Web Designer as Developer, Writer and Content Editor - CINQ Creative

Web Designer as Developer, Writer and Content Editor


September 14, 2011

Looking back on over a decade of Web design work, I realized something…I am not only a Web Designer, but also a Content Editor, Writer and Web Developer. And, it has made me a better Web Designer in the process. Here’s why…


Web Designer as Developer

HTML codeNow, I know the term “developer” is considered by many a designer to be a four-letter word. However, is it possible to truly be a successful Web Designer without having at least basic knowledge of some programming languages, such as Javascript, PHP, etc…?

Now, I preface this by making the divide between “programming language” and “markup.” As most Web Designers will attest, HTML, XHTML and CSS are “markup” languages. They are purely for structure and front-end development. A “programming language” is one that is designed to either dynamically display or edit content on a website. Therefore, a Web Designer must really only know markup at minimum in order to process the basics of their work. However, as I said above, at least a basic knowledge of some programming languages is essential in today’s web design world.

Content Management Systems

The best example of Web Designer as Developer is in the use of a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, Drupal, etc…

These systems have brought many functions of Web development to the average Web Designer, making it much easier to add dynamic content to basic websites easily. Also, WordPress templates can be downloaded and installed with ease. Lastly, they have made it much easier for a Web Designer to “hand off” administration of the website to the client…which we’ll talk more about shortly. So, a complete website CAN be designed/developed using a CMS such as WordPress without touching code or knowing PHP (the language that WordPress is built on). However, I have yet to run into any website where at least some minor tweaks to PHP code did not have to be made.

So, as a Web Designer, do you know the basics of PHP? Have you been able to design a complete website in WordPress without using PHP?

 <?php echo "Didn't think so."; ?>

Javascript/jQuery Libraries

jQueryIf you design websites, you have no doubt been asked to add rotating slideshows and other dynamic content at some point in time. And, the easiest way to add this type of functionality to a site with minimal effort (and code) is by using a Javascript library such as jQuery. Now, as we mentioned above, it is possible to add these to a WordPress or Drupal driven site with very little thought of code using a downloaded plugin or module. However, rarely do these plugins/modules come “out of the box” the way you need them or allow for editable settings that fit your needs as well. So, you are going to need to familiarize yourself with the basic syntax of jQuery in order to fully customize your slideshow, photo gallery, etc… to meet the front end needs of your website.

$(document).ready(function () {
$("must:know('jQuery')").css("display", "correctly");
});

Web Designer as Writer

Squiggly linesAs a creative, there are some things I am deathly afraid of professionally….numbers and writing. However, I have learned over the years that semi-professional writing/grammar skills are a necessity in web design.

Do you take content directly from a client, copy and paste into a webpage, save and forget about it? Doubtful. As we discussed above, many CMS editors have built-in spell and grammar check functionality. So, it’s hard to avoid those little “red/green squiggly lines” underneath mis-spelled words and fragmented lines. And, with enough practice, any Web Designer begins to catch and edit these content errors without aide of the “red squiggly lines.”

Taking Client Content in Your Own Hands

One of the biggest headaches in website design is getting good content from the client. As it is difficult for you as a business person to promote yourself, it is also equally as difficult for your client to easily promote themselves in their website content. They either send way too much or way too little content. So, many times, it is up to you as the Web Designer to “fill in the gaps.” Therefore, at least some basic writing skills are essential in helping your client better articulate their vision.


Web Designer as Content Editor

Dates, Times, Etc…

Do you keep a consistent format/style on your pertinent site information?

  • Dates, Times?
  • Phone Numbers?
  • Addresses?

Are these bits of information consistent across the entire site? Do you follow a certain formatting style such as AP Style, APA Style?

Now, I know the thought of writing styles and rules may lull you to sleep. However, correct, consistent formatting of information is essential in helping your client look professional.

Also, Web Designers need to know basic usage rules of characters such as:

…and don’t forget about correct usage of HTML characters in your content.


Conclusion

To conclude, there’s much more to becoming a Web Designer than making great comps in Photoshop and marking up a website in Dreamweaver, Coda, etc…

Programming and written content are both equally important to the success of a website. If done correctly, they can enhance a great design as well as ruin it if overlooked.

Therefore, a little time spent learning the basics of programming languages and writing/content styles will go a long way in developing a professional web presence for your client.