This question has been the subject of much confusion lately. Having been in software development for over 20 years, I tend to be very specific in the use of language when discussing building a website.
Programmers usually say that they are “programming” a website. This literally means they are writing the HTML, Java, PHP, or other “code” used to make the website work. It could be as simple as adding an .H1 in front of a word to make it look like a Heading and that would be called programming. They still work on design for the website, but their efforts are devoted to determining how best to assemble the software into packages that are easy to manage.
So what is design? Designing a site means you think about how people use a website. Designers make sure the navigation is clear so that visitors can find what they are looking for, using colors and images that complement the content of the site, reinforce branding and give the visitor the best possible experience when visiting.
A well designed site can have terrible programming. That usually results in a site that is easy to use, but is slow or at times causes the browser to crash. A beautifully programmed site can have lousy design and be a nightmare to navigate. It runs fast and never crashes, but no one wants to use it. One that marries the two skills results in the best possible website.
So, the next time you hear someone say they’re building a site, make sure you ask who designed it. If it was a programmer, there may be site usage issues. If it was a designer, find out if their design is also functional. And if there’s a dedicated design/programming team that works together, like the ones on the Wax staff, you can bet the site is easy to use and will work each time.
– Rick Gramatges