Web Design or Web Development - What's The Difference?

06th July, 2010 | Internet | Web design | Web development
Web Design or Web Development - What's The Difference?

I have had clients contact me that had previously employed a web developer, when they should in fact employed a web designer.

This common misunderstanding can be hard to grasp if you have little technical knowledge - don't be caught out, make sure you understand the difference! 

On first glance, web design and web development can often seem to be the same thing - sure, there are crossover areas, but strictly speaking they are two quite separate areas of work within a website project. 

Web Design

The look, feel, layout, colours and font choices that are used are all down to the web designer. A good designer will have more than a basic understanding of how a web page is assembled including knowledge in HTML and CSS - it is, in my opinion, impossible to design a website without having some basic knowledge. 

Web Development

The code behind the scenes that a makes a website work is due to a web developer. This is generally more complicated script based programming that can process items of data or information, & then present them on screen as html to be styled by the CSS that has been provided by the Web Designer.

On a more complicated level, Website development is responsible for making dynamic websites function - shopping carts, full e-commerce websites, news systems, social media and blogs. 

Where Design and Development Crossover

The confusion between Web Design and Web Development can occur in the overlapping grey areas. You will often see CSS or html coding referred to as development, however most Web Designers will be able to do this as well. Some Web Developers will also be capable of styling design elements, even designing simple websites - but typically, the results will not be the same, and the design can even be poor or non-existent.

Even more confusion arises because of the derogatory term 'Web Designer' - it often implies that all aspects in the build of a website are 'Web Design'. In most cases this is an assumption that is OK to make, but care should be taken to ensure that if you choose to use a Web Designer that they can perform the Web Development side of the project that you need. Likewise, if you choose to use a Web Developer, you should ensure that they are capable of doing the Web Design as well. If a person or company advertise themselves as purely being a Web Developer, then it is safe to assume that they don't do Web Design. 

So What Service Do I Provide?

I am both a Web Designer and a Web Developer - I do the design work, I code the HTML & CSS for the basic pages on the website and I also code PHP and Javascript to make the website do clever things behind the scenes. 

You may think that the differences here are simple and clear cut, but I know for a fact that not everyone understands them. I have been contacted previously by a potential client who originally approached 14 different Web Companies, the client chose to use a Web Developer. When the difference/error was realised, I received a very emotional phone call from the client asking for advice. The end result?...the original work was scrapped and another website built from scratch - this meant the client effectively paid twice for the same website.....a very costly lesson indeed!

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