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In 21st century, for any company, firm, organization or institution a virtual presence away from its physical location is imperative for economic survival. To assist this purpose, these entities have developed webpages that they run on the World Wide Web, also commonly known as the internet. The internet is a resource that allows customers and companies to conduct business and enables transactions of all natures from around the globe. To be able to interact with a wide range of people, a webpage has to successfully serve its intended purpose by being interactive and user-friendly. Which is not an easy task and demands the designers to come up with a friendly website. A user interface should conveniently work on all devices that are accessing it and cater to a wider array of platforms. This makes the user interface design process is one of the most challenging aspect of setting up an efficient and comprehensive webpage.
From a purely designing point of view, front-end is considered to be much more sophisticated and complex than the back-end. The reason offered for it is that back-end design deals with how the website is running and serving its function. It is only subject to the approval of the developers and their supervisors (Sonmez, 2018). On the other hand, front-end designing is a much more intricate affair. The front-end is supposed to be subject to the experiences of hundreds, thousands or in some cases up to millions of users a day. For example in the first quarter of 2018, Facebook Inc. witnessed 1.47 billion users accessing their platform a day (Statista, 2018). If there is an enormous traffic of users trying to visit the site, it is important for the designers to make sure that the application is pleasant to look at and that it can easily render services that the clients/users would like to avail even if they are not particularly adept at using the internet otherwise the company will be at a strategic disadvantage (Bloc, 2016).
For a designer to make a decision about the layout of the website, it is important to know the four major website layouts; namely fixed, fluid, responsive and adaptive, and how they stack against each other. Static or fixed design is the type of web design which is stringent in its attributes with regards to measurements, dimensions and other content properties. Which means that no matter what browser or software is used to access the material on the fixed page, it will be independent of the changes that take place in the browser with respect to dimensions. Early on during the inception of the websites, fixed web designs were more appropriate because cellphones, tablets and other wireless devices were not commonly used and only one version of the website was needed to be designed. It allowed to add content to pages without worrying much about rendering it perfectly because it was only intended for use on desktops and large tablets since the hardware was ideal to display the website. It was mostly favored for its ease of creation but with the advent of smart phones and other interactive electronics, it was discouraged by developers because of its inflexible nature. Since websites would not offer similar services to these devices, developers had to create separate websites each platform which resulted in extra work. (Spencer, 2018).
Fluid web design is based on the concept of using relative units. Unlike static websites, fluid web designs do not use units such as pixels, instead they are designed using percentages. When fluid web designed websites are accessed on smartphones or other smaller electronic devices, the content of the page automatically adjusts to the dimensions of the hardware. The outcome is a much more user friendly platform compared to static web designs. However, fluid designs have their own set of problems. The most commonly cited problem is that once a media file is uploaded to the website, if the browser in which the website is viewed is too big or too small, it can create resolution problems and the media will not work as envisioned by the uploader (Dawson 2015). For instance, if a video clip is played on a screen much bigger than the desktop originally designed for, the resolution will not be optimum thus the experience will be unsatisfactory.
The third major layout available to developers is known as the responsive web design. The responsive web design (abbreviated as RWD) became popular in the later years of the last decade when an increasing number of people started using smaller wireless devices. More people connected to the internet and businesses saw a potential in attending to the needs of these masses. The responsive web layout is the kind of design which is receptive to the device the user is using to view the website. For instance, if the content of a page is viewed on a bigger desktop which has a much better resolution and more canvas size, the server identifies the changes and makes the website adjust to it respectively. The reason why RWD is able to do that is fluid gridding. Fluid grid is a design or layout that is able to withstand shear stress from the screen size or user device, which means that fluid gridding allows designs to adjust to the device or screen size and adapt to the user environment while retaining optimal viewing experience (1stWebDesigner, 2016). It prompts developers to create a single website serving users on a wider range of platforms. RWD layouts are much more complex to create because it requires an in-depth knowledge of the programming languages to make the best use of the options available.
