Thomas Helbrecht

What is Webdesign?

The design of a website is the one of the most important aspects that shape the success of a website. Good web design requires pleasing user experience (UX) and good user interface (UI) usability and can be achieved in several ways.

Thomas Helbrecht
13 min read
Laptop with PHP code opened in an editor
Image by Negative Space

Web design describes the discipline of designing online presences on the Internet. While at the beginning of the Internet the focus was on websites for desktop computers, nowadays it significantly shifted towards the development of websites for mobile devices. The directive "mobile first" is often found in this subject area, emphasizing the prioritization of mobile clients when creating the website. But nevertheless, web design looks at various aspects of a website, starting with layout and content structure and ending in artistic areas such as color theory and design laws.

The importance of good webdesign

Good web design is characterized by the fact that users can most easily get to your requested content and easily achieve their goals. Apart from the fact that a well-designed website makes it easier for users to find their way around the content of your site, it also provides an opportunity to convey credibility and professionality. It plays an important role in building trust between the user and the site owner. In general, it can be stated that web design plays a key role in the success of a website, significantly influencing the user's perception and shaping the user experience.

The first impression matters

The first view plays an immense role, what the user sees on the first page load. Most importantly, users have a low tolerance for slow loading web pages, which negatively affects the "bounce rate" (time until users leave the page) since they are left out in the cold. But even apart from performance-related aspects, the first visuals of the website also affect the user experience. A good design invites the user to explore the website and dive deeper. Apart from finding the content they are looking for, a good page can entice them to continue to browse through the website

Smart webdesign

An important factor for success on the web is smart web design. This involves using different strategies to create websites that are intuitive to use. So, the main goal in developing a website is a good user experience and it is characterized by ease of use and by extension navigation. To realize this, a clear layout should be used and the design should be responsive (it should be able to adopt to most - if not all - different display sizes and device form factors).

How does good webdesign look like?

Good web design is characterized by the main goals of smart web design. If users get to the desired content quickly and the user experience is positive, the website scores. Moreover, a well-chosen interplay of colors, fonts and graphics has a beneficial effect on user perception.

What doesn't work in webdesign

Negative factors influencing web design include cluttered layouts, lack of responsiveness, or inconsistent design. They harm the user experience and increase the bounce rate, since visitors return to the search engine faster, consequently visiting the website for a shorter time, bouncing off the site. Cluttered layouts or inconsistent design make it difficult for users to get to the content they want and devalue the page visit.

How to get a webdesign

Nowadays there are many ways to obtain web designs and implement them. Apart from general purpose website builders, many companies and freelancers offer design work. They often provide their services in a single joint project from building the site to launching it, leaving maintenance and further supervision to the client. In contrast, as a full-service agency, we offer continuous support on the way to your new website. During the creation of the design, we continuously incorporate your feedback and respond to your wishes. But also after the creation of the design and the programming we are at your side as a knowledge partner and administrator. In addition to SEO adjustments, we can help you moderate content and contionously extend your website if needed.

Different methods of webdesign

There are several approaches to web design, which we list here:

  1. Custom programming of the website using HTML, CSS and JavaScript: This involves manually writing the code that makes up a website, using HTML (HyperText Markup Language) for structure, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for styling, and JavaScript for interactivity. Furthermore, designers and developers can leverage powerful design- and code frameworks such as either Material Design or React to work faster. This method gives the designer a high degree of control and flexibility, allowing them to create a website exactly as they envision it. However, it requires a solid understanding of web development technologies and can be rather time-consuming.
  2. Using a website builder: this involves registering on a website builder platform such as Wix or Weebly to create a website using pre-built templates and drag-and-drop tools. Website builders are generally easier to use than hand coding a website from scratch because no knowledge of HTML, CSS, or JavaScript is required. However, they may offer less flexibility and customization options compared to manual programming because of the limited templates and design options available. Website builders are a good option for people who want to quickly and easily create a simple, professional-looking website without needing advanced web development skills. They can be great tools for novices attempting to build a first online presence on their own, but their lack of flexiblity and customizability usually leads to having to switch over to a custom approach later on.

Creating a website that succeeds

To build succeeding websites the following areas should be executed well. Each aspect translates directly to improvements in user experience potentially increasing your visitor count and surely decreasing your bounce rate due to usability issues.

  1. A clear and organized structure helps users understand the structure and hierarchy of a website's content. This can include using a consistent structure for different pages, placing elements such as the logo, main navigation menu, and footer in the same place on each page. It may also include using headings and subheadings to divide the content and make it easier to review, and using appropriate font sizes and styles to make the content easier to read.
  2. Ease of navigation: Good navigation is important to help users navigate through a website and direct them towards the content they look for. This can include using a main navigation menu which is easily accessible from anywhere on the site. Additionally, it is helpful to structure the site in different sections and pages that make sense content-wise. It may also include using breadcrumb trails and other navigation aids to help users understand where they are within the page and how to return to previous pages.
  3. Responsive Design involves creating a website that adapts its layout and design to the size and orientation of the device on which it is being viewed. This is important as more and more users access the internet through a variety of devices including desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. A responsive design website will automatically adapt its layout and design to the screen size and orientation of the device it is being viewed on, providing a better user experience on all these devices.
  4. Fast loading times: Users typically have little patience for slow-loading websites and may abandon a page if it takes too long to load. To ensure that a website loads quickly, it is important to optimize the size and number of images and other media on the page, as well as optimize the code and. This can include compressing images and other media to reduce their file size, as well as minimizing the use of large or unnecessary code libraries or frameworks.
  5. Quality content is important to keep users on a website and engaged. This can include using well-written, informative and engaging text, as well as using high-quality images and other media to illustrate and clarify the content. It's also important to ensure that a site's content is relevant and up-to-date, as this can help establish the site's credibility and authority. This can include regularly reviewing and updating a site's content to ensure it remains accurate and relevant.

