Web Design and Development: Similarities, Differences, and More

Web Design vs Web Development at Iconic Web HQ

With several jobs available in the realms of web design and development, it is very important to know what you are searching for. This is especially important when attempting to hire someone for a website production role. How can you ensure you understand what you are hiring for so that you can advertise for the correct role?

This article will allow you to answer the question “what’s the difference between web design and web development?”. This way, you can produce job listings that perfectly suit your needs.

What is Web Design

In short, web design focuses on the aesthetics of the website and how easy it is for people to use. It generally involves analyzing the experience of any person who engages with the site. It also aims to ensure people can use the site without hitting any roadblocks.

The tenets of web design focus on four key areas that encompass the entirety of web design’s focus. The user, the content, the website’s framework, and the visual design of the site.

The Content

The information available on the site such as images, text, video, and other elements are all related to web design. You should create it in a format that the above users are most likely to engage with.

Because anything that you place on your site that faces users is “content”, you often have to carefully consider it. It should suit the users you expect to have and be easy to digest using the devices you expect them to be using. You should ask yourself whether users want entertainment or information and provide that sort of content.

The Framework

The web design framework is a method by which you can define how your site works on different users’ devices. They may want to access your site with their desktop, tablet, phone, or even television. They may also want to access it when their Internet is slow, or in several other situations.

You will want to design the site to be responsive to the circumstances you expect your users to see it in. One example of this is to create sites that change their layout depending on the size of the screen users engage with. This allows it to handle browsers, shrunken browsers, phones, and tablets with ease.

Similarly, the mobile version of a site may contain a stripped-down set of features.

The User

One of the main focuses of web design is that of the user themselves. You need to know who you are designing for so that all the site’s design can cater to that demographic. Your users will have specific expectations based on who they are that you must cater to and if you do not you may be in for a bumpy ride.

User-centric design has become more and more prominent in recent years. This is in an attempt to make sure the website you create works perfectly for a core audience.

When focused on users, you need to consider several questions that focus your design, they include:

  • What are the demographics of your users?
  • What interests do your users have and what languages do they speak?
  • Why are these users engaging with your site?
  • What are the goals of the users when they visit your site?

In answering these questions, you can understand what you need to do to support those who visit.

The Visual Design

How you design the visual elements of a site can be very important for ensuring users get attracted to your site. For this purpose, the visual design focuses on images, the use of color, and font choices. It makes your site engaging for the specific user demographics you have chosen.

Visual design taps into human emotion and how you can use it to create a feeling you want to evoke. That could be joy, sadness, or even fear if you want people to (for example) buy life insurance.

This pillar of web design asks users how they can get their visitors emotionally engaged in a cause or story and applies it to themselves. The best design allows the visitor to feel like a part of the story if they engage with the product or brand.

Tools of a Web Designer

Web designers make heavy use of visual suites such as Adobe, allowing them to present the developer with a mockup of the website they wish to create. They may also make use of paper and pencils, whiteboards, or simple prototypes to present mockups. They rarely engage with coding and programming, as that is the role of the web developer.

Skills of a Web Designer

A web designer has a wide skillset, including knowledge of:

  • Art
  • Graphic Design
  • Branding
  • Typography
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Language
  • Communication

Together with all these skills, they can present and elaborate on their design. They can do this in a manner that allows the developer to work based on their blueprints. If they need further changes, they need to be able to communicate what form the changes should take.

What is Web Development

A web developer is a technically-oriented individual who focuses on the software behind a website. They will have an eye on both the front-end (the site the users see) as well as the back-end (the stuff the user does not see). This allows them to ensure the site can technically work despite any difficulties such as hacking or oversaturation of users.


Your content creators should have a method by which they can alter or upload content to the site. If this is not going to happen often, the developer is likely to be the one putting it on the site, but they should not be writing it. That should be the role of the designer.

The developer should research and provide a method for the content creators to update the site if the designer wishes to do so regularly. This is to allow all members of the team to save time in the long run.


