If you truly want to understand the web design process, you must look beyond just the outward visual appearance of a website. Very few visitors consider what happens behind the scenes of a website, as different web browsers interpret code to display that site on the screen. Extra milliseconds of loading time, browser variations, the age of the code, and the content itself can completely change a user’s experience and resulting behaviors on a website. Let’s take a look behind the curtain to learn about some of the most surprising and amazing aspects of web design.
1. All web browsers render websites differently
When you look at a website from your home computer using Google Chrome, it might be a completely different experience than your friend has when she browses the same website through Safari on her iPhone. Why does the same website look so different across various browsers? It all depends on parsing and rendering, or the way that browsers translate code and display it on your screen. Some browsers will load the code in a very specific order, and sometimes browsers won’t recognize certain code at all. For more detail on this, HTML5 Rocks has an excellent breakdown of how each browser parses code and renders it on the screen.
Browser differences can make it tricky for you to create a website that provides a great experience to everyone. That’s when professional web designers step in. They are familiar with HTML and CSS standards, known browser issues, and the ways to work around potential hurdles. It’s a web designer’s job to ensure that your website looks good and functions properly across many different browsers. They also perform extensive browser compatibility testing to identify potential issues, and establish necessary fixes for those issues, before a website goes live.
2. Design dictates where users will focus on your website
The Internet has forever changed the way we read and browse content. According to the Nielson Norman Group’s report, “How Users Read on the Web,” successful websites with a clear and scannable layout have a 47% usability improvement. If a visitor can’t skim through your website and identify key information quickly, they are likely to leave and visit another website instead.
Web designers strive to create sites that direct viewers to the most vital information, such as an online store, your company’s blog, an organization’s history, or other content important to both them and you. Web professionals can also use heat maps and analytic tools to see which buttons and links are popular so that they can continually improve the user experience with future updates on the site.
3. A two-year-old website may be too old
Web designers work hard to keep up with the breakneck pace of technology. Since the web browsers and devices being used to access websites are constantly changing, the way that those websites are designed and developed must change as well. To remain current and relevant, digital professionals must stay on top of the latest coding standards, browser compatibility updates, and search engine algorithms. An outdated website runs the risk of not displaying properly in the web browser, having unexpected formatting issues, or not showing up effectively in search engine results. For this reason, a site that is even two years old may be antiquated if it has not kept pace with these changes.
4. Templates will restrict what you can do with your website
Many people turn to website templates as an “easy way out.” Pre-packaged templates often allow anyone to create a website with little to no coding knowledge. Unfortunately, companies can lose credibility by relying too heavily on templates, which typically include bloated code and unnecessary design elements. Trying to force a template to do something new can make it look patched-together, like a Frankenstein website, and that is if that template will even allow for those needed changes. Many templates are notoriously inflexible in what they will allow for, meaning your site may be painted into a corner. Your organization can benefit the most by having a web presence that is custom-made for your needs and the needs of your customers.
5. Your website’s code helps it to appeal to search engines
You could have the most visually-stunning website in the world, but it won’t matter if you don’t have an audience to view and use that website. Web professionals make sure that the way your site is coded will help an audience to find your website when they type certain keywords into Google or another search engine. The way that the website is coded even affects how your search engine listings look, from the title of the web page in the search results to the small description of your site that appears below the title. Search engines can be a great source of new traffic your website, and there are many additional steps that can be taken on a site to fully optimize if for those search engines, but it all starts with coding best practices and ensuring that the foundation of your site in conducive to a good relationship with the search engines.