What is a web designer?
We’ve all been there. You’re in a meeting discussing a new website project and you’re hesitant to ask what you really want to know. What is the difference between a UX and a UI designer? What is the difference between hiring an agency or a freelancer? How does the web design process really work? Don’t worry, we got you covered.
Web design refers to the visual and creative development of a website, from aesthetics to usability. Although equally important, the aesthetics alone influence 94% of first impressions of your website. First impressions can have a lasting impact on the perception of your business and web design will, therefore, be worth the investment. We recommend you hire a web designer instead of doing it yourself. Web design is a complex discipline and if you don’t get it right it could be harmful to your business and brand.
A web designer’s responsibility is to design or redesign websites, including work on aesthetics, layout and often content. While aesthetics relate to visual appeal, the layout relates to the structure and organization of content, including text, image, video and sound. The website should not only be designed to reflect the personality and goals of the business. It should be strategically designed to be valuable and relevant to the user. Although visual and creative, web design is a data-driven process closely related to the business strategy.
Your responsibility as a client is clearly defining the goal of your website and the web designer’s job is to effectively design your website to achieve your goal. Whether your goal is to generate sales or capture leads, the web designer will optimize for goal conversion. To streamline this customer journey, the website needs to be not only aesthetically pleasing but user-friendly. The usability and navigation of a website are crucial for conversion-optimization and needs to be equally weighted to achieve your goal.
Different web design disciplines
First of all, a web designer is not the same as a web developer. Although you can find web designers with development competence, these are generally two different disciplines. While the web designer designs the usability and visual appearance of a website, the web developer builds the website through code, based on the web design. A web designer can even specialize in different disciplines within web design. Generally, we distinguish between user experience designers and user interface designers.
User experience (UX) designer
I suppose this is self-explanatory, but a UX designer is concerned with providing positive user experiences on websites. It’s about humanization and designing technology in a usable way. A UX designer is responsible for conducting user research, designing user flows and wireframes, and user testing prototypes. They focus on the customer journey and how to design a functional website that facilitates this journey.
User Interface (UI) designer
While the UX designer is responsible for usability, the UI designer is responsible for the visual design of the website interface. Building on the wireframes from the UX designer, the UI designer creates the information architecture, visual layout and design elements. They are responsible for facilitating intuitive interaction with the website and delivering interactive and visual mockups to the web developer.
Where do you find web designers?
The web design industry is a $40 billion industry that has doubled in market size in the last decade. Being a web designer is considered a very steady job as the demand for web design increases. You can now find web designers across all industries, from finance to healthcare. Web designers are found in creative teams, marketing teams or technology teams. They can work in-house, in creative agencies or independently as freelancers.
Larger companies and corporates that heavily rely on web design will have web designers in-house. It’s a good option if your website requires a lot of maintenance or if you’re constantly producing new campaign landing pages. The benefit of an in-house designer is that they know your company well and can effectively design websites on-demand. However, the cost of having a full-time employed web designer is likely higher than outsourcing the work.
Compared to in-house design teams, creative agencies can often offer more diverse competence and lower costs. Agencies work project-based and can be hired when needed. They can offer innovative perspectives and industry experience. Agencies are however bureaucratically structured and their administrative processes could extend the project timeframes and expand your budget.
With a growing freelance economy that constitutes 35% of the US workforce, web designers are increasingly deciding to work independently. The benefits of flexible work are luring web designers into freelancing, and this can be beneficial for design clients too. Cutting the administrative work of design agencies, using freelance web designers is a cost- and time-effective alternative.
Freelancers heavily depend on referrals to get design projects and are therefore likely to dedicate all their time and resources on each client. At the same time, there is a risk of hiring a remote, independent designer. To ensure that the web designer is reliable you have to carefully evaluate them. Or you could hire freelancers from platforms like Graphiq, who have already vetted and curated a qualified collective of web designers for you.
The web design process
Now you know what a web designer is and where they work, but how do they work? Web design is often considered a technical process, but it’s really about designing the website in correspondence with the overall business strategy. Winning websites offer more than just aesthetics. Each element is strategically designed to achieve a defined goal. Let me walk you through how the web design process works here at Graphiq.
1. Goal definition
This is arguably the most important step of them all because the goal lays the foundation for the web project. If the goal is not clearly defined, the entire web design process will be unsuccessful. The web designer will normally work with the client to determine the goal of the website and how to achieve it. As a client, it’s helpful to think this through and write a clear brief on what exactly you want from the project.
The web design brief will normally include information about the client and their competitors too, to give the web designer a foundation for further research. To determine how to best achieve the goal of the website, the designer needs to do extensive research on the targeted users and their customer journey. The designer needs to find out what their objections are and how the website can counter these concerns.
3. Project definition
Once it is clear what the goal is and how the goal will be achieved, the next step is to clearly define the project. Depending on the user insight, the designer and client determine which features are needed on the website and define the scope of the project. Based on the project description, the web designer estimates a project price and timeframe. Once the designer and client have agreed on the contract, the actual design work commences.
With a clear project description, the designer can start sketching the site architecture, defining how the different contents and features will be structured. The designer will create a wireframe that functions as a framework for the website, roughly illustrating the layout, navigation and information hierarchy of the website content. When the wireframes have been approved, the designer can start prototyping.
5. Creating content
Once the designer has a wireframe, they can begin to create relevant content for the website. Content includes all text, image, video and sound on the website. Depending on the project description, content creation could be the responsibility of either the designer or the client. Often times, the client will carry forward content from their current website or have internal resources to write new copy.
6. Visual design
With the content in place, it’s time to work on the visual design of the website. It’s about taking the wireframe and creating a visual, interactive prototype. Visual design is about using tone, style, colours and typography to create a visually appealing website. Normally, the visual design will be colored by the client, having to correspond to their brand guidelines. Or, every now and then, a client will request a new visual identity with their website.
Now that all the content and visual design is in place, it’s time to test the website. The designer has to check that every link works and that every web page loads fast and is responsive on all devices. Any possible user experience issues should be identified. It’s important to make sure that everything on the site works seamlessly and testing is critical to fix possible issues before the site launch.
8. Launching and maintenance
Once the website is working as it should, it’s time for launch. Whether you want to just launch it or you want to plan for a grand reveal, you should plan this with the designer. The web project is not over yet. After the launch, there will be continuous website optimization based on new user insight. If you don’t have a web designer in-house, you should ensure you write a contract with your designer for any maintenance needed.