Setting up a stylish website has become a key concern for almost every business. But where do you even begin?

The challenge of creating a website can seem daunting, but it helps to boil it down into easy categories. Front end vs back end. UI vs UX. Web design vs web development. The next step, of course, is learning the difference between the categories.

When it comes to web design vs web development, some would argue that the lines are getting blurrier by the day. With talented freelancers and no-code solutions out there, there are more one-stop solutions out there for designing and developing your website.

Still, both are crucial pieces of the process. Here’s everything you need to know about web design vs web development, including how to find designers and developers to suit your business needs.

What is web development?

Person typig on a coding program on their laptop

In the process of building a website, designers and developers often need to work in tandem. However, development can be seen as the more “early” stage of the process, so we’ll break it down first.

What a web developer does

A developer works on the unseen elements of a website. They write the code and markup language that allows the site to function and respond to input. This means that once you have a domain set up, a developer is often the first person you call. That being said, developers also work together with designers and stakeholders to ensure the perfect final product.

Development can be broken down into two different pieces: front end and back end. Back end development comprises the very structure of the website, while front end development involves the elements that users interact with.

There are also full stack developers, who provide both front end and back end services. Some developers also act as webmasters, ensuring that the website remains updated and functional after it’s created.

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What is web design?

Person drawing a sketch of a mobile web design

While a developer is responsible for making a website work, a designer handles the equally important task of creating its look. They make your website accessible to users, helping ensure that prospective clients stick around long enough to find out what your business is all about.

What a web designer does

A web designer’s work isn’t just limited to homepage design—they create all the pages and navigation that make a site accessible to users.

Web design encompasses both UI (user interface) and UX (user experience). The UI is the actual graphic design of the site—typography, colors, design patterns, interactive elements, etc. UX goes beyond what you directly see on the website; it’s about ensuring users are satisfied while using your site. This includes design principles, but also testing, prototyping, and market research.

Most web designers won’t write copy or create branded elements for your site. You’ll have to supply those yourself, or hire someone else to make them.

Web design vs web development: what’s the difference?

Person in a flannel choosing between two similar green apples at the grocery store

By this point, you should have a clear idea of the basic different skill sets between web design and web development. In a nutshell:

  • Web development involves creating the structure of a website that users never see, such as code and markup language.
  • Web design includes the elements that a user does see, including graphic design and user experience.

Things get a little more complicated when you talk about, for instance, the difference between front end development vs UI/UX design. It can be simplistic to think of it as code vs graphic design, but that’s one way to look at it. These intricacies are the reason that designers and developers often work together as part of a complete web team.

Laptop displaying a designed and developed website

Generally, when creating or remodeling your business’ website, you’ll need both design and development. Development ensures that your website functions; design ensures that people can use it.

However, the extent to which you need development or design may depend on your specific project. If you already have a website and just want to give it a fresh coat of paint, a stylish web design is all you need. If you’re trying to fix problems related to capacity and performance, you likely only need a developer.

How to hire a web developer

If you’re looking for a developer, the first thing you need to do is define your project. Do you need front end or back end development? Is this a one-off project, or do you need a webmaster to oversee your site long-term?

For a one-time development project, you may seek out a freelance developer. Standard freelance sites like Upwork and Toptal feature developers, while specific networks of freelance developers can be found on sites like Codeable. For long-term work, standard job postings and hiring platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn are your best bet.

How to hire a web designer

Two people in a job interview

With design, you have a few more options. Like with developers, a freelancer is a great option for a one-off project, while a full-time hire is better if you need regular design work.

But what if you need a variety of designs? As mentioned above, a web designer usually won’t cover the illustrations, logo design, and other graphic design elements that make up a complete website.

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