On the outside, web design and development may seem like the same side of the coin, website creation. It’s true to an extent, but there are plenty of subtle and obvious differences and nuances between the two profiles. 

What is web designing and development?

Web design is a smaller (albeit crucial) part of the entire website building process, while development is the entire gamut. Both roles require particular software education, but lately, the roles are merged as ‘unicorns’ or ‘designers’ skilled in both design and development are highly in demand. That said, professionals specialise in different domains with extensive knowledge and background in either design or development are still considered experts. There’s enough place for every specialist in the website creation process to thrive. 

How do you decide what role is best for you as a software professional? Or, if you’re a client, how do you determine the difference between web design and development and the significance of each in your digital product? Let’s dive in.

Web Design vs Web Development 

Different definition

The terms Web design Web Development, sound the same, however, they are quite different.

Web design involves the look, feel, layout, and content creation of a website/portal.

Web development entails the actual functional development of a website and its usability.

Web design consists of designing webpage layout, graphic design, logo, typography, color palettes, UX design, and creating the overall website’s aesthetic appeal. It’s a subset of the entire web development process.

Web development is the invisible coding hand that creates the front-end and back-end, together known as full-stack development. It consists of coding the interface and applying the visual design on web pages, making live the web designer’s mock-ups.

Different tools

Web designers use tools such as

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Dreamweaver
  • WordPress
  • InVision Studio
  • Sketch
  • Google Web Designer
  • Firefox Developer
  • Panic Coda

Web Developers use IDEs and (Devtools) tools like

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Javascript
  • PHP
  • MySQL
  • Node.js
  • Python
  • Bootstrap
  • Django…..among others

Different roles

Simply speaking, a web designer makes the webpage look good and the web developer ensures the page works well.

A web designer (in accordance with the client’s brief, vision, and business objective) conceptualises the entire design of the website, much like the architect designs a building, to use a common but apt comparison. A programmer is analogous to the building’s general contractor, the one who constructs everything by doing client-side and server-side programming.

Web designers use their creative visualisation to produce the website’s overall vibe and experience in the context of the five senses. They are required to understand what the website’s core goals are and present them so that the target audience (or even general visitors) would find interesting and engaging, be it through the content (words+picture+videos, etc.), or other call-to-action/interactive features. They look at the big picture.

Web developers tend to look more at the details, the science, the mechanics, and the technical aspects of getting the big picture up and running. They work on the specifics to make the user experience smooth and snag-free. They’re responsible for writing error-free code, applying correct software, content creation tools, content management systems, testing, maintaining, updating the website, backing up files, fixing bugs, and correcting inadequacies generated from user feedback. 

Different skills (sometimes interchangeable for both a designer and developer)

Essential skill sets needed for web design

  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Knowledge of digital aesthetics/digital marketing
  • Language/communication
  • Design Software knowledge
  • UX/ storyboarding
  • Visual/graphic design skills
  • Time management
  • Social media trends
  • Understanding of business/commerce
  • Content creation/prototyping

Key skills for web development

  • Attention to detail
  • Responsive design
  • Technical software toolset
  • Analytical skills
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Back-end/front-end basics
  • SEO
  • Diversified industry knowledge
  • Latest web trends
  • Problem-solving
  • Multi-faceted coding, testing, debugging knowledge