Do you want to design a website for your business? Or make a career out of web design and development?
Either way, it’s important to start by learning the basics. Let’s begin with the most basic question of all:
What is the Difference Between Web Design and Development?
Web design is a visual design process. A web designer plans how a finished website will look. They may also work on:
- User Interface Design (aka UI Design). As well as designing interfaces for websites and web apps, you might work on software and mobile apps too.
- User Experience Design (aka UX Design). This goes way beyond websites to look at how customers engage with products, services and brands.
Meanwhile, web development is the technical term for building a website. The developer has to turn the design into reality. This is done by writing code or using a website builder or Content Management System (CMS). (We’ll look at all these options later.)
What Should I Learn, Website Development or Web Design?
You could learn web design and development together and offer both services. Or you may prefer to specialise in just one. The choice will come down to what interests you and where your strengths lie.
If you’re a creative type with strong design skills, web design may be the best option. You’ll spend your time thinking about:
- Colour schemes
- Typography (aka fonts)
- Web page layouts
- Visual effects – like transitions and ‘on-hover’ effects that bring webpages to life
Back end and front web development might be the better option if you’re technically minded. There’s less room for creative thinking. Instead, you’ll need excellent attention to detail.
Being a back end or front end developer is ideal if you’re interested in leaning programming and code. You’ll be responsible for building websites that:
- Reflect the web designer’s plan
- Load quickly
- Work well across a range of devices
- Are accessible to search engines (as well as human visitors)
- Are secure and easy to manage and update
If you’re both creative and technical, you might want to learn web design and development together. This way, you’ll be able to tackle projects from beginning to end. You’ll also have the satisfaction of seeing how your design works as a fully finished website!
Online Courses vs Self-Led Learning
There are many web design courses, as well as courses covering UX design, UI design, and web development.
Some courses are very structured, with time limits to keep you on track. Others are more flexible and let you learn at your own pace.
Some courses are led by tutors. You might be able to talk to your tutor via webcam for extra support. Other courses are built around videos or written guides.
The experts at Flux Academy have created a blog post about the best sites for learning web design. Their guide focuses on online courses, but it’s also possible to learn independently.
How Can I Learn Web Design on My Own?
Yes. If taking a course doesn’t appeal to you, you might prefer to learn independently. There’s a wealth of information to help you learn web design and development online. Better still, much of that information is free!
Following your own web developer or designer course is a flexible way to learn. But you’ll need to be self-motivated and disciplined if you want to make progress.
Web Design Principles
However you learn web design, you’ll probably begin with some basic principles. Many of these principles (or ‘rules’) are also relevant to graphic design, product design, fashion and architecture. If you’re experienced in those areas, the ideas below might seem familiar.
Designers of every kind need to understand colours: Strong reds and oranges are warm and seem to advance towards us. Pastel blues and greens are cool and recede.
Designers usually imagine the colours laid out on a colour wheel. Similar colours sit close to each other on the wheel and look harmonious. We call these ‘analogous colours’.
Very different colours sit at opposite ends of the wheel. They look dynamic if we place them together. We call these ‘complementary colours’.
When you’re designing a website, take time to think which colours relate to the business or product being promoted. A website is part of your marketing mix and should be a continuation of offline marketing, social media and email marketing efforts.
Some shapes are naturally more pleasing to look at than others. When something is designed with good proportions, it tends to ‘just look right’.
Artists and designers spent centuries developing the ‘rules’ behind good proportions. Two of the most famous are the rule of thirds and the golden ratio.
There are many ways to apply these principles when designing or editing different webpage elements.
Have you ever noticed that some webpages are easy to take in at a glance, while others are overwhelming? Layout could be the key.
Experts have used eye-tracking technology to study the way people take in online content. Their results show that most people follow an F or Z-shaped pattern across their screens.
Creating layouts that follow an F or Z shape could make your designs more intuitive.
Different fonts can give very different effects. Serif fonts include gentle strokes that guide the eye from one letter to the next. Sans serif fonts are simpler, with a ‘no-nonsense’ look.
Certain fonts are known as ‘web-safe’ fonts. These are most likely to be displayed correctly – whatever browser your visitors use. Nowadays, using web-safe fonts isn’t quite as vital – but most web designers still consider it best practice.
Understanding the different fonts available will help you suggest appropriate options for each project you work on.
Responsive design involves creating websites that look good on different devices. Responsive design principles influence both web design and development.
The designer needs to understand what will work on screens of different sizes and proportions. It’s no longer enough to imagine one static page layout. Instead, the designer needs to plan layouts than can adapt to suit each user’s unique device.
The web developer then needs to translate the design into a responsive website. Each webpage should be built to detect the device being used and adapt to suit it. All of this should happen without the visitor even noticing!
Learn More: We’ve only scratched the surface here. Many people have different ideas about the ingredients of great web design. For more inspiration, why not explore this Webflow guide to 10 principles of web design?
How to Learn Web Development
If you want to learn web development, it’s best to be clear about your goals at the start. There are two main routes you can take:
- Learn code so you can create websites from scratch
- Learn how to use a website builder or content management system
The Road to Code
Websites are written in a language called HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language). On its own, HTML looks very basic. Style and layout are added using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).
Fact: HTML isn’t really ‘code’ at all – it’s a markup language. Even so, it’s common to refer to HTML and CSS as ‘code’.
HTML has advanced a lot in recent years. But if you want to add extra functionality, you might want to learn a scripting language too.
Server-side scripts run on the server hosting the website. One of the most flexible server-side scripts is PHP. PHP is open source and free to use. Just as important, there’s a great developer community who share tips and tutorials online.
Get Started: W3Schools is a popular online training platform for web developers. It also has a code editor feature that allows you to practice your coding editing skills.
Content Management Systems
Nowadays, many people build websites without writing a single line of code. That’s thanks to Content Management Systems (CMSs).
The most popular CMS is WordPress. This free, open-source program powers over 40% of websites. WordPress is popular because it combines power and flexibility with ease of use.
Get Started: Here at tasjeel, we offer a choice of WordPress hosting options.
If you’re building very advanced websites, you might want to explore Joomla or even Drupal. These CMSs are even more powerful than WordPress. The downside: Most web developers think they’re harder to learn.
If you want to learn web development quickly, website builders might be the best choice. Website builders offer a visual way to build websites fast. As well as being a simple way for business owners to create their own sites, some freelance web developers have built their whole careers this way.
Like content management systems, most website builders come with templates you can use as a starting point. Often, they’re not quite as flexible as a full-blown CMS. But for simple, small-business websites, that doesn’t normally matter.
Website builders usually come bundled with website hosting. Often, the platform provider will take care of the techy bits – like applying software updates for their website builder.