The List for Web Designers

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Finally, we come to the last letter of the alphabet and what other choice would fit into this section except zipping (or file compression). The ability to reduce bandwidth consumption has many benefits, including reduced data transfer costs, faster page loads for the visitor and, when combined with caching, reductions in HTTP requests.

Caching is another useful method of reducing the amount of bandwidth used.

Knowing how to optimize your content and code is one thing, but being able to squeeze every last unnecessary byte from your images and knowing how to carefully balance the quality and file weight is critical as well. Learning to optimize website assets is an essential skill which no budding web designer wants to be without.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 235

Web design and development is often made up of a series of choices. Knowing how to say “no” is quite an important ability to gain. Knowing when to say “yes” is, too. While this may seem a rather woolly inclusion on our list, if you think about when you produce a website, you constantly deal with micro-decisions, and thus, your ability as a web designer is largely based on how you make judgments and decisions.

Knowing when to say “yes” and “no” is critical.

While it remains an important part of our job — Do we take that client? Should I use PHP? Does it degrade gracefully? — learning about decision-making techniques and incorporating a sound judgment process with your projects is as critical of a skill to learn as code, content, design or theory. Bad decisions lead to a poorly built sites and good decisions save you time, money and stress.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 281
Synonyms - all right, alright, aye (also ay), exactly, OK (or okay), okeydoke (or okeydokey), yea, yeah, yep, yo

A language that has so many purposes, yet gets pushed to the wayside regularly in our industry, is XML. Being more flexible than HTML in syntax, it’s almost like a Swiss Army knife in its unique and multi-functional purpose. Used in so many aspects of the web — from software UI settings, non-SQL local databases, public APIs of third-party services like Twitter’s, Sitemaps, and syndication formats like RSS — it’s become a mainstay of web development.

RSS is a content syndication language written with XML.

Oddly enough, while XML is so durable, it’s not generally considered a core requirement to know. However, remember that with the web constantly evolving, the need for XML is only likely to increase to cope with our diversifying data needs.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 275
Web Standards

The letter “W” could stand for so many things on the World Wide Web that it became a hard choice to decide which item to discuss. However, the idea of web standards underlines a core principle that many in our industry hold dear. Knowing the various languages and standards (and how they work) is something that everyone in the field professionally should be familiar with.

Following specs strictly can be time-consuming.

Every language used on the web, from HTML to Python, has its own set of specifications that outlines recommendations and best practices as to how the language should be used (and in what context). Following these standards can be tricky because it requires a lot of reading, patience, and motivation, but if you want to master a language like HTML, CSS, or Ruby (on Rails), you’ll need get used to following standards and keeping your knowledge current.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 248

Without site visitors, what’s the point of a website? You can have the most awesome website in the universe with mind-blowing content that unravels the secrets of time traveling, but if there’s no one reading it, your site may as well not exist. While not to detract from the importance of content, a critical skill of design is to get eyeballs on your site (and keep them there).

A social community will encourage people to continue visiting a site.

Many aspects of user-centered design focus on encouraging community involvement as it identifies the need to emotionally tie people to a site. However, beyond the social aspects, it’s also useful to identify your visitors and work with them to make a website better. This ties in quite nicely with the subject of sociology, ethnography and empathy.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 284

Ensuring that your web designs are user-centered and user-friendly is quite a challenge, especially when designing for a diverse spectrum of web users. Usability focuses around the notion that your users don’t want more problems, they want solutions — and it’s your job to give them what they want as effortlessly as possible.

Giving your visitors a smooth experience is part of the package of a successful site.

With ties to interaction design, accessibility, information architecture, user experience, human factors and more, the expansiveness and significance of usability in modern web design needs not be underscored further.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 268

With @font-face gaining more widespread support, and standards for web fonts such as WOFF being drawn up, the past restraints on web typography are slowly fading away. But as Peter Parker’s uncle warned, “with great power comes great responsibility.” With the increasing number of ways we can design type on a web page, the need to understand typography has become a much more significant part of a web designer’s job.

People use many fonts on the web, but no one should be using Comic Sans!

If you don’t already have a working knowledge of fonts and typography, now is the time to begin. Not only does it have important implications in design and how content is portrayed visually, but also it will ultimately give you added levels of control over page aesthetics.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 296

JavaScript’s a great client-side language, but server-side scripting is also essential to modern websites. It does everything else that client-side scripting can’t (or shouldn’t) do. Saving user input, retrieving and processing database data, and page templating are but a few fundamental examples of how much server-side scripting is a part of our products.

There are plenty of languages and server-side frameworks, such as Rails, to choose from.

