Web Design vs. Web Development – How They’re Different and Why You Need Both

Web Design vs. Web Development – How They’re Different and Why You Need Both

When it comes to building an effective website, web design and web development are two halves of the same whole – a whole that consists of much more than just those two aspects. But that’s a talk for a different time. For now, let’s focus on design and development. While these two areas do overlap, they are fundamentally different practices that require unique skill sets and direction to achieve the best result. They certainly must interact with each other, but they also need to be treated as specific processes. 

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between web design and development and how to use both to create a functional and appealing website that will boost your business beyond its potential. Keep in mind that web design and web development are highly complex processes that require creativity and technical skills, and this post is meant purely as a high-level overview of the differences between these two areas.

Looks Matter

As you may have guessed, web design focuses primarily on the visual aspects of the website. Plus one for you. Everything from layout and information flow to color scheme and typeface fall under this area and work together to deliver the most attractive website possible. Because ugly websites get less love. Such is life. But web design is about more than just looks. Usability is also a key factor in the design process, as it’s important the site is user-friendly and creates an enjoyable experience for every visitor. That’s why a good web designer also has a firm grasp on UX/UI principles. 

The website’s main objectives should be used as a roadmap to guide the design process. What are you hoping to achieve with your website? Maybe you’re selling power tools. Maybe you want to be the web’s most reputable source for chinchilla training. The right design can get you there, but the design process shouldn’t start with, "What do you want your website to look like?" It needs to start with a sound strategy session that understands your goals and addresses how the website will help you achieve those goals. Once a strategy is laid out, designers mock up the visual aspects of the site and make sure the look matches the function. The principles of balance, contrast, emphasis, consistency, and unity are all put to work to create the designs before moving on to development.

What’s Your Function?

The development process serves to ensure the site runs the way it’s supposed to and maximizes every component of the design. If a site looks great but doesn’t operate well, it will ultimately fail. You’d never take the engine out of a Ford Pinto and drop it into your Maserati (congrats on having a Maserati, btw). You should treat your website the same way. It could be said that design creates the face of the wristwatch while development makes sure it tells time correctly – without skipping a millisecond. Is two analogies enough? Programming languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP are used to build websites from scratch and require a highly technical knowledge to implement effectively.

Development can fundamentally be broken down into two disciplines: front-end and back-end. Front-end development, sometimes known as client-side development, is responsible for how the website displays its design. This facet typically has more overlap with the design process while back-end development, also known as server-side, manages and serves data to be displayed on the front-end. Both ends of development are important in maximizing the function and efficiency of your website.

When Design Meets Development

The lines between web design and development have become much more blurred of late, as designers tend to have at least a brief knowledge of coding and vice versa. Quality web design agencies often feature team members with a more comprehensive skillset, allowing their departments to work together seamlessly in producing exceptional websites. This allows for more efficient communication between client and agency, as both the design and development processes are completed under the same roof by professionals who collaborate regularly. For best results, go with an agency that excels in both aspects of website creation.

At Perrill, we are a full-service agency capable of meeting all demands and desires you have for your online presence. Contact us today for excellence in design, development, and more to help your business reach its full potential.

Written by

Dan Cole

Dan Cole is the Manager of Content & Copywriting at Perrill. He has been professionally strategizing and creating original content since 2011 across agency settings, corporate positions, and journalistic beats, and now masterminds written materials of all kinds for Perrill’s clients. He was named Acme Comedy Co.’s Funniest Person in the Twin Cities in 2014 and will never let any of us forget it.


Dan Cole

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May 23, 2018