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How to Become a Web Designer

What is Web Design?

Ready to start your career in Design? Find out more about BrainStation's User Experience Design Bootcamp

Web design refers to the appearance, layout, and design of websites. Rather than software development, web design usually refers to the user experience and front-facing aspects of a website. A Web Designer, therefore, works on the appearance, layout, look, structure, and content of websites.

What Are the Types of Website Design?

In this time of mobile-first design, there are two types of website design that can be used to properly design a site: adaptive and responsive. Understanding when to use each is very important for any Web Designer.

What Is Adaptive Web Design?

Adaptive web design uses at least two versions of a website to fit different screen sizes. There are two main categories of adaptive websites: those that adapt based on the type of device being used, and those that adapt based based on browser width.

The benefits of adaptive web designs are that it’s faster to make custom designs more quickly and easily without code. They’re also compatible across different devices and browsers, and pages will load quickly.

On the other hand, you miss out on some effects that can only be used with responsive sites, and if you use the aforementioned category that goes by type of device, your site can look broken in a smaller browser window on a desktop.

What is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive websites can use flexible grid layouts that are based on the percentage each element takes up in its container. For instance, if a single element is 30 percent, it will always be 30 percent regardless of the size of the screen used by the device that is accessing the site.

As a result, you get a uniformly excellent experience no matter how big the screen is on your device. Also, there are a ton of responsive website templates out there you can use.

The drawbacks? If you’re starting at the beginning, you’ll need to test your site extensively. And if you don’t know how to code, custom responsive website designs can be pretty difficult to build.

What Are The Elements of Web Design?

Web Design is composed of all the visual and functional elements that determine how users see, read, and use a website. So what are the qualities that make great web design? Here are all the elements that you need for a successful design:

The Visual Elements of Web Design

Written Copy

As much as Web Designers need to concern themselves with esthetics, your written content is absolutely essential to the success of your design. Not only will that go a long way toward determining your place in search results, it’s also what most users are after when they come to your site. The writing should be direct, informative and concise.

Fonts

Many of us read without even considering the typography, but whether we’re conscious of it or not, your fonts are a very important part of your overall design. If you haven’t before, start paying attention to the fonts you see. Check out iconic businesses and consider why they chose the typography that they did.

If you want to keep a firm handle on trends in typography, Typewolf is a great resource.

Colors

With limitless options, selecting a color can be downright daunting. Would your site look better with a monochrome color design – where a single color is used as the base with varying degrees of saturation, brightness and various hues – or a complementary design that pairs two colors on opposite sides of the color wheel. Whatever you decide, consistency is important.

Layout

In many ways, the useability, functionality, and visual appeal of your website will be determined by how you choose to arrange your content. There are no hard-and-fast rules with regard to layout, but be sure to keep your target audience in mind and make sure the layout is intuitive to use.

Shapes

Incorporate graphic elements in your design to provide a huge boost to your website’s overall appearance. Eye-catching colors and shapes used together can help direct the attention of your audience’s visit to your website.

Spacing

To create a visually impressive website that’s natural to navigate, spacing is key. Using whitespace appropriately is essential in creating a design that keeps text, photos, and graphics in perfect balance. Using whitespace consistently and expertly will make your site a breeze to navigate.

Images and Icons

Well-chosen images and icons will help you convey a lot of information in very little time. Select images and icons that are in line with your messaging and branding. Pexels, Unsplash, IconMonstr offer free images and icons you can use, or you can get a paid account with Shutterstock to meet your stock image needs.

Videos

If you spend any time on the Internet at all, you’ve likely noticed the trend toward integrating videos into web design. If used the right way, videos can deliver a message to your users that might not be possible to convey with words or pictures. But videos do catch the eye, so make sure they’re not distracting from other elements of your design.

The Functional Elements of Web Design

Information Architecture

Information architecture is all about ensuring that the information on your site is organized and presented in a logical way. A common mistake is to confuse the term “information architecture” with a website’s menus. Although menus are a part of information architecture, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Good information architecture creates a hierarchy that aligns with how users want to interact with the website. So user research and testing are key.

Navigation

Users should have a very easy time navigating your website. They should be able to access your menus from any page, and they should be able to intuit where to find the pages and information they need. Interactive menus are great, but functionality is the most important feature of a menu – so don’t get so carried away that users get lost on your site. They’ll get frustrated and go somewhere else.

User Interactions

Visitors to your website will have different ways of using your site based on their device (scrolling, typing, swiping, and so on). These should be simple. There are a few design principles pertaining to user interactions you should keep in mind: never underline text unless you can click on it; don’t auto-play anything; people should be able to fill out forms even if they’re accessing them from a mobile device; and don’t use pop-ups.

Animations

Like videos, animation can be a real attention-getter and help your website feel interactive. One example is adding “like” buttons. Still, less is often more in this area so make sure your pages don’t feel cluttered.

Page Speed

These days, few people have the patience to wait for a website to load. Not only that, but Google’s algorithms punishes slow sites. Some site builders can compress your content to ensure users have a snappy experience, but there are some dazzling designs that are just too much to handle. If you’re unsure, try Google’s Page Speed Test.

Site Structure

Structure is a key element in search engine optimization and the user experience offered by your site. Users should smoothly navigate through your website without encountering any structural issues. If users are getting lost, you can bet “crawlers” -- an automated program that scans your site to determine its functionality -- are getting lost too. That leads to bad user experience and low site rankings.

Browser and Device Compatibility

No matter what device, screen, or browser your user is using, your site should look perfect. If you’re just getting started building your site, try a cross-browsing testing tool to flag any issues that might arise. If you’re designing on a website building platform, that testing is probably handled by the company’s development team.

What Are The Key Elements of Website Design?

The key elements of web design include layout, color, content, navigation, and overall appearance. The overall look that you achieve by combining those elements is crucial. As soon as the page loads, your audience should be impressed. It takes users only 50 milliseconds to decide whether they like your website or business. That will be the crucial factor in whether they stay or leave.

That means your design should align with a handful of adjectives: simple, uncluttered, familiar, intuitive, clean, clear, responsive, and accessible. In modern design, whitespace is frequently used to give your site room to breathe, and grid-based designs will ensure your items are organized and orderly.

As for choosing a color scheme, paying attention to your brand or industry perspectives — along with your target audience demographics — will make this a somewhat painless process. Always be looking for ways to narrow your scope from the roughly seven million discernable hues the eye can detect. Once you choose your dominant color, decide what kind of palette you want. Typography too can't be ignored – pick one that's fresh and readable.

Navigation is also a huge part of web design. If users can’t intuitively move around your website, they will find a different website and you’ll have SEO issues, too. Users should be able to have a great experience no matter what device they’re using, and your site should look great across all screen sizes and browsers as well.

Finally, no one will stick around your site without good content. Developing text, videos, imagery, and more that appeals to your target audience is a key element of great design.

What Are Adaptive Websites?

Adaptive websites use two or more versions of a website to fit different screen sizes. You can further divide adaptive websites into two categories: those that change based on browser width, and those that change based on the type of device being used.

The upside: adaptive websites allow the quick creation of custom design, and adaptive websites are usually fast. But you do lose some of the effects that are exclusive to responsive sites.

What Are Responsive Websites?

Responsive websites are laid out using flexible grid layouts based on the percentage of the container taken up by each element. If one element is 15 percent, that element will stay 15 percent regardless of what device the user is using to view the page.

The benefit is you can ensure uniform quality across your site across all screen types. But if you’re just starting out, you’ll need to devote a lot of time to testing.

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