Web Design and Web Development, What’s the difference?

Through looking at our Google Analytics we can say that businesses are searching for both the Web Design and Web Development companies. Such terms are practically synonymous nowadays since “web firms” vary the way they describe their services.

The reality is that the words reflect two radically different aspects of the process of building websites that involve two specific skill sets.

You would be hard-pressed to find a web designer who didn’t know at least a little bit of HTML and CSS, and you’re not going to have to search more for a front-end developer who can beat up a storyboard.

However, if you are thinking specifically about the general principles of web design vs. web development the distinction is much clearer. Let’s look at those two principles and the roles they play in designing the websites and apps that we know and love.

Web Design

Web design is the website creation process. It covers numerous aspects including web page architecture, content creation, and graphic design. Although the terms web design and web development are often used interchangeably, web design is specifically a subset of the wider Web development category.

Custom Website Designs are developed via markup language, called HTML. Web designers use HTML tags to build web pages that define the content and metadata of each page. Use CSS, or cascading style sheets usually describes the structure and design of the elements inside a webpage.

Most websites, therefore, contain a combination of HTML and CSS, which determine how every page should appear in a browser.

Some web designers prefer to hand code pages (typing HTML and CSS from scratch), while others like Adobe Dreamweaver use a “WYSIWYG” editor. This type of editor offers a visual interface to design the webpage layout, and the program produces the corresponding HTML and CSS code automatically.

Another common way of designing websites is via a WordPress or Joomla content management system. These platforms provide different website templates that can be used as a starting point for a new website. Webmasters may then incorporate content, and use a web-based interface to customize the layout.

Although the look and feel of a website are designed using HTML and CSS, photos must be created separately. But graphic design may overlap with web design since graphic designers also produce images for web use. Some graphics programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, also provide a “Save for Web …” option which provides an easy way to export images in a web publishing optimized format.


Design Principles

  • Balance

The development of a balanced layout is essential for web designers. We relate to heavy (large and dark colours) and light (smaller and lighter colours) elements in web design. To achieve a balanced website design it is important to use the right proportion of each.

  • Contrast

Through colour theory, contrasting colours are those put on the colour wheel opposite one another (see also additional colours). Web design offers a lot of other areas where comparison can apply. To describe and attract attention to certain parts of the website, designers look at contrasting sizes, textures and shapes.

  • Emphasis

When we discussed contrast we touched on this a bit. Emphasis is a design philosophy built on the deliberate “highlighting” of certain essential elements of the architecture of the web. It is important to remember that if you stress anything on the page you end up stressing nothing.

Picture a page in a book that shows 80 per cent of the text in yellow … does anything stand out? Now is the time to look for guidance at the Information Architecture.

  • Consistency

Consistency is also called repetition or rhythm and is a basic concept of web design. Clean and reliable navigation, for example, offers the best user experience for visitors to your website.

  • Unity

Unity is the link between the different sections of the layout of the website and the composition as a whole. Unity, based on the Gestalt Principle, deals with how the human brain organizes knowledge visually by sorting items into categories.

Some common skills and tools that vary web designers from web developers are:

  • Adobe Creative Suite or other design software
  • Graphic Design
  • Logo Design
  • Layout/Format
  • Placing call-to-action buttons
  • Branding
  • Wireframes, Mock-ups, and Storyboards
  • Colour Palettes
  • Typography


Web design is concerned with what the user sees on their computer screen or mobile apps, and less so with the processes that make it all work under the surface. We bring a visual world to life with the use of colour, photos, typography, and layout.

This being said, many web designers are also familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript — this helps to create web design mock-ups while attempting to pitch an idea to the team or fine-tune an app’s UI / UX. Web designers also frequently work with WordPress or Joomla templating services too! You can build websites using themes and widgets without having to write a single line of code.

Web Development

Web development refers to the design, establishment, and maintenance of websites. It includes topics such as web design, web publishing, software programming and the management of databases.

While the words “web developer” and “web designer” are often used synonymously, they do not mean the same. Technically a web designer only uses HTML and CSS to design website interfaces. A web developer may be involved in creating a website, but web scripts can also be written in languages such as PHP and ASP. Also, a web developer can help maintain and update a database that a dynamic website uses.

Web development involves multiple ways of producing web content. Some instances include hand-coding web pages in a text editor, creating a website in software such as Dreamweaver, and updating a blog with a blogging website;

Content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla have also become common means of Web creation in recent years. Those tools make it simple for anyone to use a web-based interface to build and edit their website.

While there are many website design approaches, there is always a trade-off between convenience and customization. For this reason, most web development companies do not use content management systems, but instead, have a dedicated Web development team that designs and maintains the website(s) of the company.

Small companies and individuals are more likely to use a solution that includes simple website design and easy editing tools, such as WordPress.

Development Principles

  • Focus on the user

No matter how far we are in the trenches, we have to concentrate on the customer first. For very good reasons, that’s a Google philosophy, which cans doctrine for us as developers as well.

  • Focus on Quality

This concept is what separates the specialist from the hobbyist, the novice, the student. Anyone can hack a website together — and we all know what it has done for our field — but few can build one that is of high quality.

  • Keep it Simple

Similar to our emphasis on quality it is abstract to keep things plain. Generally speaking, we can’t list anything that counts, since it depends on the context and the goals. It takes concentration and experience to keep things simple.

  • Code Responsibility

Web development requires responsibility. The duty includes both us and others, where others are friends, customers, and consumers once again. The Code initiative promotes learning, accessibility, efficiency, semantics, and validation responsibly.

  • Think Long-Term

The long-term emphasis lies next on our list of validated values. This one is not easy to catch, either — we may well believe that our values work so well precisely because they’re a bit broad and fuzzy, and they don’t absolve us from thinking and working out.

Some universal skills and tools usually viewed as unique to the front-end developer are listed below:

  • HTML/ CSS/ JavaScript
  • CSS pre-processors
  • Frameworks
  • Libraries
  • Git and GitHub

Web developers at the front end typically don’t build mock-ups, choose typography, or choose colour palettes — these are normally provided by the designer. It is the responsibility of the web development firms to make certain mock-ups come alive.

That being said, knowing what the user needs require some knowledge of UI / UX design best practices so the developer can select the right technologies to deliver the required appearance and experience in the final product.


The blurred lines surrounding the words “Web Design” and “Web Creation” that confuse small and medium-sized businesses looking for a website or a re-design of their current website.

While there are individuals who can do both, many businesses have dedicated designers who create the website layout and then turn over the design files to a programmer who completes the creation. It is hoped that this article will help to explain the common misunderstanding that design and creation are one.

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