Web Development vs Web Design: Understanding the Difference

By Zach Emly • March 3, 2022 •

Web Development vs Web Design: Understanding the Difference

By Zach Emly • March 3, 2022 • News,

Most people use the terms web development and web design interchangeably. In many situations, no harm will be done, but when it comes to hiring someone for a job, knowing who you need to hire will be critical for achieving optimal results. 

Why is it so important to know the difference? You may hire a web designer who doesn’t know enough about making your site functional or how to troubleshoot issues. Or you may hire someone who understands web development on the technical side but doesn’t make great-looking websites. 

If you are looking for the right type of services, or just curious about the difference between web design and development then look no further. We are going to take the time today to discuss the differences between the two and break down what services are available under each category. 

Web Design vs Web Development

It’s common to hear “website design” and “website development” used in the wrong context. A professional will know what was intended, but the reality is that they are quite different. 

Web design refers to the visual portions and the usability of a website. Color scheme, page layout, imagery, information flow, user interface and the user experience are all aspects of web design.  Its purpose is to create a look and feel that users will enjoy. Having a website that is visually appealing is more than vanity. When a site is poorly designed, it can lead to lost revenue and sales due to frustrations among users.

Website development is the back-end work that goes into the actual creation of a website or application. Developers will use code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.) to program a website so it looks and functions the way it is intended to. Development work is broken down into two categories; front-end and back-end development. Front-end development controls the functionality and look of a site, while the back-end development focuses on the server-side infrastructures such as web hosting, writing APIs, security protocols, etc.  

Oftentimes, a good website project will utilize the services of both a web developer and a web designer. The web designer will create a sitemap, wireframes, mockups, color palettes and page templates, then the website developer will create the functioning website or application based on the web designer's designs. The end result is a highly functional, beautifully designed website with optimized coding. It’s the best of both worlds. 

However, there are times when only a website developer or website designer is needed. For instance, a website that is having technical issues may only need to request the services of a developer. Another example is if an organization is using a CMS or website template. The technical backend work is done and the organization simply needs a designer to create a better layout or design. 

As you can see, these two specialties work in the same realm but their functions and responsibilities are different. You may very well find a developer who does design work or a designer who does development work, but generally speaking, they each have their own areas of expertise. 

Let’s take a look at the special services you can expect from both web designers and web developers.

Breakdown of Web Design Services

Website Designer

When we mentioned web design earlier, we mentioned that their focus is to make sure the site is visually appealing and that there is a good flow. But what does that truly mean?

It’s a web designer's job to understand what people expect from a website in terms of layout, usability and look. They must also understand how people utilize websites and applications. This enables them to design a look and feel that users enjoy both aesthetically and functionally.

When hiring a pro, you will get more than a new look. Let’s take a look at a number of services you will benefit from with a professional web designer. 

A good designer will not only design a good-looking site, but they will provide the client with everything necessary to make sure the new website is launched with success. Anything that has to do with making a site visually appealing, easy to navigate, and ensuring a brand’s identity with frequency and consistency will all fall under the wheelhouse of a designer. 

There are a number of reasons you might want to hire a website designer:

In short, if you need to make your site more visually appealing, flow better or to better align with your brand, then it’s time to contact a web designer.

Breakdown of Web Development Services

Website Developer

The focus for web development is more on the nuts and bolts of launching a website. While some are good at making attractive-looking sites and understanding user experience, it’s not always their focus.

A developer will be involved in the coding aspects of the website build. If there is a problem that can be solved with code, a developer is on the job! They have a range of services they can provide:

At the end of the day, a developer’s job is to turn an idea into a functioning product or fix issues to reestablish functionality. Anything that includes getting a website (or application) built, functioning, and/or integrated will fall under a web developer's expertise.

When would a developer be the right person to contact?

When it comes to creating a tangible product or fixing technical issues, then a web developer is who you need to contact.

Every web designer and developer is different in their own respects

As we have discussed today, designers and developers have quite an array of different tasks. But even amongst these groups, you will likely find differences.

For example, not every designer will have a keen understanding of UI/UX (user interface and user experience). They may know how to make a stunning-looking website, but that site’s functionality and flow may not be great for users. 

Additionally, not all web developers utilize the same programming languages or software. Some may prefer open-source software like Angular while others prefer a more traditional approach.

It is also really important to note that not all web developers or web designers can do all things. The experience someone brings and the level of skill matter. 

With the creation of affordable CMS platforms and the rise of freelance marketplaces such as Upwork and Fivver, finding someone to work on a website has become much easier. These are great options for affordable web design and development but you may not receive the quality, functionality or customizations that you need. Like with any service, cheaper does not always mean a better deal.

When it comes to building the perfect website, make sure you connect with the right people who offer the right skill sets for the job. Understanding the difference between job duties and skill sets will help ensure you hire the right person (or team) for the job!

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