I’ve always loved the internet. I still remember getting a bottle of Gatorade and rushing home to visit their new webpage printed on their bottle. I was so excited, even when I got there and it was basically just a landing page with a pretty photo balancing out the outrageous orange background (that’s what I recall, anyway). I even had an email address at age 6, though no one I knew was even allowed to use the computer at that age…
As the years went on I found online places to build websites, like little pages for digital pets, or even making a portfolio site for myself with free page builders. My Grandmother doted on me and I loved it. She was sure I’d go to school to be some sort of computer wizard.
No, I went to art school.
This is, of course, the absolute best thing I could have done. I’ve always known what good web pages looked like. I may not always know how to make them, but I know what works visually. If I had gone into another degree I could never have had the control over the look and feel of a site that I do now. See there are two very distinct types of web people in the world: web developers, and web designers. Web developers are fantastic people, and I’d be terribly lost without them because they make the internet work. Web designers make sure form eventually follows function.
You all know what makes a web page look stuck in the 90s. Over-the-top gradients, outer glows that scream at you in neon colors, sidebar navigation, frame based page design where you have to dig for the content you’re looking for. With the rapid rise in smart phone usage the need for one-page websites has gone up drastically. People don’t want pages to take forever to load, but they also don’t want to do a lot of clicking. Most people navigate away from a site if they don’t see at least part of an answer to their question in less than 10 seconds. This means that web pages need to function properly, but they absolutely must FEEL proper. If a site doesn’t look like part of your brand, people will feel lost. If your page doesn’t have clear sections that answer the most frequently asked questions like your hours, where you’re located, or what you even do, they feel frustrated. If people can’t comfortably navigate your site, they leave, and may never come back. You’re website is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. It’s your storefront that’s always open, 24/7, whenever someone has a question. Shouldn’t it do more work for you than even your building does?
That’s why I’m not a web developer, and I’m glad I didn’t try to be one. I see the vast need for websites to be made beautiful, simple, and informative, and I have developed a unique mix of skills to make that happen. I know some code, and I prefer working with that code. I find other people who have done the things I visually want to happen, and usually they post their code for the world to download for free. If there is a particularly difficult site, we may pass Photoshop comps to a web developer, but I know the lingo enough to explain what I want the end result to be.
So, I’m not a web developer. However, I can make your website speak to the needs and wants of your consumers. I can make sure navigation is intuitive and clean, and your text is lovely. I can make sure people leave your site feeling accomplished because they found what they were looking for. That’s why I’m a web designer.