Web Engineering: Absolving the ‘Gap’ Between Development and Design

Web Engineering: Absolving the ‘Gap’ Between Development and Design

All too often people speak of web developers and web designers as if they were in two completely different camps — the designer as the architect and the developer as the construction worker. But building websites is more integrated than this model suggests. The “great divide” that exists between development and design is a mirage that’s been created by the different software and languages relative to those disciplines. Here are three reasons why web development and design are, in fact, different flavors of the same profession.

Both are primarily concerned with the user experience.

UX is paramount. Developers and designers halfway across the world from each other can agree on this. The major motivation in choosing one website design over another in the mockup phase, or in choosing one animation scheme over another during the development phase, or in deciding to relocate page elements post-development ultimately comes down to optimizing the UX/UI. Creating excellent functionality relies both on how presentable the site looks and how quickly the site renders content. Even back-end developers have the ultimate goal of handling data as quickly (and securely) as possible, all in efforts to enhance the UX. In effect, UX governs each step both designers and developers take.

A change in one directly affects the other.

Both design and development are intricately coupled and cannot be thought of as independent of one another. Aside from minor touches to some HTML attributes, any change in the HTML structure or edits to the CSS stylesheet will affect how a webpage is presented to the user. One can’t reorder, recolor, or reposition elements without in some way changing the user interface. Even a “simple” decision such as changing the styling of a button’s text might have an effect on the percentage of users that follow through and click on that button and generate a lead. Also, designers must be aware of how they arrange content with respect to the ease of coding it. More heavily embellished mockups tend to require elaborate coding structures and classes.

The end-goal is the same.

Web designers and developers are one-in-the-same; they just approach their work from slightly different angles. If we were to think of a website like a car, we could imagine that the designer is the engineer behind a CAD program, and the developer is the engineer cutting and connecting the physical elements and then testing the final product. Both are engineers. Both have to consider the end goal while working: optimizing function and the driver/passenger experience.

Since the end goal of optimization for web purposes is not all that different than of that for cars, then perhaps the time has come for web development and design to merge under the same moniker; as we astutely learned from the car analogy, maybe they should collectively be called Web Engineers. What are your thoughts about web engineering?

By: Kendall Fears