The term "web design" can mean different things to different people. To many people, web design simply means the creation of a website. But for most of us who have been involved in creating websites, we prefer to see web design is a very specific (and important) part of the web development process.
There are many aspects of creating a website. These can include planning, design, markup, programming, testing, adding content, and more.
When people talk about "web design" they're usually referring to the visual aspects of a website. Things such as the visual layout, the look and feel, the images, etc. While this is certainly a reasonably accurate picture of web design, it could also be argued that web design refers to other things too. Things such as the information architecture (i.e. the way the information is organized), the way a widget functions, and even the convention for writing content. After all, the term "design" doesn't necessarily mean "visual design", but it could mean "information design" or "functional design", couldn't it?
Anyway, rather than get bogged down into a definition of web design, let's just say that this section of the website will focus on "web design" in its various forms.
Do I Need To Learn Web Design?
If you use a website builder or a content management system, most of the web design work has been done for you. You simply choose a design that suits you. You can then customize it or leave it as it is. This can all be done using website templates, themes, clip art, etc. These templates, themes, and clip arts would've been created by web designers.
Now if you want to become a web designer, then that's a different story! Of course you'll need to learn about web design!
OK Then, How Do I Learn Web Design?
Web design is a big area. It depends on what area of web design you're interested in. If you'd like to learn about web graphics, check out this tutorial on web graphics. You can also check out the GIMP tutorial to see how you can create your own web graphics.
Regardless of which area of web design you're interested in, I highly recommend becoming familiar with good usability practices. Web usability is a very important part of web design. By building a website with good usability, your website will be much easier for your visitors to use.
In his article, Usability 101: Introduction to Usability, Jakob Nielsen describes 5 quality components that define usability. These are:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
If you're a bookworm, you should read Jakob Nielsen's best selling book Designing Web Usability.
Another book by Nielsen is Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed. In this book, Nielsen picks on 50 of the world's most prominent websites and outlines potential improvements. This book is a great way to gain an insight into how a usability expert thinks.