Web development and web design are often confused with one another. While both play an essential role in the creation of websites, there are a few key differences between the two. This guide is designed to help you understand how the two professions differ so you can decide which career path is the best choice for you.

Web Design

Web design involves constructing the overall look and feel of a website. Web Designers are tasked with creating the website’s layout and all of its visual elements, making sure that the site is aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly so people are more willing to remain on the website longer. When creating their designs, Web Designers must keep the client’s branding, color palette, and target audience in mind. They also have to be mindful of designing responsive websites that will work on a wide variety of devices.

Types of Web Design

Web design is often broken down into three basic types: user experience (UX) design, user interface (UI) design, and visual design. Here’s a bit more information about the three specialties to give you a clearer picture of what each one entails:

UX Design

User experience (UX) design focuses on the interaction between people and products. The goal of a UX Designer is to raise the user’s satisfaction with the product by making it more efficient, engaging, user-friendly, accessible, and enjoyable. To reach this goal, UX Designers must conduct user research and test prototypes to gather valuable data which will guide their final design choices.

UI Design

User interface (UI) design deals with all the interactive elements on a website. UI Designers are responsible for designing, developing, and organizing interactive website components such as buttons, widgets, scroll bars, menus, search fields, sliders, tabs, and icons. When creating these designs, the UI Designer must make sure they adhere to the client’s style guide so the overall look of the website remains consistent.

Visual Design

Visual design has to do with the design of visual elements to be used on digital products. Visual Designers can work on a variety of platforms including self-serve kiosks, movies, games, and wearable technology, but much of their work is done on websites. The work of a Visual Designer involves brainstorming creative ideas with team members, developing visual concepts, and creating artwork and layouts that are both functional and beautiful.

Skills Needed for Web Design

The specific skills may vary depending upon which concentration you select, but generally speaking, Web Designers should have or learn the following skills:

  • The ability to design websites that are visually appealing, user-friendly, responsive, engaging, and accessible
  • A working knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • A solid grasp of design principles, branding, and typography
  • Proficiency with design tools and software

In addition to the technical capabilities listed above, Web Designers should also have soft skills such as the ability to work as a team, remain organized while juggling multiple projects, problem solve, take responsibility for their work, and communicate clearly with clients and team members.

Web Development

Web development involves using code to create and maintain the core structure of a website. The role of a Web Developer is to build a website that’s functional, responsive, and user-friendly based on ideas and concepts generated by the Web Designer. Web Developers also are responsible for conducting quality assurance testing on their code to detect and eliminate any bugs.

Types of Web Development

There are three separate specialties within the field of web development: front end, back end, and full stack development. In short, here are the key differences between the three types of web development:

Front End Development

Front end web development deals exclusively with the parts of a website that users interact with. Front End Web Developers use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to code all of a website’s visual elements, ensuring that the site is both aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. Because the Front End Developer is in charge of coding the user-facing side of the website, they often end up collaborating with Web Designers to make sure the site matches the mockup created during the design phase.

Back End Development

Back end web development has to do with the server-facing components that support the front end of the website and allow it to work. Back End Web Developers use advanced programming languages such as Java, Python, PHP along with frameworks like Django, Ruby on Rails, and Express.js to code the website’s database, server, and applications; they’re also responsible for testing, debugging, and maintaining the entire back end of the website.

Full Stack Development

Full stack web development is a combination of both front end and back end development, incorporating aspects of both types. A Full Stack Web Developer will be skilled in a broad range of programming languages and have a solid grasp of how the front and back ends of a website work in conjunction with one another.

Skills Needed for Web Development

Web development skills do vary between the different specialties, but any prospective Web Developer should have or acquire the skills listed below:

  • An aptitude for writing high-quality code using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Java, and PHP
  • The ability to test code, detect errors, resolve issues, and track changes made to the code
  • A working knowledge of web development tools such as libraries, frameworks, content management systems (CMS), bug tracking tools, and code versioning software
  • A high level of computer literacy, analytical thinking, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills

Additional, less technical skills such as effective communication and the ability to collaborate with others will also come in handy while working as a Web Developer. People in this profession should also be able to manage their time wisely, distinguish between essential and nonessential tasks, and remain organized while working on multiple projects.

Job Outlook for Web Design and Web Development

Now is a great time to start a new career in web design or web development; the industry is experiencing tremendous growth and is in dire need of new recruits to help fill open positions. In fact, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 25,500 jobs opening up in the web development and digital design industries every year from now until 2030. That equals a 13% job growth rate, which is significantly higher than the average growth for all occupations, which is predicted to be 8% over the next decade.

Salaries for those working in web design and web development can vary based on location, experience, and area of expertise, but they do tend to be lucrative career choices overall. The average salaries for Front End, Back End, and Full Stack Developers typically run around $100,000 in the United States. On the design end, Web Designers make around $48,000 per year but the earning potential increases to between $78,000 and $100,000 if you choose to specialize in UI, UX, or visual design.

How are Web Development and Web Design Different?

Both web design and web development play a critical role in the creation of a website. Professionals in these fields depend upon one another to generate an end product that’s beautiful, functional, and user-friendly, but there is a very clear distinction between their job functions.

The essential difference lies in what type of work each job entails. Web design is more focused on the appearance and usability of a website while web development is centered on its structure and functionality. Those working in web design are responsible for conceptualizing the overall aesthetics of the website while web development professionals are tasked with building the site based on the design mockups. In essence, web design is a more artistic field while web development falls on the technical side.

Web Development v. Web Design: Which Career is Right for You?

Web design and web development may both deal with the creation of websites, but they tend to attract people with vastly different interests and capabilities. Web design is often the preferred choice for artistic people with lots of creative ideas who love designing beautiful things. Web development, on the other hand, tends to attract more analytical and technically-minded people who enjoy solving complex problems.

If you’re seriously considering choosing either one of these fields as a career path, but you don’t know which is a better fit, the key question to ask yourself is this: Would I prefer a job that’s creative and deals with aesthetics or am I better suited to technical work that requires high attention to detail?

It may also help to reread the required skills for each track provided above. If you’ve already acquired a few skills in one of the specialties, that’s a pretty good indication of what type of work you’re better suited to. If you’re still unsure about which career path to choose, continue researching each of the roles to make a well-informed decision.

How to Start a Career in Web Development or Web Design

The best way to start a career in web development or web design is to enroll in bootcamp. Often viewed as a viable alternative to university education, these skills-focused programs operate on an intensive, abbreviated schedule to get you career-ready in just a few months’ time. That’s especially good news when you consider how many open positions there are in both fields; you can start to earn back your financial investment shortly after graduation.

Noble Desktop offers live online bootcamps for both web design and web development. They provide a variety of web development bootcamps including a 72-hour front end web development bootcamp, a 198-hour full stack web development bootcamp, and a 138-hour language-specific Python bootcamp. There are also several web design bootcamps to choose from.

If you’re not ready for a full bootcamp, you could start on your new career path by enrolling in individual web design or web development classes. Noble Desktop has a wide array of both front and back end web development classes available covering languages and tools such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Ruby on Rails, Git, Flexbox, React, and more. Topics covered in Noble’s web design courses include UX design, UI design, Adobe XD, Photoshop, Illustrator, plus essential Graphic Design and Visual Design principles.