The difference between web development and web design is usually not properly understood. When the web was in its early stage things were quite simple. The developers were writing code and the designers were designing. Nowadays, things are much more complicated.
It is really hard to find web designers that do not know at least the basics of CSS and HTML. There are also web developers that know how to create a NET application and a good front-end storyboard.
When speaking strictly about general concepts, distinctions are clear. This is what we should talk about to understand the difference between the two.
Whenever looking at a website’s usability and visual aesthetics, we talk about web design. This includes information flow, color scheme and layout, among others. All related to User experience and user interface is connected to web design. The common tools and skills that web designers use include:
- Color palettes
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Design software
- Graphic design
- CTA button placement
- Logo design
When looking at the work of the web design we practically see work done on elements users see on computer or mobile screens. The work does not revolve around what is under the surface, what makes everything work. By using layout, typography, images and color, the digital experience is brought to life.
Web development revolves around codes that make websites tick. The two main categories of web development work are: front-end and back-end. Front-end (also known as client-side) sides of applications refer to codes responsible for how a site will display designs created by designers. Back-end (also known as server-side) refers to what manages data within databases, together with serving data towards front-end.
The front-end web developer is the one that normally shares an overlap with the work of the web designer. The common tools and skills that are normally seen as being unique to front-end developers include:
- CSS preprocessors
- Github and Git
A front-end web developer rarely creates mock-ups, pick colors or select typographies. This is what web designers tend to do. Developers have to bring mock-ups to life. Understanding exactly what designers want does require knowledge about practices used in UX/UI design. This allows developers to choose appropriate technology that can deliver desired experience and feel.
In the industry there was a running joke about the existence of a developer/designer hybrid. These specialists were called unicorns. Although not known as such when looking at a professional scene/job, you can find many professionals that can handle both web design and web development work. However, it is difficult to be a master of both. If the project is really large, having really defined roles is necessary. For the smallest projects it is not difficult to find “unicorns” that can get the job done right.