Web Design vs Web Development

Web Design vs Web DevelopmentTime to time we have to explain the difference between web design (front end) and web development (back end). While the answer is readily available to anyone with the question and a search engine, most folks don't even know to ask it.

Web design refers to the process of designing a website or template that includes all of the graphic and visual elements you see on any given website. Web designers are also sometimes called "front end developers". The design can be created using a graphics program such as Adobe Photoshop, or many other graphics-oriented programs available on the market today. The design provides the framework for the look and feel of a website and visually communicates information and branding. Layout, navigation, visual hierarchy, color scheme, depth, dimension and tone are all terms well known to a good, professional web designer.

It is important to remember that many web designers are actual designers, whereas not many designers are actually web designers. Why? Because some coding is required in order to call oneself a web designer. Firstly, you have to know how to implement or manipulate HTML. Secondly, you must know CSS. The "web 2.0" look that we mentioned in our last blog post completely relies on this advent. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is the revolutionary industry standard at this point, and should be required when it comes to designing websites.

Beyond innovative graphics, layout, HTML and CSS, we start to venture into developer land. This is where we start to see Javascript, AJAX, Flash (designer/developers combos in their own right) and an understanding of PHP and MySQL. This is the gray area between designing and developing. It is not uncommon to meet a front-end web developer that is comfortable with Javascript and a little AJAX and Flash. They might even have a small understanding of what PHP and MySQL are capable of, but beyond that, they're worthless in the database area. (Probably because the concept of manipulating databases bores them to tears).

Web development is typically used to described the programming required to construct the "back end" of a website. The back end is the area of the site that isn't seen by visitors, but which does the work required in order to present the right information in the correct format to the visitors. Web development is used to describe any database-driven web designs using dynamic scripting languages like PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, Coldfusion and sometimes Java and AJAX. Web development also covers database design and development using MySQL.

As you can see, these are two completely different areas of expertise. It is the difference between Architecture and Interior Design, Art and Physics. You might find someone out there that can do it all, but watch out: they might just be far better at one than they are at the other.

For all the web designers out there looking for work, it is unfair to expect them to know everything about everything. An award-winning web designer should not be expected to also be an expert in ASP, PHP and MySQL. Likewise, a web developer should not be expected to be a Photoshop guru. It's just unrealistic. Like we said, there's definitely a gray area between the two functions - but let's face it: there is a huge difference between front-end web design and back-end web development. You wouldn't want your interior designer to lay the foundation for your new house, would you? In most cases the answer would be a resounding "no".

Have any questions, comments, or hatemail? Send us your thoughts in the comments below or shoot us an email. Thanks for reading!



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