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This is a guide to web design and development which, together, may involve the full range of tasks involved in putting together a website except, perhaps, for the content.

Web design generally refers to the design process as it relates to the front end of a website, including markup, and it generally overlaps web engineering and development.

Web development may include web design but, strictly speaking, the development of a website usually refers to writing markup and coding and may include content management systems, client and server-side scripting, web server and network security, and e-commerce development.

Comparisons might be made between the building of webpages and home construction. Sometimes a building is designed by an architect and built by a home builder. In the case of simpler projects or larger companies, there are times when the construction company completes the entire project, from design to build.

When an architect is hired to design a house, the standard components that he considers include the room types, such as bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens, as well as the things that are necessary to connect them, which may include stairways, doors, and hallways, and things to put into these rooms, like windows, closets, sinks, and lights.

Compare this to the building blocks that are available for use in the construction of a website, which may include headers, above-the-fold branding, primary and secondary navigation, various types of menus, footers, and so on.

In the same way that an architect needs to know the type of building he is being asked to design, and the construction company needs to know what sort of a structure they will be building, web designers and developers need to know what type of a website they are being asked to design and build. For example, there are simple brochure-type sites, blogs, community sites, e-commerce sites, educational sites, entertainment sites, news sites, web applications, and hybrid sites that may require various functionalities.

We often speak of our use of the web as if we are visiting the websites that we bring up. In reality, they are coming to us. When an Internet user types the URL of a website into the address bar of his web browser, his computer transmits a signal to the website's server, and the server responds by sending bits of data back to the user's computer. This data includes images, raw content, and the instructions necessary for the user's computer to reassemble the data, which is known as HTML or another markup language. The user's computer takes the data and reassembles the files based on the markup and styles that were created by the designer and developer.

Most web browsers today support standard protocols, so websites will display similarly on one browser as on another, but there may be some differences, particularly when a website uses newer styling attributes that may not yet be supported by all browsers. The color depth and monitor resolution may also make some differences, as might the operating system on the user's computer. Only a few years ago, these differences were stark, but this is no longer the case.

When a business, organization, or individual wants a website, there are a number of ways for this to come about.

Those who are familiar with HTML or other markup languages may choose to design and develop the site entirely in code. Once the common way of creating a website, this is seldom used today, given the complexity of the task and the alternatives that are available. For those who wish to do this, however, there are code editors that will simplify the project, to varying degrees.

There are web applications, often included in web hosting plans, that allow someone to assemble a website online, largely by dragging and dropping preconfigured components. More complex sites may be created using free or premium software with content management system (CMS) capabilities, which allow images and text to be added to a predesigned site without technical expertise in coding.

More and more, platforms that were developed for blogging are being used to create all sorts of websites. WordPress, for example, isn't just for blogging anymore.

There are also WYSIWYG HTML or web editors that may be purchased or, in some cases, downloaded for free, that can greatly simplify the task of putting together even complex websites. While there is a learning curve, these editors make the job a lot easier than creating it from scratch.

Finally, the choice most often used by businesses and organizations is to hire a professional web design and development firm to complete all or part of the task. Many of these can be found in the pages below.

See Also: Web Editors

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