A web developer focuses on fine-tuning the website to ensure it runs fast and in an effective manner. They will plan from the get-go to ensure the website does what it needs to and not much more. This is as nobody wants the website’s servers to be running overtime when they do not need to.

The technology the website gets built on is the purview of the developer. This allows them to code methods to make the best use of the available hardware to fit the needs of the others in the team. They will need to know what the site should do from an early time, however, to be able to plan as the product moves forward.


Where the designer plans what the site should look like in different formats, the developer codes how the site actually does that. They plan for the site to work across different devices and browsers. For example, the user could make use of the Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, or Internet Explorer browsers and any website needs to support them all.


Developers need to plan for many users making use of the site at the same time. They need to be able to expect enough bandwidth to provide data to potentially thousands of users. For that, they may need to engage with cloud services, server providers, or other groups.

Web developers may need to include DevOps teams. This is a group that includes business analysts and developers.

Engaging with a DevOps team tends to results in having a very solid understanding of your requirements. You should do this before it becomes too late to put in place any analyst’s conclusions.

DevOps teams can even build the infrastructure of your websites while the “meat and potatoes” of the sites get built by a separate team. This may only be an option for a large corporation with more resources to spend, however.

Tools of a Web Developer

Web developers have specific areas of focus they pay attention to perform their role.

Code: Developers should have a solid grasp of web code such as CSS or HTML to develop the pages themselves. They should be able to understand any existing pages as well as create new ones from scratch.

Frameworks: These are pieces of software that developers use to support web development. This allows any website to work alongside an existing web service or API. These frameworks can also provide complex templates for the development of further aspects of the web presence.

Libraries: The developer will often make heavy use of code libraries to quickly put together any site they create. This removes a large amount of development overhead by using site templates or pre-written code and subroutines. This can assist with creating any aspect of the site’s front-end or back-end makeup.

Git: This is a piece of software for tracking changes in files. It allows the developer to integrate their work with a larger codebase and can also restore an old version should they need to. This allows all people involved the transparency to see where and when changes get made as well as why.

Web Design and Development: The Difference?

As seen above, web design and development are two very different beasts. There are some specific differences on display here that we have summarized below.

Development is Technical

Web development focuses on the technical side of creating a website. This involves ensuring that the performance of the site is acceptable. It also ensures the site is compatible with the systems the web designers deem to be the target market.

Finally, the web developers ensure that the site is scalable up to the number of users that they expect to visit.

Should the site go down or have other technical errors, the web developers are the ones who will be on-call. The designers will only get involved if there is an issue with how users engage with the site rather than how the site works from a technical point of view.

Design is the Experience

Web design focuses on the users and how they experience the site. While this may involve performance issues on occasion, it is more focused on how the site works when everything is running correctly.

Designers focus on user flow, visual design, and similar aspects to help guide the user on a journey through the site in a manner that they expect. They often focus on proving or disproving hypotheses about the user’s traversal of a site. They can then make conclusions about how the design of the site needs to change moving forward.

UX Crosses Over

UX Design is a discipline that crosses over with both web design and web development. While designers will often focus on the “User Experience” of a site’s pages, the UX of a user is actually an all-encompassing discipline. It involves every aspect of how a user sees a site. It can involve:

  • The URL the user enters
  • The speed of the site loading
  • The method by which they interact with the site
  • The fonts, colors, and visuals of the site
  • Whether the site is functional
  • How the site presents itself on other sites, such as via web previews

Some of these involve the developer and some the designer, showing that UX is everybody’s responsibility.

In Summation

You should now have a solid idea of how web design and development are both similar and different. These disciplines are both important in the development of any website. If you are looking to redesign your current site or build a new one, you should have access to people who understand these concepts.

For that reason, we recommend you contact us at the earliest convenience. Our team should be able to discuss with you the ins and outs of building or maintaining a website that is perfect for you.

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