Required tools for webdesign

The essential tools to design and implement sites are a graphic design program and a text editor. Additionally, a browser is a must-have to preview your implementation.

  1. A graphic design program is a program that allows you to create and edit images and graphics. It allows to build cheap prototype designs without the need to implement them for the browser. Examples of graphic design programs include Adobe Photoshop, Penpot, or our favorite, Figma.
  2. A text editor is a program that allows you to write and edit code. Examples of text editors include Sublime Text, Visual Studio Code, and Notepad++.
  3. A browser is a program that allows you to access the Internet and view web pages. In webdesign, it is used to test out your implemented design and evaluate it. Examples of browsers include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Programming with HTML, CSS and JavaScript

To program a website from scratch without large frameworks, you need basic knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the language used to define the content and structure of a website. It is defined via SGML elements or nodes which can give semantic information, for instance designate certain nodes to the navigation via the <nav></nav> element.
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is used to design the look and layout of a website. It can be used to style components, define coloring, font properties and element structure. This style sheet language leverages selectors to identify elements in the html on which its specified styles apply to.
  • JS (JavaScript)'s purpose is mainly interactivity. It is implemented on top of HTML and CSS and can control both. It can select elements in the document and apply dynamic style properties for animations such as moving elements around and has many more capabilities. Manual writing of HTML, CSS and JavaScript is often necessary and those are combined to achieve the desired functionality and look. This requires time and patience, but it also provides the opportunity to create exactly what you envision, as you have full control over the code. It is important to keep up with new technologies and best practices on a regular basis to improve the quality and functionality of the website. While writing vanilla HTML, JS and CSS is less common today due to powerful frameworks such as React or SvelteKit, they are essentials which each web developer should understand and be able to write.

Graphical applications for design

There are many modern graphics applications that are commonly used in web design, among them are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Sketch, and Figma. In the following, we elaborate on those editors and show key strengths of each.

  • Adobe Photoshop is a raster graphics editor that is commonly used to create and edit images and graphics for web design. It is known for its powerful image editing features and its ability to work with layers, making it easy to make changes to an image without affecting the overall design. However, it can be difficult to create vector graphics, and it can be a bit cumbersome for creating responsive designs.
  • Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics editor that is commonly used to create logos, icons, and other vector-based graphics for web design. It is known for its ability to create sharp and scalable graphics, which is important for web design because graphics need to be able to be resized without losing quality. However, it is not as good as Photoshop for photo editing and compositing.
  • Sketch is a vector graphics editor and digital design tool for Mac. It is known for its simplicity and ease of use, which makes it popular with web designers. It is geared towards mobile design and has a variety of plugins and integrations with other design tools (mainly from the Adobe Creative Cloud), which can be a great advantage.
  • Figma is a browser-based vector graphics editor and prototyping tool that allows multiple people to work on a design simultaneously. This can be very useful when collaborating with clients and team members on a web design project. It has similar features to Sketch and Illustrator, but it is cloud-based, which makes it easier to access and edit the design from anywhere. In summary, each of these applications has its own strengths and weaknesses, and choosing the best one depends on the specific needs of the web design project. Photoshop is great for image editing, Illustrator for vector graphics, Sketch for its focus on mobile design, and Figma for collaboration and cloud-based access.

Website builders

Website builders are tools that allow users to create websites without having any programming knowledge. They usually offer a variety of templates and drag-and-drop features that make it easy for users to create a website. Among the most popular website builders are Wix and Squarespace.

One of the main advantages of a website builder is that it is relatively easy to use and can be a good option for those who are unfamiliar with programming. Hosting and domain registration are often included as well, so you don't have to worry about setting up a separate hosting or domain name. Plus, they can be a cost-effective option for small businesses or individuals who want to create a simple website.

However, website building kits also have some limitations. They often offer limited customization options, so users may not be able to fully customize their website to their specific needs. Moreover, the scalability and performance of website builders are usually limited, making it difficult for the website to handle the surge in traffic. Also, website builders are usually have a limited set of functions, which can be a hurdle for more complex websites. They may not allow users to integrate specific functionalities or make integration extremely difficult.

In general, website builders are a good choice for those who need a simple website and are not concerned about customization or scalability. However, if you need a more complex website or want more control over the design and functionality of your website, you're generally better off avoiding website builders and opting for more flexible development and deployment options. When you work with a professional web developer, you have more control over your website, which can make it more effective for your business.

Individual websites with professional help (agencies and freelancers)

When creating a custom website, the need for professionals, especially web development agencies and freelancers, is important for several reasons.

  • First, professional web developers have the knowledge and experience to create a website that is not only visually appealing, but also functional, user-friendly, and optimized for search engines. They can create a website that is tailored to your specific needs, which is difficult to achieve with a website builder or template. They are able to create custom designs, features, and functions that are unique to your business, which can help your website stand out and impress visitors.
  • Second, professional web developers can ensure that your website is built with the latest web technologies and industry best practices, which can improve its performance, scalability, and security. They are able to provide your website with more robust features and functionality that will help it handle more traffic and grow as your business expands.
  • Third, working with web development agencies or freelancers offers flexibility and reliability. Agencies typically have a team of web developers, designers, and marketers who can work together to create a comprehensive website that meets your needs. Freelancers usually specialize in a particular area of web development, such as front-end or back-end development, which can be a good choice if you're looking for specific skills. Both options can provide you with a professional and reliable service that will help you achieve your goals.

Professional web developers, agencies and freelancers offer a more flexible and reliable service than website builders by creating custom designs, features and functionality tailored to your specific needs. They often use latest and stable web technologies and employ industry best practices, while also providing ongoing support and maintenance.