Website Design vs. Website Development

Website Design vs. Website Development: What’s the Difference?

When talking about the process of building a website, we generally use the terms website design and website development interchangeably. However, have you ever wondered what the difference between the two is, if there is any?

There is actually a difference between the two terms.

A website designer is a specialist with graphic art skills that’s responsible for planning and designing the visual appearance, layout, and utility of a website. As such, a successful website designer must possess impeccable technical, graphic, and creative skills.

On the other hand, a website developer is a person who creates and maintains the primary structure of a website. Website developers are instrumental in transforming a design into a fully-functional website, using a combination of coding languages such as:

Whether you’re considering starting a new website project or want to begin a career as either specialist, understanding the roles and responsibilities of both in their natural setting is key.

Below, you’ll learn all about website design vs website development.

Website Design 101

Website designers navigate through a wide variety of different tasks. Nonetheless, a website designer’s primary role is centered on creating the visual aspects and layout of a website.

Their job is to make sure that a website’s design is both visually-appealing and user-friendly to captivate users to stick around and convert (become a customer). The scope of this job goes beyond planning the layout structure and general framework of a website.

It also entails constructing specific elements to compel website users to convert, as well as designing website pages to be presentable on both desktop computers and mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc) with smaller screens.

Websites are constantly changing. Therefore, website designers need to stay up-to-date on the current trends, ensuring that their products are in-season and follow the best practices and standards.

As a result, they’ll deal with fonts, color palettes, and brand imagery. Website designers will even create a style guide that will coordinate developers in creating a satisfactory website product:

Brand Colors

Website designers also manage other essential documents and resources such as:

  • Website briefs and contracts
  • Website proposals
  • Website design questionnaires

Website designers are involved in a considerable amount of resting and research to ensure that their product meets customer expectations and the highest design standards.

Furthermore, a website designer must consider how their work will impact the development of the final product. Designers will need to build a sitemap, which is a diagram or skeleton of a website’s architecture.

The sitemap will then be transformed into a mockup, a visual representation of the website. Developers are tasked with bringing these resources to life. A website designer may also perform vital services after the launch of the website, such as ongoing performance checks, maintenance, and content creation services.

Types of Website Designers:

UX and UI Design

There are multiple types of website designers, each involved in a specific expertise. These are:

  • User Experience (UX) — This involves how the user will interact with the website.
  • User Interface (UI) — This involves the structure of the website, or simply “what” the user will interact with.
  • Visual — This is the appearance of the website.

Depending on the website project, these website designers can play an integral role in its success:

UX Designers:

These designers make sure that a website is designed in a perfect way that engages an audience and delivers a satisfactory experience. Their main responsibility is to transform a human-based design into a data-driven template.

This involves performing a lot of research and A/B testing to

UI Designers:

UI designers play an important role in the design and development of a website. Their job is to optimize a website’s design to facilitate seamless user interaction and encourage conversions.

Visual Designers:

Visual designers deal with the visual elements and layout of a website. Their work involves a combination of UX and UI design. Their duties are based on making sure a website is easy to use and visually pleasing.

Many website designers use a wide variety of tools, software, and programs to make all of this possible. For example, Adobe Photoshop is a popular tool that allows visual designers to create a mockup.

They may also rely on image compression and optimization tools, as well as stock images to complete the design of a website. Finally, website designers are fluent in using content management systems like WordPress to complete their designs.

Website designers must be skilled in using prototype and wireframe tools to help them visualize and lay out a website’s framework. These will be tested during the development process to create the final mockup.

Skills Every Website Designer Need:

Depending on a designer’s specific specialty and role, a website designer’s required skills will vary. Generally speaking, here are some essential skills every website designer will need:

  • CSS and HTML basic skills
  • Knowledge of website accessibility and website design standards
  • Responsive website design skills
  • Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
  • Buyer’s journey mapping
  • Prototyping and wireframing
  • Typography, color theory, and branding
  • Design software and tools

Website designers should also possess non-technical skills such as strong communication, essential in taking customer specifications and converting them into a successful project.

Since website designers play an instrumental role in a website project, they must also communicate regularly with developers and other staff.

Website Development 101

A website developer’s primary focus is to build the structure of a website. This job requires a lot of highly-technical work, using advanced programming languages and complicated coding.

To put it simply, they take a concept from a designer and turn it into a fully-functional, live website. Basically, a website developer constructs the entire website. While the website designer deals with the front end, the portion the user will see, the developer deals with the back end or the “invisible portion”.

Website developers can build websites either from scratch or by using templates. In either case, they rely strongly on the resources that website designers create to guide them throughout the entire process.

To better understand the role of a website developer, it’s best to compare them to another field such as construction. Think about a website designer as the chief architect that designs the blueprint and layout of a home.

