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Understanding the Difference Between Web Design and Web Development

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Understanding the Difference Between Web Design and Web Development

When the time comes to build a website, most companies head to their local agency to inquire about delivering their project; but did you realise there’s a difference between web design and web development?

If not, that’s OK; most people don’t. In this article, we’ll outline the key differences between web design and web development, and what you should look for in a supplier next time you go to market. From understanding the key roles of each specialisation to how these skill sets work together, we’ll help you understand how to make the best choice for you and your organisation when building your next online solution.

What is web design?

If you look up ‘web design’ on Wikipedia, unfortunately, you’ll find a complicated summary of services surrounding the production and maintenance of websites which doesn’t really explain what web design is, in terms, a layman could understand.

To simplify things, it’s much easier to provide examples of the kinds of projects which fall under the heading of ‘web design’. This includes:

  • Brochure-style website such as those used primarily for informational purposes (i.e. WordPress sites).
  • Blog design.
  • Screen layouts for websites (i.e. UX design).

So, with this in mind, web design encompasses the process of designing screens for the web (with or zero minimal functionality), yet is rarely mutually exclusive from web development.

For example, if you’re developing a web application, that application will need a user interface. The user interface for your application is part of the web design process that precedes development and is a vital element of a successful web development project. Without web design, web development is much less impactful. So, the goal of web design is to provide a well-structured form for digital solutions.

 What is web development?

Now you have a feel for the goals of web design; it’s important to understand where web development fits into the mix.

When building more complex websites such as eCommerce solutions, sites with member registration, or a site that connect to a third-party service, you’re really heading into the territory of web development.

So, when you’re looking to achieve something more than a simple brochure site, you’re going to want to engage a digital agency with skills in server-side languages and database technologies. Recognising this, one of the most important factors to consider when looking to undertake a web development project, is that the skills set of web designers and developers are totally different … so don’t be fooled!

Therefore, when you do go to market, take the time to research the skills set of the agency you’re dealing with and ensure they have both web designers and developers, each who have very different roles.

Selecting a web designer or developer.

The easiest way to research the capabilities of digital agencies is looking at their past work. If an agency is producing brochure-style websites on a regular basis, that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good fit for web development project, but they’ll likely be skewed in terms of skills set towards web design. So, ask about the skill sets of those who will be working on your site.

The other consideration to make when selecting your agency is the future goals of your site. If you’re looking to grow the functionality of your site beyond what a basic CMS can handle, then you may need to develop custom functionality, and this is definitely in the realm of a web developer.

Web design and development are deeply contrasting specialisations of the web industry, and as a customer, it’s important to understand the distinction.

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