Web Design and Web Development, What’s the Difference?

If you’re looking into a new website, are you supposed to hire a “web designer”? Maybe a “web developer”? What does it actually take to build a website? Building a website requires many different skill sets, including Strategy, Content Development, Design, Development, and User Experience.

Let’s talk for a moment around the differences between web design and web development.

Web Design

Web design generally refers to the visual elements of the site, font styles, color options and how it’s laid out to optimize the user’s experience. The initial design is created in an application such as Adobe XD, Sketch or another web specific application. The design includes concepts for desktop, tablet, and mobile versions of the website. Mobile versions are equally as important as desktop versions, and, depending on your business, your mobile visitors may account for most of the traffic on your site.

Agencies design sites in various ways, but OTM starts with a mobile-first approach and works up to the desktop version of the website. The logic for a mobile-first approach is to “add to the site” as more real estate (screen size) becomes available instead of “taking away” as you lose real estate (screen size).

Some considerations for reviewing a website design are:

  • Brand/Identity
  • Customer engagement
  • Accessibility and other compliance requirements

Web Development

Web development is the actual building and coding of the website. A developer will take the design file and start coding it into a theme. A theme handles the layout of images, text, fonts, colors and other styling elements on the page.

Web development is also centered around having a content management system (CMS). No one wants a website that requires a developer to constantly update! While there are many content management systems, currently WordPress accounts for 60% of the CMS market and 30% of all websites are powered by WordPress.

When choosing a content management system, you should consider:

  • Is the platform widely adopted by developers?
  • Is it easy to use by your staff?
  • Will it scale and integrate with future needs?

What’s the difference?

If you’re into analogies, you can think of web design as the blueprint for your new home and web development as the general contractor who follows the blueprint to build the house.

While some individuals may be able to be both a designer and developer, to be an expert in the craft, OTM and most agencies have dedicated designers and dedicated developers.