What’s the difference between Web Design and Web Development?

web development vs web design

The terms ‘web design‘ and ‘web development‘ are commonly used interchangeably to denote the same thing but in reality there is a difference we’ll look at in this article.

Personally, I’ve never considered myself a web designer probably because I graduated in computer programming and later earned a diploma in graphic design. To this day I still consider myself a web developer if anyone asks.

In short, a web designer focuses on the aesthetic design of a website while a web developer focuses on the functionality. In this article I’m going to cover the main differences between web designers and web developers roles when it comes to building websites.

Web Design: A Closer Look

what is a web designer?

Web Designers usually have a strong background in Adobe Products which are typically used to create the layout and elements used on the website. Their focus is on User Experience (UX), Information Architecture (IA) and typically start a project by wire framing the basic layout or concept of a website.

Similar to an architect, a web designer creates the blueprint to the website which is then used by the web developer to add any functionality.

The roles of a web designer include:

  • Strong proficiency in graphic design, specifically Adobe Products (Photoshop, Illustrator and sometimes Dreamweaver)
  • Understand the importance of consistency and branding
  • Understand design concepts such as colours, fonts and elements
  • Understand the importance of layout and usability in order to make the interface simple for the end user

Web Developer: A Closer Look

What is a Web Developer?

A web developer’s core responsibility as mentioned previously is adding functionality to a website. This is sometimes be based on a design provided or add an integration to an existing website.

Most web developers typically use languages such as HTML, PHP and JQuery to create functionality and more advanced developers work with content management systems such as WordPress.

Web developers can be further broken down into 2 subcategories:

Frontend Web Developer – This includes the development or modification of the website interface using languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Their focus is on the layouts, fonts, elements etc.

Backend Web Developer – These developers are more code-oriented and specialize in programming languages such as PHP and ASP.net. They have an understanding of databases such as MySQL and how data is collected and stored from the website.

Some companies will search for “Full-stack” web developer which means they are proficient in both the front end and backend. They have necessary skills to put together an entire website from scratch however it should be underlined that it’s impossible to be an expert in everything especially in a world of fast-evolving technology.


In the past these two roles were completely separate. Nowadays it’s not unusual to see job postings looking for proficiency in both. In fact, companies are also starting to look for applicants who also have knowledge in SEO and/or internet marketing. Unfortunately companies aren’t doubling or tripling salaries looking for these multi-talented unicorns.

When looking to hire a web designer or web developer it’s important to consider their competency in search engine optimization and  internet marketing.  These two competencies are what increase visibility in search and drive traffic & conversions to a website.  After all what’s the point of having a website if nobody can find you.

Most companies looking to build a website typically consider a web designer and web developer one and the same. If you’re looking for someone to build a strong online presence for your business contact NexToronto today!