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Web design encompasses many different skills and disciplines in the production and maintenance of websites. The different areas of web design include web graphic design; interface design; authoring, including standardised code and proprietary software; user experience design; and search engine optimization. Often many individuals will work in teams covering different aspects of the design process, although some designers will cover them all. The term web design is normally used to describe the design process relating to the front-end (client side) design of a website including writing mark up. Web design partially overlaps web engineering in the broader scope of web development. Web designers are expected to have an awareness of usability and if their role involves creating mark up then they are also expected to be up to date with web accessibility guidelines.

Although web design has a fairly recent history, it can be linked to other areas such as graphic design. However web design is also seen as a technological standpoint. It has become a large part of people’s everyday lives. It is hard to imagine the Internet without animated graphics, different styles of typography, background and music.In 1989, whilst working at CERN Tim Berners-Lee proposed to create a global hypertext project, which later became known as the World Wide Web. It is hard to imagine the Internet without animated graphics, different styles of typography, background and music.In 1989, whilst working at CERN Tim Berners-Lee proposed to create a global hypertext project, which later became known as the World Wide Web World Wide Web Throughout 1991 to 1993 the World Wide Web was born. Text only pages could be viewed using a simple line-mode browser.
In 1993 Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina, created the Mosaic browser. At the time there were multiple browsers however the majority of them were Unix-based and were naturally text heavy. There had been no integrated approach to graphical design elements such as images or sounds. The Mosaic browser broke this mould. The W3C was created in October 1994, to “lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. In 1996, Microsoft released its first competitive browser, which was complete with its own features and tags. It was also the first browser to support style sheets, which at the time was seen as an obscure authoring technique.The HTML markup for tables was originally intended for displaying tabular data. However designers quickly realized the potential of using HTML tables for creating the complex, multi-column layouts that were otherwise not possible. At this time, as design and good aesthetics seemed to take precedence over good mark-up structure, and little attention was paid to semantics and web accessibility. HTML sites were limited in their design options, even more so with earlier versions of HTML. To create complex designs, many web designers had to use complicated table structures or even use blank spacer .GIF images to stop empty table cells from collapsing. CSS was introduced in December 1996 by the W3C to support presentation and layout; this allowed HTML code to be semantic rather than both semantic and presentational, and improved web accessibility, see tableless web design.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)

HTML is not functional – it does not do anything, like manipulate data or do maths. The purpose of HTML is to describe the content of a web page, so that it can be interpreted properly. The two most important things that need to interpret web pages are web browsers and search engines. HTML helps to communicate important and varied information, from what the title of the web page is, to what is text and what is images, and what is a link and where it links to.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

CSS, like HTML, is not functional (except in a superficial but visually awesome way – CSS3 does cater for some animations). It is used to define the styling of a website in an easy and efficient way. A CSS file allows a web designer to specify such rules as the colour of a link, the width of a content area or the border around images in just one place, and then reference those rules on any number of web pages, making updates incredibly easy.

XML (eXtensible Markup Language)

XML, like HTML, describes data. Unlike HTML it does not have a finite number of predefined tags with which to describe things – you can create your own. What is important to know is that this means that different applications, different services, and different programming languages can share data. As long as each application or service knows what the XML tags mean, data can be shared between two completely different systems, written by different people in different programming languages.


JavaScript is a programming language of sorts, usually used for fairly light functionality, although recently used heavily as the backbone for a lot of the more modern, slick, animated interfaces on contemporary websites. One major point to be aware of is that JavaScript runs in your browser, not on the website’s server.

This has a few implications – firstly users can turn it off, secondly different browsers might support (or not support) different aspects of a piece of JavaScript code. Thirdly it means that processing can occur live on a website, rather than requiring a page reload to send data to the server and back. JavaScript is used extensively for other things on the web, such as web analytics, tracking code and the setting of cookies.

JavaScript libraries

JavaScript libraries are collections of pre-written JavaScript code that one can reference, style and tweak to achieve certain functionality on a website, without writing everything from scratch. Whilst JavaScript is a fairly versatile language, most of the more popular libraries deal with creating fluid and dynamic interface elements, such as tabs, drag-and-drop functionality and live system messages (imagine the password strength indicators present on many websites). Popular JavaScript libraries include JQuery, MooTools and Prototype.

Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML)

This is a term that is bandied about quite a lot these days, and refers to any kind of dynamic interface element. Technically ‘Ajax’ refers to the use of a group of technologies (including HTML, CSS, JavaScript and XML) to dynamically retrieve data from a server, and present it on a web page without the web page having to reload. A good example is the new Google Instant interface, where search results are retrieved automatically as the search query is entered, and the user does not have to click submit and wait for a page reload as with previous Google interfaces.

SQL (Structured Query Language)

A language used to access and edit databases. Commonly used database systems online include MySQL and PostgreSQL which are both open source, and Microsoft SQL server. Almost all dynamic websites and web applications utilise databases to store information. SQL is a common language used to store, edit and retrieve the information from these databases.

Programming languages

Java is a big boy, often used for enterprise level development. .NET, C# and ASP.NET are all Microsoft technologies (which means you have to pay to use them), and are also often used for enterprise level development. PHP, Ruby and Python are all modern open source favourites for creating web applications and dynamic websites of all sizes. Perl is these days often used for more nitty gritty tasks such as CGI programming. ActionScript is the programming language of Flash, and used heavily in sites that require full and extensive animation.

Web Frameworks

‘Web Frameworks’ is a fairly generic phrase, that could refer to a number of different things, but most commonly it refers to a bunch of pre-written code that is paired with an existing programming language. This pre-written code includes lots of commonly found structures and functionalities in web applications, such as administration panels and membership functionalities, as well as architectural structures, such as distinctions between the logic of the applications and the rendering of the actual web pages. Some popular web frameworks include Rails for Ruby, Cake for PHP, Django for Python and Apache Struts for Java.

Well, that’s all for now. Understanding a broad overview of how different technologies are used to create websites and applications is becoming more and more essential in a growing number of businesses and professions. Hopefully, this was a good starting point.