The last major website designing option is called the adaptive web design. Adaptive web designs (abbreviated as AWD) may seem virtually indistinguishable from a responsive web design to a casual user because they offer almost the same experience, but unlike RWD, adaptive web designs are not fluid. Instead, the developers anticipate the nature of the devices that are going to be used to access the website and write the necessary code beforehand for the devices. The code stays inside the server and is not accessed until it is requested by the device operated by the user. After the request is sent to the server, the server responds by displaying the appropriate layout for that particular device. One particular caveat for the AWD is when new devices are introduced and users avail the services of these devices to access the website, the website may not properly load on the new devices because the AWD code was not ready for this new platform (Harris, 2015). Developers need to be cautious while making a decision about the layout of the website because it is the developing block of a functional website.
In order to create a layout that is user-friendly, developers have to come up with multiple models that later progress into the website. This is one of the most important part of the entire process. The process of prototyping is one way in which the developers of a website try to create a mock system and then build upon it the base of the original web page. There are two types of prototyping, evolutionary and throw-away. Evolutionary prototyping is based on gradual feedback and improvement until and unless all the correctable issues are fixed (Teach-ICT, 2018). One of the most common evolutionary prototyping is paper prototyping. Paper prototyping is inexpensive, quick and easily alterable. For example, if a group of amateur developers is starting to plan out a design for a webpage, they should start with paper prototyping. It allows more options in a rather short span of time. If the group does not like a particular element in a design they can simply get rid of it. It is smarter that the designing process is completed and meticulously tested before it goes into coding.
The other prototyping methodology is called throw-away prototyping. The goal of throw-away or rapid prototyping is to quickly develop a feature, evaluate it and then implement it. A big problem with the rapid prototyping is that once the feedback is accepted and put to use, the original suggestion is thrown away (Teach-ICT 2018). However it is favored by some developers because of its speed in the short run, even though it can cause much more trouble in the future. For example if there is a designing predicament later at any stage, there is no way to access the original idea because it was thrown away, which puts the designers in an uncomfortable situation and they are expected to retain a lot of information from previous steps. This also means that front-end developers need to be thoughtful in their designs.
The thinking process behind designing a website is based on the priorities and needs of the users. In the beginning, the front end designer needs to imagine what it feels like to be in the user’s shoes and how the website could be as impactful as possible. There is a tendency to assume a lot of things about the users which lead to logical design flaws. To illustrate, the developers may create an input field that only works when integers are entered but if the user ends up entering decimals the result may differ. Developers need to allocate considerable amount of time for the designing process.
After making the decision regarding the design, the developer’s task has only begun. The impending task is to code the webpage in one of the many resources available, such as cloud9, atom and pycharm etc. The job of the developers is not only to create the website which accomplishes the goals but also to be as efficient as possible in doing so. For example, instead of writing a line of code 30 or so times, there could only be one for loop which goes through the entire table of elements and accomplishes the exact same task, this approach is known as dynamic coding. Dynamic coding is the type of coding which allows flexibility in the system. It takes information in and processes it while retaining the results (Garg, 2018). The data from the outcome can be used elsewhere, which saves the developer from wasting a lot of energy and time in hard-coding.
Designing a website is not merely selecting the best format or coming up with the most efficient code, it extends way beyond that. The options to add details to the front-end are virtually unlimited. There is an endless list of items that a developer can add to the website. For example, in order to present a list of options to select, there are multiple elements that can be used. A notification window which appears on the screen and allows the users to interact with it, usually by blocking view of any other distractions in the background is called a pop-up. The same purpose can be served by a modal dialog. A modal can have multiple buttons and can be populated with much more information without intimidating the user. Along the same line of elements is an alert box, which is a message that requires immediate consideration. It is one of the most obnoxious elements for the users but is tremendously helpful for the front-end developer to get the user to do a task right away. Then there are expandables or commonly known as accordions, which can be hosted inside a table or hidden behind a certain row, serving its task when called upon using an onclick tag in the html.
Given all these choices, it is not hard to imagine the complications involved in making a decision regarding the design of a particular website. It can take weeks to create a design which is foolproof and user-friendly. Not only are the developers expected to ensure that the website is going to work on almost all the hardware devices available to the users but also to make sure that the user interface is aesthetically pleasing. The process is long, challenging and exhausting, and a single bug can cause upheaval in the system. There are numerous things that need to be taken into consideration before the website goes live and that is why it is safe to say that the design process is arguably the most important part of the creating a website.
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