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

by | September 14th, 2017

Web design and web development are inseparable, essential pieces of your web presence. When it comes to technical definitions, web design and web development are different. But because both play a part in how your website looks and functions, it can be hard to distinguish the two.

Web design is how your website looks.

Web development is how your website is built.

image of a computer, book and notebook on a desk

Web Design

Web design is how your website looks:

  • Colors
  • Images
  • Logos
  • Button placement
  • Link colors
  • Text styles
  • and more

Web design is usually created in some type of graphics software (Photoshop, Sketch, etc.), and is the visual representation of your site. Many web designs include a homepage and subpage design, but does not have to include the design of all pages.

The styles, header, footer, and colors you’ve used on the homepage should be the same throughout the whole site. There are cases where certain elements or styles weren’t used on the homepage. In that case, a subpage design is necessary to ensure web developers know exactly what to build.

Web design does not have to account for how this design is built, but good web design does. Good web design makes good user interactions, user experiences, and best practices easy. If web design is planning for these things, the development of the site will be better.

Web Development

Web development is how your website is built:

  • HTML/CSS/Javascript
  • Frameworks
  • Libraries
  • APIs
  • and more

Web development brings the design to life through code. This code could be in a variety of languages, but common ones for websites are HTML, CSS, Javascript, and PHP.

There are two major components to web development:

  • Front-end (how it looks)
  • Back-end (how it functions)

Front-end web development focuses on the display of information. Back-end web development focuses on managing information. The front- and back-end should work together to create great user interactions and user experiences.

How Web Design and Web Development Work Together

A web designer who is cognizant of web development will create better web designs, just as a web developer who is cognizant of design standards will create better code. But it’s rare to find a dual web designer and developer who excels at both.

Web design takes the business goals of the client and user needs and figures out a way to present them beautifully. Developers take that vision and make it function. A designer who has some understanding of front-end code can make design decisions that are easier to build, as well as help the developer execute that vision.

This is where design and development tend to get convoluted. If the designer is changing hex colors, moving elements, or editing how the functions are displayed, is it still under design? Or is part of development? If a developer is making decisions about what’s displayed in an interaction, is that design or development?

Regardless, greater understanding of how web design and web development work together leads to better web experiences. When looking for someone to redesign your website, you also want a company that is technically savvy to ensure that the design works for your users.

Hiring a Web Design or Web Developer

If you have a tight budget, you probably want to find a freelancer that can do your design work and a freelancer that can do your development work. If the time to completion, quality assurance, and risk avoidance are more important, you can work with an agency that employs people with both design and development skill sets.

Unfortunately, we’ve been approached by a lot of people that have previously hired one person to do a multiple person job and we don’t want that to happen to you. If you have any questions, we’re happy to help. Get in touch and even if we are not a great fit, we will point you in the right direction and help you find quality people that can help.