What is a web designer?

A web designer is someone who can do some or all of the tasks discussed in What is Web Design?, namely Graphic Design, User Interface Design, Markup Coding (HTML & CSS), Search Engine Optimisation, Accessibility and Information Design. Because of the breadth and depth of each of those subjects individually web designers usually specialise in one or two disciplines, it's important to have an understanding of all aspects of web design but trying to be proficient in all areas is a tall order. The design disciplines can be broken down into 3 main areas of similar skills

  1. Web design screens

    Front end graphical design

    – encompasses aesthetics, conversion, user interface design, usability, branding, marketing etc.
  2. html5 logo

    Front end markup coding

    – encompasses HTML, CSS and possibly Javascript or other browser side scripting languages, SEO, Accessibility etc.
  3. scripting languages logo

    Back end scripting

    – providing the functionality for the website, back end scripting languages include PHP, ASP, .net, Coldfusion, Perl, C# etc.

Web designers generally specialise in one of these areas although sometimes their specialism is even more specific, perhaps just usability or just branding. In general there is a bigger divide between the first two fields and the last one, designers working in the two 'front end' subject areas will usually have a good working knowledge of the other. However it's less likely that they will have any knowledge of back end scripting. It's perfectly possible to create a great looking website without ever looking at back end scripting, it could look great, users and search engines could love it and you could probably navigate around it just fine but it probably wouldn't do a lot else. To really add interactivity and any sort of functional power you need server side or back end scripting. Because of this divide web designers that specialise in the server side elements of a site are often referred to as web developers.

In general then a web designer is the person that is going to take your requirements - your products, your audience, your ethos and brand values, your goals - and come up with the look and feel, and possibly the site architecture, of your website.

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