Web design is a process of creating the visual side of a web-based presentation, but it isn’t only the look that matters. There are lots of other factors such as search engine optimisation, usability or ensuring the same web site look in each possible browser.
The first website was published by Tim Berners-Lee in August 1990. It was written in a language called HTML (hypertext markup language). It didn’t always look like sites most of you have already seen. This pre-HTML as we may call it only contained the simplest pieces of information, such as what a paragraph of a header is. It might have been comparable to the development of Windows and MS DOS. Since then it has evolved into the form you may see nowadays.
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language, which can be translated as a language, which marks ‘what is what’ in the code. It’s an essential part of every web site, doesn’t matter if it’s a flash presentation or a website only containing one picture. You must always state, what you want to put onto the web and this is the tool to do so.
CSS is a language, which was invented to help web designers easily manage the look of their website. It allows saving all the information, such as how the headers will look like or that quoted text should be written in gray colour or that all the images, appearing on the right side of the web site, should have a black border, into one file. Then this information is applied to the whole web site. So if you want to change the look of all the main headers you’ll simply change it in this single file. Of course the layout of the web site must be written in HTML.
In the beginning not many browsers supported this technology and so it hadn’t been used much. Later on with the Internet Explorer becoming dominant and supporting CSS, it started to be seen or even to spread in such a way that today it’s almost impossible to imagine a professional website without the use of CSS.
Today CSS combined with HTML (XHTML – advanced HTML) is considered to be the official web design standard. Yet, it still faces many difficulties. Every browser has its own way of interpreting the code. The interpretation of most modern browsers (FireFox, Opera, Safari) is based on what we may call W3C standards. W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium) is an organization, which develops guidelines mainly for web design, in order to gain the web full potential (enabling the use of the most up-to-date technologies) and making the web designer’s life easier. The Internet Explorer tried always to act as a Consortium by itself making up its own standards. Today it’s getting a lot better, so websites look the same in divers browsers.
Flash is another of the newer technologies. Originally it was used only as a more advanced method of animation. Later on these animations advanced so much that whole websites were made just by making an interactive animation. Even though these websites may look very attractively, they have quite a few disadvantages compared to the more frequently used HTML+CSS.
First of all, just like with Java, you must have Flash installed on your computer. 2% of Internet users don’t have it, so they can’t access these sites. Also, Flash presentations tend to be large and thus it takes longer to load them, which can be quite painful for people with slower connections. Other disadvantages might be the fact, they are hard to be found via search engines or they are not able to use the history buttons in your browser.
Search engines operate like a person reading a book. When a book contains a clear structure of paragraphs or headers, then it will only help to rank this book better. On the other hand you may imagine a flash website only like a line of text telling you the location of the whole presentation, thus saying nothing at all to the reader himself.
In the end, to clear things up a little bit let’s consider two types of www languages, which take care of two major website areas. The first area is the visual part, also called Web Design. Languages taking part in displaying the website belong to the ones mentioned above.
The second area languages take care of communication with databases or solution of different mathematical equations. These server-based languages are PHP, ASP, Python, etc. Such languages are similar to C, C++ or Java in their function.
You may imagine this as a theater play. Web design languages are the actors on the podium, whereas the server based languages take care of all the stuff behind the scenes, such as preparing costumes etc.
There are of course a lot of other languages available (mostly used for more specialized purposes), but these are the simplest ones. So that should give you an idea about what is hidden behind the site you look at.
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