Question: What’s the difference between web design and web development?

Answer: Web design is the process of creating a visual look-and-feel for a website, and web development is the process of turning that design into a functional website with data and interactivity.


Web Design vs Web Development: Overview

I’m going to take a minute to address a common misconception that comes up in more than half of my sales calls.

If you think web design and web development are interchangeable, you’re not alone. It’s safe to say that a large chunk of my clients had no idea that the two were any different before we met. To be frank, I don’t blame them or you for not seeing a difference in the two, because they’ve been convinced to believe a website is a single commodity, even though it was never meant to be that way.Web Design vs Web Development and Why They're So different

Understanding the Differences

In my opinion, there’s two primary reasons people have trouble understanding the differences between web design and development:

  1. Freelancers are always looking for more business and they cut their rates by offering both design and development services to attract more customers. This results in customers thinking that all you need is one person to make a website.
  2. Also, since you technically can’t have a working website without both design & development, it’s not unusual for web design agencies to completely skip over the fact that they have two types of experts working on a single project. This results in clients thinking websites are made by a single person, rather than two completely different professionals.

Even though web designers and web developers have a symbiotic relationship, it’s important to realize the differences between the two so you can understand how much a website should cost.

What is a Web Designer

Web DesignersIt’s likely that you’ll interact with your web designer more than your web developer on a web design project. That’s mainly because they’ll be the ones to build the look-and feel of your website based on your existing brand and expectations.

The Web Designer’s Role: A good web designer is expected to understand the limitations of modern web bowser technology and he or she will work within those constructs to create an accurate picture of your brand. The web designer will create brand attributes (typeface, color palette, graphics) and he or she will arrange the information architecture (IA) of your website (the way in which information is laid out on pages and how navigation is structured on your website). Good web designers base designs on data and research, as opposed to instinct, and they will work towards a design which conveys your target message.

Sometimes the designer will have the skills to turn their graphical prototypes into basic web code (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript). In other cases, the web developer or a separate third party will handle the conversion from static graphics to web code.

What is a Web Developer

Web DevelopersThe web developer will pick up where the web designer left off. In most cases, that’s with a HTML, CSS, and JavaScript version of the website — without complete functionality (usually lacking contact forms, visitor logins, and other features which require data input and storage).

The Web Developer’s Role: Using the designer’s groundwork, the web developer can now integrate a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla!, or Drupal. If the project calls for custom functionality (examples would include membership services, financial calculators, and homepage image sliders), the web developer will use languages like JavaScript, PHP, and Ruby on Rails to pull information from a database and allow visitors to read or interact with the data via the designer’s visuals. Web developers are also involved in developing eCommerce websites with payment processing and shipping integration.

TL;DR Summary: Web Design vs Web Development

Good question! Well, since you asked – here are the main takeaways that will help you understand the differences between web designers and web developers:

  1. First off, web designers and web developers are not the same.
  2. Successful websites usually involve both web designers, and web developers.
  3. Professional web designers create a unique look-and-feel for your website and mostly focus on design and research.
  4. Professional web developers add functionality and interactivity to the designer’s graphic prototype to create a fully functional website or web application.

That wraps things up for today! Be sure to check our web designer hiring guide!

Do you know anybody who is great at both web design and web development? Let me know in the comments below!

Brennen Bliss

Brennen Bliss

Brennen Bliss is the founder & CEO of PixelCutLabs. Since founding PixelCutLabs in 2014, Brennen has been recognized as a leader in the search engine marketing & SEO spaces, with recent nominations for both the US Search Awards (2018) & the Forbes 30 under 30 List (2018). Brennen has also been featured on Ted.com, USAToday.com, Forbes.com. In addition to leading the team at PixelCutLabs, Brennen travels to conferences across the US as a recognized keynote speaker. You can find Brennen on Twitter @brennenlb.

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