The Difference Between Web Design and Web Development

Web Design and Web Development, what is the difference?  Both terms tend to be alternately used to describe the website building process, so are they the same?  No, there is a difference, web design is all about the aesthetics of a website – how it looks and the user experience.  Web development refers to the work that goes on at the back end to produce a fully functioning website.

There is much speculation that in the future the two roles will merge into one.  Already the most sought-after web developers are also proficient in web design.  Someone who has both creative and technical skills is ideal.  It is hugely beneficial to have both as they can see a project through from start to finish.  Issues like miscommunication or differing ideas are stamped out.

With improvements to web development software reducing the need to code, anyone can create a website now, the role of the coder writing it all from scratch is becoming a rarity.

Web Design

Web design is concerned with the visual look of a website and the functionality from a user’s perspective. Web designers take the ideas and concepts of a client and transform them into websites.  They work with design software like Adobe to create aesthetically appealing websites which have a good user experience (UX). They then pass those designs onto developers.

UX design refers to the process of designing a website that is useful, simple to navigate, and pleasurable to use.  It’s about enriching the experience that users have while interacting with a website, and ensuring they find what you’re providing useful.

Website design involves UX designers and visual designers utilizing their skill sets to make wireframes, mock-ups, design systems, colour palettes, templates, and more to help developers build the product.  They need to stay abreast of the latest web design trends and also have the ability to interact well with clients.

A web designer doesn’t necessarily need any qualifications, creative flair and attention to detail are more important.  However, most have taken an HND or diploma in web design and/or IT.  Web designer’s work typically also includes some follow up services. They may create content and updates, maintenance and monitoring services, and ongoing performance checks.

Web Development

Web development is the process of taking the design and writing code to make the website function properly.  They typically use languages such as CSS, Javascript, HTML or Python to do this.  Some web developers may choose to use a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla. These are applications which help users manage and create content, and allow clients to easily maintain and update their website.

Web developers can either be front-end developers or back-end developers Some may be experts in both and known as full-stack developers.

Front-end developers – front-end development, mainly involves coding and programming the aesthetics of a website. Front-end developers work closely with web designers and clients to achieve the desired look and feel of the site.

Back-end developers – Back-end development, mainly involves work on the functionality of a website.  This includes maintaining the server hosting the website and fixing any security issues.

Full-stack developers – full-stack developers code both the front and back end of a website. They fully appreciate how all the parts of a website work and function together. In addition to coding web pages using programming languages like HTML, and JavaScript, full-stack developers also do all the work behind the scenes, covering all aspects of web development.

Web developers require a solid amount of technical knowledge, gained through a degree or HND. They need to be able to write coding languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP.  They also need to understand Content Management Systems such as WordPress, back-ends and databases.  They need to be proficient in testing and debugging, and understand search engine optimization.

In addition to these, there are non-technical skills that are good to have as a web developer. This includes problem-solving and analytical thinking, which are needed for the debugging process. Good communication skills are also important and the ability to work well with others for collaborating with clients and other key individuals.

What is the no-code movement?

The no-code movement is a growing trend towards the use of tools that enable individuals with little or no programming knowledge to perform tasks that normally require coding skills. No-code tools are typically website and app builders. Users can create fully functioning apps and websites without knowing any code, it is all generated in the background.

These no-code tools benefit users who are unable to write code but want to create online sites and marketplaces. Although website builders like Wix and Squarespace have been around for years they don’t allow for true customization, that always require the skills of a web developer.

More recent tools such as Webflow allow users to create fully customized websites and apps without any need to code.

So, does this mark the end for web designers and developers?

Whilst there is definitely a demand for no-code tools, there will still be people who want to outsource the creation of websites, either due to lack of time or technical know-how.

Some have cited security worries about using a no-code tool rather than having a fully hosted solution.  There is also the issue of maintenance and bug-fixing which require specialist knowledge.  A reasonably creative marketing manager can create a decent enough website but what happens when something goes wrong?  Exhibition stand contractor Black Robin Exhibits initially built their website in house, however security concerns and maintenance issues have led to them outsourcing the hosting to a web design company for peace of mind.

There may also be SEO benefits in using a professional web developer who can build in SEO from the start.  Web developers may need to become more specialized in creating complex websites.  It is likely that large, complex projects will still require the services of web designers and developers.

Ross Pike of web design company Koreti had this to say ‘We are still seeing strong demand for our services in spite of the DIY website builders.  People don’t have the time to create a website, or they want something fully customized with extensive features.  Search engine optimization is also a big factor in the demand for our services’.  One happy customer is Bournemouth based Quadrant2Design who had their website redesigned by Koreti, as a result they have seen significantly more organic traffic which has converted into more orders.

So, for now web design and development are still skills that remain in demand, but who knows what the future will bring.

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