Web Design vs. Web Development: What’s the Difference?

As modern technologies and Wi-Fi capabilities continue to make the internet more accessible, more people around the world are plugging in. From 2008 to 2018, the number of people going online more than doubled, and a vast majority of people in the United States (87%) is active on the internet, according to World Bank figures from 2017. What’s more, thanks to a surge in mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, people can plug in on the go — whenever and wherever they want.

It’s no wonder that a strong web presence has become more important than ever for companies of all sizes. A website allows people to easily find a business and serves as a simple means of low-cost advertising, using a marketing platform that is visible 24 hours a day. It provides potential customers with valuable information about a company, such as its business hours and accepted payment methods. Companies can sell their goods online to customers all over the world. Ultimately, an online presence allows a business to extend its reach and expand its market, solidifying its public presence.

For a website to be effective, however, it must be well designed from a visual standpoint and well developed from a technical one. When users arrive at a website, they should find it aesthetically appealing, as well as easy to use and navigate. Web designers and web developers are responsible for making sure this is the case. Read on to explore the similarities and differences in web design vs. web development and learn how a degree in software development can help individuals pursue a career in one of these fields.

Web designers at work.

Defining Web Design vs. Web Development

Web design specifically refers to the processes required to make the front end of the website — the part that a webpage visitor sees — visually appealing and understandable. Web designers make sure the site looks clear and clean-cut and that customers instinctively know how to interact with it. They are sometimes referred to as user experience, or “UX,” designers.

Web development focuses on the behind-the-scenes programming that makes a website work. While a web designer might create a button, a web developer ensures that something actually happens when the button is clicked. Web developers may focus on either the front end (more visual; what the user sees) or back end of the website (more functional; how the website works) — or both. For example, a front-end developer might use CSS (cascading style sheets) to determine a homepage’s layout, while a back-end developer might write code that connects an e-commerce site’s shopping cart to a secure online payment processing system.

Web Design vs. Web Development: Similarities

Web design and web development are critical for companies that want to create and maintain a positive online presence. These two roles work closely together and, in some cases, may be filled by a single person. Web designers and web developers require programming knowledge, although at different levels. They must also have strong analytical and problem-solving skills, as they must test design and function options to determine the best fit. Finally, web designers and web developers must stay abreast of the latest trends, programs, and innovations in their fields. When well executed, design and development create a cohesive tech-driven concept that ties into and furthers a company’s vision, allowing the business to connect with more consumers, more easily.

Web Design vs. Web Development: Differences

Although they share some skills, web designers and web developers must master specific competencies in their respective fields. Web design emphasizes aesthetics, so designers must have greater knowledge of what makes a website visually appealing and logical to users. They need to master design applications such as Adobe Dreamweaver, JavaScript, and scripting frameworks for multi-feature front-end applications. Furthermore, they must make sure the products they create fit a business’s brand, from logos to color schemes.

Web developers, on the other hand, build the functional aspects of the website within the aesthetic parameters set forth by web designers. With their advanced programming skills, they ensure the product envisioned by the web designer comes to fruition. Web developers must master more extensive programming skills and software languages, such as Structured Query Language (SQL), Python, Java server development, machine learning, the development of APIs for interacting with objects, database tools and server architecture, and agile systems analysis.

Job Outlook for Web Design vs. Web Development Professionals

Internet usage is likely to continue to grow globally as devices become cheaper and more accessible, and the use of mobile websites in particular will increase. The Ericsson Mobility Report predicts smartphone traffic will rise tenfold between 2016 and 2022, meaning the demand for skilled web design and development will remain high for the development of mobile-friendly webpages. Google and other search engines already reward mobile-friendly sites by ranking them higher in search results. Companies that want to stay at the top of their fields need to ensure they keep up with such web-based trends, or they risk losing potential customers to competitors.

Web design and development specialists will have plenty of opportunities to choose from in the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the web development field will increase by 13% between 2018 and 2028 — much faster than the national average for all jobs. These careers are also well paid. According to September 2019 PayScale data, a web designer’s median annual salary is around $50,000, while a web developer’s median annual salary is around $59,000.

How a Master’s in Software Development Prepares Graduates for Web Work

Individuals interested in a career as a web professional can benefit from a master’s degree in software development. In Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Software Development, students gain a solid overview of advanced programming skills thanks to courses such as Intro to Programming, Applied DevOps, and Agile Systems Analysis and Design. They also gain insights into how to make websites user friendly from a design perspective with courses such as User Interface Design.

In addition to learning coding, development, and design skills, students get hands-on experience developing technologies such as mobile apps. This allows them to graduate with a portfolio they can show to potential employers. By providing a cutting-edge education as well as project-based training, Maryville University produces graduates who are ready to enter the workforce. Explore a career on the web today.

Recommended Reading:
A Look at the Future of IT Jobs

The Future of Programming and the Top Languages Programmers Should Know

Projected Tech: A Look at the Future of Software Engineering

Digital Tech Magazine, “Importance of Web Design for Business”

Ericsson Mobility Report, “Future Mobile Data Usage and Traffic Growth”

Inc., “It’s Official: Google to Reward Mobile-Friendly Websites”

Lifewire, “The Difference Between Web Design and Web Development”

PayScale, Average Web Designer Salary

PayScale, Average Web Developer Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Web Developers

The World Bank, “Individuals Using the Internet”

Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.