Designing vs. Developing: Understanding the Two Sides of Your Web Project

The main difference between web design and web development is that while designers create the visual assets that add aesthetic value to the site and overall UX, web developers are responsible for bringing those functionalities to life. The developer will translate the designer's mockups, wireframes, and other assets into code using JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. For example, while a web designer might design a button, including how it looks, and even providing guidance on how it functions, a web developer brings that button to life, all while ensuring the button actually works.

Designing vs. Developing: Understanding the Two Sides of Your Web Project

In today’s digital age, having a website is essential for any business looking to establish a strong online presence and reach a wider audience. Developing a website is not an easy task and usually requires a team. Understanding what each member of the team does is key as they all play different but equally important roles in this process.

When it comes time to create your new website, the project team will most likely consist of two or more members who focus on different areas of expertise. In this case, we’ll be focusing on the web designer and the web developer.

The two roles work in synergy to create a successful website that is both visually appealing and technically sound. Understanding the difference between web design and web development however is crucial, as each expertise requires a unique set of skills and capabilities.

Whether you’re looking to better communicate with your project manager about your ongoing web project, looking to hire a team for a new website, or simply trying to gain a better understanding of the web process itself, having a general idea of what’s involved in these two important roles can help you communicate more effectively and understand what it takes to get a new website off the ground.

When working with an agency specifically, their goal is to make this process as streamlined as possible and so, the function of these two roles are more nuanced than many believe. Designers focus primarily on layout and visuals, and developers focus on functionality and core site architecture.

In this blog, we’ll explain these two roles while focusing on how they differ as well as how they are interrelated.

What is Web Design?

Web design is all about creating the visual appearance of a website. This includes the overall layout of a website and its nuanced design elements. Additionally, a web designer will focus on user experience and user interface. (UX/UI), a necessary consideration in any form of modern tech.

The main elements that web designers focus on are:

Content Layout :

The core of a website lies within its content. This serves as the main reason why users navigate to a website. Users are drawn to valuable content, so it must be both informative and attractive. Therefore, a designer must carefully select font size, color, width, and other styling considerations.

Visuals:

By definition, a designer is someone who concentrates heavily on appearances. This is the colors, fonts, imagery, and other visual/design elements of a site. Therefore, a web designer must consider the visual design carefully and cohesively present the design. Through visuals, your brand’s value, message, and aesthetics will be shared with users. Designers will often use the Adobe Creative Suite to aid in the creation of visuals.

UX, Usability, and UI:

Here’s an instance where there’s a crossover between design and development. Let’s start by defining the three focuses first:

Usability: Making a website or app easy to use

UI: Making a website or app attractive and effective according to users’ preferences

UX: Making users feel positive about a website or app

Usability is a core part of user experience (UX), but UX is significantly broader in scope. A designer and a developer must consider both of these things when fine-tuning and optimizing their product. So, a website may be super easy to use and functional but doesn’t leave an emotional effect on the user. This would be an experience that has been optimized for usability, but not the user experience.

A main focus for a web designer is the UI, which is the collection of icons, buttons, pages, and visual elements that allow a user to interact with your website or app. It’s everything that a user sees and signals to them what to do and where to go; its importance can’t be overstated!

A great UI is like a smart layout. It draws the user in, encourages them to stay, and makes it easy to find everything they’re looking for and more. UI is how you direct users to make choices that match their needs as well as your business goals.

Accessibility:

Web designers also must ensure their designs are accessible to all. Regardless of one’s abilities, having an accessible website is crucial to making a website usable for anyone. A web designer can make a site accessible by utilizing appropriate colors and contrast, and ensuring their site supports assistive technology such as screen readers. Additionally, avoiding flashing or blinking elements can help to improve accessibility.
Designers rely on ADA compliance standards to ensure they are meeting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. When these compliance standards aren’t met, users may not be able to digest your design. These standards are put into place to ensure web accessibility and usability best practices are utilized correctly and effectively. Though a design may be aesthetically pleasing, if it’s not ADA-compliant, you could be dealing with quite the negative impact.

What is Web Development?

Web development involves the technical aspects of building a website. A web developer’s job is to take the initial design created by the web designer and turn it into a functional website using various programming languages. Web developers have to ensure their code is clean and optimized for performance while simultaneously ensuring that the final product is responsive, accessible, secure, and optimized.

Web developers may focus on either the front-end, back-end, or a combination of the two, also known as full-stack development.

Front-end Developers:

Front-end developers code what the user will see and how the design is displayed on multiple devices. Not only do front-end developers code, but they also build frameworks that the user will ultimately engage with. A front-end developer’s main goal is to take the visual design that the web designer came up with and make it functional. To do this, developers use programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Back-end Developers:

Back-end developers focus on the website’s core infrastructure. These developers are heavily involved in code, web servers, and databases that are not on the browser. This includes evaluating the brand’s requirements and integrating technical solutions into the site. There are critical components that back-end developers utilize, such as a server to host the website, an application to operate it, and a database to store and recall data. A back-end developer uses back-end languages like Python, Ruby, or PHP.

Full-stack Developers:

A full-stack web developer takes on a role that is ultimately a combination of the previous two. This type of developer is involved in the full cycle of web development, which includes both creating and maintaining a website. A full-stack developer is proficient in a variety of programming languages and technologies that front-end and back-end developers use. They can also optimize web performance and security.

Overall, all of these developers are valuable assets when it comes to web development, as they play a crucial role in bringing a website to life.

The Main Difference

The main difference between web design and web development is that while designers create the visual assets that add aesthetic value to the site and overall UX, web developers are responsible for bringing those functionalities to life. The developer will translate the designer’s mockups, wireframes, and other assets into code using JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. For example, while a web designer might design a button, including how it looks, and even providing guidance on how it functions, a web developer brings that button to life, all while ensuring the button actually works.

The Synergy Between The Two

When it comes down to it, both developers and designers are needed to create a successful online presence. They both play a role in creating engaging user experiences. No matter how beautiful a site may be, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t serve an intentional purpose. Frequently, both developers and designers work collaboratively to efficiently develop a cohesive and optimized site. Without the designer, a website may feel and look lackluster, and without development, a website would not operate or serve the needs of the user. The result of the two working together is an exceptional website that checks all of the boxes.

By understanding the nuances of each role and how they work together, businesses can bring together the right team (or hire an agency that already has one) to create online experiences that effectively represent their brand and connect with their audience.

So, whether you’re looking to create a new website or to become knowledgeable on the topic, it’s important to learn the differences between web design and web development, as well as how these two work together, as this will provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of what goes into your next website project.