What I Actually Do

Posted: Thu 17th May 2012 by Dexter with 3 Comments
What I Actually Do

When it comes to websites, most people are familiar with the term web design and I’ve often been contacted by people who were looking for a web designer. I guess I can fulfill that role but my focus is more towards web development. What’s the difference?

Definitions are not firmly cast in stone, but web design really refers to the visual aspects of a website. Client side code is sometimes considered part of the process but design really is about what people actually see and interact with… the logo, page background, navigation, the typography, buttons and layout… the user interface in other words. A web designer would tend to spend their time in software like Adobe Photoshop, maybe Fireworks and some Illustrator.

I tend to spend more time in Dreamweaver writing code. I take what the designer has done in Photoshop and I make it into the website cutting the design up into parts and writing the markup that positions everything where it needs to be on the site. When someone fills out a form on a website and hits the submit button, I take care of what happens next… whether the data gets stored in a database, converted into a PDF or Excel sheet, gets sent to an email address or the data is manipulated in some way before or during these processes. I write the HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, SQL etc that is required to make all these things happen. Below is a sample of some of what that code looks like. The sample actually does nothing in particular. It just gives an idea of what some basic┬ácode looks like.

The “Mix A Drink” feature on the White Oak website is an example of some fun custom code I wrote which uses a lot of Javascript to control what you see when ingredients are selected and de-selected and then AJAX with PHP is used to look into the database and find the drinks that match the ingredients you selected.

Development requires focus, especially when working on something complex. When you get distracted you can end up making silly errors that cost you a lot of time trying to fix. Sometimes I prefer working at night as it is quiet and there are no phones ringing or emails that require prompt answers so it’s easier to focus and get things done quickly. I also find it very necessary when working on something complex to map out all the processes that need to take place before starting to write any code. That helps a lot and this is why it’s important to know what functionality is really required by the user early on too.

Web development is definitely more logic based. You have to be able to think in a sequential way and consider the ‘possibilities’. I usually get Justin and as many people as possible to test what I’ve done as the way a user interacts with something is sometimes unpredictable. They click on something you don’t expect and expose an error or something you forgot to consider. That’s where ‘considering the possibilities’ comes in.

Design is more creative but both worlds intertwine and depend on each other. It is the design that makes the difference between an attractive, friendly, usable site and one that people just don’t want to use but all the ‘workings’ are in the development.

3 Responses

  1. Excellent Article!

    Many folks fail to appreciate the amount of work that goes on behind the pretty user interface to make a web application function. From considering data access and storage needs, to applying business logic(real world rules that apply to the application) and to engaging in usability design and testing.

    I must say that this article has inspired me to blow the dust off of my blog and produce a similarly themed article :).


  2. dexter says:

    Thanks for reading Marlon and thanks for the feedback. Glad you appreciated the article! Hope non developers take a read as well.

  3. R. Lee Sing says:

    And here I thought all you did was make websites pretty:)

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