What’s the difference between Web Design and Web Development?

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Web Design vs Web Development

Do you know the difference between web design and web development? I often see people looking for recommendations for one or the other, but did you know that when you’re building an online platform or mobile app, you might actually need both?

Traditionally, these two disciplines were quite separate and distinct. However, over the years, the line between the two has been blurred.  In this article, I'll talk about both of these terms, and how they might impact your product development project.

Web Design

As it implies, web design primarily looks at how the site will look. Think colours, fonts, images - the general look and feel. It also considers the usability of the site. However, web design is now also so much more – which is where the confusion occurs.

Web designers can also build websites. This often includes the marketing-focused websites that we all use for our businesses. The ones that explain who we are and what we do – these are called “static websites”. They can do this with the help of website platforms (or content management systems) like Wordpress and Squarespace, which usually have drag and drop website builders. These are further enhanced by “themes” that are essentially templates of “pre-built” websites. These allow designers to use their design skills to craft a web page for you.

To even further extend the power of web designers, are “plug-ins” or “apps” that are essentially pre-built tools, which interact with the website to give it extra functionality. They allow you collect email addresses, and send them to your email marketing or CRM tool. They can also be as sophisticated as allowing you to have a membership section or accepting payments.

A good web designer will also have some SEO skills as well. As a marketing tool, your static website should be easy to find through search-engines.

Web Development

Even with the increase in the scope of work that a web designer can cover, there are still limitations to what they can do - unless they really learn how to code. While most web designers will be able to do some front-end coding (using HTML and CSS), these programming languages focus on how things look on the screen. In order to do more complex things - you need a web developer. 

Web developers have a different skill set. They can build a much more dynamic website that can capture information, store it, and do something with it. Developers can build applications that allow you to move and manipulate objects. All of the website builders, themes and plugins were built by developers.  This means that web developers are in a much better position to build a more specialised platform; with unique or specific features.

Why do you need both?

As you can see web designers and web developers do very different things. While they can both build you a website, it depends on what kind of website you want.    

While a web developer can build you a static website, it might not look very good. This is not what developers are good at. However, if you want to introduce automation to your business, or to extend your business offerings through an online platform, then a developer is more likely to be able to help you.

If you’re building a new online platform that you want to market and sell as a product, then you’ll probably need both. A web developer will build your platform – with all of the screens and components that you need to give you the features that you want. Meanwhile, the web designer will create the static website that you need to market your platform.

But there's more...

Unless your web developer has some interface design (UI) and user experiences (UX) skills, you’ll also need one or more people to make your platform look nice, and to make it user-friendly. While, a web designer might be able to create a visual design for your platform, they may not have the skills and experience needed to design the user experience.

The next time you’re thinking about who you need to turn your idea into a product, along with UI and UX designers - consider both web designers and web developers.  If you're very lucky, you might find a superstar that has all of the skills outlined in this article! 

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