The Most Important Element of Website Design and Development

Robbins Custom Upholstered Furniture. Designed and Developed by Stacy Schilling.

Where is it going?

That's the most important magic question you should be asking before you start designing a website.

The "going" part refers to where it will be hosted so your online audience can see and interact with your website.

Which hosting platform will you choose:

  • BlueHost

  • Hostgator

  • GoDaddy

  • In Motion Hosting

  • Galaxy Gate

  • Squarespace

  • Wix

  • Weebly

  • WordPress

That's just only a small partial list of the number of website hosting companies available.

Most people get so caught up in designing the website ("making it pretty") that they don't even consider where it will be hosted, and that's not something teachers are even telling their students!

There a number of instructors teaching students how to design a website with Photoshop, Illustrator, XD or even in Canva (which by the way isn't a website design program, but an online template platform to create graphics for personal use), but they're so focused on the front-end of the project that they completely ignore the back-end.

Why aren't instructors teaching anything about website hosting?

The number one reason is that they don't know much about website design at all. Many instructors that are teaching website design are graphics designers (think logos, postcards, ads and marketing materials – items that you would see in a printed format you can hold in your hand) that are trying to make the switch to website design without any knowledge or formal training. Other instructors are professionals that don’t know how to break down the topic into something easy students can understand and relate to so that lightbulb goes off.

Many graphic designers that become instructors do not always know that standards for designing websites are different from print, and some may even have very little to zero background in coding. An instructor should at least know the two basic coding languages when teaching website design: HTML and CSS so that they can explain how it works to their students.

Instead, they might get caught up in the design (“making it pretty”), which there’s nothing wrong with that because who wants to visit an ugly, cluttered website? However, the design is only half the website, you need the coding languages to make it run and function properly on the Web.

Professionals might have the knowledge, expertise and experience in website design and more importantly development (“the ugly side” also known as coding), but many lack in understanding how to break it all down into an easy-to-understand language students will grasp. They tend to talk to students as if they are professionals that already know website design and development, but they don’t, which is why they are lost on how to complete their website on time and correctly.

Students need to be taught material that will reach their heart in order for it to make sense for them. So using examples, illustrations and stories are a great way to help students understand material that may at first seem super complicated to them now becomes easier to absorb.

The material needs to be relatable, and many instructors struggle with this.

Why is it so important to know where the website is going?

You have to know where the website is going in order to know how to design and build it because not every hosting site works the same way.

For example, in the movie, Ford vd. Ferrari, starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the movie depicts that Ferrari builds cars by hand while Ford Motor Company uses machines along with manual labor to build theirs. Both companies build cars with different price points and models for different target audiences, and they also have two different ways for getting the job done. Neither company is wrong or right when it comes to building cars, it’s just what works best for them to create their finished product.

The same concept applies to website hosting: no two hosting companies offer the same options and pricing. In addition, the options from one website hosting company might be better suited for your needs as opposed to another.

For example, if you’re building a small basic website with only five pages (homepage, about us, contact us, services, testimonials, or something else) with no need for selling any products and you have no immediate plans to update it for at least a year or longer, then purchasing the basic hosting plan might be best for your needs. However, if you plan to sell a product on your website at a later time, it might be best to find a hosting plan that will allow you to add e-Commerce capabilities when your budget allows you to and when it’s time to add that option.

Another reason we need to know where the website is going depends on who’s designing and building it.

If you’re a creative person and have a good handle on making stuff look pretty, but don’t understand basic coding at all, then choosing a company that offers template websites might be a good option for you.

Template websites are like cookie cutters. Everyone can use them and modify them ever so slightly by changing colors and replacing text and images with their own, but you’re really limited in what you can actually do with the design, especially reworking the entire layout. Companies that offer template designs that can be pretty simple to use are: Google Sites, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix and WordPress. Although you don’t have to know basic HTML and CSS because their features are mostly drag and drop options. However, if you want to copy and paste code you found online from another website, you need to be able to read and understand what the code says and how to place it in correctly, or you'll break your website. These sites also allow limitations on how you can customize the site to fit your creative needs. Plus, more than one person will be using that same design.

Now, if you want total control over how the website should look and function, you’ll want to create a custom design that no one else will be able to use. Also, depending on what features you want to include on the site, you’ll have to shop for the right hosting company because some are more compatible with PC than with Mac. In addition, different hosting companies offer different solutions depending on your website needs. For example, BlueHost has automatic WordPress activation and a 30-day money back guarantee, but Hoststinger has free templates and a builder. Dreamhost will allow you to upgrade at any time, but HostPapa is good for really small websites. If you really want to know more details about which website hosting option is best for your needs, you can read about the Top 10 Web Hosting Companies and see the similarities and differences for yourself.

Last, you need to know where the website is going so you know how to design it and then take it apart so it can be rebuilt into a functioning site online.

We’ll get more into creating the actual website design process in another post, but in short, once you’ve created your digital website concepts and they’ve been approved, you have to know what items need to remain graphics and which ones can be dropped straight into the layout. The website hosting company you choose will allow you only so much available space depending on which plan you purchased. So, if the website hosting plan only allows you to have 100 GB of storage, but the number of pages and images are over 275 GB, you’ll either need to decide what gets cut. Or, upgrade to a larger and more expensive storage plan. Either way, fail to plan, plan to fail.


If you need tutoring help with art, design, English or homework assistance in your design courses, please contact Stacy for online remote lessons.

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