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What is a Web Designer

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One of the most ambiguous concepts used in the world of Web application development is the concept of designer, and this plays down the value of the role designers play in any development.

It is very untrue. An application must work and perfectly carry out the processes it was created for, implying a good programming work, access to databases and perfectly carrying out transaction. But when everything is ready and the Web pages are put on the Internet, accessible to the world, the visitors will find a user interface conceived, built and fine tuned by one or more Web designers. This is the aim of the "Design Company Website".

The current popular concepts of user-friendliness, accessibility, navigability, etc, are reviewed and solved by Web designers (or done by specialists in each field, depending on the project material budget and time) and they directly affect with a great specific gravity how users react to the product, their experience and satisfaction when contacting the page, resulting in its greater or lesser effectiveness.

If we take into account a virtual store, its main aim is undoubtedly to sell. It may have a perfect inner engine, quickly and effectively carrying out transactions, accurately managing orders, collections and delivery. But if users cannot find the products when they get into the store, if they cannot make orders quickly and clearly, if they are not satisfied with the environment offered, there will be no sales at all and the store will go bankrupt.

And this reasoning can be applied to any Web site: portals, search engines, corporate pages, etc.

We will review user's interfaces, and at the end we will talk about the ones applied to the Web and the role each professional plays when developing an application.

Programmers and Web interfaces

The role of programming and programmers is essential when developing any computer application. Computers are machines with increasing process speed and memory capacity, able to multitask, thus serving different users at the same time. But they are only that, machines, that need to be told what to do, step by step and accurately.

Then, technicians trained to systematically and structurally set up the functions the computer must carry out are necessary to achieve the goal set. In this job, programmers are true genius, able to make a computer respond appropriately to any possible action of the application user.

Now, one things is to structurally and logically deal with a machine to make a Web application work as it should and a different thing is to deal with the users of such application, people subject to unpredictable moods and circumstances, who in most of the cases have little knowledge of computers and few experiences on line.

This is one of the main reasons why a Web interface if thought and planned by a programmer is doomed (except when the programmer is also a trained Web designer), since he adjusts to the machine but not to the user.

Other important aspect to take into account is the way a programmer thinks, going from what is possible to what is likely. This makes programmes always wonder what may happen in each step of a process, making them divide it into sub processes and then divide these into others, finally resulting in an endless operation chain to accomplish any purpose. This 'vice' is afterwards exported to user interface, resulting in a complex and difficult world.

A usual Web site user has a different way of thinking. It is more directed at practical aims than mental processes and it also looks for a fast and easy use. Consequently, if he finds it difficult to find the information he wants in a Web site, he leaves it without any further consideration.

Then, we can state that it is not a good idea that a Web site user interface, its information layout and how to access it are planned by programmers.

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Graphic design

Let's leave the programmers for a while and focus on another world significantly affecting Web design, precisely, graphic design.

From the first time somebody needed to communicate something without an individual in mind, appropriately showing that information became patently necessary, so that the information could be correctly interpreted by a greater number of final recipients.

We are talking of straightforward communication and when the message to convey was directed at a wide group of addressees, transmitting it in medium and formats allowing massive delivery, such as posters, brochures, pamphlets, etc. became patently useful. Since their main aim is to effectively convey the message, the message was reinforced through graphic and typographic items, having appropriate color and shape combinations.

Thus, the concept of graphic arises, as the branch of communication studying the appropriate layout of texts and graphic elements to perfectly convey a message. It combines aspects such as colors, shapes, typography, space, etc., to create a visual field where the audience gets the message clearly, pleasantly and effectively.

Therefore, we can define graphic designer as a professional that, from the requirements of the customer wishing to convey a message (it will generally be a business message), uses different resource sources (graphics, drawings, texts, pictures), media (posters, brochures, pamphlets, three-page leaflets, etc.) and techniques (special geometry, typography, color theory, applied psychology, etc.) to get the final user's attention, transmit the message to him and make it take root in him, producing the desired effect.

A graphic designer is not a graphic builder, as generally thought, or a photographer or illustrator, but the director staging these elements, building a useful work through them, harmonizing shapes, volumes, colors and typographies, creating live and functional spaces.

Although a graphic designer deals with a wide variety of media, there is a common feature among all of them: stability. Once the medium used to show a work is chosen, it will not vary, it will always be the same, and they can also choose the size that best suits your needs. This is not the case of Web pages, where size is a fixed element, that cannot be changed and, besides, it is very unsteady, since there is a set of parameters users can set up that limits the work, such as screen resolution, browser used, plug-ins installed, screen color depth, etc.

Although the graphic designer's work has been focused on static media for a long time, some time ago they have extended to dynamic ones, such as television and cinema, mostly supporting advertising. But despite this extension, its final work has always been directed at a stationary audience, not interacting with the product created at all, being just its spectator. The only exception may be graphic designers of special media, such as encyclopedias, who need to handle lot of information and have been forced to set up certain reference items, similar to Web page links, but stationary.

