To Design or Not to Design: A Basic Introduction to Web Design

Over the years, I have had occasion to build a number of websites and oversee the development of a few others. Designing and building a website can be extremely simple or unbelievably complicated. As I have never learned certain coding aspects or complicated interactive methodologies, if I need a complex site I will hire a professional with the specific skills I lack. And I know I can find them in digital marketing agencies. However, if you are looking to get into web design or just need to build your own site, here are some pointers that may save you a bit of time and aggravation.

Tools of the Trade
There are tons of tools available for web designers of all levels. The software used to build a website is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle. With all the options that exist, it is imperative to test out a few programs before making a choice. Each one has its own pros and cons, so read up on the options, costs, compatibility, and usability of the programs. Cnet is a good resource for reviews.

Even if the software you use to build sites contains a built-in FTP client for uploading a site or changes, I recommend acquiring a stand-alone client as well. There are some hosting sites that do not play well with software programs and there is nothing worse than discovering this as you try to upload a site on a deadline. CuteFTP, Simple FTP, and FileZilla are some of the more popular FTP clients.

Many websites are designed from template based programs that are integrated into the hosting platform such as Joomla! and WordPress. Pitfalls abound with these templates, so proceed with caution! I have seen too many sites broken beyond repair because an incompatible widget was installed or an update applied incorrectly.

Content, Content, Content
Once the mazes of basic site design and development have been navigated, it is time to move on to what can make or break a website: content. Content is not just the words on the pages, but also the images that are on the site. Web designers must be extremely vigilant that their content is legal and legitimate. Images are where this tends to be the biggest issue.

In an ideal world, every image on a website was created by and for the person or company that controls the website. Since the world is rarely ideal, designers use images acquired elsewhere. Ensuring that any images published on the site are properly paid for and credited is important in avoiding potential legal issues. Plagiarism with text content can also be a concern if it is purchased from an outside source. If there are any questions, I suggest checking an online plagiarism site for verification.

With tenacity and determination (and some good contacts), anyone can be a web designer. Keeping up with new technologies and methodologies will keep you from becoming stale in your design. The items I’ve mentioned here are but a glimpse of the many tools and skills a person needs to build a website. Research your options and pick the ones that meld best with your own way of thinking.

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