Obviously most people will be aware of server-side scripting in some form, but for beginners to the whole backend business-logic arena, it’s valuable knowing even just the basics of what server-side scripting can do in order to know the possibilities and limitations.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 248

If there’s one thing that is repeated to you Buzz-Lightyear-style (i.e. “To infinity and beyond!”), it’s the notion that “Content is King.” Without content, your website is worthless. And content isn’t just text and articles such as the one you’re reading now. It’s a web app’s marketing copy, it’s a call-to-action button’s choice of words, it’s the perfectly placed video demo, or that awesome infographic that takes advantage of visual learning. As such, ensuring that you make your content as interesting, readable and as user-friendly as possible is a sure way to encourage regular visits.

Content is king and ensuring it’s easy to understand and visible is part of your job.

Part of readability is the subject of information design, laying out your content in a manner that will appeal to your visitors. Being able to design and code a website are important, but so is usable content.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 244

An important part of any business is the concept of quality control. Being a successful designer means that you need to be passionate and caring of your craft. In such a highly competitive market, the need to maintain a set of standards, do what’s in the users’ best interests and ensure what you produce meets requirements is vital. Whether you are a designer or coder, the ability to not just follow specifications, but also to set your own ideals, is worthy of attention.

Why would anyone release substandard work? Make sure you set high standards for your projects.

Whenever I produce a web design, I have a whole compendium of checklists and requirements that it needs to meet before the project is given the final “all clear.” It takes a bit of time to develop some decent standards for your own work — and it has to be a personal initiative. However, once you have, you can continue to evolve and refine your processes, not only saving time, but also ensuring that you build a solid reputation for yourself as someone who cares about their work’s quality.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 291

Of all the areas related to user experience design, psychology is probably amongst the most interesting and useful. Everything a person does on the web relates to the way they behave and think. Knowing how to engage with that behavior will allow you to maximize the success of your web designs.

The study of human behavior can help you identify emotional attachment to color.

If you haven’t really thought much about psychology and you’re designing sites for a living, it’s really worth learning about psychology, at least at a basic level and in ways that relate to Design. For example, you could learn about how Gestalt psychology can be applied to Web Design. Most aspects of design and what we define as beauty is depicted through psychology, as are the ways we can “train” visitors to become accustomed to a particular interface.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 281

Often, web designers make the mistake of creating experiences that reflect their preferences rather than the users’. Who can blame us? It’s hard to be empathic toward your audience if you’re not one of them. Remaining objective and dealing with the jobs you undertake professionally is a skill that doesn’t come with a manual, but nonetheless needs to be learnt.

Your design isn’t based on what you think is pretty (or else things could get ugly)!

Before you begin producing a website, you need to know what you’re producing, why you’re producing it, and who’s going to use it. Research, designing by numbers, knowing general usability guidelines and understanding how to collaborate effectively are but a few things that are involved in creating web designs objectively. Not letting your own biases take control of a project will often allow you to make logical considerations that empathize with the greater needs of your clients and users.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 252

Another essential component of web design is the concept of navigation and information architecture. A website may contain hundreds, if not thousands, of pages and this presents a challenge of how to ensure that people can find what they are looking for. Knowing how to organize and structure information is a critical skill to learn.

Information architecture is useful in aiding the ability of users to find what they want.

Evaluating the value of (and using) things like breadcrumbs, search features, and content categorization is a significant part of the web design process.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 264

One of the most underestimated elements of web design (which few people give much thought to) is the notion of metadata. Essentially, the concept behind the subject is to provide materials that describe the information’s content (data about data). Within the constructs of the web, some of the most well known uses for metadata are Meta tags, RDF data and purpose-built microformats.

There is more to life than HTML, you can play around with microformats too.

By including metadata in your documents, you can not only describe your pages in such a way that they can be better indexed by web spiders (like how libraries have indexes to find the book you’re looking for) but you can also markup the information on a page in a way that gives them added meaning and utility. An example of this is how a vCard can be coded for browsers, apps (such as an email client) and services that are set to recognize the convention.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 285

Though web technologies quickly evolve in a relatively short period of time, web designers will always have limitations in the things they can do on a web page. Limiting factors can also be non-technology-related, such as a person’s skill and a project’s budget.

While the web is evolving, it’s still relatively young and can’t do everything we’d like it to (even when we push the boundaries quite often).

It’s important to make sure everything degrades gracefully, with no exceptions.

Dealing with limitations, of how to overcome constraints, is an essential part of being a web designer. Education, experimentation, and experience play a vital role to the advancement of your career. Even the most established professionals require an open mind and the seed of doubt in what they already know so that they can keep pushing forward and stay ahead of the curve.

Author - Richard Baker
Hits - 256