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Web design is a branch of graphic design applied to the Internet. This activity has to do with Web planning and development. The Web designer is in charge of the aesthetic and functional aspects of a Web page, i.e. the design in itself, whereas the programmer is in charge of making that design into an operating website (see the corresponding section below).

For a design to be regarded as good, there must be a balance between aesthetics and functionality: a nice website that does not work properly is as useless as an efficient one that is really ugly. So Web design has to combine an attractive, catchy, pleasant appearance with a good surfing quality, information that is clearly and hierarchically ordered and accurate presentation of the company being represented. Hence a design fulfilling these requisites is good, and one which does not fulfill them is bad.

But, which are the distinctive characteristics of Web design, and what is it that makes it different from any other kind of design? We will focus on the three basic characteristics, which are also the most important:

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1. Virtual office:

as time went by, and with the coming of industrialization and globalization, companies lost the place they used to have in a community. Before these socioeconomic processes took place, firms were an active, everyday part of the communities inhabiting their operating zones, and the people in those communities recognized them by their buildings, their workmen, or their owners. However, a growth of the global market meant that companies became bigger and anonymous. Thus, these companies became abstractions, entities only existing in people’s minds, which has reduced their power to be identified by their potential clients. Now then, the corporate website can be the solution to this problem. It can be a company’s virtual office or building, something "material" that people recognize as their own and as representative of this company, something that they can refer to.

2. Presence:

the Internet has proved to be perfect for commercial affairs. Every time someone wants to buy a product, hire a service, find a company, or just find some information about whatever he wants, he simply looks it up on the Internet. So being on the Internet is being in the market, and the opposite, too. A Web page makes a firm much more famous and identifiable. However, for this to happen its design should be appropriate so that it makes a good impression and fills people with a feeling of trustworthiness.

3. Interaction:

this is "the" distinguishing characteristic of a website. Every single advertising or managerial design is intended to transmit a message from a company to the public. The website, on the other hand, allows the public to answer this message, and then allows the company to answer the public’s response, and so on. Thus, the user-company interaction is encouraged. From this relationship, or dialogue, companies can obtain very useful information –their potential client’s tastes, goals, comments, doubts, etc. But this is not the only possible interaction; there is also the user-website interaction, which happens when a user is going over a website for certain information. In this way, the advertising he receives is only that he is interested in. This is called "aimed advertising", and it is considered very valuable.

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