Your guide to web design and web development

posted on 16 June 2015 by Laura_Faulds

What is web design and development?

Web design and web development – two very different faces of the same coin, go hand in hand when embarking on a website project.  Web design is the customer-facing aspect of any website – how it looks, feels and how visitors interact with it - ‘the fun bit’.  Web development however, is the actual code-writing of the website itself – the back-end build, or the ‘more technical’ side to you and I; and for a successful website, you inevitably need both (and a whole pile of other stuff too!).

Why is good design and development so important?

If you’ve ever visited a website that contains flashy animations, auto playing theme tunes or faulty buttons then maybe you already know the answer to this question!  Poorly designed and developed websites lead to fewer visitors and enquiries, reduced return on investment and in severe cases, a damaged business reputation.  Even if you get just a few elements of your website wrong, the negative impact can be substantial.  For instance a site that has not been properly tested on different web browsers and devices could lead to inconsistent or frustrating user experiences, shaving significant percentages off your website’s target audience and reducing the probability of a return visit.

Any good web design and development provider should therefore take ample time to understand what it is you want your website to achieve – from your target audiences and user journey, to your competitors, brand, business and expectations – all in line with industry best practices. 

Help me!

When it comes down to the nitty gritty, be armed with a checklist, for there are many aspects of a good web design and web development project that you need to be aware of.

First and foremost are your customers (are they ever not?!) and how they interact with the website.  This involves mapping out the customer journey, navigation and user experience. Is it easy for website visitors to quickly find what they are looking for in three clicks or less?  Do any parts of your website design frustrate the user?  Is it immediately obvious to any new visitor what exactly it is your business does?  Are there clear ‘calls to action’?

Behind the scenes, is the website easy for your team to content manage and provide Google with key search engine optimisation information?  All good websites should have an easy-to-use content management system so you have the ability to quickly edit and manage your online copy – from having the ability to create whole new web pages, to adding images, documents and hyperlinks.  You should also be able to influence your organic search rankings on Google through the use of meta keywords and descriptions.

Effective websites aren’t ones that just work well functionally though – they need to look good too! This means consistent branding, persuasive design, concise copy, unified colour schemes and descriptive visuals.  In addition, any new website development should make use of ‘responsive’ design, so that whether a visitor is viewing your website on their iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone or desktop, the website is consistently easy to use and looks aesthetically pleasing.

Let’s get technical

There are literally hundreds of different technologies that can be used to build websites, but did you know that the technology you choose will impact the scope of what can be delivered?  As an example, here at PDMS we are Umbraco partners. Umbraco is an open source content management system for websites that allows us to build pretty much anything from simple websites with a few pages, to more substantial websites and transactional systems. 
The beauty of Umbraco is that it gives users complete ownership of not only a website’s copy, but its design and appearance – without limitations like predefined ‘themes’ or ‘skins’ that control how websites appear, and what they can do.  As a consequence of this enhanced flexibility, Umbraco allows for full customisation of your project.  You don’t have to take our word for it though – Umbraco has found favour with many household names including Costa, Heinz, Microsoft, Tesco, Vogue and Wired – all of which have websites developed on the Umbraco platform.

Changing times

Besides these considerations, if you already have a website, or are indeed thinking of a redesign, it’s worth highlighting how technology and design evolve over time.  You might think that your existing website is perfectly sufficient and ‘does the job’.  But does it really?  If you take a look at how website design and development has improved over time, you can clearly see stark changes and how even minor updates can have a massive impact on both the user experience and a website’s return on investment. 

From simple changes to font style and content, to complete wireframe, navigation and code overhauls; design and development is both a science and an art.  The importance of which is so profound that you will find many companies redo or refresh their websites every few years, not least to keep up with the changes in technology and design, but the evolving expectations of web users.

To showcase our point, we have collated these fantastic examples of some great website redesigns from some of the world’s big players – see how times have changed!   

Microsoft website before:

Microsoft before

Microsoft website after:

Microsoft after

Apple website before:

Apple before

Apple website after:

Apple after

PayPal website before:

PayPal before

PayPal website after:

PayPal after

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