Q&A: What is web design? (definition, elements and uses)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 15 November 2022

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies use web design to express their brand through creating interactive, user-friendly websites and pages. Working in this field may be perfect for you if you're a creative individual with good technical skills. Knowing the answers to some common questions about the field may help you better direct your career and predict how it could progress. In this article, we answer the question: 'what is web design?' and list elements and uses of website design.

What is web design?

Web design is a process of planning, conceptualising and designing websites that you can display on the Internet. It's a field that combines functionality and aesthetics to create multimedia online experiences for users and visitors. This type of design now goes beyond websites and also includes web apps, mobile apps and user interface (UI) design. There are two main types of website design:

Adaptive website design

Adaptive website design uses multiple versions of a website, which developers customise for specific screen sizes. Many websites adapt to the device that you use to view that website. An adaptive website detects if you're viewing it on a mobile phone or a larger screen and displays a version that matches your device. It's also common for designers to develop websites based on browser width, which offers more flexibility and allows websites to quickly adapt to your screen size, regardless of the device you're using.

Related: 12 essential web designer skills

Responsive website design

While developing responsive websites, designers use flexible grid layouts, which they determine based on a percentage that each element takes up on the screen. For example, if they assign 25% to a sidebar, that sidebar is always going to take up 1/4 of the space on your screen on any device and with any browser width. This means that responsive websites change to any screen size, unlike adaptive websites, which only have versions for specific screen size presets.

Related: 11 university and online web design courses for beginners

What are the elements of web design?

During the website design process, designers will respond to client preferences and provide effective online solutions for their products and services. Generally, websites have the following standard elements:

Related: System Design Interview Questions (With Tips)

Layout

The term 'layout' refers to the arrangement of all elements of a webpage. It's a key component of website design that can enhance a brand's message by using different visual components, such as graphics, icons, and text. The most effective layouts are typically simple, intuitive and accessible. They use negative space and call-to-action (CTA) buttons to attract users' attention and persuade them to perform certain actions when visiting websites, such as clicking on links and signing up to newsletters.

Most commonly, designers create different layouts of a website for different devices. It's because many users view websites on their mobile devices and it's important that they can access the same pages and links as desktop users. Creating adaptive and responsive layouts that look good on a mobile often requires adjusting the order of elements and hiding some components that are normally visible to desktop users.

Related: 29 website features to impress your audience

Images

Images include illustrations, graphics, photos and icons that provide supplementary information to the text on a website. Depending on a brand's individual requirements, designers usually choose to display images that best describe that brand's image and align well with its communication strategy. It is important for a website's design to include images, because these visual elements draw users' attention and trigger specific emotions that may persuade those users to purchase products or services offered by the brand in question.

Visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is the order in which designers choose to display particular elements of a website. It's also the order in which users process important information about a brand, project or campaign on which the website focuses. While conceptualising websites, designers and developers often use pre-made visual patterns that direct visitors' eyes and inspire user interaction. For example, F-shaped and Z-shaped patterns emphasise the top horizontal section of the webpage, where you can usually find navigation tools, such as a search box, and a brand's logo.

Related: Web designer vs web developer: understanding the difference

Colour scheme

A colour scheme is a combination of colours that best represent a brand. While creating effective colour schemes, designers typically pick one or two dominant colours, along with a few others that compliment them well to create a palette. In colour theory, there are four main types of colour palettes:

  1. Monochromatic palettes consist of the same hue in different shades and tones. They usually work best for minimalistic or corporate brands.

  2. Analogous palettes consist of one dominant colour and several similar hues that you can pick using the colour wheel. They're perfect for creating consistent website imagery and text because they put the main focus of a website on its contents.

  3. Complementary palettes consist of opposite colours from the colour wheel, which draw more attention to a brand. For example, when creating this type of palette, you may choose bright green, red and purple to create a brand's logo.

  4. Triadic palettes consist of three colours that appear on the colour wheel at equal distances from each other. Creating an effective triadic colour scheme may take you more time than with traditional palettes, but it allows you to create a lasting palette that rarely goes out of style.

Typography

Typography is the font or style of text that you choose to display written content on a website. Choosing the right typography may help you improve the website's readability or make it more artistic. Usually, to determine which font would be best for a brand, it's important to take into consideration its target audience. Depending on the user and the industry, some webpages may perform better in serif fonts, while others can use non-serif fonts.

Readability

Readability refers to the ease with which a visitor can process and understand written text and imagery that appear on a website. There are many ways to improve websites' readability, for example, by making webpages symmetrical and choosing the right size of fonts. It's also critical to pay attention to the contrast between text and the website's background.

Navigation

Navigation usually refers to a series of links, boxes and buttons that visitors use to find information and choose where they want to go on a website. Typically, designers place navigation tools in headers, sidebars and footers. If a brand requests that the designer develop a minimalistic layout for their webpage, they often use a single button that hides and reveals navigation tools so that they don't distract users from reading other information on the site.

Related: What is a web crawler? (Plus definition and importance)

Content

The term 'content' refers to all information available on a website, including text, images and videos. Brands use content to persuade visitors to take certain actions, such as purchasing something from their online store. An effective content strategy allows companies to build their online reputation and attract more customers.

What's the use of web design?

Web design is an essential element of almost every brand's online strategy. Brands use it to accomplish many important goals, including those related to:

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

SEO is a method that allows companies to rank higher on lists that search engines generate every time someone searches for information online. Using the right web content strategy that aligns well with a brand's target audience can boost that brand's presence online. As a result, more people may visit their website and have the chance to find out about their products or services.

Related: How to become an SEO expert

Customer satisfaction

A professional-looking website provides existing customers with relevant information about the brand's products and services. When users can quickly find information and products that they're interested in, they're more likely to purchase something and even recommend that brand to other people. Using website design to improve customer satisfaction usually involves making the site easy to navigate and consistent.

Consistent branding

Branding is the process of using a consistent design to promote a product, service or cause. Using the same design for their website allows brands to maintain a consistent image and reputation among their customer base. For example, companies often use the same logo and typography across all of their communication channels, including websites and social media channels.

Related: How to become a brand strategist (with steps and duties)

Technical efficiency

Investing in website design is a great way for companies to offer convenient online experiences to their users. Designers help them accomplish this by developing clear code that improves loading time and checking if all links function properly. They're also responsible for fixing any bugs and glitches that may occur while using websites.

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