Introduction to Web Design & Usability

Web design is a practice that falls under the larger heading of web development. The term "web design" is often used to refer to the process of visual design (aka "graphic design"), where a "designer" creates a layout and a coherent surface appearance for the individual pages of a web site. Many web page creators consider themselves web designers because they produce Web pages. But design, and web design in particular, is a more sophisticated skill. Professional web designers do much than just write HTML, and often are more involved than simply producing the "look" of a media object. Modern professional web designers often are skilled in...

...and have training in ...

Modern professional web designers apply these skills using web standards--the standardized best practices, definitions, and guidelines that have refined the practice of web development.

Familiarity with each of these areas contributes to a full definition of the professional web designer. Expertise in two or more of these areas is, I think, critical to success in the field.

When a web designer sits down to design a page or a site, she must make a number of choices. Some of those choices may be neutral and have no significant impact on the user experience. But many of those choices will directly impact the user's ability to interact with the web site, and may even prevent the user from accomplishing her task. In this course we will practice user-centered design, because if users can't accomplish their tasks at our web site, or they have a better experience at a competitor's web site, our design work may have failed.

Luckily there is a lot of information out there that we can use to help us make the right design decisions for our users, particularly usability theory and visual design theory. We'll gain a basic understanding of these theories and their practical application in the process of web design.

But this course is not just about usability and aesthetics--it's also about making a web site that works for the client's needs (e.g. findability), that adheres to current professional standards (i.e. web standards), and supports redesign and interoperability (e.g. web language elegance).