I’ve often struggled with explaining the difference of design vs. development to clients, friends, family, and generally anyone who isn’t a designer or developer. And that’s understandable as they are not involved in what I am every single day so I don’t expect them to understand.

It’s the same as me not comprehending all the different aspects of construction…and that it’s rare that one single person can do roofing, framing, foundation repair, etc. They’re all connected…but OH SO different. So that said, it got me thinking about the different levels and separation just within the field of “design”.

Design is…

Well…everything actually. Most people think of it as just being the visual side of things be it a website, print flyer, or email marketing. What they don’t realize is the factors that go into a “design”. So I’ll attempt to explain this quickly AND I’ll stick to websites as my example.

I’m not saying this a perfect explanation or guide for you to go thinking you’re a pro now, but it will help you realize that a “designer”, particularly a web designer, is so much more than visual.

Aesthetics

This is the part you’ll see. The “prettiness” or “ugliness” of a website. But even this is more than that simply because every person has their opinion of what is pretty and what is ugly. I can’t stand the sight of a hairless cat…but there are people that find them highly attractive. (Disclaimer-I’m assuming those people that own them do think their attractive). So is design really just the visual side of a site if the designer can never please everyone?

The Usability

Ah…now we’re getting into something. Usability is design!?! But of course. Real web designers think of all aspects of how a user will interact with the design and we have to pretend we know what they will think when they see a button or an image…will they want to click it? Will they know it’s a button to be clicked? Will they totally miss it because of the large amount of content? Oh so many questions. To sum this up though, usability is how a user will “use” the site. Imagine that.

The Tone

Just as advertising will give you a certain “feeeling” (<–Dave Ramsey plug) about a particular ad or product or whatever, the overall design of a site and its elements will give you a feeling…and that will impact your view of the brand and how you use the site. Oh man, now we’re starting to make some “design” connections here.

The User Experience

User Experience is often times called UX for short. So when I refer to UX…this is what I mean. UX is all about how the user will actually use the site and what they will get out of it. Yes it’s closely related to usability, probably could be considered a child or dependent of usability. What will the user get out of the site? Will they have a good time using your site? Or will they get frustrated that they can’t find anything easily and move onto the next listing in Google?

UX is very very difficult to master, I have not done it, but I strive to. I don’t think anyone will ever “master” UX, we can all only hope to get better at it each day.

User Interface

Likely something you’ve heard but maybe don’t really make the connection to “design” here either. It is the actual design elements such as navigation and where it’s laid out. It’s the form fields and how they look. It’s probably the most visual part of this whole process.

It’s often used when talking about programs such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. You can also find UI in all good app design on your iPhone or other smart phone. This ties to aesthetics alot actually, but you can think of this as a dependent of usability and sister to UX.

UI can be in websites too though…in fact, it better be so it can help to improve the UX and usability of the site…it can also tie directly into the tone. Is this all starting to come together a bit?

So Design Is…

All these things put together to solve a problem. Design is just that, solving a problem. For a website, it could be allowing you to sell something online or maybe just display some information for users to be able to find out about you or your company.

Design is all around us…there’s no escaping it. It’s in tables, chairs, houses, cars, electronics, utensils, Earth…you name it, design is there. And it’s a good thing too…we’d have a hard time putting our drink on a table if it had no legs.

Have you ever thought of design as just the visual side of things? Do you have anything to add that might help to clarify design any better? Please join the conversation below!