Over 10 years we helping companies reach their financial and branding goals. Onum is a values-driven SEO agency dedicated.


Web development versus web design: What’s the difference?

This is branded content.

Web development and web design are commensurate yet distinct processes, both of which are crucial to the creation of an effective website. Web designers focus on the visual elements of a website – the parts you’d see as a visitor to a website.

Web developers, on the other hand, specialise in the creation and management of the underlying building blocks of the website – the code that creates and controls the appearance and underlying functionality of the site, and the way the website interacts with various systems that support it.

Quality design and development are both needed to create an effective website, and the two jobs frequently overlap. If you want to find a web developer in Melbourne, there are plenty of experts ready to help; if you’d rather learn a bit more, read on!

Web design

Web design includes all of the visual elements you are familiar with, having presumably visited numerous websites like this one. A web designer has put time and intention into everything you see here, from the font this text is into the colours of different elements on the page, the size of the margins at the edge of the page, the logo at the top, right down to the spacing between different visual elements.

Web designers are responsible for creating, tweaking, and updating all of these elements, and a lot of time, thought, and skill goes into every step of the process. Web designers frequently work alongside marketing, front-end web development, and sales elements of a company.

Normally the first thing a designer will consider (or create) is a logo. A good logo defines a brand – it’s the first thing people think of when they think of a brand.

Nobody can think about Nike without thinking of the “swoosh,” Apple without the (partially eaten) apple, or McDonald’s without the arches.

As simple as they may appear, a lot of work goes into the creation of a good logo! Different companies have different requirements, but normally a logo must be visually appealing yet simple; distinctive, but easy to remember and recognise.

A logo must feature prominently on a good site, to ensure that the association between the brand and its logo remains strong, and to make it clear where the user is and what they’re doing. Logos are usually protected by copyright laws, meaning that just seeing a logo is a good way to reassure customers that they’re in the right place.

Typography – the process of selecting the appropriate fonts, sizing, and spacing for the different types of text on a site – is another important duty of web designers. Like a logo, a good font is a crucial element of a brand’s self-presentation and something that must be carefully considered to maximise impact (no pun intended).

Most websites don’t use the same font for everything; for example, a brand name will often use a different, most distinctive font from the bulk of the copy on a website.

Layout, including typesetting, is another vital aspect of web design. Deciding not only what goes on the site, but where it goes and how it all fits together, is again a multi-step process often dependent upon the function of the website.

A news site, like this one, might use wider margins, a double-column layout, or interspersed images to help break up large amounts of text. This reduces reading fatigue and makes reading a large amount of information feel a bit more effortless than it might feel as one big, long chunk of continuous text.

Content is also crucial. Some websites might benefit from being extremely minimalistic, keeping things simple and straightforward to ensure that certain information is easily accessible to the user; others might benefit from a maximalist approach, which normally includes a wide variety of photos or other design elements designed to curate a specific mood or feeling that the designer is tasked with associating with a brand or product.

Web development

Web development is a much broader term used to describe, well, basically everything other than (and sometimes including) the design process. In short, web development is everything you don’t see on a website, from the code that renders the site on your screen, to the way the website is configured to optimise search engine results, right down to the code that runs the server hosting the website.

Frontend development is the variety that more people will be familiar with. You might even know a little bit of HTML! Many people who grew up using the internet, or became more familiar with how web pages work through the course of surfing the web, have been exposed to HTML in some form.

HTML, along with CSS, dictates much of the structure and content you see on a website. Frontend developers use these languages to organise each page of the site, connect pages to one another through the use of menus and buttons, and ensure that design elements like pictures and animations work properly.

Frontend developers are also responsible for search engine optimisation (“SEO”) or ensuring that a website is sufficiently well-organised, responsive, and properly worded to ensure that the page is displayed properly (and, preferably, higher up) by search engines.

Web design and development tend to overlap in front-end development. Frontend developers are often responsible for using these languages, along with JavaScript, to bring the vision of web designers to life.

Sometimes they’re even the same people! A front-end developer and web designer might both know and use HTML and CSS. Any good web designer will be well-versed in, at the very least, the fundamental aspects of these two programming languages, but probably won’t know as much CSS or JavaScript as a frontend developer. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are known as “client-side” languages: the languages used by the web browser or app used by the person viewing the site.

JavaScript, in turn, is often the language that front-end developers normally share with back-end developers. JavaScript is both a client-side language, as well as a server-side language – it can be used to render content on the device of the user, as well as organise and manage the data that this process derives from in the server, where the resources and code that make up the “back end” of the website are stored.

This content is the domain of backend web developers. Back-end developers are responsible for ensuring that the content of the site is stored securely and functions as intended. While they may use some JavaScript, the primary languages of back-end development include Python, PHP, Ruby, and Java.

Backend developers may also be more familiar with C or C++, the program languages that form the foundation of (almost) every other programming language (HTML is an exception, but we won’t get into the details here).

These languages also referred to as “object-oriented” languages, are used to define the actual content of a website, or “objects,” that are rendered by the frontend languages. This is the nitty gritty stuff: large tables of values that define the pixels of images, the physics behind animations and 3D graphics, and even the code that defines the basic parameters of how the data is stored and transported from the server to the client.


All three of these roles need to work together to make a website possible. A good metaphor to make their respective roles easier to understand might be the process of building a house: web designers are architects, who decide what things will look like, while front-end developers are the carpenters and builders who create the structure of the house, and backend developers are the materials suppliers and logistics, the people create the building blocks that make the building process possible.

This is a lot to take in, but we hope we’ve made it a bit simpler for you!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *