What is web design?

I recently watched a new course on lynda.com – Mapping the modern web design process by Morten Rand-Hendriksen. In the initial chapter of the course, he makes an interesting observation. His thesis is that the term “web design” is evolving into an all encompassing term to cover the majority of aspects of creation and maintenance of websites.

In this alternate view there is no longer a clear dichotomy of web design and development (with a partial overlap). Instead, the single term “web design” is now an umbrella term covering all aspects of making content available via a web site.

In the more traditional view, web design dealt more with client side  technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, for example) and web graphic design along with Search Engine Optimization, User Experience Design, Interactive Design and similar aspects. Web development deals with programming and software development. The focus is more on the server side (including information architecture and so much more). Note that I have included links above to both terms on Wikipedia for reference to the more traditional view.

My question to readers of this weblog – what does the term web design mean to you? Is it the more encompassing term to define all aspects of client and server design and development? Is it the more traditional client tools and techniques? Why? Yes, I could have set up a poll, but I really want to know your thoughts (more than just a yes or no vote). I eagerly look forward to your comments.

4 thoughts on “What is web design?”

  1. Mark,

    I was really hoping you could answer this question from your perspective. I have difficulty explaining the differences with Front-end Dev and Web Design for example. I at times, am unsure if I am even explaining it right.

    Kevin B.

  2. I tend towards the more traditional view (web design is just that – front end design, SEO, UX and so forth). That being said, I find it interesting we are having this discussion in 2015. I would have though this terminology would have been settled some time ago.

    Best always,

  3. I would too, Its quite frustrating when job descriptions are vague and use positions like UI Developer or Designer, UX Developer or Designer, Front-end Web Dev, Drupal Dev, PHP Dev, Backend Dev, Web Dev, Web Designer(one who just works on creating website templates), etc.

    We need to come together and define the umbrella categories, their children categories, and the children’s children categories. Seems like companies all have different opinions on what role does what and what they should be called.

    Its hard to calculate what I am worth to a company when they use the terms differently and their responsibilities are NOT AT ALL comparable to other companies.

    Maybe this should be the new W3 responsibility.

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