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

Web design vs web development, what’s the difference? Although often used interchangeably when describing the small business website building process, they are certainly not the same thing. While there are some firms, like us, with designers who can develop and developers who can design, that isn’t always the case. For that reason, it’s important to understand the difference between web design and web development.

Web Design

Web design is focused on the visuals of a website and how it will function for a user. Web designers take a client’s vision and transform it into an entire website. They work with design software to create aesthetically pleasing websites with a great user experience (UX). 

UX design is the process of designing a website that is useful, simple to navigate and pleasurable to use. It’s about enriching the experience users have while interacting with a website to ensure they find what they’re looking for on any given page. This includes color schemes, layout, how the information flows and everything else related to UX. Designers need to stay abreast of the latest web design trends and also have the ability to interact well with clients throughout the process.

Once the designer is satisfied with the design they’ve created, they pass it along to the web developers. 

Some commonly used tools and skills that distinguish a web designer from a web developer are:

  • Graphic design
  • Adobe Creative Suite or other design software
  • Layout/format
  • Branding
  • Wireframes, mock-ups and storyboards
  • Typography
  • Logo design
  • Color palettes

A web designer doesn’t necessarily need any qualifications; creative flair and attention to detail are more important. Their work typically involves follow-up services too as they may create updates, maintenance and monitoring services, and ongoing performance checks.

Web Development

A web developer takes a designer’s website layout and writes code to make it function properly. They typically use programming languages such as CSS, Javascript, HTML or Python to do this. Some web developers build the site around a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla to help create and manage content as well as allow clients to easily maintain and update their websites.

Web developers can either be front-end or back-end developers, while some may be experts in both, known as full-stack developers. 

  • Front-end developers: This is coding and programming the look and feel of a website. They work closely with web designers and their clients to achieve the desired aesthetic of the website.
  • Back-end developers: This is building the functionality of a website, including system integrations, server maintenance and dealing with any security issues.
  • Full-stack developers: These individuals code both the front and back ends of a site. They fully appreciate how all parts of a website work and function together. In addition to coding web pages using programming language, they also do all the work behind the scenes, covering all aspects of web development.

Some common skills and tools traditionally viewed as unique to web developers are:

  • HTML/CSS
  • JavaScript
  • Other programming languages
  • Responsive design skills
  • Knowledge of APIs, servers, SQL, databases and cybersecurity
  • SEO skills

Web developers require a solid amount of technical knowledge, often gained through a degree. Depending on front-end or back-end specialization, these individuals may need to be able to code and understand CMS, back-ends and databases. They probably also need to be proficient in testing and debugging and have a good understanding of search engine optimization (SEO). Plus, there are non-technical skills that are good to have as a web developer. These include analytical thinking, problem-solving and good communication.

“The Unicorn”

The designer/developer hybrid who can do it all is now a possible reality for both web designers and front-end developers, thanks to the increase in the availability of educational resources across the web. Those designers/developers who are skilled across the entire website build process are highly sought after in the industry. 

This “unicorn” can take your project from basic concept and vision to mock-ups and storyboards, through front-end development on their own. Not that you necessarily want them to, though; the real value of developers who design and designers who develop is their ability to speak each other’s languages. This leads not only to better communication on the team and a smoother workflow, it means you’ll end up with the best possible solution, leaving you blown away with the results. 


Designing a small business website can be time-consuming and complicated. Plus, understanding new trends and design elements can be a struggle. We help take the guesswork out of website design and development, integration and optimization so you can focus on running your business. You dedicated your time to building a company; we will dedicate our time to building your website. Let’s chat today!

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Samantha Prost

Samantha Prost is a digital content writer with over six years of experience who uses her upbeat and creative energy to write fresh, fun and custom content for our clients.

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