What is the Difference Between Web Design and Web Development?


The difference between web design and web development has become blurred. This confusion may cause problems for a web design company and its clients. Web design has become a generic term that encompasses design and development.

It is important for companies to make their clients aware that a successful website requires excellent design and development. Equally, clients should be prepared to make the effort to understand the difference. This understanding makes the specification and approval process more straightforward.

Web Design

Web design determines the look and feel of a website. It covers the layout, navigation and colors of a website. It may also include graphic and logo design. Web design is more concerned with aesthetics and user experience than functions.  A web designer will make a website easy to use and fit for purpose.

Web Development

In contrast, web development provides the functions and features of a website. It is about the back end programming and not the face of a website. Functions covered by web development include registration, content management systems, e-commerce and any database applications. Web development enables visitors to carry out actions on a website.

Web Design Skills

A good web designer will have graphic design skills and a good understanding of marketing. He or she will know how to grab the attention of visitors and encourage them to explore a website.

Web Development Skills

A good web developer will have excellent programming skills and be able to use a range of programming tools. He or she will be able to provide solutions to give a website the functions required.

There will be some overlap of skills between web designers and web developers. It is unusual for one person to be both an excellent designer and developer.

Web Design Tools

Web designers use software such as Photoshop, Flash and Fireworks. They will also have a good working knowledge of typography, color theory and web accessibility.

Web Development Tools

Web developers will use a range of programming tools such as ASP, Javascript, XML and SQL. These are just some of the more well-known tools. There are many others and new tools are being developed all the time. For example, mobile apps have created a huge demand for developers with the relevant knowledge.

Overlapping Tools

Most designers and developers will be familiar with HTML and CSS.

Web Design, Web Development and WordPress

The development of WordPress provides an interesting example of the difference between web design and web development. The web design of a WordPress site is determined by selecting a theme. The theme includes the use of colors, columns, fonts, navigation and titles.

After selecting a WordPress theme, you may add functionality to your website by using widgets and selecting plug-ins. These functions equate to web development.

Many people with no web design and development skills have created reasonable websites. However, experienced web designers and developers can create great websites. Such websites will have unique designs, functions and features.

Which is More Important?

Research has shown that visitors judge a website in just a few seconds. Therefore, good website design is required to make the website attractive and easy to use. Good website development is required to give the website interesting features and functions. Ideally, web designers and web developers should work together to retain visitors and encourage return visits. Design and development are equally important.

In conclusion, both web design and web development are essential to produce an effective website. Web design should be integrated with web development. This approach gives the best chance of creating an outstanding website.

Your turn now.

Which is more important to you: web design or web development?


  1. Tiago Duarte says

    Nice article, yet I don’t agree 100% with it.
    For example, I am a web developer and I know the fundamentals of marketing and usability, unlike some web designers I know.

    Keep it up!

  2. says

    I am a designer and developer.
    I think that the overlap between the two is inevitable, as tools for both CMS dev and design become more accessible. Undoubtedly they both take a great deal of work to master; but designers need to become more techie and developers have to offer design.

    As these two disciplines merge there is a split happening between two others… Content and Application.
    Websites are less and less content oriented and more and more application oriented, content generators are becoming more specialised as application developers and designers merge into one field.

  3. says

    Excellent post – will definitely help clients understand the difference between the two skills and why both are needed. In my experience I find more developers with design skills than the other way round but I think both are equally important for a successful site.

  4. says

    Quality article mate. I often get questions from clients on what are the differences between a developer and a designer. This really sums up all the different answers and explanations that i’ve been using over the years.

  5. says

    Nice article, allthough I think it’s stated all to black and white. I call myself a Web developer, but I do both design and the technical stuff. Design is just a part of the website’s development, just like the coding is. I guess, in my explanation, the “Web” in “Web” developer is interchangable with “Product” and ‘developer’ with ‘creator’ (resulting in Product creator). Web developer just makes it a bit more specific. This way of looking at it also solves the “which is more important question”: none, as they are both part of the greater good.

  6. says

    I agree with the article very much in the fact that the more that is known about the two fields the better the web will perform. I love working with web designers when I am developing a website to function a certain way because then I do not have to worry about the design and how long it is going to take me. I have been a web developer for about 10 years now and I love it.

  7. noko says

    Hmm, I don’t know. Video Game design is the actual design of the game, from level design, game mechanics and rules, etc, a game designer makes the game fun (sidenote: I know many designers that were programmers first). Game development is, well, the complete development process of a game… from audio, programming, design, art.

    I always though it was the same for web designers/programmers/developers.

    Web Design aims for the look and functionality of a website, while Web Programming was the actual coding and Web Development was the whole process of making anything related to the web.

    Either way, they’re just words.

  8. says

    With CMS like wordpress, it is making it easier for people to get a good looking website that has a lot of the same functions of a HTML.

  9. says

    Thanks for this post. I always wonder why my web designer is not able to carry out any backend changes and require outsource technical support. Now I know, her background and skill set is without much of technical knowledge, which clearly can be answered if we have a web developer

  10. Astrid says

    Seems like u actually understand a lot with regards to this specific subject and it all shows throughout this particular article,
    termed “What is the Difference Between Web Design and
    Web Development? | Pixel 77”. Thx ,Ulrike

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