Compare Web Design vs. Development

Photo. Close-up view of a web designer or developer comparing wireframes, HTML code, and a mobile prototype.

While web design and development overlap in many ways, there are big differences between web design vs. development. Indeed, the skills, tools, and daily duties of web designers vs. web developers might even be called opposites.

Web Design & Web Designers

Web designers are like graphic designers that specialize in online media. Their main skills include determining the images, fonts, colors, and other graphic elements used to brand a website; laying out web pages; drafting wireframes; positioning buttons, hyperlinks, and navigation; and optimizing images for the web. Creative thinking is vital in this type of role. Web designers primarily work with software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and perhaps Dreamweaver.

Web Development & Web Developers

Web developers are programmers. Their skill in coding is what sets apart developers from designers. Daily tasks of a web developer might include designating headlines and lists for copy text; programming web layouts; adding responsive design for mobile friendly websites; adding interactive links and buttons; validating and debugging web codes; and uploading web pages to a server. Logical thinking is vital in this type of role.

“The biggest asset to the web designer is creativity, whereas the biggest asset to the web developer is logic.”

Front-End vs. Back-End Developers

Web developers often fall between two categories: front-end and back-end. Front-end web developers work with the client-side part of a website and determine how a web browser might display a web page. Much of the website’s aesthetics are determined on the front-end. Back-end web developers work with the server-side part of a website and determine how users might interact with a web page, including membership logins, e-commerce, and tagging and search suggestions.

Web developers tend to utilize computer languages more than software, although Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) programs facilitate the development process. The most common front-end web development languages include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The most common back-end web development languages include Java, MySQL, and PHP.

Comparing Web Designers to Web Developers

The biggest asset to the web designer is creativity, whereas the biggest asset to the web developer is logic. The biggest difference between designers and developers is that designers do not need to know coding. However, the mature market of design has caused many designers to permeate into development, and vice versa. Many can do a bit of each. For example, web designers might use Dreamweaver, a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) tool, to create websites. Web developers might also draft their own wireframes and apply design sense. Both might learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

It is important to know that web designers and web developers have the same goal: crafting a beautiful, functioning website for YOU.

Web Design & Development Key Terms

  • Back-end development refers to the server-side experience of a website or web app and works with web servers and databases to store, retrieve, and modify website, app, or user data.
  • Front-end development refers to the client-side experience of a website or web app and works with web browsers to convert code into a pleasant graphical display.
  • SEO is a set of criteria used to help determine the quality and relevancy of a web page. Higher quality, more relevant sites earn spots in the top ranks and get listed first in search engines like Google—garnering more web traffic.
  • Wireframes focus on positioning the information on a page, and not fonts, colors, images, or other distractions. The primary goal is establishing an information hierarchy that’s easy for users to follow.
  • WYSIWYGs allows users to click and edit live previews of web page and automate the coding process so users don’t have to program!