What is the difference between web design and web development? Many people who want to to build a website ask that question.
Others looking for a career in website design or related fields are also interested in knowing the difference between a website designer and a website developer.
No matter which camp your question is coming from, in this article, we will learn in very simple terms, the differences between a website designer and a website developer.
We will also learn about the terms "front-end, back-end and full-stack". Fun terms.
Let's dive in.
But before we get deep, let's get this straight:
It is true that many people use the terms “website design” and “website development” interchangeably, but the two terms mean different things and bring different skill-sets to the table.
Having said that:
Though a website designer and a website developer are of the same family, their roles are different and complementary for a successful website.
What's The Difference?
Let us illustrate the different complementary roles of a website designer and a website developer by comparing how a website is created to how a building is built.
Before any building worth you reading this article about is built, the owner of the building contracts an architect.
The architect who listened attentively and purposefully to gain insight, takes the ideas of the building owner and comes up with the looks and basic functionality.
Of course, this is based on how the building is going to be used. Without revealing the whole details of the illustration, think of of those that would use that building as your client's site visitors.
Are we getting somewhere?
Getting back to architectural renderings, the architectural renderings could include the overall shape of the building, colors, angles, inside and outside space, and even where building components are placed.
Pause and think for a minute, just like a website, a building requires a comprehensive design, and an awesome builder to bring the design to life.
The architect, like the web designer, is recruited during the idea stage.
They lay out the looks, and basic functionality based on the use of the building.
This could include the overall shape, angles, inside and outside space, and placement of components.
As the architect comes up with his designs, he keeps the needs of his client and the needs of those who would use the building in mind.
Though user experience is important to the architect, he also uses his vast knowledge and experience to implement safety measures, as well as handle space budgets constraints.
To let the client know how much he understood the project, the architect creates a detailed drawing, and perhaps even a small model of the building.
After the client and architect are satisfied with the outcome, they hand over the project to the developer or builder and his team.
By now, you must have figured out that the builde represents our website. The builder will make the drawings work. Placement of load bearing beams, sourcing of materials, plumbing and wiring are managed by the builders.
However, the builder decides the timeline and order of each phase of the construction. The builder stays true to the plans provided by the architect so as to satisfy the client, building users and architect.
Now you're ready for the architect turned web designer.
The Web Designer
Photo credit: Pixabay
The website designer is like the architect and is involved with the project from the beginning. He is responsible for the creative, or aesthetic parts of the site.
Being technically savvy is an advantage. Great website designers understand both graphic design and computer programming.
It makes it easy to build a realistic design that facilitates all the necessary functionality of the website. He know what the client wants and he knows what would make the users of the website happy.
Therefore, he uses the latest design trends and keeps in mind the UI (User interface) and UX (User experience). The web designer is responsible for creating the look, layout, and features of a website.
The designer maintains and updates the website after it goes live.
Just like the architect, the website designer works with development teams. This makes it easy to keep the site up-to-date and prioritize other website needs.
Additionally, an awesome designer takes the time to understand the client’s website and optimization goals, budget, and brand personality.
Having a great understanding of all the moving parts, helps him balance these needs with the needs of the end-user.
This will help the site visitor have an awesome experience as she moves around the site.
Based on the client's preference, the architect may deliver architectural renderings and even a model or both.
On the other hand, the website designer's deliverables usually include an initial wireframe. You understand what architectural renderings ( blue prints) and architectural models are, but what are wireframes?
Just like with blue prints, a website wireframe is simply a visual mockup of a website page that highlights the content, layout, and behavior of the website.
A wireframe is similar to a blueprint of a building that highlights plans for plumbing and electricity without showcasing the interior design.
That means that wireframes don't include styling sheets, colors, images or graphics.
Website designers use a design program like Photoshop or Illustrator to craft the website design mockups, graphics and images for the site.
Using these awesome apps, the prototypes crafted by the designer may be flat images or it might just be a functioning prototype.
By a functioning prototype, I mean an interface that mimics how links and apps on the page will perform if they were tied to any back-end technology or data base.
The Website Developer
Photo credit: Pixabay
Who Is A Web Developer?
Just like in the relationship between the architect and the client, after the design has been agreed on and mockups are available, it’s time to bring in the developer to the project.
Web developers create the inner workings of a website. They take a website design or mockups and actually make a functioning website from it.
What Does A Website Developer Do?
They create programs and applications that make the web designs function. Web Developers come in three categories. They are Frontend, Backend and Fullstack:
Front-End Web Development
Client-side means that the interaction takes place on the the client’s or user’s computer. It is everything the end users see and interact with. The client is simply the browser a person is using to view a site. There are also a few tools and frameworks that can be used, like Bootstrap and Angular.js.
Back-End Web Development
Back-end Development, which also refers to the server-side development is the term used to describe all the activities that happen behind-the-scenes when performing any action on a website. Such action could be as simple as logging on to your account or buying a product from an ecommerce website.
Though a back-end developer focuses on databases, scripting, and the architecture of websites, he also writes the codes that communicates that database information to the browser.
However, unlike the front-end developer, a back-end developer doesn't code in a decided set of languages. Every developer decides on one or few languages to code in and he spends his time perfecting the craft.
Common back-end development languages are PHP, Java, Python and Perl. There are also a few frameworks such as Ruby On Rails, Django, Node.js that give app and web developers readymade solutions for time-consuming and repetitive tasks. Such redundant tasks include building menus, tables, or forms on a website.
However, some advanced web developers use a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla in order to simplify their website development. Clients rave about websites developed on the WordPress or Joomla platforms because it makes it ridiculously easy for them to maintain and update their websites.
We started from front-end, then back-end and now let's talk about a fullstack developer.
Who Is A Full-Stack Website Developer?
Image source: Pexels
A full-stack website developer or engineer is a person who has mastered the skills of a front-end developer and a back-end developer and has a professional working knowledge of both.
He is usually a senior developer and have a lot of years of experience.
To get to this breadth and depth of website development knowledge, most full-stack developers would have spent many years perfecting both roles.
A great full-stack developer has a well-rounded knowledge of business logic and user experience.
In other words, a professional and productive full-stack developer is equipped to do the work of a front-end developer but also a back-end developer but can also guide and consult on strategies too.
In addition to mastering HTML and CSS, a full-stack website developer also knows how to:
Program a server (like using PHP, ASP, Python, or Node)
Program a database (like using SQL, SQLite, or MongoDB)
What Does A Full-Stack Website Developer Do?
With such expertise, the full-stack web developer is equipped to take the lead in crafting the best strategy and practices.
However, to add and complete their stacks, some full-stack developers also learn project management, visual design, web design, or user experience skills.
And that's very important to note because as tasks performed by front-end developers and back-end developers continue to overlap, more developers are becoming “full stack.”
The reason why we see increase in the number of full-stack we developers is that a lot of employers (especially website design and development agencies who work on different websites) are looking for a team of developers who know how to work on all aspects of a site.
With a full-stack developer coordinating your website design and development project, you have a skilled professional who can manage highly complex projects better with enhanced efficiency.
That efficiency includes meeting your deadlines.
Full-stack web developers know so much about front-end and back-end tasks that they can dive in anywhere in the project timeline if needed.
There are full stack developers who code entire websites. By entire website we mean both front and back ends.
That kind of work arrangement works for freelance full-stack developers and for those that are the only developer working on a project.
If you're a small- or medium-sized company looking for a website design or a re-design of your existing website, this article was designed to help you understand the difference between website design and website development.
Although there are individual agencies or companies that do both, at Concepts, we have dedicated web designers who create the website layout and then hand the design files over to a web developer or programmer who completes the development stage.
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