Web Design vs. Web Development

What's the Difference?

Our friendly team at E. Studios love to communicate with our clients. One of the key things we noticed was that most of you don’t know the difference between web design and web development. That’s okay! It’s our job to help you out, so we wrote this blog to support your chats with us.

The difference is amazingly simple: a web designer designs how the website will look and feel, while the developer builds it in code to make sure it functions the way the design needs it to. I talk about this in more detail below.

Like other types of designer, a web designer is concerned with the look and feel of a medium, but specific to websites. You might be a legal firm and need a sleek, simple-to-navigate site with bold corporate colours. The web designer will know what elements work together to achieve this look and feel, and guide you in that direction.

Things can vary, so it isn’t as easy as primary school art. If you’re a music promoter, the web designer might steer you towards something trendy that bombards the user with big and colourful images and videos as they scroll down. This follows a different type of site layout and navigation pattern to make it look “cool but not cluttered”. The balance of elements would also be different to how it would work for a corporate site.

Broadly, the elements that a web designer thinks about for you will include:

  • Aesthetic— colour schemes, fonts, logos, images and how these elements should work together in balance.
  • Emphasis— what elements should be emphasised for your audience? If you’re selling goods, it will be your products. If it’s an artist page, it will be your story and works.
  • Content— what content should show up on your site? Most sites will have a landing page (home page) and a contact form. Others will need a shopfront, and maybe legal pages to ward against nasty lawsuits. Like us, you might even run a blog.
  • Navigation— how does a user navigate through the site? If through a menu, where is it located and will buttons be used? Can I get to each page from the home page, or will there be subpages?
  • Consistency— will it feel like I’m on the same site if I go through its different pages? Having a standard layout and unifying elements such as matching icons and images will help keep a consistent feel.

Once they’ve talked it over with you, had a coffee, and really understood the direction you’d like to take, the designer will create a prototype of the site. This might be a sample version hosted on a private server for your client eyes only. If they’re aiming for quick turnaround, they might show an Adobe XD prototype which is an Adobe product made specifically for sampling site designs.

A website developer is primarily a coder. They learn programming languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript or PHP. They use this lingo to build the website, make it function as the design needs it to, and hopefully tailor it so the code loads seamlessly online.

Web development isn’t just about things like servers, security protocols or optimisation algorithms that most of us mere mortals don’t quite understand. Everything that appears on our screen is code. Images are code, colours are usually hexadecimal in code, how you click a link and where it takes you is code. If they wanted to, a web developer could make your mouse pointer leave a trail of sparkling rainbows as you scroll across this website.

Once a site has been designed for you, the web designer passes it to the web developer for implementation. It’s like asking an architect to design your dream home, and then hiring a builder to construct it. You need both of them to have a beautiful home that functions well for you and isn’t creaking everywhere or falling apart. As with house designs, the more complex the parts, the harder it will also be to build your website (see Figure A).

These days, publishing tools like WordPress take out some of the complicated development work. An everyday user could come in and setup a WordPress site. You select a theme, make pages, write content, and then publish the site online.

However, a good WordPress site can be pretty involved to be successful. It requires some developer knowhow such as CSS or the use of ecommerce plugins. Without these skills, you’ll have trouble creating a unique looking site, or having one with a working shopfront. And if you’re asking for anything more complicated like your very own version of PayPal, you’ll definitely need a team of web developers to build it.

Figure A. Visualising Web Developers vs. Web Designers
web designer
web developer
(Source: adapted memes, originals from 9gag)

How We Can Help

If you have a team of developers, we offer a standalone Website Design service. Our design team will make sure your website experience is impactful, seamless, and really works for your audience. We’ll also work with your web developers to make sure the design process is as effective as possible.

If you need us to build a site, E. Studios offers website development packages in WordPress. WordPress is what our team is most experienced in, and as part of the package, we’ll design the site and publish one in WordPress for you. We’re a very small, comfy Studio, so our development work is currently for WordPress only. If you need anything more than what our WordPress package offers, talk to us and we can look into engaging a specialist developer for you.

Again, if you’re ever unsure, just start the conversation and talk to us. Our team would be more than happy to chat about the skills and services we offer.

Lanz De Jesus
BArts & AssocDeg (GamesDev), Content Writer

03 May, 2021

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