Websites are more complex than most people would like to think. It’s easy, right? Throw together a few pages with a template and presto, a new website. At least that’s what tools like Wix and Squarespace make you believe.
The truth is, these are just tools similar to how Microsoft Word makes you an expert storyteller or PowerPoint makes it possible for anybody to put together smashing hit of a presentation.
Well, unfortunately, they’re just tools that don’t mean expertise.
What does expertise mean then?
Specialization and understanding all the intricate details of a job. Website designers and website developers understand those details and put it into something truly amazing every day.
Even between designers and developers, there is a huge difference in job task and expertise. This post will uncover the difference between website design and development. And there are many.
Before we get into the details, I’ll sum up the difference for those wanting the abbreviated version.
A website designer plans the function and usability of a website while the developer makes the website plan come to life and makes the designer’s vision come to life.
Now for the details of each and how the difference matters a great deal. We’ll also cover the blended approach of web design and development which is often necessary for small projects.
Website design isn’t the actual process of creating a website, it’s what the name implies, design. Yes, a website designer designs the website in a visual tool. It all starts with understanding the goal and figuring out what the website needs to look like to reach that goal.
If you put a designer in charge of the development then you aren’t going to get a very functional website. It’ll be pretty basic.
Website design often involves working with a UI (User Interface) or UX (User Experience) designer, sometimes both. Each role plays a part in making a visually come to life.
What a website designer often will deliver is an image file that lays out the actual look and other supporting files that lay out how pages interact and different parts of the website work.
There will also be a visual style guide which lays out how each element looks across the website. This could be as simple as a color palette and font faces or as complex as defining everything down to spacing and button styles.
Web design is all about how the website looks and functions but typically has nothing to do with actually building the website.
A website designer is like the architect who designs a building. They don’t actually build anything but they create the plan for it all.
The outcome of an architects job is a blueprint that a builder (or developer) can then take and execute to create the actual building.
A website designer is often in charge of or manages the process of determining the following
- How the website works
- How it looks
- How people interact with it
- How the message is presented
- How well it sells
Pieces that a website designer might work with comes from people in the following roles:
- UX designer
- UI designer
- Graphic Designer
The website designer needs to understand all these pieces in order to make the website come together. The designer is the final person or group who will put it all together.
The website developer takes all the pieces and the plans then puts it together into the final website that looks and functions according to the plan.
If you put the developer in charge of the design then you’ll likely end up with an ugly website that isn’t very usable. They can’t usually make things very pretty but they can make things work according to the plan.
Given the right plan, a developer can do great things. Given poor guidance, a developer can create something poorly that doesn’t accomplish the goals and functions poorly for the user.
You’ll find that a developer can take all the pieces provided by the people I mentioned above and put it into action. The video will then function how it’s supposed to, the visuals will look how they’re supposed to, and any interactive elements will work how they’re supposed to.
Developers go beyond just the design of a website. A developer can even create things like plugins for WordPress. These combine elements of web design and development because there’s a visual and functional aspect to them.
Have you seen a plugin that was not designed but simply developed? I have and the results are not pretty nor are they very usable. Developers are experts at developing but not making things look good or function in a human way.
You’ll find developers excel at the following:
- Making the design work according to the plan.
- Create the function of a website and help it interact with the database if necessary.
- Develop plugins that are secure and fit into the overall plan of the website.
There are many more things a web developer can do but this is just a start. I’ve known web developers who have gone from working with an internal company intranet onto developing for something as large as LinkedIn.
For small websites for clients such as small businesses a blended approach makes more sense. The required complexity of a small business website is often much lower than a large website or application.
That means it’s not necessary to have a dedicated web designer or web developer. To create a good website it’s necessary to have at least a web designer that’s well versed in some development, though. It’s still a bad idea to have someone like a graphic designer create a website though. You’re asking for trouble there.
We approach all projects for our small business owner clients with a blended approach. The requirements aren’t too complex therefore we are able to provide the necessary complexity with web designers who have a bit of development expertise.
It also helps that our affordable web design platform is built on WordPress with some of the most highly respected plugins on the platform. Our local small business clients require affordability which means they also don’t require complexity that will drive up the cost of their website.
We balance web design with web development to create the perfect balance of expertise with cost for an exceptional value.
Who Should You Hire
It depends on what your needs are. If you’re a small business that needs a small website, a blended approach is best. Even with an affordable blending approach be sure you’re getting a real web designer.
Some affordable website providers replace skilled web designers with graphic designers or other experts with different skills that cost them less money. Graphic designers have a very different set of expertise and do not make good web designers.
We build each of our clients websites using the blended approach using a highly skilled web designer with knowledge in web development also. They aren’t web developers but since our internal developers designed our platform, we don’t all have to be.
Check out or affordable website plans to get a value-packed website that’s designed specifically for our small business clients.
If you’re a large enterprise looking for a refresh in your website then you need a web designer. If that’s the case, you need to have the development team in place or work with an agency that can do the development of the website also.
The complexity of your project will dictate who you will need to work with (designer, developer, or others too) and how much your project will cost. Developers are more expensive to work with than designers and they also have a different skill set.