Web Design and Web Development - two terms that seem like they describe the same thing, but ultimately have very different goals. It's true, web designers and web developers both have the core goal of standing up a quality website for their clients. But in many cases, the similarities end there. Keep reading to gain a more thorough understanding of the differences between a web developer and a designer.
Back End vs. Front End
The core difference between developers and designers lies in their function: developers focus on the interior structure of a website, the code that will be invisible for end-users as long as it functions correctly. Designers, on the other hand, focus on the front end: creating a user-friendly and beautiful website that will attract and retain an interested audience.
Think of it like building a house. The developer is the contractor, ensuring that the foundation and interior walls can support anyone that lives or works in the building. The designer, on the other hand, takes the role of an interior designer - creating a space that makes living and working not just possible, but pleasant.
Functional vs. Creative
As a result of these core functions, many developers and designers exhibit differing personality traits. Developers tend to possess a programming mindset, with analytical and logical approaches that enable them to create a foolproof structure to hold up the website.
Designers, on the other hand, approach their work more creatively, creating content and graphics with an artistic, imaginative mindset. Their goal is to enter your audience's mind, creating a website with graphics, content, layout, and color scheme that potential customers are most likely to respond to.
Blurring the Lines
At this point, you may envision two very different types of people in each role. But in reality, most developers have at least some design skills, and vice versa. That's because in web design, one function cannot live without the other. The best code will matter little if you cannot build on it a website that both attracts your audience and convinces them to stay. Similarly, a beautiful website, ostensibly optimized for conversions, will not succeed if it's built on unreliable code.
And yet, despite the obvious overlap, the two remain distinctly separate functions. You may be able to find the occasional expert who is as well-versed in PHP as he/she is in Dreamweaver, building you a back and front end that function together seamlessly. But because of the complexity of both areas, that expert is rare. More often, you will find a team of individuals, some focusing on design and others development, that work well together to create a website that convinces and converts your audience.
Why Does it Matter?
Ultimately, a successful website will need both a solid, reliable structure and a beautiful, user-friendly interface. Design and development matter equally. So why do you need to know the difference?
Because despite their similar goals and undeniable relationship, design and development remain separate entities. Even the best graphics matter little if your backend structure causes them to load too slowly for your audience to hang around.
To ensure that your website both looks great and functions flawlessly, we recommend working with professionals who have both the design and development skills necessary to craft a quality website.