What’s the Diff for Dummies! (WA2)

“It’s honestly very simple when you think about the roots of the words and their etymology.” Dr. Lund began our interview by giving me a lesson in linguistics. He popped the cap off an expo marker and eagerly crossed over to his white board. In blue scribble handwriting he scrawled the word Design. Across the board, he used a red marker to write Program. He sat back down in his chair with a smile on his face. “Most young people these days I would say inherently know the difference.” He tapped the underside of his arm with two fingers. “It’s in the blood.” Dr. Lund is the head marketing consultant for Help We’re Old Inc. He was hired last month when the company’s CEO realized that their website was getting no viewers. After many meetings, coffee runs for his assistant, and too many memos circulated; the CEO realized the company was not utilizing design or programming.

CEO of Help We’re Old Inc.

When you try to visit helpwereold.com all that happens is nothing. An intern had been tasked with creating the site. The intern tried to use a book from a class he was taking at the local university. Instead of a successful page, all he got was a display of broken HTML. Because interns are underpaid he decided to slip away in failure and silence instead of troubleshooting the problem. The CEO realized the problem weeks later. Instead of going the intern route again, which had failed him, he tasked his assistant with hiring a consultant. Dr. Lund agreed to this interview in hopes that other unknowing citizens might learn something. Because this is a highly complex subject, we have broken it down for you with his help.

What is Design: 

  • This can be defined as the “aesthetic portion of the website and it’s usability.”  A designed for the web would use programs such as Adobe Photoshop or InDesign to make a page look cohesive through visual elements. For example, this could include the color scheme, logos, and recurring visual cues. Because design is subjective to what a client or boss wants it can take lots of time to develop. It is also therefore easy to be original in design. Because there are not prescriptive paths, and it is much more subjective, the pay is typically better than for web programmers.
  • The values of design are efficiency and effectiveness. These can be reflected in where there emphasis is placed on content. Those areas would be the following: Balance, Contrast, Consistency, and Unity.

What is Program:

  • Programming is developing a website. This is all the technical code and such that is running behind every website page. Programming is dictated by codes (like HTML) and functionality. Whereas a designer is about how something looks, the programmer is concerned about how something works. This is their fundamental difference.
  • The values in this community also differ from design. These values are content and usability. A programmer has failed if something is appealing to the eye but not usable.

Example of design and program working together.

Why you should care:   Basically, by themselves both design and programming are useless. Program gives design a purpose. Design gives program an appeal. Together they can create extremely effective websites that keep drawing people in. Dr. Lund has already had tremendous success overhauling Help We’re Old Inc.‘s website.  When asked what his advice to students wanting to go into either programming or design this is what he said.

“People just need to remember to keep their backbone strong and ask questions. No one needed to read this article to learn about design or programming. Google it. Ask you boss. Go get a book. People like people who want to learn, stay hungry my friends.”

Odd, but comforting words from a marketing guru. There you have it folks, Google it. Tune in next week when What’s the Diff for Dummies answers the question: What is Photoshop for?


Sara Katherine Johnson is a free-lance journalist who frequently writes for What’s the Diff for Dummies. She received her undergraduate degree from Baylor University in journalism and professional writing with a minor in sarcastic sass. She can be reached for comment on this piece at Sara_Johnson@baylor.edu


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