Although the technology to develop a website existed in the 1980’s, it wasn’t until 1991 that CERN published the first site on the world wide web.
Like your browser cache, the rest is history!
Development Vs Design?
The terms web development and web design are used interchangeably.
However, in my mind I make a distinction by considering development as the back end (stuff you don’t necessarily see) and design as the front end (the graphic/visual interface).
For example, WordPress plugins contain instructions for web functionality, and I’d be more likely to classify these as back end even though they often have a direct effect on what you see on the front end of the website.
On the other hand, something like Photoshop plays directly into web design and the graphical elements shown to a website visitor.
Web development – how it works.
Web design – how it looks.
If you will entertain my analogy, like websites, fitted kitchens also involve design and development.
Kitchen development – how it works (plumbing, piping, electrics, wiring).
Kitchen design – how it looks (Veneer, wood paneling, worktops, colours, tiling)
Some developers and designers may have different opinions on what is or is not development/design. As the web evolves that discussion will become more important.
It Looks Great… But Does it Work?
Usability, navigation and experience are “designed” in the sense that they are planned for, but there comes a point where development plays its part in getting these things functional.
For example, a website email contact form can look great on the front end, but without the proper software engineering, emails will not be sent. You will only have a dummy form.
Coding By Hand
I remember the very early website builders on the web in the mid to late 1990’s. These became popular for amateur web designers wanting to focus more on content without having to get involved in the heavy lifting associated with HTML and CSS.
I do remember creating some basic websites in the early 2000’s with Windows notepad and limited CSS styles, but that’s not something I’d want to run my small business on as a marketing platform.
Old school HTML notepad and Notepad++ developers are still kicking around but my view is that they’re increasingly disenfranchised. Considering the newer tools and methods available to aspiring website creators, the market is certainly competitive.
Of course, we DO need developers who can code. A good PHP developer can charge a premium.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, some coding developers seem to be suffering from inverted snobbery. Some of the time it is because they cannot compete with the market forces and the web services that are making them redundant. Sometimes it is because they KNOW they can do a better job.
The barrier of entry to coding is less intimidating mainly because of the deluge of free learning resources available. It’s interesting to note that coding/programming is being pushed as a curriculum agenda in UK schools.
A few weeks ago I spoke to a kid of nine years old and he explained his school teaches the Python programming language. The fact that programming is being taught as a subject today is fascinating.
Time is Money
By the way, I do think being capable of producing an entire website by hand using code learned from memory is an incredible skill and something I admire tremendously.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with coding by hand and I do a fair bit of it when called for. I just don’t want to do it exclusively because it is so consuming.
I take the view that in order to be competitive in business one’s time might be best invested in newer technologies that offer shortcuts without compromising quality.
Content Management Systems
In today’s CMS world, platforms like WordPress offer design and development templates that work out of the box with relatively minimal knowledge. This helps the average webmaster get on with the task of marketing without being bogged down in various web programming languages.
The point is, development is becoming more open, more accessible.
Many CMS frameworks provide premade websites that have been designed and developed for you in advance. These are called themes because they come in assorted styles, designs and functionality.
Much of my development for WordPress websites is taken care of using the Genesis Framework by StudioPress. This product sells for an extremely reasonable one time price under the well respected CopyBlogger brand.
Genesis is actually a WordPress plugin that transforms the back end by retrofitting a custom dashboard into the native WordPress dashboard. It has helped me tremendously and has fast tracked my web development skills because it has helped me to sort of work backwards, and I don’t mean “backwards” as in “wrong”.
The Modern Developer is Like a Gardener
There is an increasingly accepted view that web development (and design too) is beginning to resemble gardening rather than architecture.
That kind of thinking fits the conventional wisdom that a website should be regarded as virtual real estate – only we’re now thinking of a magnificent green landscape where things grow – and instead of a linear designer process we might have a different approach where we begin our project furthur along in the timeline and work laterally.
Choosing a framework and a theme and then wrestling it into something that resembles your vision is certainly a lot like gardening, even sculpture. Yes, think of the artistic horticultural discipline known as topiary where you’re subtracting the parts you don’t need in order to achieve something new.
Many first time WordPress users tend to pick theme for a framework that is as near as damn it and make a few changes and call it finished.
This might outrage those who follow the best practices of graphic design and marketing because there’s a danger that the internet is being flooded with a lot of shit by ten-a-penny websites. But then we’re in danger once again of being a bit snobbish aren’t we?