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Web Design or Web Development: What’s the Difference?

Web Design or Web Development: What’s the Difference?

Web Design Vs. Web Development, Explained

Web design and web development are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they certainly aren’t the same thing. While the terms are related, there are some major elements that distinguish one from the other. So what exactly is the difference between web design and web development? Read on to find out.

Defining Web Design & Web Development

Before we can compare the two terms, it’s important to understand their definitions. Web design is a discipline that deals with the visual and usable treatment of a website. It’s the look and feel, as well as the navigation structure and all related components, that are covered here.

Web development, on the other hand, involves taking a web design and hierarchy and translating this into a fully-functional website. Basically, this is the “programming” part of the website-building process.

A helpful analogy might be to think of the website-building process as similar to that of assembling a watch. You have a designer that maps out what the watch is going to look like when it’s on your wrist, as well as which features it has. That’s web design. You then have a watchmaker who will assemble all of the gears and moving pieces that go behind the face of the watch (and are often hidden from the end user’s view) in order to actually make it tick. That’s web development.

Web Design – A Deeper Dive

There are five design principles that all good web designers will consider when building the layout and feel of a website.

  1. Balance. In other words, does the site strike the right balance between each visual element? Is there a balance between large fonts and small, text versus white space, and so on?
  2. Contrast. How will the site effectively use variations between light colours and dark, small shapes and large, and so on to draw the user’s eye and hold their attention?
  3. Emphasis. This element is related to contrast, and involves highlighting important elements of a page, such as a call-to-action button. Emphasis can be achieved through contrast, directing lines, and other means.
  4. Consistency. Do all webpages on a site have a similar look and feel? Do they all have a similar means of navigation? Consistency is closely related to usability.
  5. Unity. Are there unifying visual elements (such as colours, lines and shapes) that tie all aspects of the site together? If not, it can make the site feel disjointed to users.

Web Development – An Example

Web development involves the use of coding language (such as HTML and CSS) to translate the design elements of a website into usable, clickable content. If a fillable form was built into the design of a website, for example, the developer would then make sure that the form can be completed and submitted by users, and that the information they enter actually goes somewhere once the user hits “submit.”


While people often confuse web design and web development, the two terms represent completely different skill sets, and wholly separate stages of the web-building process. Now that you know the difference between them, you’ll be able to use the right terminology and have better conversations when you interact with individuals from those teams.

Now, do you know the difference between web design and graphic design? If not, click here for further reading on two more commonly confused industry terms!

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