Web design is the process of designing web pages, websites and web-based software along with its elements. It is a quite difficult process which is often done by professionals in the field.
Although there is no clear boundary between web design and web development, some consider that web design refers only to that part of the process which includes designing the layout and look, while web development also refers to the development of web applications and web server configuration.
Web design is closely tied to the World Wide Web. In 1991, when Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, neither text communication or hypertext were new, but that was the first attempt to use it on the Internet.
Initially, web design was done only in HTML, which included some limited support for text formatting and the possibility of linking pages together. However, as web servers, web browsers and web designers advanced, several new technologies appeared, improving accessibility, multimedia content and delivery speed. It also allowed web content to be generated dynamically, by having a back-end to generate the HTML page delivered to each viewer in a customizable way. These have raised a number of issues in today's web design.
The major issues in web-design today are actually coming from the possibility of doing the same thing in many way. Some of the most important issues include:
- Liquid and fixed layouts. Many web designers have at least some experience with paper-printed media, if not a strong background in it. Although there are some similarities, the greatest discordance is that the web environment does not specify a certain size for the "paper". Some designers solve this by wrapping the entire content in a single box with a fixed width, creating what is known as a fixed layout. However, this may annoy some users who change their browser window size for various reasons, which is why other designers prefer to design pages that can cope with this and conform to the user's options without breaking the design. This is known as a liquid layout.
- Flash content. Flash is a robust program that can build even an entire website. It is widely used to develop multimedia-rich content, but it does have its share of problems: it is a proprietary program, it requires a plugin which is not available for all browsers and all platforms, and since it doesn't use a plain-text format, the browsers cannot index it.
- CSS or tables? Some time ago, when the market was dominated by Netscape Navigator 4, CSS features were rarely used by designers since the main web browser didn't support them. However, with the advance of the browsers, many designers decided to use CSS instead of tables. This does help, since HTML is really a semantic markup, making content much easier to understand for web spiders. However, it is harder to implement complete support for CSS, which makes it difficult to have a page that renders without problems on any web browser.