Difference Between Web Design and Web Development

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Web Design vs Web Development
When it comes to websites, there are two buzz-words that float around more than any others and these are web design and web designer. This being the case, it is easy to think that these are the only major terms and role involved in the building of websites.

You might also have heard of the terms web development and web developer and probably confused these to also refer to web design and web designer respectively. This couldn’t be far from the truth as web design and web development are completely different but complementary fields.

Web designers and web developers work together to bring about a website. You cannot have a website without one or the other. It is also important to note that these are simply roles and in small website building firms, both roles can be filled by one person.

Web Design

Web designers are responsible for bringing a client’s vision and concept into life. They translate an idea into a design. A website design is not the website itself but a representation of how a website is going to look and feel for the user of the website.

Taking the analogy of building a house, you may think of a web designer as the architect who comes up with the plan of the house. The plan is not a house but it represents what the building contractors will use to build the house.

Web designers are concerned with formulating the aspects of the website such as layout. They determine where elements are going to appear on a website such as images or buttons. They are interested in the usability of the site that would be built. 

Placing a button at the top of a page may have significant impact on usability if the same button were placed at the bottom or on the right. Web designers would usually conduct usability tests to evaluate the impact on usability of their design.

Web designers also experiment with various colour schemes and palettes to find the best colours for a design in conjunction with the client’s brand colours. Colour plays a big role in the likability and usability of a website.

There is an entire science behind using colours in design that the web designer has to have a firm grip of these concepts in order to come up with the best design.

It is also critical that everything in a design gels together and is applied with consistency across the website. Every single element in the design has to complement the whole such that nothing looks out of place.

Web designers will often start with sketches and then produce wire frames  which are handed over to web developers to implement the design. Wire frames are typically low fidelity representations of the design showing only the main aspects of the design, although in some cases highly detailed wire frames can be produced.

Web Development

As discussed, web design is usually not concerned with the actual building of a website. It is the role of web developers to actually build a site based on the designs produced by web designers.

Going back to the analogy of building a house, if web designers can be considered to be the architects, then web developers can be considered to be the building contractors. The role of a web developer is to translate the design into a working website.

Web developers are functionally oriented. They build functionality from the designs produced by web designers. There are two aspects to web developers and they are front-end and back-end web development.

Front-end developers are interested in developing the visual aspects of a web design. They are the ones who have a direct link to web designers. They develop all the visual elements of a website such as the placement of the button previously discussed.

Front-end developers work with Hypertext Markup Language (HTLM), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Javascript languages and markup to achieve the design implementation. It is also not unusual for them to make use of Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Joomla or Wordpress.

Back-end developers are concerned with the connection between the front-end and a database as well as website logic. In almost all modern websites, there will be a database involved. The visual elements such as a form, have to interact with a database in order to persist data for later retrieval.

It is the role of back-end developers to provide an interface to the front-end that makes data storage and retrieval possible.

Back-end developers make use of programming languages such as PHP, ASP.NET, Python or Node. These programming languages enable back-end developers to develop the program flow and database management of website.

Whilst developers are split into two different types; front-end and back-end, there is however a third type of developer and this is the full-stack developer. A full-stack developer is someone has sufficient knowledge to proficiently perform both the roles of the front-end and back-end developer.

Being a full-stack developer is not easy to master firstly because it is just hard to learn and master both areas and secondly because most teams have members working in one specialized area and not both.

I personally consider myself to be a full-stack developer because working solo or in some cases as part of a small team leaves you without a choice but to understand the full stack.

Next Time You Go Looking

The time might come when you go looking for someone to build your website. When that time comes, it will be important to understand that there is more than one role in building a website.

Knowing that a web designer and a web developer are not the same thing can help you make important decisions around the team or individual working on your project. It can help you steer the conversation in an informed way.

I hope that this blog post has been helpful to you, if not now then I hope in the foreseeable future.

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