Web design is a very new skill compared to similar marketing mediums like graphic design, photography, copywriting or filmmaking; it is often an amalgam of all of the above worked into a youthful medium which is still finding it’s true place and identity in the world. So what are the core skills in web design?
Website design is most often perceived as graphic design on a screen and it’s obvious to see why, someone with a talent for laying out images, text, picture and colours in an attractive way governs how the website appears, someone with spectacular talent will invariably make more popular websites than someone with only basic skills, but in reality, the visual and graphic design is only thought of in the industry as the “front end” of the web design. Just as a plumber is about a lot more than a uniform and personal hygiene a website is about a lot more than nice graphics.
Coding and programming
This is where things get more complicated, specialist and, in common perception, perhaps a little nerdy as well. Websites can be built from a vast range of computer languages, each suited to doing particular things. The coding is typically the functionality of the website, a graphic designer doesn’t set up credit card processing details, e-commerce stores or social networks, they just make it look pretty, the functional bit is all about endless pages of random looking code and symbols that the computer turns into a great user experience.
One of the most undervalued aspects of web design, in the early days no one would ever pay for copywriting and almost no web design companies offered it as a service; typically the business owner would just rush off a few paragraphs explaining their business, even big corporates would often just carry copy over from their print brochures and marketing onto the website. As search engine optimisation and keywords have emerged as the core fabric of website promotion and marketing, copywriters have become much more in demand, and increasingly people are looking to work with specialist web copywriters who really understand how SEO works. Traditional copywriters might write a great brochure or tagline, but that doesn’t mean they have any idea how to write quality web copy.
Search engine optimisation
The copywriter can only affect the on-page SEO like keywords, going beyond that typically takes an SEO expert who will make minute adjustments to copy, hidden image and META tags or work on building external links to improve website authority. They’ll also work on analysing the market such as competitors and factoring in industry specifics such as changes being rolled out in how Google or Bing prioritise results in search listings.
Web marketing consultants
One of the less common skills found working on websites, larger businesses will often have someone sitting above all these experts taking a look at the bigger picture, conceiving general approaches that the specialists deliver. In worlds like small businesses most companies want similar things; a professional web presence that shows off their services. At the bigger business end companies are looking to really stand out and will spend a fortune on marketing consultants to tie together complete campaigns of web advertising, social network interaction and the central website itself into an engaging user experience that says something fresh and exciting about the brand. Often such efforts will focus onto a new website specific to a campaign, service or product so that a central business site can be maintained with the traditional branding and avoid confusing customers.
All in all, web design is very much a team game, and whilst the world is full of freelancers offering the complete package, invariably you will find to your cost that they’re great at one or two things and terrible at the others. A quality web design may seem like a big investment and small businesses especially are often tempted by that offer of a £100 website from a guy in the pub, but that’s invariably £100 wasted. Go to a professional web design company with teams of specialists working on all the above and maybe it will cost you ten times as much, but it will drive new business into your company for years to come.
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