You can easily tell by looking at your Google Analytics that most businesses search for both web development companies and web design companies. Nowadays, the two terms are virtually interchangeable because most “web companies” alternate the different ways they explain their service offerings.
That being said, the truth is that these terms refer to two very different facets of the website building process and require two distinct skill sets. It is important to know the difference while you look for a company to design and develop your corporate website.
What is Web Design?
A very popular term in the industry, web design covers everything associated with the usability and visual aesthetics of a website. This includes colour scheme, information flow, layout, and everything else pertaining to the different visual aspects of the user experience and interface.
The “design” aspect of the equation handles the “front end” or customer-facing part of a website. Web designers are concerned with the appearance of a website and how users interact with it. Leveraging the principles of great design, professionals create a website that is user-friendly.
A few common tools and skills that distinguish web designers from web developers are:
- Graphic design
- Format or layout
- Color pallets
- Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator or Photoshop)
- Wireframes, storyboards and mock-ups
What is Web Development?
In contrast, web development governs the code which makes a site tick. Web development can be divided into two main categories – back-end development and front-end development. Although a few of the skills in the two categories overlap, they serve very different purposes.
The front-end, also known as the client-side of a web application, comprises the code that determines the way a website would display all the design elements mocked-up by a web designer. In contrast, the server-side or the back-end of an application manages all the data within the database and serves this data to the front-end for display. The front-end developer’s task shares some of the aspects of web design.
A few common tools and skills viewed as unique to front-end developers are as follows:
- Frameworks (such as AngularJS, Ember or ReactJS)
- CSS pre-processors
- Libraries (i.e., jQuery)
- GitHub and Git
Usually, front-end web developers do not create mock-ups, pick colour palettes or select typography —these are often provided by designers. It is the web developer’s job to bring these mock-ups to life.
Web Design Principles
Web designers can use various basic design principles for achieving an aesthetically appealing layout which can also offer seamless user experience.
It is essential for a web designer to create a functional and balanced layout. This is referred to as light (smaller and lighter colours) and heavy (larger and dark colours) elements. The use of right proportion of each is vital to attaining a balanced website design.
Emphasis is an important design principle based in the deliberate “highlighting” of specific key elements of a website layout. It is vital to remember that if you highlight everything on a webpage you will end up emphasizing nothing.
Also known as rhythm or repetition, consistency is another key design principle. For instance, consistent and clean navigation offers the optimum user experience for website visitors.
Web Development Breakdown
A web developer takes the web design created and builds a fully functioning site. In simple words, design is a non-interactive “image” of the website. A developer takes that design and breaks it up into its parts. Then they use only HTML or more dynamic approaches that incorporate programming languages like PHP to build various website pages.
An advanced web developer may use a content management system such as WordPress to streamline the development process, allowing clients a simple way to update and maintain their website.