Web design these days is quite the popular subject. Not only is it important for professionals, as the field becomes more and more viable an option for people to enter as a profession and more and more relevant for personal reasons. And as more people become familiar with the field of web design, the tenets of good web design become more relevant. While it’s possible to get by producing sub-par designs, it’ll bite you in the butt if you’re designing a personal site – and you certainly won’t last long in the professional world if sub-par is how you work. Here, we’ll go over some of the most important things to keep in mind if you want to produce good work and become a truly skilled web designer.

Stick to Standards

If you’re on the coding side of web design, it’s important that you code to standards. The W3C is responsible for setting the standards of web design – that is, they determine what is good XHTML, what is good CSS, and what is just plain bad practice.

For professionals, these standards are important because they help websites remain backwards compatible and easy to update. For personal projects, adhering to standards ensures your websites will be viewable in all browsers by the widest variety of people. Standards are important for all of these reasons, and also because programmers build web browsers to interpret standard code, not the XHTML you made up one weekend and happened to work. So if you want your sites to look clean and sharp in every browser for as long as it’s on the web, stick to standards. Trust us.

Form and Frills

An old, important tenet of good web design is to separate form and frills. This means that the structure of the web page – that is, the placement of the menu, columns, headers, etc. – and the way they look – that is, the color of the fonts, rollover effects, and the like – should be handled separately.

To accomplish this, you mark up form in XHTML, and frills, or appearance, in CSS. HTML, in other words, is the skeleton, while CSS is the muscle and skin – or alternatively, HTML is the body, but CSS is what that body looks like.

This is important because you could, in theory, build a website that’s decorated with HTML. That’s not good practice, though, because it makes the site more variably interpreted (different browsers will do things differently), maintenance very difficult (if you want to change the site’s color scheme, you have to do so for every single page), and explaining and understanding the pages very difficult (again, partners have to investigate every single page to truly understand what’s going on with your markup and code). All of this makes for a website that’s just a collection of stylistically independent web pages rather than a thematically integrated web site, which is not the best way to go about doing things.