As myself (Andy) and Jason teach Web Design to students at the University of Salford, it becomes apparent that many new students don't know basics of Web Design because they have never done it before, which gets us thinking what are the main 3 factors of starting in Web Design? What do you really have to understand well before you learn the rest?
Well from my experience at the University, I would probably say that it is the following:
Understanding grid systems, margins, gutters and widths is very important within design. Of course, these rules can be broken - but they need to be understood before you can jump out of the ocean and take a dip under the waterfall if you know what I mean. haha.
People need to navigate through every website with ease and understanding. If they can't find the content they are looking for, what's the point in having it there? So yes, navigation and functionality is very very important. Experimenting is good, but if it confuses the user then it is not good practice.
Now this may sound a bit obvious, but good design is very important. There has been so many times that students have great ideas in research and theory but when it comes to executing that idea. the final product just isn't quite right. It is definitely something people need to work on, as there are a lot of naff design agencies out there offering bog standard websites. So if you want to actually make it in the industry, design is very important.
Another point to consider when understanding web design from basics is the content. Even though you may create a fantastic website in design and development. It may be the best site you've ever created, but then when you drop content in - it may look completely different, which ruins it. The best way is to have content from day 1 but this is very rare for a client to give content from the start. So considering this factor early is very important, understanding images, layout, typography, colour schemes etc. If everybody designed the same website in the world, and there was only 1 template that everyone could use. the only way to make it look different would be via the content, so make your content amazing. This is both apparent with teaching at university, but also in the real world, there has been many clients who don't understand content and / or don't have the budget to produce bespoke photography or illustrations with us.