Website Design: an Art or a Science? (It all depends on your Customers…)

18th June 2014


One of the great questions that those in the web design industry love to ask is whether website design is an art or a science. The answer that you hear will normally depend upon the particular skills and responsibilities of the individual in question.

Creating a website is very much a multidisciplinary process. The project can include designers, developers, creative writers, proofreaders, project managers, SEOs and end-users. This involves a wide range of skills, drawing from very different backgrounds and disciplines. It is therefore unsurprising that you get very different answers to questions about whether website design is an art or a science.

If you asked a designer whether website design is an art or a science then they would almost certainly pick the former. They would identify use of colour, typography and imagery as determining factors of the quality of the website. Whilst some would prefer bold, striking designs and others tend towards more minimalist expressions, they would generally identify the quality of the artistic expression as the essential factor.

Ask a developer, however, and you would get a very different answer. They would want to talk about site infrastructure and performance, showing that quality (and even beauty) are found in the code that underpins a website. Whilst it would be unfair to suggest that developers are uninterested in design (the opposite is often true) there is often a compelling argument that website speed, responsive functionality and performance are strong indicators of a website’s health.

Art or Science? It all depends on your Customers…

It can be great fun discussing whether website design is an art or a science, particularly if you have more artistic and scientific personalities in the room! It would seem that this kind of question is present in many industries, and most people would agree that a range of skills and preferences are necessary in a successful team.

However, it’s important to remember that a website is not an end in-and-of-itself. It is a tool to help you communicate with your audience. This means that the DNA of your website should be shaped as much by your reader’s expectations as your preferences. If you like your website but your customers don’t then you’ve got a problem.

Whilst a successful website needs to have both artistic and scientific qualities and attraction, there is a strong argument that the requirements and preferences of your customers should be the driving factor.

If your audience consists primarily of artistic types, it’s particularly important for you to think about design, visual communication and form. This should permeate your website design and impact every area of your web presence, including social media and other forms of communication and marketing.

Similarly, if your client-base are primarily science, engineering and maths-orientated then you should be aware of what they will be looking for in a website and take steps to ensure that their expectations are met. An arty, innovative website might be just what you’re looking for but completely disorientate your client-base.

Is website design an art or a science? These discussions usually result in a recognition that it is both. We’d completely agree with this but argue that the requirements of the end user should have the biggest impact on the style of a particular website.