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Understanding Web Design Vs Web Development

Last Updated: March 10, 2022


Home » Understanding Web Design Vs Web Development

Web design vs web development: what the hell’s the difference?

Often times the terms “Web Design” and “Web Development” are used interchangeably. This can create breakdowns in communication and prohibit clients and web design companies from having effective conversations. Especially during the process of effectively planning a website redesign.

In this article, we’ll be discussing web design vs web development, the roles of web designers vs web developers, and how to keep the terms straight.

Let’s start with an analogy.

You’ve got yourself a stunning dark grey Jaguar E-Type with all the bells and whistles. It’s a pretty car – but it’s more than that. The aesthetic speaks to you. The lines, the materials, the logo. It all seems to be just right.

You slide into the leather driver’s seat and prepare to take to the open road. You turn the key and hear your engine roar. A feeling reverberates through you. You’re off, enjoying a spring afternoon with the roof down – life is good.

In this metaphor, web design is the look and feel, and web development is the engine.

You need both to be top-notch in order to deliver an excellent driving experience.

Now, with the understanding of “design” as being the look and feel, and “development” being the engine, let’s take a deeper dive into the individuals in each role.

The Role of a Web Designer

It’s understandable why people are confused by the term “Web Designer”. The role of a web designer has evolved quite a bit, often blurring the lines between web designer vs web developer. In general, a web designer spearheads the user experience planning and visual aspects of your websites design.

Web designers plan the overall user journey and site structure, as well as focus on a color scheme, typography, layout, and images. Web design governs what the user will ultimately see on their device when they arrive at your site. It’s also the main driver of business goals, such as generating more leads or improving online sales.

Designers are looking to keep an overall consistency (repetition or rhythm) of the entire site, so it doesn’t feel like every page belongs to a different site entirely. There is unity in the layout, which helps the human brain organize the information they are processing on the site.

Web designers stick to a theme for the site that speaks to the target audience, and finds relevant images for the subject matter, ensuring no inconsistencies. The web design is the first impression a visitor will get of the brand, and if they like what they see, they might stay around longer to explore the product or service offerings.

Summarizing A Web Designer’s Personality

Designers view, interact and visually process the world. If they were to give you directions to their home, they would most likely describe the physical landmarks you would pass on your way.

They rely strongly on their intuition. They are driven by how they ‘feel’ about something when creating the look and feel of their designs.

Trade in ‘big ideas.’ They can visualize every aspect of the user experience – how they would experience the overall ‘vibe’ of the website along with every component that contributes to making the whole. Here’s a list of some common traits for web designers:

  • Trust their gut instincts
  • Ability to speak in front of a crowd
  • Make decisions based on social considerations
  • Express emotions easily
  • Flourish with out-of-the-box thinking
  • Doesn’t like too much structure or following ‘norms.’
  • Sees structure as a limitation to creativity
  • Entrepreneurs
  • A knack for knowing what people want
  • Expressive extrovert artistic masters

The Role of a Web Developer

Once the planning and design process has been completed, the web developer, often called programmers, step in and build a fully functioning website from the design.

They bring the vision to life. The design is non-interactive at this point, and the developer starts the engine and begins fueling the process towards an interactive user experience. The web developer can use HTML for the process or make use of programming languages like PHP or a CMS (content management system) like WordPress, which gives the client the opportunity to update and maintain their website without the need for a developer for every change or addition.

There are two types of web developers working on a site’s functionality –front-end (client-side) and backend (service-side). You might find that some web designers are also proficient at front-end developing, understanding the ins and outs of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Web developers may convert a static layout into a dynamic website by using image and content sliders, active states for links and buttons, and other interactive elements.

The backend developer has a specific knowledge of a programming language like Python, Django or Ruby on Rails and also understands databases. The full stack developer is one who is skilled at both front-end and back-end web development. They are the code masters who jumpstart the design into an operating website.

