What's the difference between web design and web development?


By SpiderGroup

Design
12 December 2017
8 mins read

Over the years, the terms web design and development have evolved so quickly that people are sometimes confused between the two. 

If you had asked me the difference between duties of web designers and web developers in the early days of the web, the answer would’ve been much simpler; designers work on the design and developers, the code. Simple. But over time, some people have merged both terms into one discipline, so what’s the difference? Do designers and developers still do the same thing? What are the differences between web design and web development? 

2 jobs, 1 goal

Ultimately, both web designers and web developers are working to achieve the same goal – to build a website that’s working well and reaches their aims. In order to achieve this goal, there are many things to consider to make sure that the website functions properly. Everything has to fit the brief perfectly, from colours, typography, languages, to frameworks used.

One of the many obstacles working in web design and web development is actually working together itself, it is not always simple to communicate with each other in a way that both sides understand. Particularly in the past, where web design and web development felt like worlds apart. But the good news is we have developed, and communication between web designer and web developer has become easier to manage.

What do web designers and developers do?

A web designer generally takes emphasis on the aesthetic of the website. Web designers work around colours, typography, prototype, user interface, user experience and information architecture. Web designers normally obtain the brief, visualise the project, and lay things out for the development team. Although it is not mandatory, it is very common for web designers to work around Front-end areas such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Or at least have a good grasp of front-end knowledge to allow web designers to communicate with web developers better. Being able to understand how codes work also helps web designers to design better, by knowing and understanding any limitations.

Web designers’ duties involve:

  • Designing with basic tools such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop to generate engaging imagery or logos. Anything that is related to the graphic is part of the web designer’s responsibility.
  • Translate ideas, concepts, and briefs from clients into a clear visual as a first step before moving onto development.
  • Building a prototype in tools such as Axure, Sketch, Invision, UXpin, etc to display a clear layout of a website, how objects behave, transitions and links to another. Prototyping also includes designs in different platforms such as desktop, tablet, and mobile.
  • Research how the design affects users’ experience and making sure that the audience can access the website and reach what they’re looking for on the website easily.
  • Keeping consistent with branding, such as working in typography, colours, or logo.
  • Keep themselves up to date with latest design trends and platform updates to make sure their design is displayed properly with the latest best practices in web design.
  • Sometimes video animation/editing involved considering how prevalent websites are in incorporating videos on the website.
  • Help front-end developers code if the web designer is fluent in front-end.

Web developers on the other hand, are generally more concerned about the functionality more than the visual. Web developers are able to translate design that the web designers have evolved into a live working website.

Web developers are divided into two types: Front-end developers and back-end developers. While both sides work with codes to make sure that the website runs seamlessly, there’s a discernible difference between the two disciplines. Front-end, as the name suggests, focuses on what’s represented in front of the user as they interact with a website. Front-end developers work with languages that are rendered in the browsers such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Most websites nowadays require a special server to customise certain content for each user based on their data.

That’s where back-end developers come in. Most actions are not happening in front of the user, but on a server in the background. Back-end developers make sure to process the data in the background and run the website smoothly. While it seems like front-end developers’ and back-end developers’ duties are completely different, the truth is they have a lot more things in common than they have in differences.

There is also an additional type of developer called a full stack developer which means this individual is able to speak and handle languages of both front-end and back-end.

Web developers’ (in general, including front-end and back-end) duties involve:

  • Building the interface where users could interact with the website. Most likely using languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript/Jquery.
  • Make sure the website runs at an appropriate speed with no errors or broken links on the website.
  • Utilise a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla to streamline development and allow the clients the ability to update content on their website• Data migration, transformation, and scripting.
  • Back-end developers create the backbone of the website using languages such as PHP and MySQL.
  • API integration.
  • Security settings and hack prevention.
  • Learning and testing new technologies, framework, and languages.
  • Handling version control.

web design and development venn diagram

Closing thoughts

The web design and development process has become less rigid and been constantly changing over the years, evolving at a speedy rate. Coding has become much less daunting while designing has become more convenient for non-designers.

Therefore, with web advancement today, designers are able to work in front-end development, front-end developers can dabble with design and web developers are no longer bereft of creativity. Open source, online lessons, and better software have helped designers and developers to slowly integrate better with each other. While the role of each is different, ultimately, web design and development are more inextricably linked than you may realise.

If you’d like to find out more about website design or development, reach us out at SpiderGroup so we can help you create a website that’s profitable for your business. You can call us on 0117 933 0570 or fill in our contact form and we will be in touch.

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