This approach focused on a static audience varies greatly from the approach taken when designing a user interface, since in the latter the user is an essential component, he is the lord and master, being able to interact with it, guiding his steps through the pages composing the Web site; he a free element choosing the steps he takes through navigation and being able to leave the Web site when he wants to.

Therefore, a graphic designer is not the appropriate person to design a user interface or develop the unique entity composed by all and each of the pages of a Web site either.

Web designer

Given the development of computer applications for non computer areas (management, administration, etc.), it was necessary to adjust them to be potentially used by people not having to do with programming environment. Thus, increasingly simple, more 'œhuman', person-computer interaction methods appeared, creating an inflection point through the introduction of graphic and window-based interfaces.

These graphic interfaces were designed following the model of the first graphic operating systems, with grey colors, more or less standard icons and well-known menu and tab systems, but always from the programmers´ point of view, since they were in charge of developing them.

As time went by, and always together with the increasing number of users from different areas, interfaces evolved in shapes, colors and spaces until at a certain time (coinciding with business computer extension), the existing concept of design was not so appropriate any longer. Then, the interface design projects were ordered to teams composed of programmers, specialists in person-computer interaction and graphic designers, the latter intended to give them some 'œhumanity' and color. This is an essential matter, since they began to move from the process-focused logic and structured thought to a different one, aim-focused, and better suiting users' thoughts.

That is how things evolved, increasingly adjusting interface designs to the human concept, usable, until there was a new revolution that put paid to many of the previous concepts: the creation of the Web.

With the creation of internet and Web pages, and their later boom, there was a new dimension introduced in the concept of interface, full of own limitations and particular items, making it necessary to formulate a new user-based design theory.

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Firstly, the interface design was restricted by a medium where bandwidth and download speed were essential elements, so they needed to build interfaces from light items, having little weight, so that the Web page download and view process did not become unbearable for the user.

Besides, the applications used to view those Web pages (browsers) were restricted as regards format (fixed screen sizes), resolution, colors and functions.

On the other hand, the purely creative design needed to be converted into the Web page own codification system, HTML tag language, that is very restricted and a good command of it was needed; if not, achieving the correct layout was impossible. That is to say, there was obivous need for specialized staff, half a graphic designer, half a programmer, able to appropriately carry out an interface design and then convert it into a operative and functional Web page.

The concept of man-machine interaction also changed, due to a new user profile, a typical Internet user. There was a need for specialized interface building in new navigation systems, used by impatient people, directed at quickly achieving a clear and preconceived aim, who, when they were able to find the information wanted in a short time simply leave the application. People who, additionally, did not know much about the medium and technologies used.

Another factor they needed to take into account was the size of the information handled and the simple access to each component. Web sites gradually became larger, having increasing number of pages, so, appropriately planning the localization scheme and simple access to information became an increasingly important issue.

Besides, each page has active elements that must appropriately carry out their functions (data sending, link to other pages, message view for the user).

All this led to the appearance of a new professional, the Web designers, in charge of user interface graphic and logic design, content organization and development and application of navigation schemes that were appropriate among the different pages of a Web site, everything compatible with the different operating systems, browsers, resolutions, etc for each particular user.

Undoubtedly, Web design inherits many things from graphic design but it extends it to adjust it to a new medium, Internet and a new format, Web pages. With the development of technologies for the Web (JavaScript, Cascade Style Sheet, Dynamic HTML, etc.), a more technical education for Web designers became necessary, who not only need to be familiar with how these technologies work but also apply them in practice.

Nowadays, the Web designer is the professional that is more familiar with Web interfaces, browsers and how to create a functional and usable Web site. Any computer service company focused on Internet applications must have a good Web designer in staff, who, if possible, needs to have co-workers in charge of creating quality graphics and pictures.

Besides, his remarks and instructions must be taken into account and listened to, since otherwise the final product will never have enough quality to survive on the huge net, where million and million of pages struggle to get the final product: the user.

Web interface, surfing on pages and user-friendliness are the most important elements for a Web site success, since they are the items most valued by the final user and the user is the king.

Web interface design is a complex issue, where not only graphic design processes are involved but also other aspects become essential, such as information architecture, surfing, user-friendliness, programming in customer, etc.

The appropriate professional for this task is not the programmer or graphic designer or project manager: it is the Web designer, the person able to combine all the necessary ingredients to create a balanced, usable, functional and useful Web.

The Web designer's job is one of the most important ones when creating and developing a Web application, as much as the programmer's job. The latter is in charge of the application server, being responsible for the accesses to database, advanced calculation processes and the appropriate completion of transaction, while the Web designer builds the interface the final user will use to quickly learn to search for the information, product or service he needs and achieve its actual aims.

Having a good integration among programmers, graphic builders and Web designers, we will get a quality and efficient product as a final result, offering our customer an application able to achieve a return on the investment made.

The entire "Design Company Website" team welcomes you to our website, and hopes that you find the information here useful for your business. "Design Company Website" welcomes your feedback and suggestions. Thanks!

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