The early days of web design were barely design at all. Technical people with no design background threw up directory pages with no sense that this whole “World Wide Web” thing had legs.
Phase two involved an excess of design features. Anything that HTML could do, it should do, including such horrors as blinking text, marquee text, and an animated gif for every feature: New! Updated! Read More! Each blinking or waving or rolling and each in a different color. Plus backgrounds. Every page had a different background. It was genuinely nauseating and potentially seizure-inducing.
Eventually, actual designers were brought on board. People with design and page layout experience in the physical world were able to translate these aesthetic skills to web design, and the Internet began to be beautiful.
Back and forth, then, the web has gone, between the techie and the designer, and it seems the twain would never meet.
In the current era, though, design teams generally contain both developers (techies) and design professionals, working together to accomplish web design goals. Trends in web design are simpler and cleaner, so code is uncrowded, while designers are able to take more of a free rein (within reason).
Modern Content Management Systems (CMSs) allow non-technical users to avail themselves of tools that push code to the backseat and let design be more than beautiful, more than expressive: They let design be truly useful.
You see, beyond the tug-of-war between techies and designers, the user could easily become lost. But usability should be king! A website should be easy to understand and navigate, it should be easy on the eye (designed!), it should load quickly (tech!), and it shouldn’t break (tech!). Needless to say, it should also be highly secure (tech!). Controls should be intuitive (design!) and information should be readily accessible (design!). So, design and tech must work together to create a highly satisfying user experience.
Web design excellence, then, is about a great deal more than design. It’s about design excellence, technical excellence, and above all, it’s about user friendly common sense.