Web Development vs Web Design: Differences & How to Choose Between the Two

Web Development
October 10, 2022

Like any other technical profession, sometimes industry jargon can confuse the consumer. Such is the case with understanding web development vs web design. However, when you understand how a modern web platform is built and deployed, the differences between website design and development become apparent.

Building a fully responsive website involves two significant phases: designing and developing the website. Each phase requires a web developer/designer to clearly communicate with clients to understand their vision, needs, and budget. At this point, the website builder will map out a plan for designing the site – and then building the technical aspects of the site – which is development.

When you're thinking about hiring a professional software development company like Goldfish Code to build an online marketing platform, it's essential to understand precisely what services they offer. The good news is that Goldfish Code has the bandwidth and expertise to complete the entire project from start to finish. We will focus on explaining website design and development in the information below.

We'll explain what a web designer does, what web developers do, how it impacts website design cost, and how they work together to deliver a finished product that clients will be proud to showcase. By the end of this article, you'll have a clear understanding of the difference between web development vs web design. So – let's get rolling.

Web Development vs Web Design

What is Web Design?

There are a lot of interchangeable terms in creating websites. Two of the most misunderstood, or perhaps – misused, are web design vs web development. Some individuals and web companies use them interchangeably – meaning it's the entire process of creating a website from a concept to a finished product.

Building a website involves two primary steps: creating the design elements and developing the technologies or programming that make the website work. The web design phase includes the visual aspects, user features, layout, and overall appearance.

Web design aims to provide the client with wireframes and mockups to give them a visual adaptation of how the finished product will appear on multiple devices. Today's professional website design firms infuse multiple individual elements to create that finished design.


The overall website appearance integrates the colors, typography, imagery, and graphics used to give the website its look.


The layout of a website design focuses on how the information on the website is categorized, structured, and accessed by the web user.


A core user feature that must be considered during the design phase is navigation. All website users must have a positive online experience. This begins with having straightforward navigation – or knowing how to get the information you need in an easy and seamless process.

Visual Impact

A website must make an excellent first impression. In fact, it's estimated that within a second of your website loading, the web visitor has already formulated an opinion about the company. The design process will require the team to integrate engaging graphic design elements that help capture your prospective customers' attention.

Loading Speed

While a visually stunning site is critical, one that loads slowly is typically a deal breaker with new site visitors. Website designers must factor in the speed at which the pages will load when creating design elements. If files are too big or robust, the site will take longer to load.


Website conversion is a process – not a simple call to action. To convert a website visitor to a solid lead or sale, you must take them on a journey, hold their attention with each page visited, and build value as you tell the story about your company, product, or service.

These are just a few elements that go into the thorough web design process. The best web design firms will provide a detailed client brief or questionnaire to collect copious amounts of data that will help them infuse these elements into your unique website design project.

What Does a Web Designer Do?

The fantastic and talented people who possess the skill sets to create the look, feel, and user features of a website are web designers. The best web designers utilize best practices, expertise in the user interface, advanced technology, and designing programs to strategically design a user-friendly and intuitive website.

A designer is responsible for completing multiple tasks – to ensure the client receives a mockup or frameworks that encapsulates their vision, brand identity, and website goals. A few of the everyday duties of a web designer may include:

  • Designing the website navigational layout and site map.
  • Determine the website's functionality or technologies for optimal performance - such as content management systems vs prototyping customized design software.
  • Reviewing copious client notes and briefs to determine their wants, needs, and goals.
  • Creating graphic design, color palettes, and incorporate e-commerce (if applicable) into their color schemes.
  • Incorporating a business' brand identity, including color theory, fonts, and imagery, into the visual website design.
  • Creating user interactive or experience features.
  • Developing a website page schematic or wireframe via Photoshop, Adobe design suites like Illustrator, or other advanced software.
  • Use advanced UI design programs to create visual elements of the overall website look – or mockup.
  • Receiving feedback from project managers and clients to adjust design elements and ensure usability.
  • Collaborate with website developers to ensure that design elements work with technologies used to build the structure of the functioning website.

What is Web Development?

A web designer is responsible for the visual and user functionality aspects. In that case, it's the developer's job to build the structure. A web developer is also known as a programmer or coder, whose primary task is to develop a web-based application using programming languages and technologies.

They create websites using a client-server model, which means building the technical code on the server-side and the visual aspects of the website generated on a client-side (such as your computer, mobile device, or tablet).

Some of the most common programming languages used for the modern website include JavaScript, CSS, or HTML – for the client, and Python, JQuery, PHP, Java, SQL, and other coding languages that communicate between the server and client. The web development process takes the finished design and converts it to digital code – using languages and platforms that will enhance the functionality of the finished product.

What Do Web Developers Do?

The talented people who convert visual and active elements and concepts into technological code are web developers. Generally, the web developer will take a finished website design and convert it into a programming language that allows the website to 'work'. There are several job responsibilities that developers assume, including:

  • Writing code for a website or apps – using one or multiple programming languages.
  • Designing the user experience, navigation and interfaces that will optimize search engine results.
  • Developing and testing web applications.
  • Collaborating with the web ux designers, project management, and sometimes clients on software development.
  • Troubleshooting performance issues with the web design and development.

This is a broad overview of what web developers do to earn their paychecks. There are three general web development categories – with most developers capable of completing all three tasks.

Back-End Web Development

The back-end development is where the website's structure is created. The programmers and web developers will write and test the code – to ensure that the website functions as designed and requested by the design team.

