What’s the difference between web design and web development?

Craig Greenup 23/06/23, 09:47

A strong online presence is the secret to success in today’s digital world. Big or small, a business needs a website that attracts, delights and converts customers – all while outshining the competition.

But building a website that combines beautiful design, user-friendly functionality and all the behind-the-scenes techy stuff that takes a site to the next level, requires some serious expertise.

So who’s the right person for your website project?

Web design and web development are two terms that are often used interchangeably. We often get clients coming to us a little unsure about where one role ends and the other begins. But the truth is that these are distinct roles, with very different (if closely related) responsibilities.

Here we take a look at the difference between web design and web development. And help you to decide which you need when building or updating your website.

The difference between web design and web development

Web design

What does a web designer do?

A web designer is responsible for the visual and interactive elements of your site. The stuff that visitors see when they land on a page.

A web designer works to create an aesthetically pleasing website. One that showcases your brand identity and provides an exceptional user experience (UX).

Different types of web designer

You may find web designers advertised under a variety of different job titles. These include the following.

UX website designer

A UX designer has next-level skills in user experience design. They understand how to use design elements to make a website easy and enjoyable to use.

UI website designer

A user interface (UI) website designer specialises in crafting the elements of your site that a user interacts with.

Visual designer

A visual designer is a generalist. They can design a visually impressive, on-brand website, incorporating elements of UX and UI into their work.

Web design tasks


First up, a web designer will do lots of research into a client, their industry, competitors and audience.

Planning the site structure

Referencing their research and client requirements, a web designer will then plan the structure, layout and user flow of a website.


Next, a web designer will often create a very basic version of the new website. Clients take a look and approve the structure.

Designing visual elements

Website structure in place, it’s time for a web designer to work their design magic. This is when colour schemes, typography and imagery come together in a website prototype.

Working with a web developer

Once a prototype gets the client seal of approval, a web designer liaises with a web developer. A developer takes responsibility for making the web design into a functional reality.

Testing and support

A web designer may continue to work with a client, testing and refining a website as it goes live. And supporting them with design updates as their business changes and grows.

Web development

What does a web developer do?

A web developer takes care of the techy side of things. For these guys, it’s all about behind-the-scenes coding and site functionality.

Most web developers understand at least a couple of programming languages, like PHP and Javascript.

Different types of web developer

Web developers tend to fall into one of these three categories.

Front-end developer

A front-end developer uses their UX and UI skills to create the visual elements of a website. They use HTML, CSS and JavaScript to create beautiful, functional and responsive websites.

Back-end developer

A back-end developer works on the stuff that users don’t see. They maintain the server-side code, ensuring efficient data sharing between the UI and the database (or back-end) so user requests can be fulfilled quickly.

Full-stack developer

A full-stack developer is an all-rounder. They can handle both back-end and front-end website development tasks.

Web development tasks


A web developer starts a project by talking with clients and web designers to understand requirements. They then decide which technologies and tools are needed for the project.

Front-end development

Using HTML, CSS and JavaScript, a web developer then turns a web designer’s visual ideas into a real-life website that users can interact with. They create responsive designs that adapt to different devices. And accessible designs that all users can enjoy.

Back-end development

Next, a web developer designs and implements the database. They’ll develop the server-side functionality of the website. And they’ll integrate the back-end with third-party services like payment gateways and social media platforms.


Both front-end and back-end developers create a website with search engine optimisation (SEO) in mind. They optimise site structure and code to help your site to get seen in search engine results.

Testing and debugging

Once they’ve built a site, a web developer will enter the testing and debugging stage of the process. They’ll look for any coding errors or site issues, then work to solve any problems.

Maintenance and support

Web developers can provide ongoing support for your business website. They can implement updates and fix problems to keep your site secure and functional.

Web designers and web developers working together

Web designers and web developers inevitably spend a lot of time working together. They’re both responsible for fulfilling a client website brief and ensuring that the finished product ticks all the right boxes.

Good communication is, therefore, pretty essential to the process. As is an understanding of the other’s workflow and processes.

In summary: Web design vs web development

If you remember one difference between web design and web development, make it this one. Web design is focused on the way a website looks. Web development is focused on how a website works.

So a web designer designs a button that fits with your branding and puts it in a location that encourages a user to click. A web developer uses code to create that button and direct a user to a chosen destination.

Do you need a web designer or a web developer for your project?

Whether you need a web designer or a web developer or both comes down to two main considerations. The scope of your project and your budget.


Big corporations with a big budget are likely to hire specialists for each element of their website design. They may hire multiple UX designers, UI designers, back-end and front-end developers.

Businesses with a teeny tiny budget are more likely to choose a web designer and web developer rolled into one. You do come across pros with good skills in both areas. But they’re pretty hard to come by.

The best of both worlds? A small web team consisting of both a web designer and a web developer. This combo is affordable but still provides the very best website project results.


Making some tweaks to the visual identity of your website? Perhaps you want to refresh the imagery. Or update the typography. Then a web designer should be your first port of call.

Alternatively, if you need to update your ecommerce website to include a different payment gateway, or check on the security of your site, working with a website developer is the best option.

If, on the other hand, you want to build a new website from scratch, then you need a web design team that includes both a web designer and a full-stack web developer. Both areas of expertise are needed to create a site that looks great and functions beautifully too.

Looking for a web design and development team in Manchester?

Here at Radical Web Design, our team includes both web designers and developers. So whatever your website project, we have the expertise to take it all the way from brief to reality.

Get in touch to chat about your website plans.