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Web Design vs Development: What’s The Difference?

There are many reasons why you might want to know the difference between web design vs development. You may seek to re-envision your drab website or revive your business’s digital branding. Or you may be looking at web design vs development as career options.

While these two things may work closely together, they’re not the same thing. This blog post will explain what they are, their similarities and differences, and how you should decide which one’s best for your needs.

What Is Web Design?

Web Design vs Development: What's The Difference?

Web design relates to the visual appearance of a website. It refers to the aesthetics and visual construction of the site. This includes the text, font, images, composition, and other visual elements.

A web designer makes choices about how these different elements come together to create a visually appealing space for users. They use design platforms like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, Canva, and more to create aesthetic models of your website pages. Their job is to create an attractive container that the developer will make functional.

Your web designer can create these website design models before you build your actual site. That way, you can use the models to decide what you like and want for the look of your website. The models also become a vital template for developers to use when building the website and ensuring it has all the functionality it needs.

Alternatively, your web designer can contribute to an already-built website. They can refine it and improve its existing design to improve user experience.

Types of web design

  • User interface (UI) design. This kind of web design uses visual components like illustrations, images, text, graphics, and more to improve user functionality. This includes the website layout, display, controls (menus, buttons, etc), and navigation (search bars, icons, menus, links, etc). It also includes informational parts like chat boxes, message tabs, notifications, etc.
  • Visual design. Visual designers bring together the final look of the website, ensuring that it is visually appealing. They combine UI and graphic design.
  • User experience (UX) design. User experience is all about user satisfaction. It involves understanding the user’s needs and demands and making sure the website design meets them. UX designers must make sure that users have an efficient and convenient experience.

What Is Web Development?

While the designer works on the look and feel of the website, the developer focuses on the functionality aspect of it. The developer or programmer fills in the design model and brings it to life.

For example, the designer will have already made decisions about the look of the homepage menu. The web developer’s job is then to code the menu’s functionality into the site, making sure that users can click on buttons and navigate to the corresponding pages. They give life to the website using website builders and systems, like WordPress, as well as coding languages, like HTML, CSS, Node.js, and PHP.

Types of web development

  • Back-end development. The back-end of a site is the server side. Users cannot see or engage with the back-end. It stores and manages information and data to support the front-end. Back-end designers control the storage and management of data through actions like building libraries, creating programming systems, etc.
  • Front-end development. The front-end or client-side of a site is the part that users see and engage with. Thus, front-end developers work with all the elements that the user sees in the design – text choices, graphics and images, diagrams and tables, colors, navigation elements, and other UI and UX components. This developer uses HTML, Javascript, or CSS to implement page designs and make sure the visual elements behave as they should. They work on the site’s responsiveness and multi-device functionality.
  • Full-stack development. Full-stack developers work on all the elements of a website or web application. They can manage the front-end, back-end, debugging and security, and more.

A simple way to understand this relationship between web design and development is by thinking about the construction of a house.

For construction workers to build a house, they need to have a template to work from. It is the responsibility of the architect to create this visual template or design. The role of the construction team is to build the house and make sure different components, like the plumbing, heating, etc, work.

Web designers are the architects. Web developers are the construction workers.

Web Design vs Development: Four Key Differences

Knowing the differences between web design vs development can help you understand which one you need for your business.

Focus and approach

The first major difference between web design vs development is the focus of each one. Web designers have a more creative, visual approach to their work, while developers are more technical.

Function

The aims of web design vs development are also pretty different. Designers aim to create the website aesthetic and transform client briefs into visually attractive designs. Web developers aim to build functional websites using the design as a guide.

The mediums they use

For the visuals, designers can use various tools including Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Canva, etc.

Developers use coding languages like PHP, CSS, JavaScript, Ruby, HTML, etc. They also use platforms like WordPress, Wix, etc.

The final outcome

Of course, the final product differs. Designers create website design templates, prototypes, or models. Developers create the code for the website.

Despite these differences, these website elements cannot work without one another. The design has no functionality without the development. And the development would only be a pile of code without the design. No website either way.

Web Design vs Development: How are They Similar?

The basic similarity between the two is that they both work to improve your website. They work together to enhance user experience, website functionality, and the overall usability of the site.

There are also some overlapping skill sets and roles in this position. For example, it is valuable for web designers to have an understanding of coding languages like CSS and HTML. It’s also valuable for them to understand what makes for a functional, accessible, and responsive site. Web developers also require these skills.

Can You be Both a Web Designer and Developer?

Let’s look at the question of web design vs development from a career standpoint for a bit. How do you know which one better suits you?

The best way to figure this out is to think about what interests you in website creation and management. Are you drawn to the visual or aesthetic side of it? Are you a very creative person who likes to work with visual media? If yes, then you should read up on how to become a web designer.

Perhaps, make a list of your skills, personality traits, and interests and match them to the position with the most commonalities.

Besides your personality, interests, and preferences, you can also compare the positions’ income. Freelance developers tend to earn more than designers. Your salary for a specific project also depends on other factors like your experience, level of skill and education, specialization, and more. You can use this financial perspective to guide you on which role better suits your needs.

It could also help to do a bit more research into each industry and the direction it might head towards in the future. Knowing the current and future trends in the industry might motivate you towards one option.

If you can’t decide between the two, though, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do both. As a matter of fact, having the abilities of both a developer and a designer makes you more valuable to clients. You become a one-stop shop for their website needs.

Web Designer vs Developer: Which One Should You Use?

If you’re not looking to become a developer or designer, and instead you’re looking to hire someone to help you with your website, this is how you can decide which site expert you need.

You need a web developer if you want to:

  • Add features or functions (ie: contact forms)
  • Build a new site
  • Develop an app
  • Address hosting/server challenges
  • Improve responsiveness and loading time
  • Beef up site security

You need a web designer if you want to:

  • Redesign your website layout
  • Update photos or graphics
  • Rebrand your website
  • Edit or update videos
  • Improve your navigation
  • Enhance your website style

It doesn’t always have to be one or the other. There are many instances when you might need both a designer and a developer. For example, if you’re adding new contact options, you may need a designer to make sure the button or form looks visually appealing and a developer to ensure it works.

Final Thoughts

Your website is like your digital home. When you build it, you should do it the right way with the best-skilled professionals.

Functional, accessible, and efficient websites play a key role in branding and customer experiences. But functionality is not the only element that makes an excellent website. Style, aesthetics, and visuals also contribute tremendously to user experience. As such, brands and businesses cannot sacrifice design or development when creating their website. Instead, they should prioritize both!

 

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