Web design. Web development. Basically, the same thing, right? Not really. While it’s tempting to assume that a developer can do the same things a designer can, and vice versa, the reality is more nuanced. It’s important to have a general understanding of the difference between design and development so that you know what to look for and what questions to ask when you’re hiring someone to build or improve your business website. In this article, we discuss the differences between design vs development and what to look for in the ideal team of experts.
Web Developers: Who They Are and What They Do
For a tech-savvy and future-oriented person who is passionate about gadgets, a web developer career is both fascinating and engrossing. It emphasizes analytical and technical skills and it’s rewarding to see concrete results in successful websites that people are thrilled to use. Developers work closely with IT professionals and marketers to ensure that business sites meet clients’ needs while keeping up with business trends.
Types of Web Development
As we further break down design vs development differences, it’s helpful to explore the 3 main types of web development, each with its own roles and responsibilities.
Also known as front-end engineers and client-side developers, the front-end developer is responsible for building everything on the website’s “front end,” or all the parts of the site that a user will see and interact with. They create how images, text, and colors are displayed and how they function.
While back-end developers are absolutely critical to a site’s success, they’re a sort of mysterious figure that a typical site visitor never considers. They build and maintain the underlying code that makes the website run using programming languages like PHP, Express, SQL, and Angular. It’s called server-side code, and it ensures that data is flowing from the front-end to the back-end of the site, which includes the database which stores information and a server that hosts it. For instance, when you order a pair of shoes online, the images of your shoes and their price are stored on a database, and it’s thanks to the back-end developer that the shoe site can process your transaction.
A legendary figure, full-stack developers are responsible for both front-end and back-end development. They are able to build an entire site from the ground up and are fluent in a variety of programming languages. While they’re a sort of jack of all trades, most full-stack developers specialize in either front or back-end development and their broad experience makes them well-suited to identifying the latest technologies to build cutting-edge sites.
Web Designers: Who They Are and What They Do
The confusion between design vs development becomes overt when it comes to web design because many people assume that a designer is interchangeable with a front-end developer. However, a designer has a unique and crucial part to play in creating a successful business site.
So, what exactly does a designer do? Have you ever found yourself on a website that just… looks bad? The colors clash, the images are crowded together, and the entire thing is cluttered and confusing? Chalk it up to a sub-par web designer. Designers are responsible for a site’s aesthetics, which includes the layout and interface and everything from the colors, icons, text, and graphics to the way content is presented on each page. This means that they have to consider not only how each aspect of the site will look and feel, but also how a user will navigate the site so that their journey is both effortless and intuitive. A web designer has great leverage over user experience and their decisions can determine whether a visitor lingers on a site or quickly navigates away.
An optimal career path for creative types who think outside of the box and love both art and technology, web designers employ languages like HTML and CSS and use WordPress, HubSpot, or other design platforms to create and polish the front end of a website. If an image is too big or an icon’s buttons are too pale, it’s up to the designer to resize, tweak, and refine until a user truly enjoys looking at and interacting with a business website.
Types of Web Design
Just like there are different types of web developers, there are varying levels of web design that a professional can specialize in. While it’s common for designers to have a grasp of all aspects of design, many have more expertise (or simply prefer to work with) a particular aspect of it.
UX means user experience, and when it comes to web design, the term can be used to describe anything that a user experiences when they’re interacting with a website. Whether it’s difficult or easy to accomplish something on a website, how relevant a site’s content is to the user, and whether it’s frustrating or fun to explore a site is all part of UX design. Interested primarily in user flow, UX designers research how users actually complete tasks on a site—in what order, how quickly, and so on—to help them deliver a streamlined and engaging experience.
If UX is all about how a site feels to use, UI is about how a site looks and functions. UI (user interface) design is geared toward visuals and interactivity. User interfaces connect the user to the product at the point of their interaction, so it’s important for them to be engaging, visually appealing, and intuitive. When you hit the “like” button or type something into a search bar on a website, for example, that’s the user interface at work.
Even something that seems inconsequential, like the spacing between letters of text, has an impact on the user’s mood as they browse your site, and a talented UI designer understands, anticipates, and makes visual design decisions with the user’s emotions in mind.
UX and UI Working Together
While UX and UI are conceptually separable, they presuppose one another. Both UX and UI are essential components of successful web design. You can find the most beautiful site in the world, but if it’s impossible to find what you need or figure out what the business does, it’s a flawed design. On the flip side, just because a site functions smoothly doesn’t guarantee that the colors are complementary, or that the typography will evoke the right mood.
When it comes to maintaining a recognizable and coherent brand identity on every element of your site, it’s especially important for UX and UI design to work together to guarantee a website that is both delightful to use, interesting to look at, effortless to interact with, and which still delivers a strong, unique brand message.
Web Design vs Development: The Perfect Team
Believe it or not, there’s a purported history of squabbling between design and development teams. As the old cliché goes, developers accuse designers of being impractical artsy types, while designers complain that developers are geeks who have no imagination. Of course, this isn’t true in practice. While design vs development indicates different roles that require an in-depth knowledge of specific tools, technologies, and processes, they are both equally necessary and neither is more important. Without developers, the site wouldn’t function. Without designers, the site would be unusable.
That said, if designers and developers work in distinct teams and rarely interact (or interact ineffectively), that can be a sign of trouble. For example, a designer might create a gorgeous layout with elaborate features without considering the technical aspect at all, and it turns out later to be impractical to build. If designers don’t regularly and clearly communicate with the development team, a snag that could have been cleared up at the beginning of the design stage ends up disrupting the development stage. This means hours of wasted work, missed deadlines, and an awkward explanation with the client that the initial design they approved is not what the finished website will actually look like.
In a high-performing team of tech experts, developers and designers have mastered the art of efficient and transparent communication and interaction, complementing one another’s diverse skill sets and including one another in important decisions along the way. They collaborate very closely from the very beginning of the website’s lifecycle in a fully integrated and iterative way, listening to one another’s feedback at every stage.
When you’re hiring a web design and development team for your own business website, ask how the designers and developers work together. How often do they meet? Does the agency bring on specialist developers at the last possible minute? Do they rely on freelance designers who may not be a part of the team’s culture? It’s good to know how your chosen team interacts so you have a better understanding of what you can realistically expect.
Work With Experts Who Collaborate Creatively
There are a lot of different design-development workflows out there. Some make sense, some don’t. At Buddy Web Design and Development, we favor a tight-knit team that takes pride in creating excellent, memorable websites while being great to work with every step of the way. If you’re ready to build or improve your business website, we would be happy to hear from you. Explore our projects here or feel free to reach out by filling out this form.