web design or web development whats the difference

Web Design or Web Development, What’s The Difference?

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We can tell by looking at our Google Analytics that businesses are searching for both Web Design Company and Web Development Company. Nowadays these terms are virtually interchangeable as “web companies” alternate the way they describe their services. The truth is that the terms reference two fundamentally different aspects of the website building process requiring two unique skill sets. Why is it important that you know the difference as you look for someone to design and develop your company’s website? Let’s see if we can provide some clarity.

Web Design vs. Web Development In A Nutshell

In essence, web design refers to both the aesthetic portion of the website and it’s usability. Web designers use various design programs such as Adobe Photoshop to create the layout and other visual elements of the website.

Web Developers on the other hand, take a website design and actually make a functioning website from it. Web developers use HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP and other programming languages to bring to life the design files.

Web Design – A Closer Look

Web designers must always begin by considering a client’s website objectives and then move on to an Information Architecture (IA) to set a website’s information hierarchy and help guide the design process. Next, web designers can start creating wireframes and finally move to the design stage. Web designers may use several basic design principles to achieve an aesthetically pleasing layout which also offers excellent user experience.

Design Principles

  • Balance – It’s important for web designers to create a balanced layout. In web design we refer to heavy (large and dark colors) and light (small and lighter colors) elements. Using the correct proportion of each is critical to achieving a balanced website design.
  • Contrast – In color theory, contrasting colors are ones placed opposite one another on the color wheel (see also complementary colors). Web design offers a few other areas where contrast is applicable. Designers look at contrasting sizes, textures and shapes to define and draw attention to certain sections of the website.
  • Emphasis – We touched on this a bit when discussing contrast. Emphasis is a design principles founded in the intentional “highlighting” of certain important elements of the website layout. It’s important to note that if you emphasize everything on the page you end up emphasizing nothing. Imagine a page in a book where 80% of the content is highlighted in yellow…does anything really stand out? This is the time to take a look at that Information Architecture for direction.
  • Consistency – Also called repetition or rhythm, consistency is a critical web design principle. For example, clean and consistent navigation provides the best user experience for your website visitors.
  • Unity – Unity is the relationship between the various parts of the website layout and the composition as a whole. Based in the Gestalt theory, unity deals with how the human brain visually organizes information by grouping elements into categories.

Web Development – A Closer Look

Web developers, sometimes called programmers, take the design created and build a fully functioning website. To put it (very) simply, think of the design as a non-interactive “picture” of a website. Developers take that design and break it up into it’s components. They then either use just HTML or a more dynamic approach incorporating programming languages such as PHP to develop the various website pages. More advanced web developers may choose to utilize a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla in order to streamline development and allow clients an easy way to maintain and update their website.

Web developers may convert a static layout into a dynamic website by using image and content sliders, active states for links and buttons, and other interactive elements.

Final Words

Small- and medium-sized companies looking for a website or a re-design of their existing website may be confused by the blurred lines surrounding the terms “Web Design” and “Web Development.” Although there are individuals that are able to do both, many companies have dedicated designers which create the website layout and then hand the design files over to a programmer who completes the development stage. Hopefully this article will help clear up the common misconception that design and development are one in the same.

Your Turn

  • Do you agree that design and development are two different things?
  • Are there other differences we neglected to mention?

Let us know in the Comments section below.

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