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Web Design and Development: What’s the Difference?

Learn what web design and development are, by diving into their different elements and how they work together to create a cohesive website.

When you are thinking of building a website, you may immediately consider hiring a developer or a designer. However, did you know that both web design and web development are quite different? Website design and development are both integral elements used in creating websites, software platforms, and even applications used on smartphones and tablets in everyday life.

While there are many similarities and differences between website design and development, understanding them can help to better grasp how the two co-exist with one another and why they are both necessary for any web project today.

What is web design and development?

When you want to make a website, you will need both design and development. You can design a website, but you cannot launch it without developing it, using standard programming languages and coding. Web designers also spend time with usability and how someone will experience a website, rather than working in the backend.

The two are both intertwined and, in many cases, developers work with design and designers are also familiar with some development languages. Comparing web design vs. web development can help with understanding what it is you need while working on your next web design development project.

Even after you design a website or have an idea of the vision you want for your design, you will likely require the assistance of a web developer to help bring that said design to life and to help make it usable, or accessible, to your online visitors.

Web design elements

A web designer is an extremely visual individual and may even use a guide to website development to help in crafting branding and visual elements for a website. A web designer typically works with visual and graphical elements, instead of working behind the scenes with coding. This means they may focus on the overall layout, aesthetic, color scheme, logo, and even the visual hierarchy of a website to provide as much of a pleasant browsing experience as possible for visitors. However, it is possible for web designers to also be well-versed in a variety of coding languages, especially frontend development languages such as HTML (HTML5) and CSS (CSS3).

Some of the most notable elements of web design that are always considered by web designers when they are working include:

Layout and design

The overall layout and first visual impressions matter, especially to new visitors to a website. A web designer is responsible for the arrangement of logos, introduction text, navigation, headers, footers, and additional graphical or video elements. They are also responsible for keeping up with the latest trends that are used in design based on particular markets or industries they represent. The website layout may also include mobile-friendly development options, which will be implemented and worked on by the website developer.

Branding and colors

Choosing the color scheme for a website will highly depend on the preferred logo being used by the business or website, as well as the target audience. Choosing the right branding and colors can provide the aesthetic that is most suitable for the target audience of the site itself.


The web designer is also responsible for choosing the type of graphics, logos, photographs, and illustrations to use. The web designer should have a well-rounded understanding of color theory as well as how to integrate a wide range of layouts, color palettes, and themes into one central online location.


The visual hierarchy of a website is also important, especially if the goal of your website is to attract new prospective customers, collect user information, or even generate sales. Knowing where certain elements of your website should appear and which graphic elements are most aesthetically pleasing can go a long way when it comes to making a positive and lasting impression on your visitors and customers.


One of the most important elements involved in web design includes navigation. Whenever you visit a website for the first time, you will likely immediately begin searching for links or the navigation area to help find your way around. A website that does not have a proper navigation column or bar may find it difficult to keep users. The navigation of a website should be immediately visible, easily accessible, and also responsive, and mobile-friendly for those who use smartphones and tablet devices while browsing on the go.


Similar to navigation, accessibility to your website is equally as important, even for web designers. Although it will be the duty of the web developer to implement the coding necessary for your website to load and work, it is important for web designers to consider creating additional graphical and design elements for those using smartphones and tablet devices while browsing online. Today, more users than ever browse the web with the use of a tablet or a smartphone, which is why designers prioritize ensuring that websites are not just accessible to one crowd or another.

Website speed

While it is important for a web developer to ensure the optimization of a website, web designers must also take into account the overall size of the graphics and other design elements they are choosing to use for the website they want to build. If a website requires too much time to load, the owner of the website risks an increase in their website's overall bounce rate.

The bounce rate of a website is the percentage of users who leave after landing on one page of the website or visiting the site for the first time. According to one survey, a simple 2-second delay in loading time on a website can result in a bounce rate increase by up to a staggering 103%. Web designers should always keep image optimization and compression in mind when designing a layout and other elements for clients.

A web developer is an expert at problem-solving and understanding various programming languages, from HTML and CSS to more complex languages such as Java, JavaScript, Ruby, C++, and Python. The web developer is also responsible for working alongside the web designer to help coordinate efforts to bring a design to life. Whether the design is a flat 2D design or requires dynamic Flash, video, and animations, a web developer can work to integrate a variety of elements into a site while implementing design elements into a real and live working website.


Web developers work with a variety of languages. They are also familiar with front-end coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Other languages web developers are familiar with may include Ruby, Perl, C++, Java, and Python.


Web developers are not only well-versed in various programming languages, but they are also familiar with SEO, or search engine optimization. When developing a new website, consider and implement updated SEO tactics to ensure that your website is optimized for top-performing search engines. A properly optimized website will appear within the first pages of search results for top search engines such as Google and Microsoft's Bing.


A web developer is also familiar with optimizing a website, whether you choose to build a website from scratch or if you are using a third-party solution, such as WordPress. Developers eliminate unnecessary code and only use what is best for a website as well as its visitors. Web developers are also familiar with optimizing websites for specific devices and browsers, depending on the target audience of a client.


Website developers are well-versed in using properly structured lines of coding, making your website load faster without becoming too bogged down, even if your website is large, expansive, and robust. Ensuring your website's coding is properly formatted and aligned can help significantly boost the overall loading speed of your website, which can help to reduce your website's bounce rate immediately.

CMS operations

Using a CMS, or content management system, is more common today than ever before. In the past, users typically uploaded individual files to their websites using FTP or another web hosting file upload solution. However, CMS such as WordPress, Joomla, and even e-commerce solutions such as Shopify, are used more now. Web developers are not only familiar with programming websites from scratch, but they can also easily integrate a new or existing design that you have in mind into a CMS of your choice.

Combine web design and development

Ultimately, combining both website design and development is key to truly building a successful online presence. While web design is mostly representative of the front of a website, or what the user sees, web development focuses on building the foundation, or the backend of the website.

Once you understand what is website design and development and how both are similar and how they differ, it is much easier to determine what areas and elements you need to focus on for your own website. Whether you are searching for E-commerce website design tips or learning how to develop your own storefront, using both web design and development together is essential for a modern website.

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