Web Design Versus Web Development

The terms web designer and web developer are used interchangeably in the media and advertisements. But, they are not the same thing. Design involves what the visitor sees on your website, development involves the site's functionality. This article explores the difference between these two disciplines.

A website contains several distinct aspects:

  • Look and feel
  • Content
  • Functionality
  • Usability

Look And Feel

Look and feel includes overall appearance of the website. A Graphic designer decides on what colors and fonts to use and how to layout each of the sites pages. The graphic designer needs to have a good appreciation for aesthetics and feeling for what combinations of colors and imagery will project the image that the website owner wants visitors to have of the site.


Content is all of the text that is found on a website and includes everything from the privacy policy to a very persuasive sales letter extolling the benefits of a product and asking the visitor to part with their hard earned money and everything in between. If it is written text then it is part of the content. You need a copywriter and editor to create good content.


Functionality includes all of the interactive aspects of a web site and includes animation. The common denominator is that programmers using the various web programming languages that work either on a web server or in a web browser create all of these functions.

There are also other "backend" applications that are transparent to the visitor such as form processing, content management and other administration programs that make it possible for non-programmers to maintain some aspects of the website's data.


Usability is the website viewed from the user's point of view and involves mostly testing things like:

  • Does the look and feel are actually portraying the proper image?
  • Is the navigation is user friendly?
  • Does the navigation lead the visitor to where the owner wants them to go?
  • Does the site load quickly?
  • Do the applications work properly?

Design Versus Development

Unfortunately, there is a lot of overlap and integration needed between web design and web development. When you toss in content creation and usability testing, it becomes a real mess. Can a single individual do all of these things? There are some people who can do all of these things but most people only do one or two of the tasks.

Web design usually involves content creation and look and feel while web development involves creating the functionality and testing its usability. Web designers need to be proficient with graphic design tools like Photoshop. Most also know HTML so they can implement their designs. However, using animation on the site and layout for the site's content are also part of the web designer's responsibility.

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