Website Designer or Developer – WTF??

What’s Their Function?

The goal of any website is to get incoming traffic to either advertise a product or services, inform a consumer or give information about an organization, event or business opportunity. But with over 1,250,491,487 (at the time of writing this article, ) how do website design and content affect how your website gets viewed and by whom.

There are many elements that are involved in getting your website in front of the correct reader. The front end and back end web development or design is where the process starts, these are crucial and have a huge impact on achieving your goal. Poor design/development will lead to a failed internet presence.

So let me start off with a basic breakdown of the site creators, before going further.

1. Website Designers vs Website Developers

There are basically two types of designers needed to create a website; the first is the front end designer or web designer and the second is the back-end or web developer.

Website Designer UX JHL

Often these two phrases get mixed around and interchanged. But they are two quite different functions of a website.

a. Website Designers

The web designer is there to make sure the website functions as a website should, in other words, click a link and it goes to the correct page.

Their (the web designer) main responsibility is to make the site look pretty and engaging to the viewer, they are responsible for what the viewer sees on their screen, tablet or mobile device. This is also called User Experience or UX.

Many web designers, design pages from scratch, while most use pre-designed templates from online or offline WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors. These templates make setting up a website quick and simple, and often anybody can do it. However, there is a reason people study, learn, and update their skills and become qualified and experienced web designers. SEO is one reason, a second reason is changes in technology and coding techniques and requirements.

A lot of designers know only the most basic and limited HTML coding language.

b. Website Developers

The next level in website construction is a web developer. A web developer has a better and deeper understanding of the code that goes into designing a web page and is responsible for coding behind the scenes functionality of the website, such as a login ability, search facility, connection to a database, e-commerce and mobile apps. They can often design a website completely in code, without having to use the WYSIWYG editors.

They will use HTML to code the web page, CSS to style the page, Javascript and other coding languages such as PHP to add interactivity & responsiveness.

Before, during and after the website has been built, designers and developers and the owners of the web page need to understand that there are two types of viewers for the web page. So let’s dive into this and get a better understanding.

So now we have a slightly better understanding of the people behind the code, let’s take a look at what happens with the beautiful pages and elegant coding that is ready to go online.

2. Websites for the Virtual or Human Reader

Website designers and or developers need to understand and take into account that websites appeal to different audiences both in the real world and the virtual world.

a. Websites for the Real World

First and foremost is the end-user, that’s you the reader of the page. This is all about making sure that the content is tailored to the viewer, that it is relevant, organized in an understandable manner, easy to read, user-friendly and functional. This design is the creative side of web design, it’s all about content, content, content and of course look and feel, and did I mention the content.

Website audiences have different requirements when it comes to using a website depending on what the current need is. It could be information gathering or research, buying products, social interaction, banking, job searching, investment trading, booking flights and accommodation, price comparisons and a wide variety of other activities.

As I mentioned in the beginning, understanding the purpose and goal of the website will help the designer to fully meet the needs of the end-user. Making the site readable and user-friendly is crucial.

This is all about visual appeal.

b. Websites for the Virtual World

The second viewer is the web server. A web server is basically a number of specialized computers running hi-tech software and hardware that are kept in a secure temperature controlled environment at an ISP or Internet Service Provider. These ISP’s are located all around the world and are responsible for storing or hosting websites on their web servers.

Website Server Closeup JHL

These web services assign an IP address or Internet Protocol Address to every website stored on its servers. Each IP address is unique, a real-world example of an IP address would be your Identity Number, no two people can have the same identity number, just as no two websites can have the same IP address.

When a user types in a website name such as into the address bar, a request is sent to a web server at your ISP, which starts a chain reaction of communication with servers from around the world. In the blink of an eye, a web server will respond by taking the code, whether it is simple HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language,) Javascript, PHP or any of the multitude of web languages used to create web pages and pass on the required instructions as per the web page code, to your browser which will display the web page on your monitor or screen.

A web pages code is written with two types of functions, client side and server side. Client side functions such as HTML, Javascript, and CSS are rendered or completed on the user’s computer while PHP, ASP, and Python are scripts that are run from the web server.

