Web design is the design or designing of a Web page, Website or
Web application. The term generally refers to the graphical side
of Web development using images, CSS and XHTML.
A Brief History Of Web Design
When the Internet was first invented, Web design consisted of a basic
markup language that included some formatting options, and the unique
ability to link pages together using hyperlinks. It was this feature
that characterized the Web among other communication methods, and
characterized Web design among other design methods. Because of this
unique behaviour of the World Wide Web, and the unique behaviour it
encouraged in users, Web design would prove to be unlike any other
form of design before or since, with the possible exception of interactive
As the Web and Web design progressed, the markup language used to
make it, known as HTML(Hyper Text Markup Language), became more complex
and flexible. Things like tables, which could be used to display tabular
information, were soon subverted for use as invisible layout devices.
With the advent of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), table based layout
is increasingly regarded as outdated. Database integration technologies
such as server-side scripting (see PHP, ASP.NET, ASP, JSP, and ColdFusion)
and design standards like CSS further changed and enhanced the way
the Web was made.
The introduction of Macromedia Flash into an already interactivity-ready
scene has further changed the face of the Web, giving new power to
designers and media creators, and offering new interactivity features
As in all professions, there are arguments on different ways of doing things. These are a few of the ongoing ones.
Liquid Versus Fixed Layouts
Most Web designers initially come from a graphic artist background
in print, where the artist has absolute control over the size and
dimensions of all aspects of the design. On the web however, the Web
designer has no control over several factors, especially the width
of the browser window.
Many designers compensate for this by wrapping their entire webpage
in a fixed width box,essentially limiting it to an exact pixel-perfect
value, which is a fixed layout. Some create the illusion of liquidity
by building the graphics for their webpage at a size larger than any
current standard monitor size (however, at the current rate of monitor
supersizing, this method will soon become obsolete). Other designers
say that this is bad because it ignores the
preferences of the user, who might have their browser sized a specific
way that they like best. These people propose a liquid layout, where
the size of the Web page adjusts itself based on the size of the browser
It should be noted that there is a usability reason (rather than wanting
control) for why a designer may choose a more fixed layout. Studies
have shown that there is usually an optimal line width in terms of
readability. One rule to appear from such studies is that lines should
be between 40-60 characters long, or approximately 11 words per line.
The Liquid Design Technique
The liquid design technique (Liquid Web Design (http://www.digital-web.com/articles/liquid_web_design/))
was first defined by web designer Glenn Davis and later popularized
by web designer Nick Finck.
"Webpage building is a lot like bar tending. Build it right and
it will work no matter the container." "Liquid is the epitome
of good web design and the fluid that should be used to hold web pages
together. A liquid page will resize to fit whatever size browser window
(within reason) that the user has available."
Glenn Davis, 15 Minute Interview (http://www.zeldman.com/15/davisf.html)
Most designers make this decision of which style of layout to use
on a case by case basis, depending on the needs and audience of
CSS(Cascading Stylesheet) versusTables
Back when Netscape Navigator 4 dominated the browser market, the popular
(but now deprecated) solution available for designers to lay out a
Web page was by using tables. Often even simple designs for a page
would require dozens of tables nested in each other. Many web templates
in Dreamweaver still use this technique today. Navigator 4 didn't
support CSS to a useful degree, so it simply wasn't used.
After the browser wars were over, and Internet Explorer dominated
the market, designers started turning towards CSS as an alternate,
better means of laying out their pages. CSS proponents say that tables
should only be used for tabular data, not for layout. Using CSS instead
of tables also returns HTML to a semantic markup, which helps bots
and search engines understand what's going on in a web page. Today,
all modern Web browsers now support CSS with different degrees of
However, one of the main points against CSS is that by relying on
it exclusively, control is essentially relinquished as each browser
has its own quirks which result in a slightly different page display.
This is especially a problem as not every browser supports the same
subset of CSS codes. For some designers used to the creating table-based
layouts, developing Web sites in CSS often becomes a matter of replicating
what can be done with tables, leading some to find CSS design rather
cumbersome. For example, it has proved rather difficult to produce
certain design elements, such as vertical positioning, and full-length
footers in a design using absolute positions.
These days most modern browsers have solved most of these quirks in
CSS rendering and this has made many different CSS layouts possible.
However, people still continue to use old browsers which do not get
updated any more. Most notable among these are Internet Explorer 5
and 5.5 which, according to some web designers, are becoming the new
Netscape Navigator 4 — a block that holds the internet back from converting
to CSS design.
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