Web development vs web design

For beginners, the term “web development” and “web design” may be confusing. In short, “web design” is part of the whole “web development” process. For larger web development project, usually, there are some people dedicated to doing the web design. So, how are differences between web development vs web design?

Web developer and Web designer

A web developer can be a web designer and vice versa. For small projects, the designers can be the developers themselves. However, for medium to a large project, the web designers will focus their work on creating the design only.

What activities involved in web design?

Generally, here are some technical activities that are involved in the web design project:

  • Creating the images, usually in PNG format as the first step. This will show how the web UI looks when it’s implemented.

  • Convert those PNG images to PSD format and do slicing on them. However, with modern CSS frameworks like Bootstrap or Foundation CSS,  usually, the designers can skip this.

  • Build the static HTML files along with the CSS, and Javascript to show the UI and UX on each web page.

  • Validating the HTML pages, and fix the validation issue if any.

And what activities involved in web development?

Personally, I do think that activities in web design can include on the whole activities in the web development project. After all, web design is one part of web development. Another part is web testing.

Besides those activities related to designing a web UI and UX, a web developer needs to do those works:

  • Integrate all of HTML files with the server’s script. The developer can write the script using PHP, Ruby, Phyton, ASP, or even some web frameworks like:

  • Ruby on Rails.

  • CakePHP

  • Django

  • Set up and build the database structure if it’s needed. Most of the web projects I have been working on are always using database. This can be Oracle, MySQL, Postgres, or any DBMS which had been chosen by the whole project stakeholders.

  • Build the back-end logic. With MVC frameworks like Ruby on Rails, this will involve writing the codes on “controller” and “model” layer.

  • Do a manual test on the feature or function that’s been built.

  • Write a unit and integration tests, at least for the key features of the web application.

  • Fix the problem and the bugs found.

  • Optimize the performance once it’s live. Nobody likes a slow application these days.

Should I start with web design first?

The answer is yes. When you just begin your journey in the web development world, it’s better if you learn the basic HTML, CSS, and Javascript first.

For Javascript itself, there are many libraries and frameworks. Don’t worry to learn them in the beginning. Just make sure you understand the basic of JS first. Then, it’ll be easier to dive into the jQuery later.

Once you learn the basics of HTML and CSS, it’s better if you can continue to learn the popular CSS framework like Bootstrap or Foundation CSS. Focus on the grid system they provide. A good understanding of how this grid system works can help you to do the web design, a lot.

Does web developer mean full stack developer?

Not really. most  of the developers I know are calling themselves “web developer” when they work on back-end or server’s side of the web application.

Those who focus to work on the UI/UX and other frontend’s interaction of the app were called front-end web developer.

So, there are two kinds of them: front-end web developer and back-end web developer. However, sometimes the boundary between the front-end developer and the web designer are not clear.


  • Web design is a part  or subset of web development

  • Most of web development starts with web design on the early stages.

  • Though some of web development begins with building the database and the scaffolds of the application first, before designing the frontend interface.

  • UI stands for “User Interface”. UX stands for “User Experience”.

  • The better way to jump into web development industry is learning to design the web page first. Though the other way may work too.

  • Mastering web development takes years. It needs persistency and commitments. There are no shortcuts.

Categories: Web Development  

Tags: web development