Getting into web design is a series of learning, practicing and trail-and-error experimentation that takes time and dedication.
Many aspiring developers need to not only go through the basics of making a new website page, but also learn the upcoming technologies powering the web. This is because the fast paced market always brings out more and more iterations of current generation’s technology and following them is crucial.
In this brief introduction, we won’t be trying to predict the future, but we will cover the basics of what kind of technology and tools go into make a new page for the web. If you are completely new to web design, this would be a great place to start. All basic websites require six essential things that make up a simple page and here, we will discuss in detail as to what they are, how they work in functioning a website and why it is crucial to learn about them.
HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and it is the language in which all websites are written. When you load a web page, the first thing your browser does is download the HTML for the website which consists of a specialized syntax. It then reads through this language to understand the contents of the webpage. Everything from links, buttons, videos, animations, pictures and graphics are all embedded within the HTML and will tell the browser what the web page contains.
The HTML that has been running the web was introduced more than two decades ago. However its utilization exploded when HTML’s fourth version (known as HTML4) was introduced at the cusp of the new millennium. HTML4 changed everything and web browsing became ever popular as web development became easier.
However, HTML4 still had some issues. While it was a robust language, it still lacked the ability to support intricate functionalities such as animation and video streaming. To support these things, plugins had to be installed which only made the user’s computers and mobile devices slower and inefficient. So it quickly became apparent that a newer version of HTML was needed.
This led to the recent release of HTML5. The biggest feature of HTML5 was its ability to stream videos more efficiently saving both bandwidth and battery life. It became the new standard for most website to follow and many websites completely discarded plugins to run their site properly. While there are still some functions only achievable with plugins, HTML5 has nearly all the necessary capabilities a user could hope for and it definitely going to be the only language used for web development now and in the future.
When a browser loads a web page, it usually downloads two things to render the final website; HTML and CSS. We have already discussed HTML, it is the language which contains all the essential contents of the web page. However, HTML does not contain how most of this information should be displayed. For example, if an HTML tells the browser that the page consists of a text line, the browser still won’t know exactly where the text should be placed and how it should look. These kinds of information that relates to how the web page looks like visually are stored in a separate file called the CSS file.
CSS has been mostly the same for many years, whoever with the recent developments in HTML, a newer version known as CSS3 has been released to support video streaming and complex animations.CSS stands for Cascade Style Sheets and it has only one purpose, to tell the browser how to present the HTML and any essential visual style. It does this by containing all the necessary information within its code that also has a unique syntax. CSS works in conjunction with HTML and aligns all the tags and headers into the style required for the website. You might have seen what the lack of CSS can do to a website. Sometimes, when you load a page, you only see the text and hyperlinks, but they are poorly lined up and there are no colors on the page. This occurs when a browser is able to successfully load up the HTML for the page, but not the CSS.
Interactivity with a website almost always needs to be a feature with websites today. If your website has no interactivity whatsoever, then it is nothing more than a bulletin board and has very little use. Imagine YouTube or Facebook without any button in it to easily navigate through their content. Interactivity provides a user friendly experience which in return gives you website more traction and user retention.
jQuery even allows network engineers to handle a lot of the back-end work, such as retrieving and storing information in databases. This has rendered many other database management systems useless as jQuery can handle most of the work load. In short, jQuery is a must for any web developers as it makes their work easier and more efficient.
Before you get to work on the website, it is generally a good idea to draw it up first in order to get a sense of how it will look. This can be done in multiple ways; you can sketch the website on paper, you drawn up the website’s features on a spreadsheet or you can make the entire website interface using a simple illustration tool. One of them that is both accessible and powerful is the one made by Adobe called Illustrator.
Illustrator is a graphics design tool that is generally used for digital arts. However, its versatility allows it to be employed for other purposes as well, such as drafting a web page. We highly recommend any aspiring web developers to take advantage of the power of Illustrator. Not only will it give you and your clients a better understanding of how the website will look like, but also allow you to easily put together the web page using Dreamweaver, which we will talk about later.
Using Illustrator is very much like using an art board. There are multiple tools at your disposal that you can use to quickly put together how your website will look. You can begin with a standard template and then work your way up. You can make layer after layers and then stitch them together to make your final composition. Once you have finished you can render your final image into a high resolution preview to see for yourself how the website is going to look as well as show to others.
If you are interested in the idea of drafting your website, then Illustrator is not the only tool at out there. The most popular image editing software you can use is none other than Photoshop.
I misconception with Photoshop is that it is generally only used to image editing for photographs and graphics logo. However, there is no limit to using Photoshop for other purposes. Photoshop support many plug-in as well as image formats. It also utilizes the layer system which illustrator uses which means you can build a website on the program.
Using Photoshop is akin to using tracing papers and piling them together for a final composition. You should start by making a backdrop for you website. Simple color scheme and hue pallet should be enough to lay a basic ground for you website. Next you can add to it by making text boxes as well some other links and drop downs that should be on the page. Furthermore, Photoshop also allows you to easily put together custom fonts, which are very useful for website development as you generally want to avoid using conventional fonts. By making these custom fonts, you can give your website originality as well as some much needed identity, which is essential in a world where almost every website looks the same in some way. We highly recommend using Photoshop even if you don’t plan to show a preview to a customer. It is a great way to be self-aware when making the website and have a picture in mind that you can use as you goal.
Many graphics designers are now employed in web development companies and artistic expertise are essential to creating a great looking website. However, after all the drafting and previewing, there will come a time to transfer your great looking images onto an actual web development platform. It’s useless to make all those images and website illustrations if you don’t have a way of realizing them in the end. That is exactly why there are easy to use web design suites out there, namely the Adobe Dreamweaver.
Dreamweaver is a simple platform that you can use to put together a great looking website while giving it the necessary programming back-bone to run online. It does this by allowing you to easily generate a CSS and HTML snippet every your paste an image onto the program. You can think of the software as a visual translator; you tell Dreamweaver how your website should look, and in return Dreamweaver will tell you the codes needed to run it.
However, it is not all that simple. Sometimes, automatic code generation is not the ideal way to make a website. It’s better to paste the image draft and then writer the code yourself. This avoids any unnecessary run-time bugs as well as makes it easier for you to re-write and revise your code with time.
In conclusion, designing a website should be breeze for anyone with a passion for it, but it demands attention and a hunger for learning more. The internet has made available several tools that give you the power to produce amazing looking website, you just need to have the time and energy to go out there and absorb as much as you can.
By our estimation, it should take someone no longer than a month to understand the essentials and get enough practice to put together a basic functional web page. From there, you need to push yourself in order to make great looking web pages that stand out.