The Web Difference

I recently introduced myself to someone when he asked me what I did.

“Web design,” I answered.

“Ah, a graphic artist!” the man exclaimed.

I corrected him: “Web designer.”

Back in college, I was trying to explain to someone why I had dropped the Computer Science major.

“But you’re still a programmer of sorts, right?” he inquired.

I corrected him too. “Web designer.”

They may seem like subtle differences, since there’s much overlap in the skill sets required for each job, but to an experienced professional, the differences are huge. You wouldn’t hire a programmer to design a magazine ad, or a graphic artist to program your new resource management software — but many, many companies hire web designers from one of those two groups when the job really calls for both.

Not that the web design field is full of Renaissance people who are great at design and code (although those people are out there) — most will specialize in one of the two — but it’s important to hire a web design team with a firm grasp on both elements.

Great design makes the world go ’round. Great design can get a person to look at a print ad or product label and can also have a huge impact on how the general public views you and your respective product or service. Would anyone buy Dr. Pepper if the can still looked like this?

Not unless they were looking to drink motor oil. In today’s increasingly postmodern society, it’s becoming more important to appeal not only to the viewer’s intellect (hard data) but also to his or her aesthetic taste and emotional imagination (design and image).

But now that that’s settled, how will people find your web site? How many people will leave your web site while waiting for it to load? Will people with disabilities be able to access your web site? Will people get frustrated while trying to figure out how to navigate the web site? Will your web site fall to pieces when the next version of a major web browser is released? Those are all questions for the code gurus of web design. Clean, concise code can help to remedy all of those problems, and clean, concise code isn’t generated by software–it’s written by competent web designers.

The differences may be subtle, but they can make all the difference in the world when your web site is being designed. So please don’t call us graphic designers or programmers. We’re web designers. Mind the difference. Thank you very much.

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It’s true. It seems like a subtle difference, but the people that get it understand not only programming and graphics, but also the way people work. If you want people to find information on the web, you have to know how they access and process information. Knowing your user and designing around him is the hallmark of a good web designer.