Posted on Aug 23, 2018

The Difference between Web Design and Web Development

What’s the difference between web design and web development? It’s an important question to ask if you are thinking of creating a website, particularly if you’re planning on hiring someone to build it for you.

Even if you are planning to do it yourself, it’s helpful to understand how the roles are different, and they come together to create a functional website.

What’s the difference?

To get an understanding of the difference you can compare it to how a how a building is created. Like a website, a building requires a comprehensive design, and a builder to bring the design to life. The architect, like the web designer, is recruited during the idea stage. They lay out the looks, and basic functionality based on the use of the building. This could include the overall shape, angles, inside and outside space, and placement of components.

The architect must keep the clients needs and the needs of those who use the building in mind. They will also use their knowledge and experience to accommodate safety measures, space constraints or requirements, and budgets. The architect will create a detailed drawing, and maybe even a small model of the building.

Many of the decision on how it comes together are left up to the builder. They will make the decision on placement of load bearing beams to support the design. The quantity and sourcing of materials will be made in the building phase. And of course the details that make the building usable like plumbing and wiring are the builders responsibility.

The builder decides the timing and order of each phase of the construction, ensuring to integrate any and all parts so that they work as expected, while staying true to the plans provided by the architect.

The Web Designer

website wireframe

Like the architect, the web designer is involved from the beginning. The designer is responsible for the creative, or aesthetic aspects of the site. It’s helpful if they are technically inclined in order to build a realistic design that will facilitate all of the necessary functionality.

A good designer will take the time to understand the client’s goals, budget, and brand personality. They will balance these needs with the needs of the user who must to be able to move around the site to accomplish their own goals.

The deliverables will usually include an initial wireframe that lays out elements for each web page involved. From this wireframe they will use a design program to create the graphics and images for the site. A prototype may be flat images, or a functioning prototype. A functional interface is one that will mimic how links and apps on the page will perform, but is not tied to any back-end technology or data base.

Image: Pexels

The Web Developer

code displayed on monitor

When the design is agreed upon and prototypes are available, it’s time to bring in a developer. Web developers provide the coding that make websites work. They will create programs and applications to bring functionality to the web designs. Web Developers will focus on three areas of coding, the client, the server, and the database.

Client-side scripting is what allows the webpage to work within a browser. This is the code that will determine what a visitor sees when they land on your website.

Server-side scripting is the back-end code that users won’t see. This code will live on a  server to power the functionality of a website behind-the-scenes.

The Database is where the files that make up both the front and back-end will reside. This includes the, code, the images, file, and any other data.

Image: Pexels 

Working Together

You need both design and development in order to build a proper website. While in theory these roles can be separated, a designer who understands coding will be able to better communicate the desired functionality to a developer. And a developer who understands art direction and design will take into account the usability of what they are coding.

Web development is the much more difficult skill to learn. And as a result there are fewer web developers than there are web designers. This often means it is more expensive to hire a web developer than it is to hire a web designer.


Modern hosting often means no coding

Most of the websites on the internet today are hosted using Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla, or even a Website Builder. This means that much of the functionality will be the same or similar to many other websites on the internet.

The common elements can take the form or the overall page design via design templates, or the functionality offered to users via plugins or add-ons. Take for example a form that you would put on your Contact page. You don’t need to get one created specifically for your website. Instead you can get one that is available to all sites utilizing the CMS and configure it for your purposes.

So do you need a to hire for either of these roles? Unless you are building a large and complex website with unique features that need custom design, probably not. For most small businesses, even those with online shops, you can create a website will little to no coding. Just remember the important aspects of each role so that your website will be attractive, and function as you expect.


Feature image: Pexels