Web Design vs. Web Development: The Big Differences

If you’ve decided that your website needs a fresh new look , or maybe you don’t even have a website yet and need one, there are two phrases you would definitely have come across in your research, and they are easy to get confused.

Web design vs web development. What are they? Who does what, and do you really need both? Aren’t they the same thing?

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at the key differences between web development and web design, so that you can make the right decisions when it comes to getting your corner of the internet looking and working right for your business and your brand.

What is the difference between web design and web development?

Very broadly, a web designer works on the aesthetics of your website , what it will look like, and a web developer works on the ‘behind the scenes’ to make sure your website functionality is working as it should.

If you are starting from scratch with a new website, you’ll need both the web designer and web developer working together to ensure your website reflects your brand and gets the messages you want to convey across to your audience.

For a non-technical answer, think of your web designer as the artist painting the picture, and the developer is the person building the canvas and mixing the paints.

A Very Brief History Of The Visual Web

Way back when the internet was first released to the public, it became very clear very quickly that it needed to look good if this ‘world wide web’ thing was ever going to catch on. In 1991, the grandfather of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, created Hyper-Text Markup Language (HTML), a very simple way to make websites look more attractive.

HTML was revolutionary for the web, for the first time websites began to look usable, and users from any level of technical background could interact with pages in a more natural way. HTML could (and still can) control things like basic colours, font sizes, colours, and faces, and a lot more besides. In the 90s to the early 2000s, the use of HTML (and later CSS -Cascading Style Sheets) evolved to allow websites to become more visually appealing and easier for the end-user to interact with,

Very quickly though it became clear that HTML and CSS alone weren’t strong enough to carry bigger and more complex websites. As the use of the internet grew in popularity, companies increasingly needed their websites to perform better, and to be more secure. At this point, web designers and web developers split to concentrate on their own disciplines, and thus the different roles of developer and designers evolved into what they are today.

Web Design Vs Web Development: The Key Differences

It’s important to note here that you’ll want both a developer and a designer involved in your website project. Whether you are building a brand new website from scratch, or just updating an existing site, finding a company that works through both the design and development phase hand in hand will really speed things up and make your web project go a lot smoother.

Web Developers

Behind everything you see online, everything you see on your mobile device, and everything you see on your computer, there is a huge amount of coding going on. For the most part, coding is generally very ugly and not particularly user-focused at all.

The coding behind a website comes in many forms, and today’s websites are (for the most part) based on a database structure, where the user interactions call on different parts of the database and the code works out how to display that in the best way.

In very simple terms, a call will trigger an action: ‘if this is requested, then show that’.

Here’s a piece of HTML code that will trigger a linked piece of text:

https://www.google.com”>Click here for Google

The first part of the code “a href” is the request tells the browser you’re about to direct the user to a link, the second part tells the browser what link to go to, and the third part tells the browser what words the user will see. On a website, such as the one you’re viewing, the code is hidden and all the user sees is:

Click here for Google

Much better!

The ‘’ tells the browser to finish the line of code.

This is a very simple example, and most websites are a lot more complicated and many more intricate calls and triggers, but this is a good example to get you started.

Web developers are usually split into two roles: back end developers and full-stack developers.

The term ‘full-stack developer’ is sometimes overused in the IT world and can mean a number of different things, but in the web design and development world, full-stack developers usually have skills that bridge between development and design, with the ability to build websites and make them look good.

A back-end developer is usually more skilled in the pure coding side, working in coding languages such as C# to build the core framework and logical functionality of our website.

Web Designers

As you can see from the example above, pure code just isn’t very pretty at all, and if all you could see in your browser was the raw code, not many people would be using the internet today!

It’s the job of a web designer to create the look and feel of a website , working with your branding colours, your shapes, and your images to ensure that what the user sees is more intuitive to look at and much easier to use.

Web designers will use programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to make a mock-up of what a website will look like eventually. This is useful for the client to get a visual idea of what their eventual website will look like and for the developer to know what is needed behind the scenes.

Web designers are usually (but not always) split into two specialisms: User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UT).

  • A UX specialist – Concentrates on making sure your website is easy to use for your particular audience. They will use their experience and research to craft a design that is on-brand and easy to navigate.
  • A UI specialist – Focused on the actual interface that the user sees, the aesthetics of your website, to make sure it works from a technical perspective.

The difference between a UX developer and a UI developer is not always obvious, but both roles are crucial to the process of creating a good website that your users enjoy using and a website that performs the functions that you as a brand need it to perform, usually getting conversions or sales.

Do I Need Both A Web Designer And A Web Developer?

The short answer to this question is yes, you do! A web designer and developer should always go hand in hand and work together on your project to ensure that your end result will worth from a technical perspective and from an aesthetic perspective in keeping with your brand guidelines.

It is really best practice for you to employ an agency or a team that will work cohesively together to get the job done. There’s nothing worse than having a developer in one place and a designer in another place who rarely speak to each other, this will slow down your project and cause frustration on every side. Getting a team or an agency to work together is easier for everyone involved.

In some instances, your designer and your developer may be the same person. It’s not uncommon for designers to be skilled developers and vice versa.

In Summary

A new website builds, or even a redesign of an existing website can take a whole team of people to get the job done. In general, it’s best to get a team of experts in their field to work on your project.

Here at Web Windows, we have a highly-skilled internal team of experts who will be able to help with any aspect of your web project. From coming up with a new design to developing a website that works for you and your users. We draw on your years of experience to create websites that convert and websites that users love to come back to time and time again.

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