When I started building websites, I noticed people using the terms web design and web development interchangeably. While they are both needed to launch a new website, the job roles and responsibilities are quite different.
In the most basic comparison, a web designer is responsible for creating a vision for your website, while a developer is hired to bring that vision to life.
In the sections below we discuss 1) the key differences between the two job roles, 2) which one you need to hire for your project, and 3) how much you can expect to pay for each.
What is Web Design?
In essence, web design refers to the aesthetic part of a website and its usability. A web designer is used to create the layout and other visual elements of the site.
Think of web design as everything you see when you open a new website: the colors, fonts, layout, text sizes, etc. The web designer is responsible for all of these key elements, and putting them together in a way that reflects the mission and vision of the company.
When looking to hire a web designer, you can expect them to be responsible for the following:
- Creating the website navigation using a sitemap.
- Visually laying out each web page using wireframes.
- Creating a suitable color scheme or incorporating the client’s color scheme into the design.
- Designing buttons and other controls for the site.
- Choosing appropriate font combinations and sizes.
- Creating mock-ups of the site for the client’s approval
What is Web Development?
Web development is the process of converting a web design into a fully functioning website.
For example, every page that you see on this website once started out as an image. It was the responsibility of a web developer to bring those images to life and make them interactive online.
When looking to hire a web developer, you can expect them to be responsible for the following:
- Create and test applications for websites
- Work with graphics and other designers
- Present design specs
- Troubleshoot website problems
- Maintain and update websites
- Monitor website traffic
- Stay up-to-date on technology
Web Design vs Web Development: Which to Hire?
At this point, you should have a pretty good understanding of the key differences between web design vs. web development.
Determining which job role to hire for depends on your project needs. To make life easier, I have created a list below with some common website project needs and their corresponding job roles.
|Post a blog post on my website||Web Developer|
|Fix a bug on my website||Web Developer|
|Create a new color scheme for my website||Web Designer|
|Implement the new color scheme on my website||Web Developer|
|Create a new landing page design||Web Designer|
|Add the new landing page to my website||Web Developer|
|Create a sitemap for my website||Web Designer|
|Create a wireframe for a new web page||Web Designer|
|Create a new website from scratch||Both|
In general, web designers will be best to hire for creating or adjusting visual elements on your website. Web developers will be best to hire when needing to fix something or add anything to your website.
In most cases, you will need to hire two different people for each job role. But what if you could find someone who could do both?
Meet the Unicorn:
It’s true, there are individuals who can do both web design and web development (sometimes referred to as “unicorns” in the industry). In fact, when I first started building websites, I needed to wear both hats. I however later learned that my true interests lied on the development side.
Most web agencies segment these responsibilities for good reason. While you might be able to find someone that is capable of everything from back-end to front-end development, it’s almost impossible to find someone that is an expert at both.
When starting out, I noticed that it was hard to manage the blurring of boundaries between web design and web development. That is why I recommend client’s hire individually for each job role. In the end, you will usually see the best results when you hire an expert designer and developer that have years of experience working together.
Web Design vs Web Development: Cost Comparison
So what can you expect to pay when hiring a web designer or web developer? First things first, let’s assume you are hiring in the United States.Obviously rates can vary greatly depending on the country in which you hire from. For example, you can easily go to a website like freelancer.com or upwork.com and hire someone from India for $10/hr to build your website. However, there are many downside factors to consider: different time zones, language barriers, lack of transparency, etc..
A top-rated freelance web designer or developer in the United States will usually charge between $50-$100 p/h. You can expect a medium sized web design agency (which provides both sides of website construction) to charge a little north of that.
Web Design vs Web Development: Quick Summary
In summary, there are key differences between web design vs web development. Web design refers to the aesthetic part of a website and its usability, whereas web development is the process of converting a web design into a fully functioning website.
It’s true, there are individuals who can do both web design and web development, but it’s almost impossible to find someone that is an expert at both.
When looking to hire a web designer or web developer, don’t be tempted by cheap international rates. The downsides will usually outweigh the lower price tag.
When looking in the United States, expect to pay $50-$100 p/h for a top-rated freelance web designer or developer. You can expect a medium sized web design agency (which provides both sides of website construction) to charge a little north of that.
About WebWorks LA
Are you a business owner that needs help with your website? At WebWorks LA, we have helped several small-to-medium sized businesses improve their online presence. We are based in Los Angeles and have the tools and people to bring your vision to life. If you’re interested in starting a new project, feel free to submit your project details here. We will be in touch to set up an introduction meeting.