Web Design or Web Development? How to Know Which is Best

October 19, 2021

7 mins

Every month, thousands of people run a Google search on web designer vs. web developer. This may not seem like a big distinction on the surface but if you’re a small business or nonprofit leader looking to design or redesign a website, understanding the nuances here could make or break your project.

Obviously, we believe websites are the cornerstone of a successful digital marketing strategy. We built our business creating high-quality websites for our clients and know what it takes to build a site that looks great and functions correctly. We also know that it takes a thorough understanding of both website design and development to create a beautiful and technically flawless website.

That said, depending on your specific website needs, you may not need the full gamut of web design and development services. Maybe you’re searching for the difference between graphic design vs web design to make a decision about hiring a freelance developer. On the other hand, you may have someone with the HTML, CSS, or WordPress knowledge necessary to code a website, but you need a graphic designer with expertise in branding to get the look you want.

In this post, we explain the differences between web design and development so that you have the information you need to find the right person to design and build your website.

What is the Difference Between Web Design and Development?

Web design and development may sound like the same thing but when you get into the specifics you can see that they are two separate skill sets. That’s not to say that one person couldn’t possess both capabilities. There are some diamonds in the rough with the chops to do both with excellence, and they’re probably charging top dollar for their services.

It’s important to understand the difference between designers and developers because, when you’re looking for someone to build your website, you need to find the right kind of skills to accomplish your goals. Freelancers generally will have a specific area of expertise while full-service creative companies (like ours) will have a team of experts on both sides of the coin that can contribute to your website project.

As you consider your needs, remember to think through any special features of functionality you might need on your site. For example, if your main goal is generating traffic and converting leads, a designer with basic development skills may be able to get the job done for you. On the other hand, if you plan to sell products online, publish a robust library of video content or other media, or need the ability for customers to log in to your site, you will definitely need a designer and developer to get the job done right.

Case Study: Here’s Why Web Design Can Make or Break the Buyer’s Journey

What do Web Designers Do?

Website designers are generally responsible for creating the look, organization, and usability of your website. Using graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop, web designers focus on applying your branding (colors, font, logo, etc.) to a wireframe, selecting and placing photos, and arranging the elements on the page in a way that is user-friendly. They will take great care to consider the experience a user has while navigating your site and work to ensure the website adheres to the principles of responsive web design.

When you get into specialties, certain web designers may focus specifically on user experience (UX designers) or user interface (UI designers); however, it’s not uncommon to find designers fluent in both of these processes. Additionally, you may interact with a web designer who is focused solely on the visual elements, e.g. branding and overall aesthetic of your site. All of these specialties are important to the process but you don’t necessarily need to find three people to perform each of these functions.

Read More: How to Write a Website RFP

What do Web Developers Do?

Once the design of a site is complete there are several different ways to bring the website to life. Website developers are generally the people who have the technical expertise required to make the site work as designed. Using coding languages like HTML, CSS, or using a CMS like WordPress, or a combination of these techniques (which is usually the case), website developers work to bring the required functionality to the front-end and back-end of a website.

Web developers are also the ones to handle the complexities of databases, server frameworks, and any other advanced coding languages needed to power your site. These are mission-critical aspects of your website’s functionality so be sure that whoever you entrust with this work has the required knowledge to ensure these more complex aspects run smoothly.

As with web designers, it is possible to find experts who are full-stack developers. If your website needs are simple and straightforward, a front-end developer may be exactly what you need to get your design live. However, if you have more complex needs ranging from app development, e-commerce, or specific types of automation; you’ll likely need to find developers with this specific type of expertise.

Read More: 10 Benefits of Choosing a Web Development Agency (And Not a Freelancer)

Are There Other Considerations?

Finding the right person or team to design your website is a big job, but knowing the difference between designers and developers is only part of the process. Creating a website is a significant task that requires emasculate attention to detail and project management skills. When you choose to hire a freelancer to design and/or develop your website, keep in mind that someone will need to manage the project.

When you hire a website design and development team to work on your website, you will have the added benefit of highly-skilled project managers who ensure milestones are met and keep the process running smoothly. Designers and developers do the creative and technical work needed to build beautiful websites but project managers are an essential—yet often overlooked—lynchpin to a successful project.

So before you sign any contracts, be sure that you know who will manage your website design project because strong project managers are worth their weight in gold.

Do I Need a Web Designer or Web Developer to Build My Website?

Our creative team at Cross & Crown includes talented web designers and developers who can bring your ideas to life. We would love to help you build a new website that looks great and functions smoothly. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of learning the difference between web designers and web developers, we are here to help. If you have more questions we invite you to schedule a meeting with us to further explore the expertise needed to build a quality website.

Cross & Crown

About Cross & Crown

Cross & Crown is a team of creatives who are passionate about solving problems through design and technology, taking what is there and making it better. Based in Chambersburg, PA, we strive to help educate, advocate, and thrive in a digital world.

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