Summarizing A Web Developer’s Mentality

The stereotypical image of a developer is a shy, anti-social introvert. But many developers defy these labels and display extrovert tendencies. Here is a list of the more traditional generalizations about the personality of web developers:

  • Logical
  • Scientific
  • Analytical
  • Obsessed with data
  • Black-and-white worldview
  • Efficient
  • Takes one step at a time
  • Pays attention to details
  • Thinking
  • Structured –loves planning
  • Achieves goals in a predictable way
  • Relies upon tried and tested techniques to get the job done
  • Slower to speak their mind
  • Smart decision-makers, weighing up all the options before sharing it with the rest of the team

Web Designers + Web Developers: How They Collaborate Throughout A Project

Project Planning & Strategy

Devising an effective project strategy requires strong collaboration from both designers and developers.

But before web designers start the creative process, there has to be a solid plan in place. For the planning phase, web designers have to understand their client’s website goals and objectives clearly before moving on to the next stage called Information Architecture (IA), which will ultimately impact and guide the design phase.

Web Developers are expected to contribute to this process by outlining the technical requirements of the project, and sourcing technology that matches the challenge. Developers also work towards shaping the designer’s ideas based on the platform they’re using to solve the client challenge.

With both business and technical challenges identified, the designer can get down to the visual nuts and bolts of the site.

They’re working to create a balanced layout with contrasting colors which will draw attention to critical areas of the website, like CTA’s. Emphasis is also used to highlight specific areas of the page. Designers are looking to keep an overall consistency (repetition or rhythm) of the entire site, so it doesn’t feel like every page belongs to a different site entirely.

After the designer has achieved unity in the layout, they will work with the developer to lay out a guideline that translates the visual information into specifics for the code for the front-end theming and back-end content management support.

Spotting a Unicorn

Aptly named a ‘Unicorn’, is a person who is a jack of all trades able to do it all – design and develop (front-end) and are highly sought after individuals in the industry.

They are fluent in the language of both design and development, offering greater team communication and a workflow process that is smooth.

However, just because they can do everything doesn’t mean that they should. Sometimes it’s great to have a unicorn involved in smaller projects where they can take the project from concept to mock-ups to front-end development on their own. For more significant projects, it might be more productive to have separate individuals taking on the different roles of design and development.

A Typical Project Breakdown

Alright, so how do these two different folks work together successfully? Let’s say there’s a client project for laundry app development. The designer/UX would be focused on interviewing potential customers, creating user personas, user flows, and the visual design. The developer would be focused on the research required for technical specifications, back-end development, front-end development, and technical quality assurance. 

Web Design Vs Web Development: The Take-Away

Now that you have a better understanding of web design vs web development, as well as the personality characteristics of web designers vs web developers.

These broad-stroke personality characteristics of web designers and developers lean strongly towards stereotypes. We have definitely all met these individuals in the digital world.

Although some of these are natural traits portrayed in the different jobs – some of these personality traits can be learned over time. They can be developed through educational input or nurtured by a mentor on the team.

One doesn’t want to say that an introvert would not make a great designer because we have seen evidence that there are introverts in these positions and vice versa. As long as an individual has a passion for the job of either developer or designer he/she can excel in any role they choose.

The strength of any team is always in their diversity of personalities, perspectives, and approach to work. Knowing the mentality of web designers and web developers will help you better understand the dynamics when you next decide to have a new website created for your company!

Meet The Author

Jeff Gapinski is the President of Huemor where he helps plan the long-term strategic growth of the agency. Jeff is passionate about UI/UX, demand generation, and digital strategy.

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  • Ryan 06/20/2022 4:04 am

    It's a really very informative blog about Web Design VS Web Development. This blog really helps in gaining knowledge. Keep it posting these kinds of blogs in the future.

  • Avinash sharma 06/3/2022 8:14 am

    Your post is so amazing. You explained it very well. Excellent post.

  • Avinash sharma 06/3/2022 8:14 am

    I was searching for such information for a long time. I am very happy to see your post. It will be really useful for me.

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