What is Web Design? A Complete Guide

Technology and the internet have become an essential part of our connected lives. Nowadays, most people interact with dozens of websites every day.

But, how often do you really take the time to think about what’s happening behind the scenes?

If you’ve been wondering how websites come to life, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a closer look at the exciting field of web design.

What is Web Design?

Website design is the practice of envisioning a beautiful, functional website and making it a reality. But, you may be wondering, what is the difference between web design and web development, or a web developer and web designer? In short, web design focuses on the front end, customer-facing side of a webpage while web development focuses on the back end functionality.

With that in mind, what do web designers do? 

A web designer ensures a website or app is aesthetically pleasing and intuitive to use. They may also be responsible for updates, maintenance, and more. From social media sites to food delivery platforms, every website has a web designer. It’s an in-demand career with nearly endless opportunities. Regardless of whether your dream is to be an in-house designer or if you’re trying to figure out how to freelance web design, a job in web design can earn you upwards of $77,000 per year.1

Web Design Subcategories

Some websites are built from the ground up by a single person. More often, a small team will conceptualize and create a site together.

These groups might consist of several web designers, each with specializations in different aspects of website design (though there can be significant overlap). Here are some of the subcategories of the field that might interest you.

User Interface

User interface design (typically shortened to UI) refers to the interaction between the user and the website. A web designer specializing in UI is in charge of making the website intuitive and easy to use. This is completed through icons, menus, and more. UI needs can change if the site is built for a computer, a touchscreen, or both.

Depending on the website’s goal, UI optimization may be looking to generate sales, direct customers to a specific page, or simply create a stress-free online journey.

User Experience

The domain of user experience (shortened to UX) is a more holistic approach to web design. UX is about the overall experience of the user, from start to finish.

A UX designer may ask questions such as, “how does this page make the user feel?” Using research and data, they will then tweak the page to create the desired effect. Usually, companies want customers who use their websites to feel happy or satisfied; a UX designer makes this a reality.

Most importantly, UX is not about visual aspects. It’s about narrowing the gap between humans and the websites they use through intelligent design.

Visual Design

Some web designers focus strictly on the appearance of a site. While the visual elements of a website can influence UI and UX design, visual design is usually a separate discipline.

The parts of a website that make up this area of web design include:

  • Typography (the choice of fonts)
  • Color usage
  • Video
  • Photography

As a rule of thumb, if you were immediately drawn to a feature on a website landing page, it probably falls under this creative subcategory.

Required Skill Sets

Depending on which facet of web design piques your interest, you’ll want to start building the related competencies. The following skill sets come highly recommended for any aspiring web designer.

Graphic Design

Creating stunning online visual elements takes years to master, so start as soon as you can! A successful web designer will have an understanding of varying design elements and editing software, such as:

  • Photoshop
  • InDesign
  • Illustrator

Having an eye for photography, videography, and aesthetic design is another plus, so be sure to flex those creative muscles and study up on color theory and branding.


Web designers use computer programming languages to build the back-end of websites, so knowing coding languages like HTML and CSS is a significant advantage. The sooner you start to pick up on basic coding, the better.

Understanding Web Accessibility

Part of web design is ensuring that web pages are accessible to all. Web accessibility is the practice that encourages equal access to information online.

For example, underlining or otherwise differentiating clickable links from regular text allows colorblind users to distinguish them. There are hundreds of examples of accessibility features online, and it is the web designer’s duty to understand them.

Awareness of Usability

The usability of a website is one of the first things users notice, so understanding how it works is crucial. Of course, there are books and courses to guide you in the right direction, but doing your own research is a terrific first step.

Start thinking about what frustrates you when you use a website, and what inspires you. Write down the pros and cons of your experience. Noticing the way you react to the placement of menus and buttons is an excellent step towards creating your own intuitive designs.

How to Start Web Designing

Whether you’re exploring career options or looking for a new hobby, web design is an exciting choice that’s open to everyone. And the first step to becoming a web designer is familiarizing yourself with functional design and coding.

What better way to do that than with the help of some of your favorite Disney characters?

With comprehensive sections on Web Design and Media Arts, Disney Codeillusion explores real-world skills in a fun and interactive format. Discover the magic of coding with our free trial.


  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Web Developers and Digital Designers. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm