Many people use the terms web design and web development interchangeably. And in the case of very small sites, it is possible that one person creates elements of both. There is quite a distinct difference between web design and web development, and the two roles require very different skills.
As with all forms of design, web design focuses on graphical and visual elements. It is all about the visual appearance of a website – the look and feel of it, the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design. The focus is on ensuring that the website looks visually appealing and attractive to potential website users.
Web designers create the look of a website. They create the colour scheme (or if using an existing business’ colours, they ensure that they are represented harmoniously on the web page). They choose the fonts, the layout, the graphics, and indeed anything that helps the information flow. They follow many of the same traditional rules of design as any other designer – just in their case they have an electronic canvas to fill.
Their main tools of the web designer’s trade are programs like Adobe Photoshop, which allow them to create and customise graphical elements. They will usually have a brief describing their client’s wishes, and it is the designer’s job to visualise these wishes.
It is the work of the web designer that is most visible to a website visitor. Hence, their work is often referred to as the front end of a website.
You can have the most visually appealing design in the world, but nobody is going to see it if it is sitting as an Adobe Photoshop file on a designer’s hard drive. The web developer takes a web design and converts it into code. It is the web developer who operates the back end of the website; who makes a website function.
They write the code that takes a designer’s vision and transforms it into a practical, functional website. The designer may decide that the website needs 3D red buttons for people to click on to take them to a checkout. It is the web developer who writes the code to create the 3D red buttons, and who ensures that when someone clicks on the button, the website user is physically taken to the checkout page.
Web Designers and Web Developers Working Together
Any website, of course, needs both design and development skills. Most web developers have some design skills, and most designers have at least basic development skills. It is not uncommon for one person to create small websites.
However if your site has anything above the basic requirements, it makes sense that you have a team work on your site. In this case, you are likely you work with both designers who create the site’s look and feel, and developers who do the actual coding, and who bring the designer’s vision into practical existence.
Any successful website is a blend of design expertise and development skills. These ally, of course, with highly informative and entertaining content to make a website that attracts visitors, who hopefully return on a regular basis.