will use those titles interchangeably.
- UX and UI are often combined together, considering they’re both sub-specializations.
- UX is often treated as expertise in other professions, even outside of design, such as a product management.
Such people can be useful in a bit, but just remember that a jack of all trades is master of none—they may know the basics of multiple fields, but they’ll likely only be an skilled in one if any.
You also would like to make distinctions between websites & apps and desktop & mobile. Each employee has their own individual specialties—some developers have more knowledge building mobile sites, some designers fix exclusively to apps and never do websites. Again, there’s plenty of overlap, but if you’re hiring for a specific project, ensure your candidates can handle the specifics.
So which one of these professionals can help you with your particular business goals? And what should you look for when hiring them? Let’s take a deeper look at each now.
“Web design” is a bit of an archaic term, dating back to the days when a particular person handled all the design aspects of a website. By modern standards, the term “web designer” can be a bit fuzzy; today, thanks to technology and our increased understanding of the technique, we have a rainbow of subdivisions.
The sub-categories of web design include both UI and UX, but also other entertaining acronyms like IA (information architecture, dealing with site mapping and navigation) and CRO (conversion rate optimization, modify the site’s design to increase sales, signups or other specific actions). There are dozens of these sub-categories, with new ones created every day as designers try to get improved jobs in a competitive market.
Frankly speaking, web design relates to the visuals and functionality of a web site. It’s a field essentially tied to graphic design at every level and deals with the same design principles of visual communication.
But web design is further more than just graphic design. Whether functioning with websites or apps, designers must know functionality, technical constraints, digital trends, and user prospect, which change frequently.
There’s also a degree of business know-how in web design, designers should understand digital sales strategies, such as how to place the “ “call-to-action” (CTA) button for eliciting sales and email signups. Site layout heavily influences user behavior, but because it’s so nuanced, some designers are superior at it than others.
The web designer handles long-established graphic design concerns like color and typography along with digital concerns like choosing the best aesthetics for different screen sizes. They also need an understanding of business concepts like leading and closing to create layouts that make the call-to-action more attractive. After all, a designer’s responsibilities sometimes include making the icons, graphics or interface buttons from scratch, which draws on expertise from all three.
As far as specific job responsibilities, the design process is typically up to the designer, as long as they work within existing brand guiding principle. Typically the process involves the designer creating prototypes of the design, and then testing those prototypes with either actual users or stakeholders, and then incorporating feedback into prospect designs.
Designers can also make wireframes, bare-bone layouts of a design to organize for a prototype, or a mockup, a pixel-perfect image of what the screen will look like except without interactivity. Once the prototype is accepted, it’s sent to the developer for coding.
Once the prototype is approved, it’s sent to the developer for coding.
What you need to find when hiring a web designer…
- More than anything, you need to know what you desire before you can find the greatest web designer for you. Because of so many professional skills, it’s not about whether a designer is good or bad, but whether they’re a good suit for you.
- Pay careful attention to their portfolio. With the importance of graphic design, web designers each have their own exclusive creative styles.
- Look for the expertise of the aspects you value. If you contain a text-heavy site, see how they handle typography, readability and page layout. If you’re creating an e-commerce store, see if they know what it takes to enable a good product page.
- Is their software compatible with what the rest of your team uses? There’s a lot of different design software—Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch and InDesign, as well as prototyping software like Balsamiq or UXPin. Check with your other employees to see what your options are.
- Ask your designer about their design procedure and its time structure. Designers all have their own methods and design cycles, so double-check that you’re hiring someone that fits and best suit your company culture as well as its schedule.
Web design and development are differentiated by the use of the code and way of programing. Development is where things get technical, but the good news is you don’t have to know and understand what your developers are talking about as long as they do (though it’s certainly helpful to learn the basics).
Web development is divided into two major categories:
Back-end (server-side): The “front-end” pulls from a digital system of resources hosted on a server. The back-end developer skillfully manages those behind-the-scenes resources, coding the data in the database and optimizing how that data gets delivered. They use languages like .NET, PHP, Python, Ruby & Rails, Java.
Similarly, a full-stack developer is a professional who can handle both front-end and back-end development. Sometimes they’re a intelligent option for startups who can’t afford more than one hire, but ideally, you’d have a whole team of developers with various specializations & expertise.
What you need to find when hiring a web developer…
- Be sure to look if they have professional fluency in the languages you need. If you can’t tell the difference, tell them what you’d like to do with your site and listen to their suggestion & recommendations.
- Although not necessary, it’s helpful for a developer to be a part of the design process. For example, a developer could tell a designer if their choices are possible, saving time on revisions in the long-run. You may want to look into how well your developer works with a
team,since some prefer to work separately.
- Review their previous websites through a clear lens of functionality. Does everything work as it should? Any flags pop up? You may not know enough about development to understand & relate how it works, but you certainly know what it’s like to be a normal user using a site.
User interface (UI)
Now that we’ve explained
And that’s an ongoing standard in most web design fields. if their works are done well, you shouldn’t even observe them. This is most prevalent in UI design, with a truly spontaneous interface; the user doesn’t have to think about it to use it.
If you have to actively think about how to use the controls while understanding wheels, it’s considered bad UI design. Searching for the button you need or spending a few seconds finding out what a button does both distract you from the overall familiarity of using the site. The goal of UI design is not only to provide all the controls a user could desire but also to create easy to follow controls that users understand at a glance.
Another concern is related to space-management. UI designers have to find the friendly medium between giving users a lot of other options and conserving screen space. That’s how techniques, like hover control and pull out menus, came about. It’s the responsibility of the UI designer to decide which controls need to present at all times and which are negligible enough to hide or disregard completely.
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