Web design and web development are related aspects that come together to form a well-built website. A few years ago when websites and technology surrounding websites was young, you could achieve all your website building needs with just a web designer. Nowadays, websites have become complex, both in terms of user interface and the functioning behind the scenes making it essential to combine aspects of web design and web development to achieve a quality website.

In a nutshell, web design deals with the look and feel of the website from a design perspective which web development deals with making the site functional through writing code that carries out the specific function. For example, take a look at any website's contact page. The overall look of the page is part of web design while the functioning of the contact form where you input information is considered web development because the form needs to perform the function of sending your input or storing that input in a database. Today, the roles of web designers and web developers are interchangeable because of overlapping tasks that a designer or developer needs to tackle to complete their overall work.

Web Design & Web Designer

Generally speaking, web design deals with the look of your website. In the early days, a web designer would design the website in Adobe Photoshop or other similar graphics tools page-by-page and be done with it. Today, while you can still design a website in Adobe Photoshop, there is one important aspect that a web designer needs to take into account and that is the different screens that a user will be viewing the website on. In our world today more people are using mobile gadgets (smartphones and tablets) to browse the internet as opposed to those browsing from a laptop or desktop computer.

User Experience (UX)

User Experience is a discipline of web design that deals with studying and improving users' experience when they are browsing the website. Since we've established that web design deals with the look of a website, it's from this point of view that we can improve the user's experience. To achieve a great user experience, web designers apply one or more of the following:

  • test positioning of certain elements at different positions on a web page,
  • test varying color schemes to see which ones resonate with website visitors,
  • run A/B tests where 2 versions of a page are displayed to a group of people to see which version of the page is more engaging with users

Web Development & Web Developers

Web development has expanded greatly in the last few years due in part to the introduction of dynamic cloud servers and new technologies that harness the power of these powerful servers. In essence, web developers build functionality and features so that websites are more than just pretty graphics and text.

Web developers today need to know a number of scripting or programming languages for them to perform their jobs properly. For starters, a web developer must understand HTML & Javascript. Next, he/she will need to be proficient in a server-side programming language such as PHP, .NET, Java, C#, Python, Ruby on Rails, and NodeJS.

Web development can be further broken down to front-end development and back-end development. Let's look at the functions of each.

Front-End Development

Front-end development, also known as client-side development deals with features that happen on web pages that don't require server processing. The main languages for front-end development are Javascript and CSS. Front-end development leverages the power of the user's device to execute certain features or effects.

Back-end Development

Back-end development deals with the processing of information and logic between the website and the server that is running the website. For example, when a user submits a form, back-end development processes the form and sends a notification to the right parties. Back-end development also deals with database functions such as connecting, querying and storing of information.

How To Choose Between Web Designer And Web Developer

When looking for a web professional, you need to list your needs and then compare that with the roles we've discussed here. Here are some examples:

  • If you're looking to build an informational site, a web designer or front-end developer will be sufficient,
  • If you're looking to just update the look of a page on your website, a web designer will be sufficient,
  • If you're looking to build an eCommerce store, then you need a back-end developer

Keep in mind that many of these professionals can handle tasks outside their core competence. For example, a web designer can also fill the role of a developer to an extent while a web developer can fill the role of a web designer to an extent. Many companies have designers and developers on staff and this makes them a good fit for a variety of web building projects.

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