Web Design vs. Web Development: The Oft Confused Areas Actually Have Fundamental Differences


In today’s economy, many businesses search for both web development companies and web design companies. It would be incorrect to assume that you can use both of these terms interchangeably. These two words refer to two distinct and separate aspects of a website building process. Two unique and different skill sets are required.

The following information will provide some clarity between web design vs. web development. Knowing the difference will be helpful for your business when looking for a professional to work on your website.

Web Design

Website design is inherently aesthetic. It refers to the design portion of the website and how it is used to create the best experience for the viewer. In this role, you will be deciding and implementing how a site looks and how effectively it functions overall. Web design can be a rewarding career, especially for those individuals who are creatively inclined.

The design of a website involves the part of the website that the customer can communicate with and will see when they access the site. Web design is mainly focused on the appearance of the site and its unique features.

If you are involved with web design, you must first consider your client’s website goals. You will then move on to an Information Architecture to set up the website’s information hierarchy. In this manner, you can help guide the overall design process.

The next step is to create wireframes and move on to the design stage itself. The professional should try out several basic designs to achieve the most visually appealing layout.

A professional web designer is going to take design principles and adjust your site to be appealing to viewers. They have an in-depth understanding of creating sites that will not only be aesthetically pleasing, but will be easy for users to interact with.

Web Design Skills Set Overview

Here are some important skills that a web designer should utilize:

  • Balance: A web designer must create a balanced layout. Using the correct amount of dark and light elements will work to create a balanced design that is visually appealing. 
  • Consistency: This can also be referred to as repetition or rhythm. It is a critical web design principle which helps the website maintain its polished appearance. Clean navigation will provide for the best user experience for website visitors.
  • Contrast: Contrasting colors are those that are opposite one another on a color wheel. The professional will examine different colors and sizes to highlight certain aspects of the website.
  • Emphasis: Emphasis refers to the intentional highlighting of critical elements of the website layout. A designer should not emphasize every item on the page. Otherwise, it will ensure that nothing stands out. 
  • Unity: This is the relationship between the different working parts of the website layout. It refers to how the human brain organizes information by grouping and categorization. 

Web Development

A web developer may also be referred to as a programmer. A web developer takes a design and builds a fully functioning website. The original website structure may have been designed by a professional.

A programmer has a great deal of technical skill and training. They work with programming languages like PHP, ASP, Ruby, and Python. They also use HTML, CSS, and Javascript. They incorporate the design files for a smooth layout.

The design will be broken up into various pieces. An advanced developer will probably use a Content Management System (CMS) like Word Press to further development. It will allow clients to maintain and update their websites. This tool is an essential aspect of website development.  

Web developers can change a static layout into a fully functioning and dynamic website. The programmers do so by utilizing image and content sliders and other interactive elements.  

Back-End Development

A back-end developer specializes in more complex programming. This type of developer will focus on the usability and advanced interactions with consumers. Their work may include manipulating advanced coding that responds to and works with the central database. 

Professional developers will also understand how various types and aspects of software work and how they can be worked together to create the most user-friendly experience. A back-end developer can code from scratch if there are no tools that exist to help their customer. They are the most skilled in the field.

Web Development Skills Set Overview

Here are some essential tools for a web developer:

  • CSS: This is the code that tells browsers how to format and style HTML for a web page. It is a partner to HTML. It will make all of the site material and the text look user-friendly. A programmer can add a specialized background. They can also change the colors and fonts.
  • Design software: The design software that a programmer uses are typically Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch. The developer will design logos and images. They will also enhance and modify photos. There may be some complimentary Photoshop alternatives available. 
  • HTML: This is coding language a programmer will use to put content on a web page. It will turn words into headlines and paragraphs. It also includes putting photos and videos on a website. Knowing how to code is an expected skill for most design jobs in today’s market.
  • JavaScript: A web developer who programs with JavaScript will be successful. To use Javascript, you need to be a proficient programmer. This program makes different website elements interactive on a website.
  • UX: You should not overlook the user experience aspect of website use. A programmer will hopefully design a website that gives people what they need. They will use a site map and lay out the pages and content. Wireframes are built to sketch out the essential parts of each webpage.
  • Visual Design: Programmers use visual design to complete the project. It can range from grid systems to color theory or typography. Programmers can experiment with different colors, fonts, and formats.    

Two Separate Jobs With One Goal In Mind

Both web designers and web developers work toward a single, unified goal. 

They want to create a website or an app that attracts users. To do this, the development and the design must both work together collectively as a whole. A website must not only look attractive. It must also function properly. It is essential that the colors and the images appropriately reflect the brand. The interface itself must be appealing to the visitors it attracts.

The lines between web designers and web developers are becoming more and more blurred these days. More developers are learning design theory. And more designers are learning the ins and outs of coding. The future of this field can include both working together collaboratively, and we are already moving in this direction.

Having cross-knowledge in the industry is very helpful.  A person may feel comfortable working in visual design programs such as Adobe Photoshop. They may also know HTML and CSS and can code basic pages. Both designers and developers need to communicate in a way that everyone can understand. To avoid the communication gap, both should be open to new concepts.

Can someone be a web designer and a web developer simultaneously? It is possible to have both sets of skills. A professional may have some aptitude in both but may be more proficient in another. 

Know What You are Looking For

While these are two separate jobs, the lines between both professions are disappearing. Thus,  you should know precisely what you want in your website before hiring a professional to design it. 

Start with a little bit of research into each company. Are you in need of web development or design? Make sure that you are well-informed about what services are provided by the professional and which ones are not. The type of professional you choose to hire will determine the price and ultimate success of your project.

It is important to note that most of the time, you will not need to hire an advanced coder. This is particularly true for smaller sites. Not hiring an advanced coder will cost you much less hourly. If you do have a larger project, you will likely need to hire a company that has several web professionals with different skills.


Now that you know the difference between the fundamentals of web design vs. web development, you can make an informed choice about what is best for your business.  Even though these terms are often used interchangeably, one should not be confused with one another. Each discipline has unique skill sets specific to each.

A web designer will know how to take design principles and make a site that looks appealing. They have a good understanding of web usability and how to create user-friendly websites. The designs are visually appealing, so customers will want to navigate the site.

A web developer, while seemingly similar, takes a website design and constructs a fully functioning website from the ground up. The web developer is a programmer, one who has the technical skill to use HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, and other programming languages.

Having said this, both web designers and web developers do work toward a single goal of attracting users to a specific app or website. The website must look attractive and also be fully functional. Some individuals are capable of accomplishing both objectives.

As a consumer, it’s helpful to do a little bit of research on the company you wish to hire. Will your site need more web design or web development? Knowing what to look for will play an essential role in your future success.

Featured Photo by Burst on Unsplash