Front-End Web Development

The second task of developing a website is completed by a front-end developer. This is the visual aspect of the website – or the web pages that a site visitor will review and interact with. Technically this is called the user interface. The use of JavaScript and HTML programming languages will amplify and enhance the website.

Full-Stack Web Development

If you're wondering which is best - front end vs back end development - the third alternative might be better to consider. The combination of the two above is full-stack development. The full-stack developer is typically an experienced coder with years of experience building sites on the front and back end. However, with modern web development technologies and tools, it's becoming more common for full-stack developers to take on complete website development projects.

Web Design vs Web Development: Key Differences

After reading the information above, you might be thinking: What is the difference between web development vs web design? Visual designers and web development? In the good old days – it was simple – those who designed websites concentrated on the visual aspects – while those with coding experience were the people who built the technical website.

Times have changed – mainly because IT professionals are more diverse, have extended experience, and can infuse both tasks. Therefore, it's common for people in the industry to interchange the two terms when describing the job of building a website for clients.

However, there are still some significant differences between the two disciplines.

Difference #1 – Web Designers Convert Customer's Visions into a Visual Concept

When you contact a website creation firm to build an online platform for you, the customer will work with a project manager to outline their vision for the finished product. The web design team is responsible for turning those notes into a visual representation. This is the most significant difference between web design and web development.

The designer is still dedicated to creating the visual and user features via Adobe Photoshop or other software solutions – while the developer focuses on turning those concepts into working technology.

Difference #2 – Web Developers Have Enhanced Coding Skills

Here is an interesting fact. Many web developers have solid design skills, but very few dedicated web designers are just as adept at the complex programming languages needed for building a technical website. A web developer will have more vital coding skills and focus on the back end, front end, or full-stack development, troubleshooting, and technical tasks.

Difference #3 – Designers Work with Templates while Developers Build from Scratch

We touched on this in the bullet point above – those who design websites can also develop them. However, if someone markets themselves as a website designer, it's entirely possible that they use CMS platforms like WordPress or Joomla! to build a website for clients. On the other hand, web developers build accurate custom websites – using advanced programming languages and technology to create a website optimized for performance.

How to Decide Whether You Need Web Design or Web Development Services

Hopefully, by now, you understand that there is indeed a difference between a web designer vs web developer. Web design and web development services are two parts of the entire website construction project. Some of the best professional firms who build websites market themselves as both website designers and website developers.

So – which one do you need to hire? The answer is simple: hire a firm that offers professional design and development services. Here are some helpful tips that will ensure that the professional website firm you hire will be the right one today and tomorrow.

Tip #1 – Determine Your Needs – for Today and The Future

Anytime you start a major marketing project, you need to start with the end in mind. The same thing applies to building a new website. Before you start searching Google for a website designer or website developer, take time to outline what you're looking for with your business website. Consider a few of these questions.

  1. Who are my customers, and how do they make decisions? Is your customer base younger or older? Do they prefer automated communication or picking up the phone and talking to someone?
  2. How many customers are you trying to capture with your website and online marketing efforts? If you're trying to connect with a limited consumer group, you likely be OK with scaling your website. However, suppose you're going for a global reach. In that case, you'll be better off having a designer and developer work together to build a custom website.
  3. Do you prefer headaches or a seamless and smooth website project? We're having a bit of fun with this one. Still, it's a statement of fact that working with a single agency that has professional designers and developers on staff significantly improves the process.

Tip #2 – Build Your Website with Scalability Top of Mind

The goal of any website is to capture new business – right? If that's the case, your business may expand quicker than you're prepared. On the operational side of things – there is nothing worse than taking on more work than you can handle – as that can create severe issues with new customers.

So, once your company is ready for growth, you'll likely have to expand your website's capabilities and offerings. This is known as scalability – and should be a significant consideration when you're seeking to hire the best website developers and designers. Make sure any company you work with always considers scaling your website as they're designing and developing your first one.

Tip #3 – Consider Working with a Hybrid Website Design Firm

Some US-based website development and design firms have in-house staff based in the USA that can handle all aspects of building a great website. Many overseas companies offer design or development services. The US firms obviously charge a premium for their services – as they have more overhead. Overseas firms are often cheaper, but the quality of work and reliability are less than stellar.

The in-house team at Goldfish Code is led by US-native English-speaking project managers, who are your single point of contact. They direct our international team of developers, marketers, designers, database architecture, and DevOps techs; so you focus on your daily business needs and operations.

We've assembled a vetted team of offshore developers with years of experience that we've trained personally to keep our costs low. We supervise their coding, provide them with detailed client-specific instructions, and verify our stringent quality control standards. At the end of the day – this means high-quality development and design at a fraction of the cost of other USA-based firms.

Are you looking for a professional website design and development company? Reach out to us and let’s build something spectacular.

Final Points on Web Developer vs Web Designer

After reading this blog, if someone asks you what is the difference between web design and web development - you can give them a clear and articulate answer. The best website development firms are those who can handle every aspect of designing, developing, and deploying a responsive and engaging web application for their clients.

When you work with a company like Goldfish Code, you'll be connected with a dedicated, US-based project manager – who will listen to your needs and goals and develop a plan that factors your budget. They will direct our team of web designers to create a website that will exceed your expectations. Once the design elements are approved, they'll manage our overseas web development team – to ensure every line of code is perfect and without error.

The bottom line – if you're trying to determine whether to hire a web developer vs web designer – hire the firm that offers both – affordable prices and a focus on quality.