The Important Differences Between Web Design and Web Development

Websites are no longer exclusive to the techies and online businesses. In today’s world, anyone can get a website for personal use, business, or otherwise. But, ease of access doesn’t mean that it’s easy to actually create a website once you’ve paid for your internet real estate. While looking for someone to help you create your site, you may have stumbled across both web designers and web developers.

What’s the difference? Are they the same thing? The term may be used interchangeably, but they are not the same at all.

Building a Website

It takes a lot to make a functional website. There are some resources that make the process a bit simpler for basic sites, but those looking for a customized experience for their viewers need more than the basics. You can find a lot of cut and paste website templates that can work well if all you need is a frame and nothing more. However, this is not the same thing as building a website.

To make a custom website that does exactly what you want it to and looks exactly the way you want it to, you are probably going to need the help of a web designer, web developer, or both. While web design and web development can often cross paths, they are distinctly different things. Each one has its own role in the creation of a website, so you need to pay attention to who you’re hiring for each project.

Do you need a designer or a developer? Let’s take a closer look at what makes each of those roles distinct, so you can make a more informed decision on what you need.

What a Web Designer Does

Design focuses on the front-end portion of a website. Everything a web designer does affects the area of the website that visitors can view and interact with. Web designers focus on the user experience and visual elements of the website.

There is a strong focus on the creative when you’re designing a website. Designers are like the architects of the computer world. You give a web designer your vision and they can help you make a website that looks just like you imagined it. They will also be the ones making sure it’s a seamless, smooth experience for your users.

Many web designers have a limited understanding of coding. They can usually perform basic HTML and CSS coding, but are usually unable to do advanced coding in other languages.

In short, web design is:

  • Visually and aesthetically focused
  • Centered on user experience (UI/UX)
  • Generally considered creative rather than technical
  • Exclusively for front-end and user-facing elements of the website
  • Used to create functional and beautiful websites

What a Web Developer Does

Web development is not particularly concerned with how things look on the front-end and is more focused on making everything work. If the web designers are the architects, web developers are the engineers. They are the ones who do all of the building and constructing of the site from the ground up.

Most web developers are proficient in a number of advanced coding languages like PHP, SQL, Java, CSS, and HTML. This is a much more technical job than web designing, and it requires a lot of problem solving and critical thinking to create a working website. Whereas web designers may just install plug-ins to take care of simple problems, web developers can directly write a solution into the website’s code. This is a fantastic asset if you have a large or complex website to build.

Sites of any size can be built by a web developer. They may use front-end coding to build a website based on a design they’re given, or they can used back-end coding to create complex features of a site like e-commerce pages, integrated databases, payment processors, and more.

In short, web development is:

  • More complex and technical in nature
  • Dependent on coding proficiency
  • Focused on creating a complete, working site through coding
  • Meant to work from the ground up instead of taking shortcuts

While you might find some people who do both web design and web development, it’s more common to find people who specialize in one or the other. These two jobs are not the same, nor do they require the same skillset. Make sure you’re hiring the right person to do a specific job on your website!

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