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Web Design vs. Web Development

What is the difference between a web designer and a web developer? In the early days of the web, the answer to that question was simple: designers design and developers code. Today that question requires a little more nuance—you'd be hard pressed to find a web designer who didn't know at least a little HTML and CSS, and you won't have to look far for a front-end web developer who can whip up a storyboard. If you're strictly speaking about the general concepts of web design vs. web development, however, the distinction is a little more clear. Let's take a look at these two concepts and the roles they play in building the functioning websites and apps we know and love.


What is web design?

Web design governs everything involved with the visual aesthetics and usability of a website—color scheme, layout, information flow, and everything else related to the visual aspects of the UI/UX (user interface and user experience). Some common skills and tools that distinguish the web designer from the web developer are:


Adobe Creative Suite (e.g., Photoshop, Illustrator) or other design software

Graphic design

UI design

UX design

Logo design

Layout/format

Placing call-to-action buttons

Branding

Wireframes, mock-ups, and storyboards

Color palettes

Typography

Web design is concerned with what the user actually sees on their computer screen or mobile device, and less so about the mechanisms beneath the surface that make it all work. Through the use of color, images, typography and layout, they bring a digital experience to life.


That said, many web designers are also familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—it helps to be able to create living mock-ups of a web app when trying to pitch an idea to the team or fine-tune the UI/UX of an app. Web designers also often work with templating services like WordPress or Joomla!, which allow you to create websites using themes and widgets without writing a single line of code.