The Difference Between Web Design and Web Development

Web design and web development. You may have heard the term “web design” more than “web development”. Yet, what is the difference between the two? What qualifications does one need to be a designer vs a developer? In a nutshell, web design refers to both the aesthetic part of a website and its usability.

Web designers are responsible for creating the layout, colors, images, and typography of the website.  Web developers (also called front end developers!) are responsible for using coding language to make the websites function. They build the backbone of websites and are computer programmers proficient in programming languages such as HTML, JavaScript, jQuery, and CSS. Building websites are similar to architects designing buildings. The architect is like the web designer – they lay out the look and basic functionality. The web developer is like the construction company – they create the prototype and uses coding to bring the website to life. However, knowing the basic differences between web design and development can make a difference in understanding how your website functions.

Web Design

The responsibility of web designers lay in the aesthetics of the website. They have full knowledge of digital design practices as well as the design tools used in creating websites. Part of web design is proficiency in the Adobe Creative Suite – mainly Photoshop.

Layout and Navigation

Similar to print, the layout of a website is as crucial as the content it contains. Quality layout and navigation includes the design of a website’s text, video, and menu options. Good web design is creating a website that is easy for a user to navigate without thinking too hard.

Color and Typography

Color and Typography choices are a part of the design process. Design concepts like Color theory and typography are disciplines that reveal how in-depth web design can be. Web designers know how to use color and typography to influence mood, emotions, perceptions, attract attention as well as take on a cultural and personal meaning.

Mobile Design Optimization

Back in the early days of the internet, users were looking at websites on a desktop. Fast forward to 2019, and 70% of internet traffic comes from mobile phones. Every business needs a website that functions well on mobile phones from Android to Apple and everything in between.

Develop Prototypes and Wireframes

Web designers create prototypes of websites. They might consist of flat images or a basic structure to the website. Wireframes are similar to sketches. They are drawn with paper and a pencil. These sketches map out the layout and functionality of the site.

Web Development

Web development goes beyond the basic aesthetics and visuals of a website. The skills involved are less design-heavy and include skills that are specific to computer programming. Web developers also need to have extensive knowledge of domains, web hosting, and servers.  Additionally, there are several programming languages that are related to web development.


(HyperText Markup Language) – is used to define the parts of individual web pages. HTML is a coding language that tells web browsers which part of the page is a header, which is a footer, where paragraphs belong, and where images, graphics, and videos are placed.  This coding language enables everything to display properly on the user’s phone, tablet, or computer screen.


(Cascading Style Sheets) – is a connected to HTML. HTML controls page layouts as well as and the language of CSS is used to STYLE those formatted pages. Cascading style sheets (CSS) defines items like a page’s fonts, background colors, and paragraph formatting.


(JS) It’s actually not related to coffee! JavaScript is a scripting language used to add and control dynamic website content as well as enhance web content. It’s the added “bells and whistles” to a web page- photo slideshows, videos, animated graphics, and interactive forms.

jQuery/JavaScript Frameworks

jQuery is not a programming language. However, jQuery works in tandem with JavaScript. jQuery is a library written in JavaScript.  It is used to simplify front-end code that manipulates HTML. These libraries are pre-written JavaScript code that can be plugged into web projects. jQuery saves time by re-creating basic JS functions like interactive forms as well as image galleries. Rather than coding a JavaScript feature from scratch, jQuery can be reused as a template.


(WP) has become a household name in the web design world. WordPress is a platform for creating websites. It starts with a free to download version that can be installed on a computer. It’s important to note that websites like Wix or Squarespace are stripped down versions of WordPress. WordPress sites can be created by bypassing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. However, part of web development is understanding the structure that WordPress sits upon. With languages like HTML and CSS, you can create your own themes as well as modify existing ones, turning WordPress into a powerful tool for website customization.


PHP is a scripting language. It is used on the “server-side” of web development. PHP’s language is responsible for a website’s actions that include dialogue boxes opening as well as a screen in response to user actions or when a user scrolls past a point on a page. Additionally, PHP is also the engine behind custom theme plugins and language.

Both web design and web development are essential roles in creating websites. One is not more important than the other and knowing the difference will help you understand how your website functions. Websites are more complex than the “freepremium” Wix and Squarespace. At the end of the day, you need a company website that is going to function without any trouble.

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