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Web Design vs Web Development: What’s the Difference?

Web design vs web development, what’s the difference? We break down these two positions because it's important to understand the difference.

Web design vs web development, what’s the difference? Both terms tend to become interchangeable when describing the website building process, but they are definitely not the same thing. While there are some firms, like ourselves, that have designers who can develop and developers who can design, that isn’t always the case, so it’s important to understand the difference between web design and web development.

Web Design

Web design focuses on the visual look of a website and the functionality from a user’s perspective. Web designers take a client’s ideas and concepts and transform them into websites. They work with design software to create aesthetically pleasing websites that have a good user experience (UX). They then pass those designs onto developers. 

UX design is the process of designing a website that is useful, simple to navigate and pleasurable to use. It’s about enriching the experience users have while interacting with a website and ensuring they find what they’re looking for on that site. This includes color scheme, layout, information flow and everything related to UX. They need to stay abreast of the latest web design trends and also have the ability to interact well with clients throughout the process.

Some commonly used tools and skills that distinguish a web designer from a web developer are:

  • Adobe Creative Suite or other design software
  • Graphic design
  • Logo design
  • Layout/format
  • Placing call-to-action buttons
  • Branding
  • Wireframes, mock-ups and storyboards
  • Color palettes
  • Typography

A web designer doesn’t necessarily need any qualifications; creative flair and attention to detail are more important. Their work typically involves follow up services too, They may create updates, maintenance and monitoring services and ongoing performance checks.

Web Development

Web development is the process of taking the website’s layout from the designers and writing code to make it function properly. They typically use coding languages such as CSS, Javascript, HTML or Python to do this. Some web developers use a content management system, or CMS, such as WordPress or Joomla. These applications help users manage and create content and allow clients to easily maintain and update their websites.

Web developers can either be front-end or back-end developers, while some may be experts in both, known as full-stack developers. 

  • Front-end developers: This involves coding and programming the aesthetics of a website. They work closely with the web designers and clients to achieve the desired look and feel of the website.
  • Back-end developers: This involves working on the functionality of a website, including but not limited to maintaining the server hosting the site and fixing any security issues.
  • Full-stack developers: These individuals code both the front and back end of a site. They fully appreciate how all parts of a website work and function together. In addition to coding web pages using programming language, they also do all the work behind the scenes, covering all aspects of web development.

Some common skills and tools traditionally viewed as unique to web developers are:

  • HTML/CSS/JavaScript
  • CSS preprocessors
  • Frameworks 
  • Libraries 
  • Git and GitHub

Web developers require a solid amount of technical knowledge, often gained through a degree. They need to be able to write coding language and understand CMS, back-ends and databases. They also need to be proficient in testing and debugging and understand search engine optimization. In addition to these, there are non-technical skills that are good to have as a web developer. These include problem-solving, analytical thinking and good communication.

“The Unicorn”

What started out as a joke in the industry—the designer/developer hybrid who can do it all—is now a possible endgame for both web designers and front-end developers, thanks to the increase in the availability of educational resources across the web. Those developers/designers who have a good grasp of skills across both sides of the spectrum are highly sought after in the industry. 

This “unicorn” can take your project from the conceptual stage of visual mock-ups and storyboards, and carry it through front-end development all by themselves. Not that you'd want them to; the real value of developers who design and designers who develop are their ability to speak each other's languages. This leads not only to better communication on the team and a smoother workflow, it means you'll land on the best solution possible, leaving the client blown away with the results. 

Designing a recruiting website can be time-consuming and complicated. Plus, understanding new trends and design elements can be a struggle. We help take the guesswork out of website design and development, integration and optimization so you can focus on running your business. Let’s chat today!

Samantha Prost

Sam Prost is a digital content writer with almost 10 years of experience who uses her upbeat and creative energy to write fresh, fun and custom content for our clients.

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