Web Design Vs. Web Development

When you hear “web development” and “web design”, chances are that you think of them as being interchangeable terms. While the two are not polar opposites by any means, they are also not identical; they are different in many ways. Here are a few of the differences between the two terms and the basic description of each.

Definition of Web Design

Web design, by modern definition, is essentially every component that goes into the visual appeal and usability of a website. Factors of web design include color, typography, layout, images, and the flow of information.

Web design focuses on what the user sees – that is, what shows up on their screen when they open a website from a computer or mobile device.

Definition of Web Development

While web design is what goes on on the surface, web development is what goes on behind the scenes. This being said, it can still be broken into two categories: back and front-end, with the front-end being managed by the client and the back-end being responsible for managing data that is then served to the front-end host.

In general, developers don’t deal with aesthetics. However, they do often possess some user experience knowledge so that they can choose what technology will best fit with the desired look.

Web Design vs Web Development

There are several factors that distinguish web design from web development. Understanding these factors make it easier to know whether you need to hire one or the other, or if you need the services of both.

Tools used

In web design, the professional behind the job will use a range of primarily creative-minded tools. These tools can include the likes of Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, and other programs that allow them to create still-life mockups of potential website layouts and designs.

Web developers use technical tools. These include things like Dreamweaver, Ruby on Rails, Bootstrap, and jQuery. These handy development tools make reading, editing, and rewriting code easy and allow the developer to build websites from the ground up at a basic, fundamental level.

Overall goal

The end goal of web design is to be left with a visually appealing, easy-to-look-at website. The colors should blend well, the layout should be clean and have just enough (but not too much) blank space, the font should be easy to read, and all other visual aspects should be on par.

The goal of web developers, however, is to build a website foundation that satisfies the needs of the designer. For example, the designer creates a still-life mockup; the web developers takes the mockup and fashions the code of the website so that each of the visual elements given to him/her by the designer can be honored.


Web designers, like other creatives, often have specific specializations and areas of expertise. Most designers fall into one of two specializations: UX Designer (User Experience) or UI Designer (User Interface). UX designers are tasked with researching the website’s target audience and crafting a layout that appeals to them, whereas UI designers focus on creating a website that is easy for visitors to interact with.

Web developers don’t generally have a specialization, other than being either front or back-end developers.

Coding skills

The level of coding skills that goes into web design is much more basic than those that go into web development, which makes sense when you think about it. Web designers will have basic coding skills, as they occasionally have to edit code or create basic strings of it from scratch, but they don’t often have the level of coding knowledge that developers do.

Developers will have an in-depth knowledge and should be able to use a variety of coding languages, be effective at troubleshooting, and know how to navigate coding software. Developers will also likely know how to build websites that function on various devices.

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To recap, the concept of web developers and designers can be thought of as the builders of a house. The web developer is like the builder; the designer the architect, who’s responsible for the visual aspects. Both have different jobs and are utilized at different times, although, each one is necessary and important for the success of any good website.

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