Web design seems two dimensional on the surface, consisting only of layouts of text and images. But when you take into account how users perceive and interact with the finished product, designers can no longer focus on just the visual outcome of their work. Modern designers take their focus to the next level of abstraction, which is the total experience of the person using their creation. Consumers who use the web can tell instantly whether the site they’re on is modern or outdated, and whether their time on that site will be enjoyable or frustrating.
The first designers were engineers, back when personal computers were just hitting the market. Typically they were programmers or mechanical engineers by trade, they built graphics cards to display colors and made basic templates for the front end of their software. The important part of their product was the function, not the look and feel. Design was just a necessary utility. As the software industry grew and desktop PCs became widely available, graphic design became its own profession rather than an afterthought of tech engineers.
Today, graphic design tools are more robust, cheaper and more accessible than ever, allowing almost anyone to make competent graphics. What separates amateur designers from professionals is their knowledge and use of human-computer interaction principles. Designers today have to be students of UI/UX, optimizing how users interact with each function individually while enhancing the experience they have as a whole.
The same principles apply whether the product being designed is intangible like a website or large and physical like a car, whoevers creating it has to find a balance between fashion, function, and accessibility. Cars are not just transportation machines, they’re transportation machines optimized for humans to operate. The steering wheel, pedals, and gear shifters are effective because they were built for human interaction. Websites are not just linked files of text and images, they’re an interactive virtual tool for humans to access information.