The developers are just like the contractors and construction workers, ensuring that every aspect of the home’s construction is completed with extreme precision.

Types of Website Designers

Front End vs Back End
Image Source:

Website developers focus on a wide variety of programming languages. Depending on the type of website development work, the programming languages they use will vary. As such, there are three primary kinds of website developers:

  • Front end
  • Back end
  • Full stack

Let’s dive into the specifics of each type:

Front End Website Developers:

Front end website developers deal with the aspects of a website that users can see. They still use various programming languages, such as JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and more.

They will also rely on using content management systems like WordPress. Their primary focus involves programming and coding a website’s visual elements that will affect the appearance of the website.

As a result, the collaboration with front end developers and website designers tend to overlap.

Back End Website Developers:

Back end website developers are involved in the extensive work it requires to create the core elements of a website. They configure websites using more advancing programming languages, such as NodeJS, SQL, Ruby, Java, C#, PHP, and other frameworks on the side of the server.

This type of development affects what’s visible behind the scenes of a website. Nonetheless, their work is influenced by the work of both front end developers and website developers.

Full Stack Website Developers:

A full stack website developer handles both programming duties, on the front and back end of a website. They have a full understanding of how both aspects work. In addition to programming website pages using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, developers also deal with configuring servers, query databases, application programming interfaces (APIs), and much more.

What Skills Do Website Developers Need?

As previously explained, website developers need to master key technical skills to help in successful website projects. At the very least, a website developer must specialize in:

  • Programming languages (jQuery, JavaScript, PHP, CSS, and HTML)
  • Debugging and testing
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Content management systems (WordPress, etc)
  • Databases and back-end

Just like website designers, developers need to master non-technical skills. This involves analytical thinking and problem-solving, which can assist in effective debugging strategies.

Website developers must also communicate efficiently with clients and website designers to ensure a smooth transition process. Developers rely on platforms and tools such as GitHub for code versioning and Jira for tracking development issues.

Developers may also utilize Chrome DevTools for debugging and testing purposes. They should also be fluent in FileZilla and File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

Website Design vs Website Development: Recap

Website Design vs Website Development: Recap

Now that you have a better understanding how both roles contribute to a website project, here are some important distinctions you should be aware of:

  • Website designers focus heavily on the appearance on the website. Developers go “under the hood” to turn a design into a usable product.
  • Designers create a mockup or a blueprint of an entire website in regards to both UX and UI. They must also keep the developer’s work in mind. Once the developer approves the mockup, they will begin work in programming the website.
  • Website developers are technically-sound individuals. They must understand complex programming languages. Designers, on the other hand, aren’t involved in nearly as much technical work.
  • There are three main types of website developers, front end, back, and full tech stack. There are three main types of website designers such as visual designers, UX, and UI.
  • Website designers rely on tools like Adobe Photoshop, wireframing and prototyping tools, as well as CMS platforms like WordPress to get the job done. Conversely, website developers deal with CMSs, FTP, Jira, and GitHub to perform more comprehensive tasks.

Both professionals play a very strong role in creating and maintaining websites. Ultimately, the success of a website depends on how developers and designers work together to deliver an outstanding product.

The major difference is that designers focus on how the website will look and perform for users to convert and developers focus on programming and coding a website to meet its design.

Considering a Career as a Designer or Developer?

Website designers and developers both take part in rewarding and growing careers. With websites being at the forefront of the 21st century’s digital revolution, there will always be a need for these kinds of professionals.

Whether you take your skills in-house or to an agency, you can carve out a meaningful career by receiving a college education, interning at an agency to hone your craft, and taking on solo projects to build your portfolio.

In time, with substantial experience and the right connections, you can achieve a dream career wherever you like.

What is the Website Design and Development Process Like?

If you’re not interested in becoming either professional and want to begin a project instead, you may be wondering how both of these experts work together. When a person orders a website from an agency, the entire team meets with them (along with the project manager) to discuss expectations, budgeting, deadlines, and deliverables.

Then, the designer moves forward in creating a mockup that is sent to the project manager for client approval. Afterward, the mockup is sent to the development team. Once they approve, they’ll begin creating the final design.

Along the way, they’ll collaborate with the design team to ensure their work aligns with the best UX/UI standards. Finally, the website prototype will be sent to the client for approval, and the project will be finished.

Starting a New Website Project?

If you’re looking to complete a website project, then you’ve come to the right place. At DEV, we employ a large team of designers, website and software developers able to complete any project imaginable.

To learn more about how we can spearhead your upcoming project, contact us today to speak to a member of our team.

Ryan is the VP of Operations for He brings over a decade of experience in managing custom website and software development projects for clients small and large, managing internal and external teams on meeting and exceeding client expectations--delivering projects on-time and within budget requirements. Ryan is based in El Paso, Texas.
Connect with Ryan on Linkedin.
Ryan Nead