What is the difference between web design and web development?

What is the difference between web design and web development?

As modern technology and Wi-Fi capabilities continue to make the internet more accessible, more and more people around the world are connecting to the internet. And thanks to the rise of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, people can connect on the move – whenever and wherever they want.


No wonder a strong online presence has become more important than ever for businesses of all sizes. A website makes it easy for people to find the business they need, and it also serves as a simple means of low-cost advertising that is visible 24 hours a day. Having an online presence allows companies to expand their reach and gain a strong presence in the market.


However, to be effective, a website must be well designed from a visual point of view and well developed from a technical point of view. The website must be aesthetically appealing as well as easy to use. Web designers and web developers are responsible for ensuring that all these elements are represented and work hand in hand.


Defining website design and development

Website design refers to the processes required to make the front-end of a website – the part that the visitor sees – visually appealing and understandable. Website designers make sure that a website looks clear and uncluttered so that customers instinctively know how to interact with it. They are known as user experience or UX designers.


Web development focuses on the programming that makes the site work. If a designer can create a button, a web developer ensures that when the button is pressed, something actually happens.


For example, a front-end developer may use CSS (cascading style sheets) to define the layout of a website, while a back-end developer may write the code that connects an e-commerce site’s shopping cart to a secure online payment processing system.



What is website design?

Website design involves transforming an idea or story into a visually appealing design. This design layout is then used to shape the user experience of the website. Website design involves creating and designing the look and feel of a page. Just as architects design and draw the layout of a house before it is built, a website designer designs the layout of a website before the developer starts coding and developing the actual website.


Designing a website is not easy, it is very complex to integrate different aspects of a website and create a pleasant, user-friendly environment. Site design involves writing a plan to develop a usable interface design. The role of the website designer is as important as that of the developer, because without an attractive interface and a wonderful user experience, the development cannot be well enjoyed and appreciated by the end user.


The perfect website cannot be created immediately after reading or understanding the defined specifications. Website designers must first understand the scope of the website and its purpose. They then visualise the design roughly and sketch the design. From the initial sketch they move on to lead sketch models, mock-ups and then to the final design.


Some of the areas of web design include:


  • Graphic design;

  • Logo design;

  • Web layout design;

  • Call to action button placement on a website;

  • Branding;

  • Working with wireframes, mock-ups and storyboards;

  • Deciding on colour palettes;

  • Typography.


The designer works on the face of the website, as well as what the user will see on their computer screen or mobile device. Through a balanced use of colour, imagery, typography and layout, website design helps create the digital experience as we know it today.




What is web development?

While web designers are responsible for what users see on the screen, web developers are responsible for turning those designs into a live, fully functional website. Web development involves the use of different web languages and software tools.


There are two types of web development – front-end and back-end. Front-end developers are the bridge between web designers and back-end developers. They work with three main development languages: Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript.


These languages help to develop a complete website, from designing the main layout to inserting images and videos, using different typography and fonts and creating form interfaces.


Back-end development involves controlling data and requests from the server. If the site contains dynamic data, it will need full back-end services. For example, websites that require users to submit their personal data to create an account need to store this data and make it available at a later stage. The site therefore also requires a database connection. These database connections can be directly connected to the server itself. Server-side languages such as PHP or ASP.NET are used to develop the back-end of the website. It also involves writing database queries using languages such as SQL or MySQL.




Website design vs development

Looking at Google Analytics, we can see that companies are looking for both web design companies and web development companies. The truth is that these terms refer to two fundamentally different aspects of the website development process, requiring two unique skill sets. For this reason, it is important to know the difference when looking for someone to develop your company’s website.


Most often, the distinction between what is the responsibility of a web designer and what is already considered front-end development is perceived as a very fine line and in some cases can be debatable.


On the one hand, designing a web software requires in-depth user research to understand how the audience experiences the software and how everything should be structured in terms of usability and visual aesthetics. Front-end development, on the other hand, focuses on coding the interface and designing the client side of the software.


So, simply put, web design is about tasks, skills and tools that are more focused on the design and how the software looks and works. In comparison, front-end development is more focused on the implementation of the design in the software and how well that implementation works with the back-end software.


Consequently, some responsibilities and skills may overlap. For example, typically both front-end developers and web designers may work with a similar set of tools and have a good understanding of usability and heuristics. For this reason, sometimes the functions of web designer and front-end developer can be performed by the same person. In addition, the responsibilities of a web designer may also include UX, UI and graphic design duties.


Although some skills are common, website designers and developers need to acquire specific competences in their respective areas. Website design emphasises aesthetics, so designers need to be more familiar with what makes a website visually appealing and logical for users. They need to be familiar with design applications such as Adobe Dreamweaver, JavaScript and scripting frameworks for front-end software. In addition, they need to make sure that the products they create are consistent with the company’s brand, from the logo to the colour schemes.


Website developers, on the other hand, design the functional aspects of a site within the aesthetic parameters set by web designers. Using their in-depth programming skills, they ensure that the product envisioned by the designer is realised. Site developers are required to learn broader programming skills and software languages such as SQL, Python, Java server development, machine learning, API development for interacting with objects, database tools and server architecture, as well as agile systems analysis.


Although very different skills are required, web design and development are sometimes automatically associated with each other. Now that we have a clearer understanding of the differences between web design and web development, we know that both play an important role in building websites and that one cannot exist without the other.