– Search Engines

Included in this group of virtual world viewers are search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, Ask, etc. These servers don’t read a web page the same way as you are reading this page right now. They read and translate the code. To see the code that these web servers and search engines use, do this – right-click any white space on this page, somewhere that has no text, menu or image, and click on view page source. This will open the source code of the page you are on in a new tab.

Online Website Browsers JHL

This is the code that the servers read. This code is rigid and rule-driven, spelling mistakes are not tolerated, the correct syntax is king. Fail in this and a web page will give errors.

In order for your web page to be presented to a user, it first has to be requested by an end user, this can be done in a few ways – via a search engine, a referral from another site, or by directly typing in the web address in the browsers address bar. So let us look at search engines. How do they know if your page is relevant to the request that a user enters in the search bar?

How do they (the search engines) know if your page is relevant to the request that a user enters in the search bar? If you do a search for web design in Google Search page, how does Google know that you want pages with articles, companies, and advice on web page design and not on how to design a spiders web.

For starters, all search engines use what’s called bots to read web pages from all over the world and gather information into a large, and I mean a very large, database. Bots are programs that run automatically and regularly.

– Search Engine Algorithms – Internet Catalog System

Bots use algorithms to search web pages and index them. Wed designers and developers can assist bots by using correct HTML and coding techniques, to identify important aspects of the web page. This is called SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

In SEO there are set rules and codes that search engine algorithms look for such as web page titles, meta tags, both keyword and description, and heading types to name just a few.

The algorithms of today are far more sophisticated than they were a few years back. Previously search engines index according to the meta tags a web designer supplied, if you did not place a meta tag on your site then your site did not get indexed. Here is some sample code of meta tags from my website:

<title>Simple • Affordable • Websites – JHL Web Services
name=”keywords” content=”website, design, randburg, jhl, web, site, domain, domain registration, simple, affordable, websites” />
name=”description” content=”Johannesburg based Website Design company. Our motto simple, affordable, websites. ” />

If this was all a search engine had to look at when indexing, content would not be relevant to get your page in front of the correct audience.

The latest algorithms are more complex – they still look at these meta tags but also compare the words that are used in the tags to the words that appear in the body of text on the webpage that the end user sees. The search engine will then decide how relevant each word is according to the page content.

These algorithms use:

  • page content
  • schema markup
  • location
  • page rankings
  • term frequency or the number of times the search word appears on the page
  • document frequency or the number of times the search word appears in other pages of the website
  • document relevance, how relevant is the search term on the page
  • and many others depending on each individual search engine own algorithms.

Looking at my website, search engines will deem that my page is about websites because I have the words website in the “Title”, “Keywords” and “Description” and it is represented 14 times on the actual web page.

They (search engines,) are also able to punish a website, by giving a lower score for what is known as keyword stuffing.  This is where popular keywords are used that have a high search value but are not related to the content of the site.

An example would be if I added the word “Pokemon Go*” to my list of keyword meta tags. The search engine bots would ignore this keyword as it has no relevance to what the content of my web pages is about.

In just over 2 hours the number of websites has reached 1,250,587,695, that’s an additional 96208 websites added. Some good news is that on average 75% of these websites are not active.

In Summary

A good web designer should have knowledge of both visual design and back-end development, as they go hand in hand with each other.

If a website was designed with only the content, functionality, look and feel in mind, the way a user would get access to the site is if they know the domain name or website address. The search engine footprint would be relatively small and your web site might be pushed down lower on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) allowing other more dominant websites with better design and SEO to show up in the SERP before your web page.

Understanding and adding the correct back-end functions and HTML elements allow your pages to be indexed better and displayed more frequently when searched for. Which as we started with is the goal of any website.

“The problem is there are no simple “right” answers for most Web design questions (at least not for the important ones). What works is good, integrated design that fills a need—carefully thought out, well executed, and tested.”
– Steve Krug
User Experience Professional
* Pokemon Go was at the top of the search engine list when this article was written.
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One comment

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